Personal Tango

I haven’t disappeared, I just had a slow tango week. Moving will do that to you, especially in combination with post-festival moods. And missing my regular Friday-night milonga so that I could get up far too early on Saturday – but that was worth it, because I am now one step closer to a career change that I have been considering for ages.

Despite all that, I did manage to get out dancing once this weekend. And I had an interesting experience; let me tell you about it. But first, I have to give you some context from the weekend prior.

I was sitting with a friend, comparing notes on visiting leaders. I had danced with a very nice young man with wonderful musicality, who I pointed out to my friend. She had danced with another leader who moves quite slowly, and she was not as fond of the experience. But I was intrigued. Tango works in funny ways, and believe it or not as the cortina came on we each ended up being invited by the leaders the other person had mentioned. So here I was, dancing at the slowest pace I had ever felt before. And it was wonderful. It was like placing a piece of ultra-dark chocolate in your mouth and just feeling each little flavor as it melts. The steps were few and far between, but there was a constant connection and constant dancing throughout the songs. Beautiful. Such a unique experience, in fact, that I raved about it to another, local leader.

Let me pause a moment for a reminder. I honestly, wholeheartedly enjoy a huge range of styles when dancing tango. All kinds of embraces, many different kinds of music, different kinds of steps (and steps that are tiny and contained or huge and flashy) … many of a range of ways to dance, each in their appropriate time and place. I have told leaders repeatedly that I enjoy the variety of experiences that I get as a follower – just because I love the way one leader dances doesn’t mean that I want all leaders to dance that way.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Near the end of the night, the aforementioned local leader invites me to dance and mentions something about dancing slowly. We proceed to dance (I don’t recall the song) incredibly slowly. Lots of slow steps. Lots. Sloooooow. I knew why he was trying this, and I knew that I had liked the slowness before. So why, then, did I feel the urge to throw in a million embellishments and then break away from the embrace and run a lap around the dance floor? I felt like a wild horse contained in a box rather than a fulfilling sense of peace as I had felt during the festival.

After the tanda ended, I started thinking. Sure, the visiting leader had practiced the technique necessary to stay in motion while moving slowly. He may have felt more fluid, more meditative in the way he approached the movement. But it felt like much more than that. Like a different problem.

And then it dawned on me: I felt no personality in that slow dance this weekend. This leader, who normally is incredibly musical and who dances his personality, felt like he could be any leader walking through the dance. He lost his personality! Which isn’t to say that he couldn’t find a way to inject his personality into a slow-moving dance. It is just a reminder that leaders express themselves through the movements that they choose to dance. Many leaders seem to have found a way of dancing (embrace, certain steps, preferred music, an energy, etc) that fits them. That they feel comfortable with. That doesn’t mean they can’t change, but it’s a reminder that you can’t just pick up someone else’s way of dancing and have it work for you off the bat.

… and I believe this works in the same way for followers!


4 thoughts on “Personal Tango

  1. Did you say anything to the local leader? or don’t you know him well-enough? I have noticed that this frequently happens when we have workshops with visiting teachers. Some of our teachers will modify their style – then a few weeks later they are back to dance their way.

  2. Hi, Angelina! I actually shared with that local leader a less-fleshed-out version of what I wrote here. Thankfully, I know him well enough that I could also tell him that if he continued to dance that way I was going to walk straight off the dance floor. 😉I think it’s neat to see the small ways that visiting teachers can influence locals. Like you, I rarely see people make permanent modifications to their style – but I have seen small changes get incorporated into a dancer’s style, things that can make their dance just that little bit nicer.

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