Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Two Sins in Tango (part 1)


I once studied with a famous Argentine maestra, Graciela Gonzalez, who told our class on our first day with her, "There are two sins in Tango:  for the woman it's to anticipate, and for the man it's to hesitate!

Now, after teaching for so many years, as well as dancing in milongas even longer, I've figured out that women and men "commit" their respective "sins" for the same reason: anxiety on the dance floor.

Two years ago, I gave a fun seminar called "The Tangueros' 14 Deadly Errors" to an audience of 30-40 men and women in the Palm Beach area.  I told them about how when I discovered tango, I loved it so much because at no other moment in my life did I feel so free, and so able to be myself!  I asked who else in the room felt that way, and not one hand went up!  Everyone in the room agreed that they suffer from some degree of dance anxiety or feelings of inadequacy on the dance floor!  

In honor of Mother's Day ;) let's talk this week about the woman's "sin", and what she can do about it.  

Anyone who dances Argentine Tango already knows, at least in theory, that when the woman anticipates - that is, moves before receiving the man's lead - she prevents him from proposing his spontaneous improvisation to her.  It puts him in the position of constantly altering his creative interpretation of the music to accommodate her unexpected and premature movements that come from what she thinks the lead will be.  

So the tanguera's anticipating the lead eliminates the possibility of a creative dialogbetween the partners, and puts the tanguero in the stressful situation of constantly being on the alert for and accommodating her guess-driven movements. A really good tanguero and gentleman will never let his partner know she's made a mistake; he quietly adapts and incorporates the error into his improvisation, so the dance flows smoothly and his partner feels like a Queen.This is one skill that tangueros should start to develop early on! However, if dancing with a woman becomes stressful because of she frequently anticipates, he may avoid inviting her to dance in the future.  (Women who complain that they're not often invited to dance often don't understand that their anticipating may be the reason.)  

The tanguero is not the only one who may feel stressed in this situation.  While many men have accused women who anticipate as "trying to lead", and "being presumptuous", the real cause of the problem is that women with this usually temporary flaw in their tango dancing are, consciously or not, eager to please the man, trying too hard to understand what he wants, and wanting do the right thing.  A less experienced tanguera, who may be accustomed to dancing other social couple dances with fixed structures, may want to know "Well, which figure that I learned is next?"  And when the man pauses, potentially the most romantic or provocative moment in a tango, she may wonder, "What am I supposed to do now?", because she has not yet understood that every single movement or non-movement in tango is part of a unique and intimate dialog! 

On the other hand, a more experienced tanguera, who knows what tango's reallyabout, may still anticipate because she's concerned about what the man, or anyone watching, thinks of her dancing.  She's partly focused on herself, and like the beginner, she's also, maybe unconsciously, worried about what she's supposed to do.  In other words, when a woman dances self-consciously, she is likely to anticipate.

For women who want to eliminate the anticipation habit, I'm going to recommend a solution that, as I mentioned at the top of this issue, was inspired by Gainesville tanguero David Chayes' email a few weeks ago.  David (in a totally different context) wrote about how important CURIOSITY has been to him in developing his own tango.  And I realized that curiosity was indeed an element that had also helped me enjoy tango very deeply and become a better dancer!   Thanks, David, for initiating the discussion (and we can continue your original discussion in another private thread).

So here is my advice to women who want to stop anticipating and get much moreenjoyment from their tango.  (I think David will agree.)   When you go to dance, enter every tango embrace with an attitude of curiosity - with an open mind and the desire to discover something about the man in your tango embrace, whether he is a stranger, an old friend, your regular dance partner, or the love of your life!  When you "listen" with your body and mind to every nuance of the intention of a partner's proposal of movement to you, with your main desire being to discover what he wants to say to you in this private and unique nonverbal dialog, you will automatically shift your attention off yourself.  You will no longer feel self-conscious.  By being so intensely present in the tango embrace, focusing your attention on what you can discover about your partner during this song, you will no longer anticipate. You will get more joy from your tango life and from every tango encounter, and you will become a more enjoyable and desirable partner. 

I'll share with my readers again this passage from my journal in my early days of tango:

“In tango I found a pause, an oasis from stress, an island where I could livein brief but intense intervals with a man. It’s a world in itself where time doesn’t stop, but is decidedly different. When I dance tango I enter an oasis where nothing exists but:  the music . . .  the full presence of the man within my embrace . . . his breathing and mine . . .  the beating of his heart and of mine . . .  our contact together with the floor. Within this embrace I can discover intimate aspects of the man through his interpretation of the music, and allow him to discover intimate aspects of me.

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May I also suggest to our tangueras while you're practicing being curious as you dance, that you also go to every tango event with an attitude of curiosity about how this experience will be unique and will enrich you!  Whether or not your favorite tangueros are present, and whether or not everything is to your liking that evening, by practicing open-minded curiosity, you will enjoy every milonga!

If you found these comments helpful, keep in mind that Modules #8 and #9 of my "Permission Seduction™ Tango Learning System" - respectively, "Master the art of the Dynamic Dialog" and "Feel like a radiant Queen at every milonga" - go much deeper into the subjects I discussed here!

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