I spoke last week with one of my Coaching Club members, who had reported some wonderful progress in his tango, including slowing down and applying the magical pauses that he learned about in the first section of our Tango Improvisation Mastery home study program. In one module, I dedicated significant time to the concept of "lingering in the cross". (Try it. It's pure magic.)
But last week this same tanguero confided to me that he's rushing again. His regular partner tells him he's rushing her out of the cross. It's as if the rubber band had stretched and then returned to close to its original shape. Probing a little futher, he revealed that he's a man who likes to keep busy.
I asked him to ponder the questions, "What will happen if you really slow down, and create an interval of silence? . . .
. . . What are you afraid of?"
. . . What are you afraid of?"
A local intermediate-level tanguero, who has studied with me extensively and of whom I'm so proud, knows how to make any woman feel wonderful on the dance floor. I was recently so surprised to see that he has resumed the habit of rushing in spots of almost every tango. Using the example of the cross again: he slows down beautifully to bring his partner to the cross with much feeling for the music, but as soon as he hears the next beat of music he rushes into the next step.
I asked, "Why aren't you lingering in the cross anymore?" He said he's afraid of messing up the phrasing in the music. He had invested several months in studying only my musicality system, which helped bring his lifelong love of music to his tango in an "informed" way. Most partners find his musicality delightful. But now he sometimes rushes, because of some anxiety.
The element of rush always breaks the magic in tango. Always! Heed my words.
Now let's turn to tangueras:
How many women rush into the cross and rush right out? They do this even when their partners lead a Regular Basic which, when led properly, gives women the luxury of taking the time they want to cross, as they feel the music. Or if in the Regular Basic the man chooses to lead them to the cross at a certain speed (whether fast or super-slow), they can savor the nuance of that lead and enjoy this little game!
However, even the crossed-system basic, which forces a cross in syncopation, is not a rushed step! It is a syncopated step.
Women often rush into and out of the cross for just a few reasons:
1) They are terrified of making a mistake. This kind of rushing the cross is a case of anticipating the lead, and is always caused by anxiety.
And in this case, #2 is also a factor:
2) Even tangueras who feel confident in their dancing may still rush the cross because they haven't taken the time to get 100% to their balance on their right leg before crossing with their left. Rather, they leave some of their weight on their left leg and must quickly yank their weight off to get to their axis in time for the cross.
Neglecting to find your balance, or "claim your axis", as some teachers nicely call it, on the step before the cross is a sign that you're not doing it with every step throughout your tango.
That tells me that you're avoiding (or don't know about) the interval of silence, the micro-pause between steps, that I call "the split second difference in your tango". In this split-second interval, both partners anchor themselves, finding their perfect verticality. It is a brief moment in which you ground yourself and can feel "who-you-really-are". As I explain in my article, "The Power in Your Gap", employing this interval is not only essential to connecting with your partner throughout your tango, but for you it is also extremely empowering.
Here's a rule that will never fail you: There is no rush in tango. Period.
Even when you hear the orchestra playing in double time (in which the major beat and the minor beat are played with equal importance), you can dance calmly. There is no rush in double-time. There is no rush even in a fast milonga.
Rushing = anxiety.
Here are some online definitions of anxiety:
Google: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
An online medical dictionary: Anxiety is a multisystem response to a perceived threat or danger.
If you see yourself in any of the tango examples above, I'd like you to ask yourself:
"What am I afraid of?" "What am I afraid will happen, if I slow down?" "Why do I avoid pausing, stretching a pause, staying still in my tango?"
Here's an assignment for you:
A) At your next practica or milonga, try slowing down.
- Try observing much more the pauses in the music, and even taking your time moving into the next phrase.
- Try leading the cross, or going to the cross, slowly.
- Try "lingering in the cross" even after you've completed it.
- Men, try pausing with every side-step to your left that's not on a syncopation.
B) Observe any anxiety that comes up, and later ponder what you experienced. Study yourself in this regard.
C) Simply become aware of the fears that have caused you to rush until now.
D) Then ask yourself "What would be the consequences of eliminating the rush?"
I'm not asking you to change now. I'm just asking you to develop this one piece of self-knowledge.
If you have the courage to simply undertake this exercise, I guarantee that your tango will start to change. And I predict that things will start to shift for the better in your life as well!
This article addresses just one of the simple essentials on which we will focus in the August Tango Mojo Coaching Retreat, where I will guide 16 tangueros and 16 tangueras to have the breakthroughs they have been seeking in their tango!