Last weekend I went to a few Miami area milongas with Janice, my coaching client from New York, and I personally had two experiences on the dance floor that bring home the point of the "What are you afraid of?" article series. One of the men with whom I danced is a tango semi-professional from South America. After just a few steps in close embrace, he opened up and began "throwing at me" all kinds of rapid figures and changes of direction. This went on for the entire tanda. When I sat down, Janice said, “That looked very good, but it seemed like he was just challenging you to do a lot of steps.” We may (or may not) have impressed a few people with all the flash, but there was no intimacy, no poetry, no magic. Do I want to dance with him again? Nah.
At a different milonga a man whom I'd call "an advanced student" had come without his regular dance partner. He invited me for the first time ever, and we danced a very busy milonga con traspié (syncopated). He was so excited about "how well [I] followed" that he invited me for two more tandas that evening. I accepted to be friendly; his lead was clear and his sense of rhythm was fine . . . and he's a very nice guy. He chatted away with me, as if we were at a cocktail party, as he led me through a myriad of figures in rapid succession, which I calmly followed. There were almost no pauses. End result? I had a nice conversation and got some exercise.
Are you getting the message? I wonder if my men readers who earnestly struggle on the dance floor and dream of having their invitations accepted by wonderful partners would admire these two men for their skill and their wide vocabulary of figures.
Well, here's what my thoughts want to say to the two tangueros in my story:
"Gentlemen, as a woman in your embrace, I have no interest in the breadth of your repertoire of tango figures. Mr. Semi-professional, if you wanted to impress me, you failed. If you wanted to engage me in fun, you could have smiled. If you were using me to impress others, I don't appreciate being used. Mr. Advanced Student, yes, you were pleasant and smiling. I knew you were having fun, and we got to know each other a little better. But was it really tango that we danced? Because I didn't feel any tango in those three tandas.
"Gentlemen, if either of you were my student or coaching client, I would challenge you to slow way down and I would dare you to make my heart pound. I would challenge you enliven your embrace with your masculine presence . . . and to use fewer and simpler 'words', and 'write me a poem' that I would cherish for years."
My dear readers, both tangueros and tangueras, again I'd like you to ask yourselves:
"What am I afraid of?"
"What's the rush all about?"
"What am I afraid will happen if I slow down?"
"Why do I avoid pausing, prolonging a pause, having a moment of stillness in my tango?"
You may not get any immediate answers to these questions, but I think the following 4-part assignment will help (Tango Ladies too!):
1) At your next practica or milonga, try slowing down.
- Observe much more the pauses in the music, even taking your time to move into the next phrase.
- Lead the cross, or go to the cross, slowly.
- "Linger in the cross", even after you've completed it.
- Men, pause with every side-step to your left that's not on a syncopation.
2) Simply observe any anxiety that may come up, and later ponder what you experienced. Study yourself in this regard. Don't get busy with many things and brush it aside.
3) Just become aware of any fears that may have caused you to rush until now. Write them down.
4) Ask yourself "What would be the consequences of eliminating the rush?"
If you stay still and wait for the answers to numbers 3) and 4), when they come to you, you may find those answers to be so irrational that you'll want to ignore them. But don't! Pay attention to and write down whatever bubbles up when you ask these questions. Your hidden fears are coming from a place in your subconscious that was formed before you were 7 years old, and they're still ruling you today. But when you shed the light of truth on such falsities, simply by observing them objectively, they begin to disintegrate. That may be all you need to break through. And the changes in your tango will feel effortless.
[My coaching clients who are willing to face their own discomfort, like Janice last week, and G.W. several weeks earlier, experience breakthroughs in their 1-week Private Coaching Retreats.]
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, without any struggle. You will begin to savor your tango. And I predict that some things will start to shift for the better in other areas of your life as well!