Is life a dance? Is dancing life? Sure.
We find a partner. We lose a partner. We stumble. We move smoothly. We forget where we're supposed to go. We get on track again.
Life is reflected in every style of dance. But many see Argentine Tango as the best representation of life. A few years ago I blogged about how "I'm learning to Tango with life."
Still am. Learning.
What a delight. Especially when Rachel partnered up with Lora and demonstrated how to move. These ladies can. Move. (Here's a YouTube video of Rachel waltzing in a competition.)
An accomplished dancer looks danceish even when he or she is just standing in one spot, talking. Or moving from place to place, walking. It isn't anything magical, really, though years of training are reflected in every stance and move.
It's basically presence. Being aware. Conscious of yourself, the rhythm you're hearing, the person you're connected with, others in the room.
Rachel is a marvelously positive woman. I'm sure she has her down days, but you'd never know it from her unfailing infectious smile, encouraging words, and warm energy. She spoke of chi, something I hear a lot about in my Tai Chi classes.
There's no way to tie chi down in words, but one way it manifests is as intention – a passion that another Tango instructor, Matt, spoke about. Without it, this energy of life, we're living at half-throttle, idling through our years.
Last weekend's Argentine Tango workshops helped bring Laurel and me up to a higher dancing speed, though we're still cruising along at low RPM's compared to experienced dancers.
Yet in three hours Rachel revved up us quite a bit, along with a pleasingly large number of other classmates (showing that sleepy Salem is ready to Tango, more than vicariously).
Here's some of her general Argentine Tango tips that are more obviously applicable to life. I'll share some Tango specifics in a continuation to this post.
--Connection between the leader and follower is all important, whether you're in close embrace or farther apart. Feel the intention of the leader and the response of the follower.
--A leader has to be decisive. Don't hesitate. A wishy-washy lead is more likely to result in stepped on feet or a stumble, not less likely. Move confidently into the follower's space; she (usually the follower is a woman) will get out of the way.
--Argentine Tango is fully led and followed, unlike patterned dances. There is no set pattern to Argentine Tango. It's spontaneous, moving to the rhythmic intention of the moment.
--Thus the follower shouldn't anticipate. Even though almost always this move follows that move, "almost" allows for the leader to go in another direction. Feel what is really happening, not what you expect to happen.
--Argentine Tango is the only dance style that can be danced to any sort of music: waltz, foxtrot, rhumba, salsa, nightclub, and so on. It's flexibility flows from its spontaneity and lack of a regular rhythm of its own.
--The essence of Tango is simply walking. As Carlos, another instructor, told us: "Guys, Tango is simple. It's just walking with the woman in a way that will make her fall in love with you." (For the duration of the dance, at least.)
Read on for some Argentine Tango specifics.
--Keep your elbows in, unlike a ballroom hold where the elbows are out. The man's right arm and woman's left are held low. His left hand is rotated inward, to avoid pressing the woman away. (The Tango partner connection is considerably more intimate than a ballroom hold.)
--It's OK to step forward with either the toe or the heel. Rachel prefers heel, as do I, probably because Tai Chi demands it. But she said that some accomplished Argentine Tango dancers step toe first, caressing the floor.
--The eight-count basic is sort of a patternless pattern. Some instructors ignore it. But it can be a useful guide, especially for beginners, out of which spontaneity emerges.
--There's virtually an infinite number of ways to dance the eight-count basic, using different rhythms, hesitation and stutter steps, turns from various moves. Experiment.
--Leaving out counts 4 and 5 (the cross) produces a six-count basic.
--Rachel sees the cross as being always led, in contrast to the notion that two outside steps by the leader are a signal for the woman to cross.
--The lead is with a body turn after placing weight on the left foot (count 4 of the eight-count basic); the step forward with the right foot is icing on the cross cake, so to speak; it brings the leader in line with the follower but isn't part of the lead for the cross.
--The leader shouldn't take more than two steps outside the follower. Do something else after the two steps. To return to the regular position, the leader steps inside with his outside foot.