About 90 minutes into our Tango class last night the instructor asked us, “Are you ready to really challenge yourself, to drive yourself crazy?” There wasn’t much of a response from the dozen students. I meekly muttered, “Sure…I guess.”
Up to that point we’d mostly been working on an ocho cortado pattern. At first it drove Laurel and me crazy, so that explains why we weren’t thrilled to hear that we were about to be driven even crazier.
Six simple steps. But each has to be led and followed. Laurel and I struggled to get the pattern down. Then the rhythm. Carlos and Jodi, our highly competent teachers, gave us tips.
My main problem was not following Laurel after I led a movement. I had a preconceived notion of where she should go. When she didn’t end up where I expected her to be, I had trouble adapting. I’d gotten a geometric ocho cortado pattern in my head rather than the feel of the moves, which in Tango can move any which way so long as the man and woman stay connected.
So what was the next phase of our Tango development to be? Carlos told us: “You’ve been following the ocho cortado pattern. Now, break it. Be spontaneous. Do whatever you want. Experiment. Try different things.”
Interesting. It’s easier, much easier, to follow a dance blueprint than to create your own unique movement in time and space. Yet that’s where the evolution of learning Tango takes you. And is why Carlos likes to call Tango the “Ph.D. of social dance.”
A while back I wrote about getting a glimpse of Tango Zen. That’s still what I have, just a glimpse. But finding connections between the spontaneity of dance and the freedom of churchlessness continues to intrigue me.
There’s a natural rhythm to life and the cosmos, that, when you move freely with it, feels so right. The trick seems to be not trying to mimic someone else’s pattern.
That’s why religion binds. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Moses, Kabir—they all danced to their own music. Similarly, we need to dance to ours.
Tango on, spontaneously and freely. Life is your lovely partner.