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Dancing in the moment

June 2, 2010

Once upon a time (although it was just over a year ago, I feel like ages), I took a private with a famous tango star who was the leading role in a famous tango show. At that moment, I was lost, didn’t know how to move on. Despite all my skepticism of learning social tango from a stage star, he was highly recommended by a few women whom I had danced with. “He made me feel like a woman.” according to one. That was always my goal of dancing tango.

I was never interested in being a good dancer, who could execute perfect sacada and lead beautiful beleos, or dance fluidly and brilliantly. I was never interested in the physical aspect of the dance.  I have been practicing and studying martial arts for many years. Complex movement and sequences don’t interest me. Forms is just means to a more profound finding: the internal chi and harmony…  That’s why all these moves: Colgada, volcada, whatever they are, generally it took me less than half an hour to be able to learn to execute it nicely. What interests me, at this point, is to discover the connection and find that magical moment between the two.

Well, I digress (maybe not). :-) This amazing dancer taught me something at that class : you need to dance one step ahead, you need to always know where to put the woman next… an advice I had heard it before. He was right. It was a man’s responsibility.

Back to present time, at festivals and the milongas in Buenos Aires, I sit and watch: so many dancers, majority of them are trying to dance the next step, create the next movement, so busy, so impatient. I feel tired just watching them. And bored. Even with the few who could dance beautifully to the music. Something is missing from the dance.

I met a young German girl from another town at Berlin festival. I spot her dancing on the floor the first night out. The milonga was held at the Berlin City Hall: Rotes Rathause. A grand venue for milonga. A dream place to dance in. Apparently over six hundred dancers thought the same… the place was packed with frenzied dancers. She stood out, so unusually calm for a young dancer. So collected. I tried to cabeceo her the whole night. Three hours later we danced. Then every night after we looked for each other for a tanda. The third night, her last night, after we danced a tanda of D’Arienzo con Maure in a jam packed room, one of the famous performers and teachers at the festival stopped her and asked for her name. Later he asked her for a tanda. I took a look and turned away. Not interesting… disappointed actually.

The after hour milonga continued after 4:30am, I was so tired and  almost skipped it. I went out and  came back. There was a woman I would  love to have a tanda  with. I put on my shoes, then disappointingly saw her taking  off hers. Oh well, the music was good. I sat and  watched others dance.

They caught me eyes: this same young girl and a young guy. They stood out from the rest of the crowd. Smooth, flowing on the floor. Not rushed, not hurried. One body, four  feet, painting the floor. My eyes had been following them, for four tandas (one Biagi, one D’agostino con Vargas, one OTV and one Canaro milonga). I was jealous. She had  not danced with anyone more than one tanda. At the same time, I was happy watching them. It was such a rare joy to watch the music coming from the bodies, the feet.  ( Have I mentioned that I rarely watch and even avoid watching live performances at the milongas? ) Never a moment during that four tandas I felt disinterested.

They were dancing in the moment, every moment, for each other, without the sign of wanting to go to the next step. They just moved when they were both ready. The in between steps were filled with music, energy…

A wise and dear friend of mine, a successful writer, once told me: silence in tango is very pleasant. It is like sitting here with someone you know very well, your spouse, your very good friend, without feeling the need to entertain each other, to make an effort to talk to each other. Just sitting here comfortably, enjoy the presence of each other. Enjoy the moment…

A while ago, a friend asked me in a practica: So what are you working now?

Try not to dance. I answered.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying more and more just embracing my partner, listening to the music and not worrying about what to dance next. Just being in the moment and dance in the moment.

It is such a joy!

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9 Comments
  1. Dancing one step ahead isn’t the worst piece of advice ever. Definitely better than dancing 8 steps ahead. But it’s advice that can be misconstrued. You still have to focus on the step that you are currently dancing, that she is dancing. Otherwise she’ll be dancing step N and you’ll be on step N+1. It could better be phrased as ‘live for today with thought for tomorrow’.

    I must note that I too have a lack of interest in complex movement and sequences and also have a background in martial arts.

    • It was a very good advice. One has to know clearly what to do next. That’s why dancing simple makes a lot of sense: instead of having the intention of creating a sequence of movement, a simple step or walk is easier to perfect so that it becomes natural. When one doesn’t have to think about what to do next, one could focus more on the presence.

      It might not be a good analogy: but as martial artists, we all know that most of time, it takes only one strike, rather than the combination of movements to take your component down. :-P

  2. jaime permalink

    “… It is like sitting here with someone you know very well, your spouse, your very good friend, without feeling the need to entertain each other, to make an effort to talk to each other. Just sitting here comfortably, enjoy the presence of each other” — INDEED!

  3. Maybe it’s a cliché, but they say the dancing happens between the steps :-)

  4. Dirk permalink

    Dancing the moment, beautiful written! Enjoyment for the reading eye. It sounds like the dance is already there, just follow that, what the moment in the energy brings by focussing in the flow on the end of the actual step into the next step, and again.

  5. Well done, TP. Because I “follow so well”, leads tend to want to throw everything at me, when all I want to do is move deeply and simply with the music. I hope some day we get a chance to exchange energies in the embrace :-)

    • @Johanna, Yes, one of these days. :-)

  6. This is a great post. Indeed many times I haven’t really desired to dance with what are considered great followers in a room because they’re mind is always on and almost wanting to be challenged all the time.

    If I don’t see a follower enjoying the simplest of the movements, chances are we won’t have a great time…

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