I start my essay in the February 2014 issue of Mindful magazine in the embrace of a very good tango teacher. His name is Hugo Daniel, and here he is dancing with another tango teacher, Aurora Lubiz, whom I also studied with when I spent a month in Buenos Aires in 2009:
Aurora teaches a great class on women’s technique and has some interesting things to say about the follower’s role here. About tango leads, she says, “I dance with them, but I also dance with me.”
(Aurora also happens to sell beautiful tango shoes…don’t get me started on the shoes!)
I caught the Argentine tango bug about seven years ago (after trying ballroom tango and then salsa). Ballroom tango just wasn’t my style (more power to them, though). I’ve just never been interested in performing or competing. I simply like to dance—and I love the feeling of my partner leading or suggesting a move and my body responding. Tango is a wordless conversation happening between two tuned-in bodies, and it’s all set to gorgeous, rather mournful music. (The song that Hugo and Aurora are dancing to above is “Tres Esquinas,” played by Angel D’Agostino’s orchestra, with Angel Vargas singing).
For more great tango music, check out this modern ensemble.
Back to the dance for a second… The Argentine tango is all about connection—that’s what I love about it. And it taught me that in order to connect with whomever I’m dancing with, I have to first connect with myself. Am I on balance? Am I comfortable in the embrace? Am I feeling the floor with my whole foot? Am I really hearing the music and moving to its cues?
It goes this way because tangueros and tangueras need to be able to respond on a dime. It’s a totally improvised dance. There’s no choreography and then going through the motions. My partner suggests how it’s going to go, and I, as a “follower,” respond to those suggestions in the way my body now knows how to respond.
Here’s an example: the precision and synchronicity in this tango means both dancers (not just dancers, but Geraldine Rojas and Javier Rodriguez) are very, very tuned into the moment and each other:
I’m still dancing tango. And it’s still teaching me the same beautiful lesson over and over: the more I’m in touch with what’s going on inside of me and outside of me, the better the dance gets.
The better life gets.
Tracy Picha is the editor of Mindful and a freelance writer.