Speak to me gently, softly. Caress me. Move with me. Sway with me. Coax me to relax into the shape of what you know and who your are. Invite me to breathe into the space between, inhale deeply the fragrance of connection, taste the deliciousness of moving together. This is the giving and receiving. This is how I learn.
I am in immersed in the intricacies of my lesson with Deborah Sclar, a charming and talented teacher from Bolder, Colorado, www.danceoftheheart.com, hosted by Jacqueline Goudreau, Project Tango Edmonton, Studio Ten.
Very early I recognize this lesson is not about adjusting a step - though it starts there. Nor is it about learning a dance sequence - though we deconstruct a few. Of course, we take time to practice walking and adjusting my posture and finding my axis( always and forever revisiting the basics).
But this is all merely a prelude to exploring something more personal; my miscues happen to be clues to something deeper. This lesson is quickly becoming about who I am at my core, as a dancer, as a lover. The points of balance, the pivots, the embrace are all tell-tale signs as to how much of me I bring to the dance floor and share with my partner: my strength, my courage, my desire for connection, my openness to intimacy.
The body-talk begins.
My most memorable lessons have done more than simply manipulate choreography. They have touched something deep within.
Tell me how to change my dancing and I am intrigued. Tell me how adjusting my dance will change me and I am inspired. I will stride boldly forward into a fuller, stronger self-expression.
The wise teacher is one who speaks directly to my body, who recognizes that the body has a mind and will of its own which is not governed or directed by my intellect or will. For the body to hear and understand it must be caressed, cajoled, spoken to in the language of the senses that bypasses words.
The embrace reveals all.
How I hold my hand is not about technique but an expression of the intention and openness of my heart. My arm around your back is my commitment to providing support and guidance, my promise to remain in relationship when steps are challenging, if you lose your balance or the line of dance is fraught with abrupt stops and detours. I read from your arm on my neck, your cheek to my cheek, your appetite for pleasure , your delight in sharing this space, your trust in my artistry.
Deborah, wisely, speaks directly to my chest, my heart chakra. “Where are you hiding? Why do you shrink away when I approach? Are you shy?” She massages my sternum, runs her fingers down my breastplate, then waits for a response.
I have been told this before, repeatedly, about my chest collapsing, hiding. This is not new. It has been a focus of all my dance instructors and therapists since I started dancing. It is a problem in tango, since all the connecting, all the communication comes from the chest. The chest is the centre of power.
Dancing in my power.
Truth is, I am afraid of dancing in my power.
OK. I have lots of reasons or excuses as to why that might be. (If you care to know more, check out my book, Trauma to Tango). I have plenty of years of experiencing power as abusive, manipulative, offensive, cellular memories that my body guards within.
Deborah addresses my body again: “Come out. Show your strength. Present yourself. Handsome. Strong. Dare to dance. Your are the centre of this universe. Enough mincing. Strut your stuff.”
Truly none of the past reservation, hesitation, serves me now. I risk bringing my whole self to the embrace. I step forward boldly with conviction.
We rehearse the sequences that were problematic previously. They all have been spontaneously corrected. I am leading without shrugging or steering, pulling pushing. I am giving a clear signal of intention through my chest which my partner is having no trouble following.
There is no hiding with tango.
Tango is the only place that such reclusiveness, reticence, fear gets identified, addressed and resolved.
I walk around my office the next day, adjusting my posture, aware of how habitual and pervasive is my slouching.
That evening my dance-partner comments: “You seem taller.”
The message is reinforced. If I want to change my sense of self, it is not enough to think or talk myself through the process. I have to invite my body into the mix as well. Tend to it with respect and tenderness as if it has a mind of its own. Which it does. Then resolve to practice the new me moment in and moment out.
Dance is Life
Nothing exists in isolation. Every thing is part of a bigger picture. Every experience is a window onto the inexhaustive panorama of joy and beauty, Every encounter an invitation to surrender more fully into life's embrace .