Dancing with E-Motion

Tango is danced to the beat of the heart: tick-tock. Only feeling gives it understanding and beauty, which is what is between the musical and the poetic and differentiates it from the coarse and mechanical…. A good dancer is one who listens to the music. We dance the music not the steps. Anyone who aspires to dance never thinks about what he is going to do.  Carlos Gavito

Well spoken by one whose performances with Marcela Duran (1980’s and 90’)  exemplified passion in dance.

Thank you for the directive, Carlos.

Nonetheless, I often find myself on the dance floor, thinking like the mechanic you vilify, fitting step sequences together like car parts instead of feeling and expressing myself creatively like an artist.

How do I transition from mind to heart?

From thought to feeling?

From route movement to creative artistic expression?

How do I infuse motion with emotion?

Here’s the problem. Initially all learning must be by route: repetitive practice involving both mind and body, over and over again, without feeling, mechanical and course, until the movement becomes a body memory. This process in fact repeats itself every time we learn a new step or skill.

But then as our learning progresses the mechanical mind is no longer required to help us through the motion or dance.  We create the opportunity where we are able to infuse our motion with emotion, to get out of our head and into our heart.

This transition to feeling and creative expression is a learned skill. It does not happen automatically.  Cultivating a creative, feeling style of dance is very challenging. It must be practiced just as diligently, courageously and selflessly as our route body learning. To put “e” into my motion I must invest myself, take personal risks, become vulnerable, sensitive, create space for intimacy by displacing my ego.

A lot of effort for something that will never be seen by others and only experienced by yourself and your partner. Is it worth it? In my mind, all the involved, technical maneuvers that we practice and execute on the dance floor are merely the medium for experiencing the most tantalizing dynamic of tango, that of expressing feeling in and through our bodies.

Although I am only recently to the dancing world and possess only rudimentary dancing skill, I have spent a lifetime working on my inner self. I am aware when I dance from the inside out. My experience is that a simple dance with e-motion, is more pleasing and satisfying than a more technically sophisticated or stylistically correct dance that has no heart connection.

Just recently I came away from a well manicured milonga of which my partner commented, “It ran very smoothly but it had no soul.” I interpreted that to mean, “The outsides were all in place, but the insides were missing.”

Of course, up to now I have just spoken about what goes on inside me. Yet tango is anything but a solitary experience.  The dance also must be in concert with the music, the dance floor and our partner. We must listen and attend to each of these other elements equally.  

When I cannot make a heartfelt connection with either of these, I cannot dance to the best of my ability. Sometimes I am not able to dance at all.

That is the consequence to one who strives to dance like an artist rather than a mechanic: Without the feeling there is no dance.