Dancing With Eyes Wide Shut

“Tango is about feeling and sensitivity, otherwise you are just doing gymnastics. You can do all the steps but it has to have the feeling and sensitivity of authentic tango.

We dance the music, not the steps. Anyone who aspires to dance never thinks about what s/he is going to do. What s/he cares about is that s/he follows the music.”

Carlos Gavito, former star and ambassador of Forever Tango.


For most of us, during our early days of dancing tango we kept our eyes glued to our feet. It was as if we didn’t know where the floor was unless we were staring at it. And we couldn’t tell where our partner was or what they were doing unless we watched their every move.  

Every once and awhile we would look up long enough to notice the seasoned dancers. They were dancing with their eyes closed! No visual checks.

How did they do it? Why did they do it? Didn’t that make a difficult dance impossible?

Actually, dancing with one’s eyes closed (except for leads who always have to keep at least an eye open to avoid collision with the other dancers) is a natural progression in tango. THere comes a developmental stage when too much visual stimuli actually hampers one’s sense of dance.

As beginners we are focused on learning steps and techniques. We rely on visual cues and verbal instruction as we would when learning any new skill or language. We commit to rehearsed, rote learning until we build up a readily accessible vocabulary (muscle memory, with which we can communicate instinctively on the dance floor.

The more internalized our technique and maneuvers become, the less we need to focus on the steps and the freer we become to focus on the nuances of the dance and how we want to sculpt it.

Making this shift from

  • explicit to implicit awareness,
  • concentrating on the mechanics of the dance to immersing oneself in the music,
  • being self-absorbed with my steps to  blending my movement with my partner’s,
  • scripted maneuvers to being truly spontaneous and creative

    requires ...
  • an entirely different skill set,
  • a different focus and intention,
  • a non-linear way of thinking, and
  • a new valuing of the dance experience.

At the same time ...

  • Connection becomes more important than technical proficiency.
  • We let go of judgement and create an open, inviting heart space.
  • We affirm our partner’s intrinsic beauty as more important than their dancing ability.
  • We embrace our partner with warmth, gentleness and support.
  • We move to the flow of the music and the dance floor and our partner’s ability.
  • We read our partner’s motion with our body-mind, not with our eyes.

All of this processing is done internally. This is why closing one’s eyes often assists in intensifying one’s sensual awareness of the dance.