Music, Movement and Mutuality.
By my calculations, there are three principal elements to dancing tango. Each element has to be attended to individually; if any of the elements are neglected the overall dance suffers.
OK, we get music and motion ...
The music starts and we all move. No-one with a pulse can sit still when there is some energetic rhythm beating in the background. By the same token, few of us can remain unmoved or non-engaged when a romantic or melancholic melody washes over us. Music and movement are universal to all dance, whether it is ballroom dancing or shamanic trance.
… but mutuality?
Here is my contention. There is a third element that is as important to tango as the captivating music and movement, though it gets less mention and certainly less precise definition. For me, it is this third element of mutuality that is the most meaningful and which makes tango so alluring. It is this that keeps me dancing tango - despite the limitless learning and accompanying humiliation.
What is mutuality?
It is the manner in which dance partners partner - come together on the dance floor. It includes the energetic connection, cooperative intent, the physical, psychological and spiritual attunement to each other. It evokes the attitude and feelings of respect, sensuality, sensitivity, vulnerability, intimacy, and attraction.
Mutuality permeates and sculpts the entire tango dance form although it typically does not get acknowledged. Some of this element is identified in the embrace where we focus on tenderness and support. But mutuality extends much further and encompasses much more than that. It actually extends far beyond the dance floor and begins as an attitude prior to dancing.
Most of us are aware of mutuality as a feeling, sometimes even as a romantic attraction or sexual longing. A former teacher of mine was fond of saying, “Tango is the virtual expression of a horizontal desire.” It was cute at the time, but these popular parking lots for feelings are not helpful for the development of mutuality - or for an evolved personality for that matter.
Getting clear about what actually happens or can happen when two people come together in mutuality is transformative, both for the individual and the dance. I believe this experience can be transforming for society as well. God knows, with the current American presidential election in bold relief, the war between the sexes is as heated as ever. The objectifying, degrading, repressing of women in our society is rampant.
Nothing is needed more in our world today that the practice of mutuality. Tango can be such a practice if done with attention to, reflection on and reverence for this special opportunity to come together with another person.
Mutuality is seldom taught. There are reasons for this. It is very difficult to understand and even more intimidating to practice. Mutuality requires a level of self-awareness, self-confidence and selflessness that is not encouraged in our culture. To develop this skill, one has to look within to gain awareness of what one brings to the dance on a personal, felt-sense level. This is a skill far more difficult to master than any tango steps.
So who needs this?
Tango is difficult enough as it is! Why not just kick ups one’s heels and go out on the floor and have fun? Good question, (albeit rhetorical). Actually this is for the most part how most of us dance most of the time and there is certainly nothing wrong with a good, clean evening of fun and feelings. Tango dancers barely even drink, for goodness sake! And we never go home with our dance partners, (unless we also came with them).
But then there are the quirky few of us that are compelled to dig a little deeper, (I happen to be one.) For me, when music, movement and mutuality come together, magic happens. This magic opens a portal to the unseen and the mystical and I catch a glimpse into something much more ancient and universal than our little moment in time on the dance floor or the dance of tango itself.
In the coming weeks, I will attempt to explore with more precision what exactly this dynamic of mutuality is and why it is so nurturing and transformative. I hope you will join me. Please feel free to add you comments and insights below and to subscribe to the posts.