“Remember, no violence here, guys.” Tuesday evening class at Casa Tango with Daniel and Vera Calcines.
No violence? In a dance class? What is Vera thinking?
I am just off reading a true story about a young female journalist from Calgary who had been kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for 429 days. Now that was violence. (I will spare you the gory details but a great book - House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.)
But this is not Somalia, this is Edmonton, in a dance class. Do we look like Somalian pirates?
An explanation is needed. The lesson is about an alternative way to lead a voleo. (Pay attention to the feel of the language, the energy, the body mechanics). I have been doing voleos for years and always the same way. I plant my legs firmly, I stiffen my upper body and in the middle of my partner’s backward ocho, I lock my arms and whip her free back leg into a forward ocho. No subtlety in the lead, no question about what is intended, no alternative step permitted from my partner. It is an assertion on my part, not a suggestion or invitation, an insistence, a command lead requiring an immediate, forced, compliant response.
To use Vera’s term - violence. Certainly no one is injured and not nearly as offensive as stepping on a foot or kicking a chin or even budging into the line of dance. All very harmless on one level. Violence nonetheless.
In contrast, consider the fluid lead that we are being taught this evening. As the follow begins her (his) step backward, the lead, taking care to support his (her) partner on her axis, steps around to meet her free moving leg. The follow instinctively aborts her move and smoothly changes direction to realign herself with her partner. No jerking, no whipping, no strong-arming on the part of lead. Instead he provides support, invites a response, creating time and space for the follow’s self-redirection.
I love it.
I have spent time and effort over the years in my professional capacity learning non-violent verbal communication, (speaking in a non-judgemental, non-aggressive, accepting manner, owning one’s thoughts and feelings, creating space for the listener.) The notion comes to mind that tango (depending on how it is taught and danced) is the equivalent on the physical plane. This is non-violent non-verbal communication. We are addressing and undoing the roots of violence where it really resides - in our bodies!
So I continue to practice unlearning my violent habits, attempting a smooth transition, providing support and creating space for my partner. Once in a while I get it right and my partner squeals with delight,” Yes, freedom, space. Wonderful. I love it!”
Great. She loves it too. It’s working.