Would that Arnold Schwarzenegger had made a movie called “The Resonator” rather than “The Terminator,” about building up society rather than blowing it up.
Resonating humanizes us.
It is something we do instinctively as social creatures. We read each other’s thoughts, moods and motions. We internalize them, amplify them and then externalize them.
Resonating makes communication possible by allowing us to get under each other’s skin - in a positive sense. We gain confidence in our ability to share our inner self. We find comfort knowing we are not alone.
Resonance is a feeling, not a thought.
It is important to note that this process happens more on a biological or energetic level than it does on a cognitive level. It is more an intuitive feeling or awareness than a thought. Much of this resonance is absorbed and amplified through the heart (chakra) which transmits and receives significantly more energy than does the brain.
How does this relate to dance?
The entire human body itself is a natural resonator, with each organ, tissue, bone and fluid absorbing different kinds of vibratory energy and responding with harmonic vibrations. Alan Burbick describes the process of resonating in a way that is particularly relevant to dance:
Our slightest social exchanges — our glances, our smiles and frowns are indicators of empathy; my ability to envisage myself in your body and your state of mind, and you in mine.
We perform this kind of emotional mimicry intuitively and incessantly over the course of our daily social interactions, in some degree donning the emotional and mental outfit of each person with whom we come into close contact.
But we are also, apparently, absorbing each other’s sense of time, which is encoded in our psychoemotional states. The key ingredient seems to be a physiological response called arousal, which ... refers to the degree to which the body is preparing itself to act in some manner. It’s measured through heart rate and the skin’s electrical conductivity; ... Arousal can be thought of as the physiological expression of one’s emotions or, perhaps, as a precursor of physical action; ….When we see movement, even implied movement in a static image ... we enact that movement internally. In a sense, arousal is a measure of your ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. ( Alan Burbick, Why TIme Flies, taken from www.brainpickings.com)
What this means for dancers is that we are not only able to read our partner’s intentions (mental) and intuit their feelings (emotional) but we resonate with their inner motion (physical) as well.
Resonance is at the heart of tango.
Tango requires being attuned to the music and our partner’s movement and allowing both to govern our response. I believe this is the core of the deeply humanizing experience that we gain from dancing tango. Our internal rhythm is augmented through alignment with our partner's while dance.
My intrigue with tango is that it combines all layers of resonance (mental, emotional, physical) so cohesively. At least, the potential is there. As referenced in the above quote, the experience of resonance only comes if we are “aroused” or sensitized to our partner’s inner dance.
Because the tango is so technically sophisticated, there is the pitfall of it being danced from the head, (especially for the lead). This can result in an isolating, technical exercise, by-passing all the deeply satisfying resonance that happens when mind, heart and body are attuned to one’s partner and the music.
Every dance can be pleasurable.
How do I resonate with my partner? The first step is to learn the steps, of course, the technical elements. As with any language (format for expression), we cannot communicate without learning the vocabulary. And as with any language, with tango, this process is never-ending.
Although expanding one’s vocabulary increases one’s ability to communicate, one should not wait until some future imagined day before attempting to communicate at a heart level. Simple words like “I love you” may say more than you could express in an entire book. So It is never too early to attempt and to expect to experience tango at a deeply satisfying, soul-nurturing level. At the same time one is learning basic steps one can also learn basic resonance techniques.
In my advanced stage of life, I cannot afford to invest time, effort, energy into something that does not bring me fairly immediate pleasure and satisfaction. Which means, with respect to tango, that I commit to thoroughly enjoying EVERY dance, irrespective of the skill level that I and my partner bring to the dance.
Expanding your capacity for resonance.
Let’s be clear about what is happening when we line up with our partner on the dance floor. Unless our partner is crude or rude, (which occasionally happens, in which case we shouldn’t be dancing with them in the first place), tango sets us up to share an intimate experience with another highly evolved person (yes, this is a characteristic of committed dancers). We will be sharing not only the next few precious moments in close embrace, we will also be co-creating a tapestry of movement in response to beautiful music.
How could this not feel wonderful? It is a travesty to plow through a dance focused more on technical proficiency than feeling or attunement with our partner.
Some exercises that keep us energetically connected with our partner.
Begin with the BEST approach to the tango embrace: centering Breath, welcoming Eyes, warming Smile, delicate Touch.
Relax! Soften the shoulders. Breath deeply and slowly and in harmony with your partner. A tense body does not resonate or feel.
As a lead, major on steps that support connection (mirrored movement, e.g. walking) rather than disconnection (asymmetrical steps, e.g., molinette).
As a follow, celebrate the invitations and opportunities to reconnect heart to heart.
Allow your embrace to express emotional connection. Renegotiate it throughout the dance. Don’t stay fixed or rigid. Move in and out of close embrace.
Use subtle ways of communicating pleasure or displeasure throughout the dance, e.g., touching cheek to cheek, adjusting embrace, moving hand and arm placement, verbalizing your experience with a compliment or thoughtful corrective and expressing gratitude at the end (yes, I know, not proper tango etiquette).
Open your heart. Allow yourself to feel. Take emotional risks.