But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet.
The above poem was written about relationships, not about dance of course. Coupled with the following lines It is a treasured read for weddings and lovers of all ages.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
However, as tango is the quintessential relational dance and is an excellent practica for relational dynamics, I think it is fair game to apply the Prophet’s wisdom directly to our dancing - and to relate what we express and experience on the dance floor to our life relationships.
These concepts might read like poetic metaphors but in fact they translate directly into how we live and move and relate both on and off the dance floor. The challenge presented then by the Prophet, is to maintain a balance between closeness and separation so that Spirit (the winds of the heavens) can permeate, envigorate and nurture relational couplings.
Let’s begin first by exploring ….
Togetherness as embodied in el abrazo, the hug or embrace, is the most definitive stylistic feature of tango. In the milonguero style of tango, the close embrace is maintained throughout the dance. According to its proponents (e.g., Susana Miller), maintaining chest-to-chest contact throughout the dance cultivates a more intense emotional connection and a heightened sensitivity to our partner’s positioning.
Togetherness goes far beyond maintaining close physical contact. It means holding your partner in a manner that cultivates a sense of connection and intimacy as well as support and structure. It incorporates listening to and being responsive to the interests, abilities and mood of your partner in a gentle and attentive manner.
And it feels great!
So why bother wedging space in your togetherness? Why break up a good thing?
Let’s explore the need for …
There are several reasons for changing up the embrace from close to open embrace throughout the dance. The most common rationale is that it allows more space for executing technical maneuvers. Open or salon style is used in performance tango for this reason. It certainly adds to the entertainment value. However, stylish flourishes do not necessarily compliment the connection with our partner.
The two negative polarities of togetherness and space are inundation and abandonment. Inundation equates with too much closeness, smothering, not allowing enough room for individual expression. Abandonment is no closeness or connection, the complete lack of support or nurturing. Either extreme will destroy a relationship (or ruin a dance).
Continual closeness can be uncomfortable for many reasons. We may not be comfortable with that level of physical contact for that length of time of with that partner. It may bring a feeling of inundation or claustrophobia. It may limit individual expression, or diminish personal power and creativity.
In relational terms, creating space does not simply mean creating distance or physical separation between you and your partner. It means providing an opportunity to be able to express themselves independently, to add their own stylistic interpretation to the dance.
In close embrace we cultivate the experience of being supported, cared for, even coddled. In open embrace we allow for individual expression, creativity and owning of personal power and authority. Nurturing relationships are ones which maintain some middle ground between those two extremes, precisely by alternating the elements of togetherness and space, closeness and separation.
But it is the movement between the close and open and back again where the winds of the heavens blow most free.
Let’s explore the richness of …
Releasing and Reconnecting
Every time I create space for my partner (as a lead) I am sending her out on her own to explore, express, be creative, have fun. In the interval, absence makes the heart grows fonder. As I patiently await her return, I am enthralled by the skill and energy that my partner invests in beautifying the dance. When she returns home to heart centre, we celebrate in gratitude and awe the elegance and creativity that has been added to our shared experience.
It is this returning, volver (the title of one of Carlos Gardel’s most moving serenades) that holds the promise of the most intense relational dynamic. As the lead, it is this choice to release my partner and relinquish control of the dance that sets the emotional charge and intensity for her return to our close embrace. As the follow, I feed into this alternating current by investing myself emotionally in the return. I express this stylistically by lingering and languishing on the return, taking my time, infusing intensity with attentive embellishments, the foot rub on the leg, the tease.
By changing up the dance like this, e.g. moving in and out of close embrace, we play the full spectrum of relational dynamics - from intimacy to independence, togetherness to separation. This interplay allows for the winds of the heavens to dance between - a truly tango high.