“Tango is a feeling waiting to be danced.... You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood.” Cacho Dante
“When a man walks smoothly, the woman dies in his embrace.” Javier Rodriguez
“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.” Miguel Zotto
So say seasoned milongueros.
We get the point: Tango evokes feeling. Of some sort. In some way.
Since the comments are made by men, this is about as far as they go: the precise feelings never get explored too deeply.
And as Carlos Gavito, the quintessential sensualist, summated “You can teach steps. You can’t teach feelings.”
So we quickly revert back to fixating on the right way to position our feet or hold our partner or keep time with the music.
How do we dance feelings if we can’t say what we mean by feelings?
In my growing up world, feelings for men were simple. There were two types: those above the belt and those below the belt.
The below-the-belt feelings were pretty straightforward and certainly didn’t need any talking about, (except they did get an awful lot of talking about).
As for above-the-belt feelings, there were two types - angry and sad. If something else surfaced that didn’t fit neatly into those two categories it got stuffed below the belt. Even anger often got stuffed below the belt (hence the ubiquity of sexual abuse).
Certainly the subject of feelings is more complex than that?
I continue to struggle with this conflixion on and off the dance floor. In fact, one of the enduring appeals of tango for me is that it turns the world of feelings inside out. It forced me into situations where my gut reaction is entirely inappropriate or inaccurate. My instinctual responses to my partner, to the music, to the dance, no longer tuck neatly into my above-the-belt, below-the-belt psychology.
It took awhile (actually several years!) but eventually I figured out that it was silliness to interpret the physical closeness of my dance partner as a sexual overture. Nor did my warming up - physically and emotionally - carry any romantic or sexual undercurrents.
So then, back to our question?
What are these feelings that I nurture when dancing tango?
Do they matter?
Do they impact my dancing in anyway?
Are they merely a distraction from focusing on steps?
Can they infuse my dance with more energy, intensity?
Can I learn relational dynamics from the dance floor?
For me, there is no outer dance if there is no inner dance. In fact, I have learned that I am physically incapable of dancing if there is no internal resonance to the music and my dance partner. Why is that?
On to my next blog ...