TANGO, VIOLENCE AND VULNERABILITY
Vera: “Remember guys, no violence here.”
Oh, just a little bit. This is a dance class, after all. How bad can things get?
Vera’s caution is simply about the lead. Last class the voleo, this class the calesita. But it doesn’t matter the step. In tango there is a potential for any step to become violent (in a dance sense).
It is not that violent manuevers are taught, necessarily (though sometimes yes.) Typically what is taught is the exact opposite: connection, presence, engagement, sensitivity, communication, vulnerability, trust.
Ah, but there’s the rub. These gentle postures are precisely the fodder for violence.
Consider: The current lesson is about the calesita (read: merry-go-round) - the ultimate balance exercise.The lead ensures the follower is upright on her axis, and steps around her in a perfect circle while she pivots on her supporting leg. A very delicate maneuver which can quickly get violent if the lead misteps and causes the follow to lose her axis.
We spend fifty minutes of the hour practicing this walk-around move, focusing on nothing but providing support for our partner.
Then, at the last minute - just to spice things up - Daniel, always the trickster, throws in a volcada (read: capsize) in which the lead dislodges the follower from her axis and she falls perilously, precariously into his arms (if she is lucky).
This move has violence written all over it! As if you were instantly picked up off the merry-go-round and dropped into a tilt-a-whirl!
That is how tango works. It is all a setup. All a ruse. Just when you begin to relax and trust - bam. Capsize. Volcado. Violence.
Of course this is still just dancing and well-executed volcados are a lot of fun. (Not so much if you get dropped.) But the premise of these blogs is that tango is a charade in which we play-act the duplicities and complexities of life and relationships.
As in tango, so in life.
In real life, vulnerability is often the precursor for violence. I grew up in a home where there was sexual abuse. (read Trauma to Tango.) Most perpetrators are people we know very well. Friends of the family or in fact family members themselves. People with whom we are familiar, comfortable, share space, trust.
All a set-up. Just when you let down your guard - bam. Violation. Violence.
So why practice tango? Are we running a training school for sexual deviants? I don’t think so. (Just my opinion. Don’t mean to disappoint.) In tango we learn to walk the fine line between vulnerability and violation, trust and betrayal, support and capsizing - all as play. We learn what it feels like to support someone in their space without wavering and then at the last moment chose our exit, (a delicate voleo or a volcado.)
We identify the turning point, we feel in our bodies where we transition from one intention to the other. So that we can have power in our actions and be aware of the transition points and choose to live life without violence.
As I return to news headlines about soldiers killing and being killed I remember a Second World War cartoon with platoons of soldiers marching uniformly, arms outstretched and legs kicking out in front. The caption: “If Hitler had taught his soldiers how to do the two step rather than do the goose step, there might never have been a war.”
Imagine: if everyone just learns to dance the tango ...