This month, I was thinking about dance. It’s been a part of my life for over a decade—from a wiry, spectacled kid goofing around at homecoming to a slightly-less wiry guy performing on two college teams.
So overall, I felt good about my dance background…until I took a tango class.
Wow…what a difficult and rewarding afternoon. Here are some thoughts after learning a little about the vibrant and playful dance:
One was space. Tango is immediately intimate—which was a small shock to my system. From the first embrace, you are locked in with someone new; face and body wrapped tightly together within inches. My body stiffened with unease; a sensation I hadn’t felt even after years of dancing. Honestly, I came in thinking I was generally comfortable with space, but my first experience holding a stranger was challenging. Luckily, I was matched with great teacher who was patient and kind, and she helped me relax and loosen up by the end. But I left the class thinking how tango uniquely challenges your space and pushes you past your comfort zone of boundaries.
Second was connection. Veteran dancers in the class could create chemistry in seconds with a new partner—no matter their height, length or experience. It was amazing. What was their secret? Acute listening…both to their body and their partner’s body. I learned that tango is built on subtle shifts in pressure and weight to create flow and direction. Frankly, I had a tough time with this; I kept getting stuck in my own head and found it difficult to listen to signals from my partner. Our instructors told us to let go and trust our natural intuition. We learned how to sense pressure fluctuations in our partner’s hands, waist and body—all to help connect better and move as one.
Third was balance. Going in, I thought of myself as decently coordinated (read: no faceplants…yet). Safe to say, I was humbled after the class. I tangled constantly with my partner—stepping awkwardly, knocking against her knees and then sheepishly apologizing. It was almost like I was learning to walk again—figuring how to step forward and backwards and side-to-side without falling on my bum. (Came close…but didn’t happen!). Tango taught me a new meaning for “finding your footing”—and gave me new appreciation of what good balance really means.
Tango is truly beautiful – and I’m thankful that I could explore a small part of it for an afternoon!