For me, the Feldenkrais Method and Argentinean tango are perfect complements. From tango, I bring my ability to be present and listen with my whole being to my Feldenkrais practice. From the Feldenkrais Method, I bring heightened awareness to my dance. I use what I’ve learned about biomechanics, internal support, and self-organization to dance with more consistent presence of axis and connection with my partner and the music. I cherish my capacity as a dancer to breathe with my partner and sense my partner’s axis and feel his footsteps on the floor. I feel how subtle changes within one of us is reflected in the other as we live together in the space of pauses and notes played. I give thanks for my work as a student and teacher in the Feldenkrais Method; I give thanks to the existence of Argentinean tango in my life.
To listen with all of yourself,
Melding into a respect-filled oneness of being with another,
Optimizing self-organization and internal support,
lightness and least effort,
To embrace, cherishing the present moment.
An embodied conversation …… A metaphor for living.
I had my first Argentinean tango dance experience years ago in a friend’s living room, standing in stocking feet. He pushed the play button on his iPod and invited me into a salon-style embrace. Over the course of one song, I discovered that I easily responded to each of his movement invitations; we were in an conversation beyond words. As we continued to dance, I kept stopping and asking, “How is this possible? I’m following everything you are leading and I’ve never danced tango before in my life.” It was as if my body knew exactly what to do when at each of his clearly led invitations. His friendly and warm response was, “Just shut up and keep dancing. Every time you stop is a harsh interruption.” So I shut up, smiled, and glowed for the remainder of the song.
A week later, I was taking three tango lessons a week and attending a weekly practice session, traveling forty-five minutes or a half hour to get to each, since there’s no Argentinean tango in Sequim where I live. I even bought a pair of low heels so I could look like a dancer and be positioned on my feet in a way that projected my persona and energy towards my dance partner. The fact that I was surviving and thriving in heels was a miracle unto itself. The last time I remember donning heels was some thirty years into the past; the heels being clogs, and I fell while wearing them more than once.
I was hooked (and have been ever since)! Sometimes I feel like I’m dancing well. I feel light on my feet, coordinated and graceful as I glide across the floor. I maintain my balance (we call it axis in tango), do not pull my partner off balance, or lag behind the beat of the music. My heart soars and when we finish, I have to bring myself back to the reality of the room. Other times I feel like I am battling internal demons. I feel like an elephant stomping across the ground, lose my axis, or the conversation with my dance partner feels like an argument. Regardless, I keep dancing.
For me tango is definitely a feeling danced. A lifestyle of living in the present moment as fully as possible, listening for the unique song of each person with whom I interact and the symphony of the natural world in which I exist, adopting roles of leading and following, engaging in the actions of inviting and waiting as well as doing and pausing. The lyrics of Barbara Streisand’s song “At the Same Time” (albeit not a tango song) bespeak the beauty and warmth that can happen on the dance floor: “Think of all the hearts beating in the world at the same time. Think of all the faces and the stories they could tell at the same time. It helps to think of all the hearts, beating in the world, and hope for all the hearts, healing in the world. There’s a healing music in our hearts, beating in this world at the same time.”
Argentinean tango is a partner social dance in which two people hold each other in a respectful embrace. Each listens to the movement and energy of his or her partner as well as to the song played, and converse without a spoken word. Connection between partners and with the music, and improvisation based on known steps create a unique conversation that lasts for three sequential songs organized into a set known as a tanda. Adherence to codes of etiquette regarding use of space and flow of traffic around the dance floor ensures the safety of all dancers.
Cacho Dante, a milonguero in Buenos Aires, said that the tango is a feeling that is danced. That’s why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. It is an interpretation of feeling, not a dance to demonstrate ability. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes. (“The Tango and Trapeze Acts”, November 1998).
Vladimir Estrin, a tango instructor-performer-organizer-producer, calls tango “a lifestyle… distinctive, timeless and everlasting… It spans through decades, continents, nations and people! Tango is a unique culture, rich with history, thrilling and controversial, passionate and mysterious… With every single song, with every single dance it draws you to it stronger and stronger and makes you want to be part of it more and more. … It brings people together from all walks of life…and erases their differences! It does not matter how old you are… it does not matter who you are or what you do for a living… all that matters is that you want to dance. When you are on the dance floor nothing exists around you. You surrender to the music and let it move you. It gets deep inside your heart and your soul, engulfs you completely… captivates you.” (http://tangoafficionado.com/)
Carlos Gavito, one of the great tango artist of the 90’s and known as the last milonguero, once said that “The secret of tango is in this moment of improvisation that happens between step and step. It is to make the impossible thing possible: to dance silence. This is essential to learn in tango dance, the real dance, that of the silence, of following the melody.”
Click to read the article I wrote in 2017 for a publication of the Feldenkrais Guild.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
- One Tango Moment (1 hr 4 minute video summarizing the history of tango and telling the story of an Australian champion couple’s experience of competing in the International Tango Championship in Buenos Aires)
- My First Tango – Documentary Short (25:18 minute video tells the story of the music and dancers through the eyes and hearts of a mother and daughter. More importantly it tells a story about living in the present and fulfilling your dreams of inner growth.)
- Mi Primer Tango Georgina, Oscar & Nicolas Mandagaran Bailan Poema (3:41 minute video in which Oscar and Georgina, two teachers with whom I have studied, dance whilst holding their 6 month baby between them – a true family dance)
- Leadership and Followership: What Tango Teaches Us about These Roles in Life (7:32 minute video portraying the importance of followership that builds as strong collaborative relationship. “The follower-leader relationship is complimentary not hierarchical; it is a conversation in which we help each other make our own unique contributions to the dance.”)
- Is the Follower or Leader Role More Difficult? (4:56 minute video commentary about the challenging roles of leading and following not just in tango but in the dance of life)
- La2x4 Radio FM92.7 (tango radio station in Buenos Aires, AR)