|One man, one woman...and tango. ¡Basta!|
Last night Maxi Gluzman taught before the milonga at Eastern Market in DC. As much as I loved his class and used a few of his concepts at the milonga, I never let him lead my tanguera for the rest of the night. He taught a very tasty milonguero step that added to what I have been enjoying lately: Namely, walking two steps to her one (when the music calls for it), but he added the idea of having the man's two steps to be syncopated to her one step.* Later, after the class, Maxi was no longer leading my partner. Maxi was off dancing with another woman.
Why let another man into the private space between you and your partner? If I were to dance just a step in spite of the music, then I would have been allowing Maxi to lead my partner. When the music leads a step, then another man is no longer leading. Make sense?
Dancing just steps, however, happens all too much at milongas. Men learn a bunch of things in a class, and then they lead what another man led (or taught) in a class without the music dictating that it makes sense. Now we have a threesome. Women do automatic things too -- so we now have way too many invitations of other people into our private space.**
The solution to this is to stop leading. And of course stop allowing another man (or woman) to jump into the mix. The music leads. Period. Women who listen to the music, go on a wonderful journey with me. I am not forced to lead them. Musically and metaphorically speaking, I am in my role (giving the "tone" of movement), and if she stays in her role (being the "rest" of movement), the music can now lead. If I didn't know better (that music leads both men and women), I would say to my lady after a magical tanda: "Wow, you are really a great leader." Just because I did things I had never done before and our movement was so unique and wonderful, that does not make her a leader. This is just as true for men. The music leads. IF we let it. If a woman tells me I led well, I try to say: "We heard the music, and it led us so wonderfully. ¿No?" But this often goes over their heads, because the usual analogy for tango is officer/soldier (leader/follower). Sad. But true. They look at me as if I said something in Norwegian with a Chinese accent.
You do not have to be a musicologist or know which orchestra is playing. Your body will know that something different is happening if you allow it to happen. Please tell me I am not the only one. Haven't you too noticed that sometimes it seems that tangueros/as are dancing IN SPITE of the music. And at the moment I am writing about tango not salsa, which is notoriously a patchwork of cool moves, having nothing to do with the music. [Aside: I dance salsa and love it. It doesn't have to be that way, but it too often is just a patchwork of moves.] Tango is indeed generally danced improvisational in harmony with the music, but sometimes I fear that this will be lost eventually. Please don't say, "That will never happen." Churches are full of liturgies because the improvisational art in many traditions was lost centuries ago. Baroque music was basically improvisational -- an improvisational art form that is all but lost. Even the art of Jazz is often just read from sheet music without a moment of improvisation. Ouch!
I don't want to give up hope. Lack of musicality may be a beginner problem. Well, it is. Some beginners have been dancing for well over 10 years. Recently I saw a video of world championships for tango in Buenos Aires. Oh the horror! My mouth dropped open and I went into a moment of depression: I beheld experienced dancers who swept across the floor before the judges, mostly doing "wonderful" flowing movements no matter what was being played in a series of thee songs. I was horrified. The music was suggesting much different moves and stops, but few were listening. I guess that what distinguished the winners in that competition. They were being led by the music.
Let me share a transformational moment in my tango development that I nearly had forgotten until this moment. In the summer of 2009, I was away from home, and I decided I would go to local milonga near the airport. Because of not knowing anyone, a first song of a tanda had me dancing very simply. At the time I thought it was especially funny how I danced incredibly straight forward, but musically. At the song's end the tanguera pulled back and said, "That was incredible. No one dances like that here!" This really was a transformational moment in my tango development that a woman would be so astounded at my dancing when it was not only super simple but absolutely "dialed in" musically. The MUSIC is really incredible.
Are we allowing the most wonderful leader, the music, to lead? One man, one woman...and tango. That's enough!
*The two to one rhythm is usually her on the bass and the man on a marching bandoneón or pizzicato violins playing straight eights. He taught that she would stay on the bass but the man is on 1e// + 2e// + 3e// (assuming 4/4 time), and the last she cross in unison to the man. Very nice, Maxi!
**The theme of this article is only metaphorical of allowing another person into your relationship. Before my comment box, email and Facebook comments get slammed full of objections, let me suggest that , of course, speaking metaphorically is problematic. Influence of other people is normal and accompany us everywhere, including our most intimate spaces. I was just trying to get your attention. :-)
Photo credit: http://www.ajaxallpurpose.blogspot.com/