Monday, December 27, 2010

Walking to Find Ourselves

Not some times.   Every time.

Every time I go out on a walk I discover something new about the tango walk and about myself.  And each time I say, "Why didn't I see that before?"  I would not expect you to believe that I keep discovering things about simply walking, because that is unbelievable.

I am sure each time that I have discovered something that it must be the last thing possible.  I never expect to learn something new.  But it just keeps happening.  I learn how to dance tango more efficiently and simply.  Some things are complex, such as leading her with my back and torso movement to take just one step as I take three or two steps.  Some things I discover are simple, such as a lilt to my gate.

 It sometimes takes as many as six months to bring an idea found by walking by myself onto the dance floor.  Sometimes I discover the idea on the dance floor, but perfect it or understand it better when I walk later by myself.  That happened last night in a waltz with a favorite tanguera: I stepped two against her one in 3/4 time -- a surprising feeling.

What occurred to me after I watched the video (below) of long-time teachers walking in a tango walk for an entire song was that we learn a lot about the connection to the music when we merely walk.  Complicated "prefabricated" steps (choreographies) keep us from finding the music and our partner.  But something new dawned on me: I realized even finding ourselves is helped by a meditative tango walk, and I reveal my inner world, my soul to my partner if I walk "simply" with her.  Watch what I mean:

Of course it is not simple to dance in connection to one's partner.  Everyone that attempts any partner dance knows that.  But with tango's improvisational nature, the musical connection is also crucial.  I know people who use the same chronography in salsa or ballroom to any music that happens to be playing.  In tango that would truly be seen more clearly as a counterfeit than other forms of partner dance.  Time out:  I should add right now that I do indeed dance salsa and as a percussionist, understand the intricacies of the music.  But now that I dance tango, I dance salsa much differently now, with "paradas" (stops), hesitations and far fewer underarm turns.  My salsa feels more like tango (without looking like it) -- it's Afro-Cuban with an Argentine accent.

Tango teaches me that I must be in connection to myself.  Learning so many "cool steps" is a way of not getting to know oneself.  Although there is value in learning a "vocabulary" of tango steps, many school-taught steps are superfluous.  So many steps are parroting the ideas of others.  That doesn't do much to help self-discovery.  In my first year of dancing tango, I remember doing lots of steps out of anxiety that I might bore my partner.  Slowly I found that if the connection is good, and the music is truly leading, that no woman on earth is going to be bored.  Well, that was an overstatement.  Let me try again:  All the women in the world interested in allowing her soul to dance with mine will not be bored.   The tango walk allows us to discover ourselves as one and to reveal more of what is on our heart and minds through body language.

In the tango walk, I am reminded that music is the true leader, the woman, my companion, and the next step, a fresh discovery the three of us are finding together as if it were for the very first time.


  1. Excellent article. Thank you for sharing.

    My tango age is over 8 years. I still practise the tango walk, on or off dance floor, with or without a partner, with or without tango music.

    I totally agree with you that the practice is a process of self discovery, further understand the music and your partner. There is no end to it.


  2. @Oskar: I am so glad to have this single comment on this page about your walking experience. To me it is a profound part of my life now. And I am always so surprised when I find something new about "simply walking." I am just starting to get over feeling surprised to be surprised. Now I just expect to be blown away. More recently I discovered a way to think about Biagi's milongas. While humming one of his milongas while walking, I discovered a half-time rhythm to the habinera milonga rhythm. The discoveries are bio-mechanical, musical, psychological and even spiritual -- all out on a walk. I am delighted that someone understands! Send an email if you are interested in sharing.


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