Thursday, January 17, 2019

A tanda is not a marriage . . .

Fifteen minutes of commitment is harder than you might think.
It's an engagement. What got me thinking about commitment or engagement in a tanda was a conversation with a man I met at a training seminar. After a few days of conversation, I asked him if he and his partner danced. He said he had no partner. "Something is wrong with me. I just can't commit." That hit me hard. It seems like commitment was sadly unreachable for him. My automatic "fixer" mode kicked in, and I told him he should take up tango. I suggested, "The commitment to your partner is for only fifteen minutes. It's easy!"

Then I realized that was a really big lie.  It's not easy at all.

From simply saying that tango's commitment is easy, I realized that even after dancing for over a decade, I myself struggle with tango's fifteen-minute commitment. In one tanda--a set of four tangos--many things can try to distract me from the commitment to my partner. Perhaps I am afraid of a wild couple ahead of us or behind us. Or perhaps, someone walks in the door and is waving at me as I am dancing. Maybe the guy dancing behind me is talking loudly about his old dot-matrix printer. (Yes, these are real examples). It seems I have a tailor-made of things which too easily can distract me away from my commitment, my engagement:

The engagement of the eyes of the mirada;
An engaging walk to the dance floor;
Engagement into the eyes of the oncoming dancers to enter the ronda;
An engagement with our embrace, the orchestra and our two bodies dancing.
The engagement of a few words or even silence after each song, and finally,
A return to where the engagement of our eyes now silently say . . .
"Until we engage again."

mindful relationship practice?
I know that mindful meditation has deepened my relationship with my wife--even if meditation is a commitment to know myself. But tango? This tandem, improvisational dance, allows me to have a mindful practice for all my relationships, personal and professional.

Thanks to my realization that I was being foolish to suggest to a potential tango student that a fifteen-minute commitment would be "easy." I have been forced to think more deeply about what can happen when truly engaged during a tanda.

I hope I never again suggest that tango has an easy fifteen-minute commitment. Instead, I can say that fifteen minutes of engagement in a tanda has the power to reshape how I better engage with anyone in front of me. It's worth re-envisioning tango's potential to practice commitment.

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Photo Credit:  Adrienne Yvr, November 2018, Utopia Encuentro.

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