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Reflection for 2023 - What I learned from tango

Updated: Jan 3

My husband and I just returned from an incredible trip to Buenos Aires with our tango friends. What an experience to be there and learn from the experts in the style of salon social tango dancing. We attended daily workshops for a week and then practiced evenings in the social clubs called Milongas. This was one of those dream come true experiences for us.


One of the respected and internationally known Argentine tango masters was Rodolfo Dinzel. Our teacher, Silvia Eskenazi arranged for us to learn from Rodolfo's son. The studio taught a system and technique that helps the dancer move from individual to a unified couple and achieving that in tango is no easy feat.


Tango is a conversation between two dancers without using words. Each adapts, gives in and complements each other. In tango there is "form" which shows what happens and "manner" expressing how this is to happen. It is an improvised dance and with complex and beautiful music that allows for our interpretation. Men dance with men, women dance with women, women lead men - the most exciting milongas welcome everyone.


There is much that I learned from this tango experience that I believe applies beyond dance to life? First, let me share my tango aha's.


Personal space - There is very little personal space in this city of 5 million people. So, when you are on dance floor, it is extremely crowded with its own cultural and dance norms. Stephan and I have been dancing other dances for over 20 years and when I say little space - I mean staying in your embrace with extremely limited space and relying on trust and respect for each other and for the tango community that joins you that evening.


Intention - This is a dance that insists you know where your partner is and with the leader's intention and connection to you, the partner receives signals to indicate where we are going and some latitude to respond. The leader must know what foot you are on and allow the partner to "draw your foot" to the next move. Our feet do not leave the floor.


Music versus words - All of the intention in tango is communicated through our core and that is waist downward and through our legs. The music captures your heart, ballads and love gone wrong. Our ultimate goal is to find the freedom within the notes to discover your unique rhythm. Music guides you but does not determine how or when you move.


Manner over form - Manner is defined as how you move your body in the dance. Form is more about the steps. Manner allows for creativity, improvisation and how the music moves you.


Circle rather than line - In tango we dance in an imaginary circle that is defined by the circumference of the two dancers' embrace. When you dance, you stay in that circle with your partner.



Equilibrium - I learned that holding our own equilibrium or balance is essential. In order to achieve shared balance as a couple and become unified in that imaginary circle we must first, find our individual balance. If we center in our own body, then we can participate in the dance with our partner eventually as one unified body. All of this is achieved without words and with reliance on physical connection and feeling.


So, what does this have to do with forward looking thoughts for the 2023 New Year? Imagine if we commit to starting this new year with appreciation for our personal space, moving with intention and focusing more on how we do things rather than what we do? Moving within a circle reminds me that there is no start or finish; we live in a continuum of change and adaptation. In 2023, if we each have our own balance then we will navigate more clearly and find harmony or unity that normally seems illusive. We all bring something beautifully different to our view of the world and also, our own unique expression of dance within it.

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