The difference between waiting patiently and being present

Why is it that leaders rave about dancing with beginners, and sometimes feel less free with advanced followers? Of course there’s the possibility of being intimidated by your partner, but there’s more than that going on.

Advanced followers don’t need to concentrate as hard as beginners. Beginners are delightfully rapt by the whole experience. An advanced follower is very sensitive to aspects of the lead that make her uncomfortable. She’s also difficult to surprise because she’s experienced everything. She may even have the unfortunate tendency to interpret the lead according to a familiar sequence rather than really listening.

What can be especially unpleasant when there is a perception of mismatch of level is an attitude that feels condescending. If I feel this from a leader, I have no desire to dance with him again, regardless of how fabulous he is. I don’t like it any better from followers. This attitude can easily take over from real concentration.

What feels lovely (and is also healing) in tango is the experience of witness and deep soul connection when our partner is fully present. When our partner is merely waiting patiently for our next move, it’s not at all the same thing. Fully present is hanging on our every word. Waiting patiently we can feel the seething boredom, perhaps judgment, the withheld impatience or anticipation.

All this flows through the embrace far more easily than we imagine.

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