One of my first tango teachers was Pablo Rojas. One day, when I’d been dancing a few months, he put one hand on each of my deltoids, looked me in the eyes, and said “Violeta, I know it’s going to be very hard for you, but you’re going to have to surrender.”
You know by now that when we dance, both partners surrender.
If the revel does something unexpected, the mark accepts it and works with it. Often she doesn’t even know she went the opposite direction of the mark.
Since tango women tend to be intellectual and powerful, surrender is our biggest challenge, and tango’s greatest gift to us. The common exhortation “don’t think” is not, however, its most appealing presentation. In fact, it pisses us right off and we would appreciate it if gentletangomen would stop saying it!
In truth, it’s not whether or not we think, it’s what we think about that matters.
Tango is a chance to receive another’s creativity. In accompanying and expressing our partner’s inspiration, we become live grace. Grace not only as aesthetic gracefulness, but the grace of witness and presence, soulfulness.
To become grace, we need to put 100% attention into using our body. Not thinking about what the mark is up to – that’s his work. We need to think about our own core, our fingers, our toes, and how they are working together, how we give them to his motion so that we honor his genius with our motion.
As we advance, the thought processes can fire off fewer and fewer instructions, and we can instruct the whole body with one command, but newer dancers’ minds will be busy:
- Is my rib cage over my foot? Which foot am I on?
- Project foot toward his intention. Is my free leg relaxed?
- Extend all three joints into transfer – oops, forgot my ankle that time!
- Don’t mirror his tense embrace! Open my heart and stretch toward him. Don’t mirror. Don’t mirror. Extend the arm joints.
- Ack! I’m falling. Where’s my base supposed to be? I can get it! Ugh he’s blocking me from it. Radically relax shoulder so I can get there anyway.
- Damn, he pushed me and I’ve started stepping too soon. Grab core muscles to decelerate so my foot won’t hit the floor too soon.
- Woah that was some crazy fast stuff, now we’re back in close embrace. Open and raise my heart, draw him into the connection…
“Don’t think” means don’t think about what he’s thinking about. Do think about that beautiful body of yours, how great it feels, when it feels best, using every little bit of it, and bringing your soul into this moment.
The mark’s intention is about direction and movement. The revel’s intention is about motion. Her mind is focused on the quality of that motion, a deep and thorough concentration in her body. And this willingness to give your amazing body to his creativity is a most beautiful gift.