The deepest desire of human beings is not to be alone. Whatever our individual pathways toward or around this issue, tango has given us a way to experience partnership. I believe that it is this aspect of tango which is most compelling. Despite the thrills of sensuality, tenderness, attention, celebrity, and musicality, it is the experience of our favorite Argentine Tango partners that touches us most profoundly.
If you are a woman, you yearn for nights of joy that you haven’t seen for a long time, because as you’ve improved there are fewer and fewer dancers who can meet you as a partner.
If you’re a man you feel limited by most dancers’ skills. You feel good about giving them pleasure, but you don’t feel free in your dance, and you don’t feel you are growing.
If you have a partner, you often experience frustration, and also fear of losing them. They seem irreplaceable, and yet sometimes they don’t satisfy you.
It’s obvious that the quality of your tango life and its improvement depends primarily on the quantity and quality of partners available to you.
I have worked professionally with more than 10 partners. I have nearly died three times when I lost my partner, the person at that time who was the only dancer in the world for me. I have become a man, and tried to accept a storyline in which I would never again perform as a Revel. I have worked alone. I have gone to many, many, milongas and not danced because there was not one person in the room who kindled my desire enough to attract my eyes. (And left feeling sure that I was a confused, stuck-up, self-destructive bitch.)
At the moment I have two superlative artistic partners, three trainees with whom I experience rapture and delight every time we dance, and a small handful of milonga friends who are the icing on the cake. When I go to a milonga, if there’s anyone there who really inspires me I almost always get to dance with them, and I only use the cabeceo.
I got here by making a fundamental shift in my understanding of tango. I used go to the milonga as a consumer, looking for attractive commodities – men who would dance me well, and often going home disappointed in the inventory. Now I think of tango partners not as something to consume, but something to create. I build relationships with people and I focus my attention on people who are available for collaboration. It means I’m not interested in men who I see doing the same, highly controlled, dance –no matter how technically good– with every woman. And I’m not interested in Marking women who are not totally committed to using their bodies – no matter how good they look.
Those are my preferences. Yours will be different, but the point is that if you think about creating partnerships, rather than finding the right partners, you will use very different criteria and you will engage a different process. There are too few superlative partners to WAIT for. We need to BUILD them.