Absolutely the most intriguing part of learning to be the tango boy has been finding out how it feels to hold a woman in my arms for three minutes. Not just one woman, but many women. Every one of them unique in physique, unique in technique, and most of all, unique in energy.
I’ve written quite a bit about energy in the past, for example here, and indeed one of my 11 Sallycat’s Rules for Happy Tango in Buenos Aires (in my book Happy Tango) is Rule 4: Exude magnetic energy.
Perhaps it’s part of living a path of the heart, or a result of listening to my soul, or just a consequence of getting older, but with every day that I am alive I become more aware of the energy that I send out into the world and of the energy of every other person I come into contact with; sometimes I think I can even see it (sometimes faded and empty, and sometimes pulsing with life). Lately I’ve begun painting portraits and I feel that the result on the page is a pure combination of my energy and the energy of the subject combining and being revealed by my paint stokes over a period of thirty minutes or however long I allow for the paint to speak. I think it is the same for every conversation we have, every act of love we make, every tango we dance; perhaps it’s a combination of different energies to make a moment, and nothing else at all.
In 2011, after four and a half years of tango, I dance purely for the bliss, or whatever you want to call it. I long to rediscover it with men I know already, and I seek it with strangers who will create it with me for the first time. It leaves me dizzy. It leaves me with questions. It leaves music singing in my ears. It leaves my heart racing. It leaves me out of breath. It leaves me sitting out the next tanda so as to savour the rush and welcome the cool. It leaves me wanting the next opportunity to feel it all over again. It leaves a scar of desire and mystery on my soul, that can only be soothed by more of the same. And it leaves my own energy more complex, more vibrant, more magical; I think that the dancers who are meant for me find me, in part, by sensing that my energy is a match for theirs. And they are able to, when I choose to reveal and release who I really am, because, of course, it is always within my power to hide.
When I dance the tango boy (and I say ‘dance’ in the softest of ways, because I really mean when I am exploring what I can do in a practica or when I am working with a British woman to help her to focus a more confident energy into her embrace — it will probably take me years to actually ‘dance’ the boy), I have been stunned to find out very quickly who I have in my arms, sometimes even as she walks towards me: grounded and calm or nervous and flighty; present or scattered; staying with me or backing off; open (risking vulnerability) or defensive (sometimes decorated with chatter or laughter or apologies…). I have been amazed by how different each woman feels in the embrace and sometimes, within just a few seconds I feel that I know more about her than perhaps she even knows herself. Is that how men feel when they hold me? I hope so.
Some tango dancers say that for them, the music is everything, that it resonates with their every cell and creates the dance; I think that when both partners match each other in their depth of connection to a particular piece of tango music, then the possible level of connection with each other deepens too, but only when the personal energy of each partner allows it to be so.
Others seek perfection in their technique, because they believe it enables more fluent interpretation of the music they love and a physical ease that allows for deeper connection with their partner; I think that given a certain necessary level of technique, it is finding, listening to and understanding the body of their partner that can result in the richest possible tango connections; while ‘perfect technique’ (by whatever definition, as there will be many differences of opinion!) on both sides may help, it is no guarantee of a great connection. And what an audience sees on the outside may bear little resemblance to what is felt on the inside by the two dancers. Great technique can make smooth and heavenly tango, I have no doubt of it, but if either partner blocks (consciously or subconsciously) the energy flowing towards connection, then I fear the dance may have the look of a heart but will really only be the shell of one.
Saturday night, at Los Consagrados I had mixed tango experiences, it wasn’t my happiest evening on the dance floor. Why? My body was tired after dancing four days out of six. A few of my favourite dancers were missing and another left early, and though he danced one tanda with me, I felt his energy unusually distracted (as I’ve seen him at four milongas this week, perhaps he was tired too); I allowed myself to get excited by chat with a girlfriend I haven’t seen for a while and made a couple of less-brilliant partner choices because I lost my focus to enthusiasm: one man drove me with his arms and another was more interested in trying to hook my leg around his than anything else (I didn’t like his energy and so stiffened my muscles so as not to obey, which either made him think I couldn’t do what he wanted or know that I didn’t want to… at least he didn’t hiss Hook in my ear, but his energy shouted it, just the same). When I entered the milonga my own energy was sky high, up for it, excited, looking forward to moments of bliss, but when they didn’t come, it dipped fast because I was tired, and I realised the error of my ways; I’d forgotten to stick to my own damn rules.
In Happy Tango I share my own 11 Rules for Happy Tango in Buenos Aires. Here are three of them. Rule 1: Only accept or invite a person you have observed dancing (this rule I do break often, because as I say above, you can’t always tell, but you can tell things like ‘driving arms’ or ‘bouncing’ or total lack of care, and so it can pay to be vigilant and make good judgements rather than totally random choices). Rule 4: Exude magnetic energy. Rule 7: Leave your expectations behind. These are the three that slipped my mind on Saturday.
These days I spring back fast from tango disappointments. A thirty minute wait, in the sudden and unexpected chill of Buenos Aires autumn, for a bus that never came, left me alert. I sheltered in the safety of the doorway of Centro Region Leonesa. I heard English on the lips of people discussing which way to turn out onto the street. I couldn’t help but speak to them, Just walk left to the corner and taxis will be heading into town. And the man replied, We’re going to La Nacional, why don’t you come with us? I declined the milonga, but shared the taxi… I thought I’d get out and take a bus further on. A few streets later we discovered (when I gave a few personal details in answer to his question about what I was doing in Buenos Aires) that the guy reads this blog. He said a lovely thing about it; I was quite moved that he seemed delighted to meet me. We shook hands with big smiles. They went on their way to dance, and I celebrated his comments by treating myself to the rest of the taxi trip, chatted with the driver all the way home on the subject of Argentine men and their love of women, went to sleep thinking of the generous-hearted energy in Eugene that made him offer me a ride, and the open-hearted energy in me that allowed me to accept, and the joyful moment of recognition that followed.
As it is in tango, it is in life. Confidence. Open hearts. Generous energy that reaches out. Bliss always a possibility. If I want it.
OK, that said then, I’m ready for more; day off yesterday to refresh my enthusiastic zing. Today, La Nacional, I am there.
Meanwhile, my question for you is this, How much attention do you pay to your partner’s energy when you meet them on the dance floor, and how does their energy affect the way you dance? In the interests of my ongoing fascination with connection in the social-tango embrace, do open your tango heart and share.
Interested in discovering more joy?
On 1.1.11 I founded the Happy Hearts Quest on Facebook. With daily inspirations and weekly practical tasks, the Happy Hearts Quest (HHQ) is a Quest for Joy, and you are welcome to join in. You don’t have to be a member of Facebook to access the HHQ; you can find the page at facebook.com/happyheartsquest and you can find the Task Notes (Tasks 1 to 8 have been published so far) by clicking the Notes label either on the left of the page or at the top of the page, according to the way the page is presented to you by Facebook.
You can read how the HHQ came to be, on this blog, here. 72 hearts have joined so far. Go on. Encourage your he(art). Take part!