Tango in our community is, once again, under challenge, with many teachers (especially guest teachers) offering quick, teachable "results", typically by teaching figures or sequences.
[Note - I refer to the roles man / woman, since there is no lead / follow in Tango].
A Tango teacher we learned from, 25 years ago, used to talk about people dancing a “photocopy” of Tango, meaning trying to give external expression to the internal experience of dancing Tango. As with all imitations, it can not fully express the feeling, even if it’s entertaining to the casual observer.
My Facebook mate, Raul Beron (Buenos Aires), posts (with some interpretation) a deep dive into Tango, and why it can be so intriguing.
Many people think Tango is based on a choreography of learned figures, chained together, and where the advancement of tango dancers’ skill means trying to apply the huge and always insufficient number of steps learned, without understanding the movement they made, and without their partners understanding their moves, unless they learned together.
In a few words, they are only dancing a tango for themselves, and ignore the wonderful journey that a Tango for two means. For them, reaching total union is an impossible dream (even when they assume “the look” - Ed).
These people must learn to feel that their invitations are made with the whole body, that the figure and step learned are not effective unless it is the body itself that communicates and performs them in the bodies of their companions. [We often talk about the moment when a man stops thinking of his movement, and finds the ability to directly feel, and respond to, his partners movement in space and time - Ed]
Women must come to the same place, where their movement is an automatic, knowing response to each subtle movement of her partner’s body, to complete the union of the tango couple - nothing less than integrating the movement of their bodies.
Dancers must use the energy coming from their partner to achieve synchrony; feel the invitation, without delaying or analysing what choreographic movement is being referred to by the man.
They must not, therefore, learn to follow an instruction. The couple dance requires the woman to integrate with the man to form that "monoblock" that is the tango couple.
Finally, after moving into the space offered in an invitation, often a change of direction, that the man then follows her to, she will focus again on the movement that will be suggested by the next invitation. (A complex idea - read it twice - Ed)
They both need to know that it is one thing to dance and another very different thing to DANCE TANGO.
With a lot of application and an understanding of the objective, there are those who finally discover the true and necessary body language, often referring to personal moments of their own, sudden and random learning process (it suddenly clicked or the penny dropped). Without realising, however, why their dancing suddenly feels and looks better, and has become less laborious. The coherence between the body and movements, in these moments of dance and/or learning, occurs because they have converted the movements of the body in a way that allows the body itself to be expressive, fundamentally, in their dance.
Many fail to understand this last statement. Because they don’t know exactly what to attribute the cause of this change in their dance, they give credit to vague feelings like “no one taught me that”, “I learned it in milonga”, “now I can do ochos better”, or “I finally got a certain move" and "this changed everything my dance", etc , etc. [I experienced this awakening after about 5 years, and many others over time - Ed]
But sometimes, the results of self-evaluation can have a negative effect. To a certain point, in Tango, it's good to think a lot alone. But we often go too far, believing we’ve learned everything there is to know. Instead, we have to accept the idea that there is always room for improvement.
It helps to believe that we have learned well so far, but it helps us much more to keep our eyes on the finish line we want to reach.
Obviously, by doing so, we guarantee our continued pursuit of a higher goal. It might not be the best, but at least we have expressed the desire to reach it and Tango gives us this possibility - learning the secrets to taking a step and feeling your partner’s body move, or more specifically, feeling my partner’s body moving as if it were my own.
To do this you must know the unique and magical essence of Tango: two bodies moving in unison is an achievement achieved solely through the body’s ability to communicate the message of its movements. This is not a presumption of truth, because if you learn to perform the dance like this, in either of the functions of a couple (man or woman), it will be difficult to abandon this practice.
May both partners synchronise by changing weight simultaneously, with the same speed and dynamics, so that "that" body, from two, becomes one, that the four legs become two.
May the leader provoke, with his own body, the change of his partner's weight and that the woman does not feel what his legs do but instead perceive her body as a guide.
May a man dance with her legs as if they are his own, feeling where she is in space and time at every moment.
My intention is to give dancers the ability to communicate this body language. I wish all of them receive this information as soon as possible, as I'm sure of the immediate benefits they'll reap.