In the gentle surrounds of the Temenos gardens, with male peacocks aplomb in mating season, we explored some of the personal teachings inherent in the Argentine tango, while learning to improvise movement with a partner.
Like many interactions ,the tango offers a mirror to understand our relationships with others, and can help us to identify blockages in our relating in order to facilitate change. Key features in our communication are the ability to empathize, reach into ourselves to practice compassion and very importantly, to be in our own balance. Many of us know that our own psychological balance provides clarity of thought and emotional security to enable us to connect with others generously and fairly. When we are not "in our own axis" as we say in the tango, we may react too quickly, too harshly and self-protectively. Unfortunately we can rarely press 'rewind'.
Another beautiful gift of tango is the need to be totally present in order to dance. It is not possible to dance while we plan, strategize, or judge . It simply does not work. The tango demands our presence on a moment to moment basis . As a follower, I find that I quickly lose understanding and may even trip over a foot or two if I lose my mindful connection with my partner. As a leader, my own interpretation of the music and my desire to shape the dance can become brutal if I am not finely attuned to, and accommodate my follower's interpretation of my lead. And as leaders and followers, presence also means that our bodies should be made available to connect, finding just the right amount of tension to enable give and take, not too much and not too little. In tango, we physically embody an 'intention ' to connect.
If all this sounds like a lesson in vulnerability, it is! We do make ourselves vulnerable when we embark on the tango adventure. As a dancer of many years, I have observed how we as dancers respond to this vulnerability . Many people form a protective shell, hardening around their ego needs "I love dancing, but it's my way or the highway! YOU are a tool for my art!" or "Let me show you how its done (wink wink)". In this sense, the need to connect is not separated from the need to fuel the ego, dominate or judge. But there are also many people who embrace the transformative potential of the tango and have become closer to the person they want to be - present, authentic, compassionate. The mirror that we put up to ourselves when we dance the tango provides this potential.
Personally, I will always find tango a challenge. For me , listening while not judging is difficult. My brain is in analytic mode most of time. In the tango there can be no agenda for the leader or follower. We co-create something beautiful and most importantly connected. I am so happy that I dance!