Once I again I find myself preparing a post in the wake of another tragedy. This time even closer to home (the last one was Paris). This article began a couple of weeks ago as I was considering our world’s addiction to smart phones and social media. And now in the midst of this heartbreak, it’s exactly these two things that help us to share our feelings and connect with others. So in the end, I decided this post is really about connecting and sharing, in all the multitude of ways that we can.
On this planet, we are more connected than ever before.
With a few taps of a screen we can easily “message” someone across the world or in the other room. We carry these contraptions with us everywhere and rarely put them down. It seems that if we are not staring at a computer screen we are staring at our phone or tablet. Even when we are surrounded by people we are often focused in our own virtual world and forget to notice what’s around us at that moment in time.
Granted, the internet and social media help us to stay connected with our friends and community. I am truly grateful that I have been able to re-connect with childhood friends and stay in touch with Tango friends. But it seems that with all this “connecting and sharing” are we perhaps communicating in person, less and less?
As well all know, status updates can never replace a real smile, handshake, hug or a kiss. Even words cannot replace looking into someone’s eyes to know what they are really trying to say.
Our addiction to smart phones and social media is one of the reasons why Argentine Tango is more relevant today than ever before. Tango requires you to be truly present, aware of your surroundings and to communicate without words. Even in order to request a dance or agree to dance with someone, you are required to demonstrate your intentions through eye contact and a smile.
Non-verbal communication is an essential aspect of dancing tango. Often when first learning this dance it is hard for people to use cabeceo (request a dance by eye contact). Especially for those of us on the shyer side, it feels very forward to stare at someone and wait for their response. Even though I have been dancing Tango for many years, I still feel shy sometimes to invite with my eyes, especially if it’s someone I’ve never met before. But I also know, that if it’s someone I really want to dance with, the best way to have my intentions known, is through cabeceo.
On a previous tango trip to Europe, I learned two important lessons.
During the weeks I was visiting, there were two Tango festivals happening and every milonga was packed with an international crowd of dancers. There was one woman I noticed that appeared to be dancing with many people at each venue. She was not an especially good dancer nor was she especially attractive so I was curious as to how she managed to get dances with so many people. I asked a friend who had danced with her why she was getting so many dances. He told me it was because she was especially aggressive with her cabeceo. Whenever he walked into the milonga she would repeatedly try to catch his eye, until he finally relented. So there you go, if you really want to dance, be aggressive with your cabeceo. (It’s best to do this from some distance and not by standing directly in front or next to the person.)
The second important lesson I learned is to never ask someone to dance verbally, especially someone that does not know you. Sometimes it’s okay if its a good friend, or one of your regular dance partners. But if you are at a festival or a new milonga, never go up to someone that does not know you and verbally ask them to dance. Save yourself heartbreak and embarrassment by using determined cabeceo. If they avoid your eyes or refuse to look at you, this means they don’t want to dance with you, and it’s best to direct your intentions on someone else.
One of the things I enjoy about Tango are the breaks between each song where there is an opportunity to talk to and learn about the other person. Even if its just small talk, we are learning and sharing. That being said, there is so much that can be learned about someone by just dancing with them. Often no words are needed to really “know” someone.
Tango requires you to really connect heart and mind with your partner in order to move together to music, especially music as multi-layered and complex as Tango. Because of this, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, to connect and share yourself, as the results are always physically and emotionally rewarding.
This weekend is a great opportunity to practice connecting and sharing at the “San Francisco Milonguero 2016“.
The festivities start tonight, Friday June 17th, and continue until Sunday. There will be workshops for all levels with Maestra Susana Miller, plus conversations, educational talks, guided practicas, milongas and more! All events are held at the Finnish Hall Auditorium – 1970 Chestnut Street near University Avenue in Berkeley, CA