This article was first published in August 2014 and is really about focus and connection in Tango. Here it is again with a few edits for clarity. Enjoy!
I recently listened to a lecture on the power of living your life with intention. Our lives have much more meaning and fulfillment if we live with intention.
Living with intention means going after your desires with a focus and purpose, not sitting idly wishing things would change. You focus on where you are going to be and not necessarily how you are going to get there. (The details do work themselves out). The same concept can be applied to dancing tango. When you dance with intention, you are dancing and leading with a focus and a purpose. Your intent (or lead) is made clear to both your partner and those around you.My dictionary describes intention as “resolved or determined to do (something)” and “showing earnest and eager attention.” Perfect for both Tango and life.
For leaders, dancing with intention means focusing on the desired outcome of your lead to create movement in your partner. I’m sure many of you have experienced that if you are not clear in your mind what you want to do, your partner will not be clear either. She may not move, or may move on her own. (The former being better than the latter.)
Dancing with someone with a very clear direct lead feels amazing. The good lead allows the follower to dance and move in the most optimum way. When the lead is clear, the follower is freed up to interpret the music and add their own expression. When the intention is clear, space is created for fun and improvisation.
But how do you lead with intention? First of all, be clear in your mind on what you want to transpire. Practice the movement in your head first, and then with your partner. Visualize the movement and then do it. Practice expressing your intention with as minimal amount of movement as possible. Leaders grow in the dance by offering an invitation that is expressed from the heart, rather than through an intent to impress.
Dancing with intention is not just for leaders. Its equally important for followers. They should know exactly where their feet and body should land and should focus their attention on the space they plan to move into. A follower can dance both passively and actively. A passive follower does exactly what is lead and nothing more. Okay, it does not sound bad right? It’s not, but it is boring, boring for both the leader and the follower. Dancing passively is like a one-way conversation.
A follower that dances with intention is dancing actively. When you dance actively and with intention, it becomes a dialogue; two people responding and communicating with each other and the music. The good follower does not lead oneself into boleos when they are not led (especially bad), or incorporates dozens of adornments and embellishments just because they can. A good follower adds to the enjoyment of the dance by helping to interpret the music all without disrupting the lead. Part of being able to follow well, is being peaceful and receptive and knowing exactly when they should move and when to be still. A follower communicates actively through the quality of their steps and embellishments which can be either dynamic or subtle. Remember, Tango is about connection, with the floor, your partner and the music.
For Tango to be a conversation, both partners need to take turns being active and passive. Master tanguera Florencia Taccetti says it well:“The communication is found through a dynamic interpretation of the both the follower’s and leader’s roles in which both partners find space to be active and passive, and is furthered when both partners develop their own sensuality and grace of movement. Followers find the active aspects of their role by learning the spaces in the dance where they are able to contribute their own interpretation and expression. Followers develop this ability by learning how to be in charge of their own movement while listening and responding to their partners. In starting with a clear mind and open body, followers are able to respond more sensitively to the games proposed by their partners and are able to propose their own.”
The moral of the story, that in dance, just like in life, in order to get the most of it, be present, have a clear focus and intention and actively participate.