Friday, March 25, 2011

Learning to let go ... tango-style

Last night J and I braved the heavy rain to attend our first tango class together. I was uber excited as I've always been fascinated by tango and it's been ages since I took a formal dance class, so I got suited up:

Red lips? Check.
Tango shoes? Check.
...and waited for J to get home from work so we could get this party started.

Now, when I hear “tango” I think sexy glides across the dance floor, legs wrapping themselves around partners with frenetic control and the occasional circular dip. Naturally I was expecting to leave class being able to do this.

Which was not the case (and rightfully so). Our instructor was an Argentine named Marcelo (of course this was name) with a thick Spanish accent who's been dancing traditional tango in Buenos Aires, Spain and France for most of his life in competitions and festivals. Marcelo spent the first hour or so teaching our class of six The Walk, which is the backbone of everything in Argentine tango. It looks easy enough and is definitely simple to do on your own. 

But, when paired with J, it was initially disastrous for something that looks so simple to do as a pair. We kept fumbling and staring down at our feet and the whole time J kept whispering "You need to let me lead, you need to let me lead," which started making me really frustrated since it wasn't all my fault. Part of the problem was he wasn't taking the lead. 

As we glided, stinted, across the floor, that scene from My So-Called Life suddenly popped into my head where Patty and Graham take that ballroom dancing class to help save their marriage but they find out that, as in life, they don't work well as partners on the dance floor either. Not that J and I have any marital discord or that we're taking this class to save anything (I just want to learn to tango!) but it was frustrating, nonetheless.

I read online last night that "Tango is a conversation between leader (masculine energy) and follower (feminine energy). To dance well requires connecting with your partner." Tango done perfectly is just that. The woman looks swept up in the man's movements -- she follows and he leads her around the floor. It's a very sensual yet controlled dance that is 100% masculine with the male steering the course. 

I'll admit that my biggest problem last night was learning to let go. I'm used to taking charge and that translated poorly into my movements on the dance floor. I need to surrender and let J guide me. This is what I plan to work on most. At the same time J needs to build up more confidence in his dance moves (to be fair this was our first class), stop blaming me for not following, and just take the unspoken lead.

A few times Marcelo cut in and danced with me to show J and I exactly how it's done and I could already feel that with a maestro it was much easier to follow since his moves just....well, made me. 

"Berry good," Marcelo finally said near the end of class when he gave me back to J. 
Apparently J and I were already getting better at this. 

After we got home we tried practicing in our tiny apartment but there's almost no space to do any dancing in here and I ended up smacking my ankle bone hard against my coffee table. No fun. What we really need is a pied-a-terre in Buenos Aires with a large living room that J and I can dance tango in to our hearts' content. In the meantime we'll continue using the narrow hallway in our apartment to shuffle down in unison.


  1. A lovely sweet post. I love your dancing shoes! xx

  2. I suspect if I ever get to take Tango with C I will have much the same problem as you. SO EXCited for you though. A pied-a-terre in ANY city would be great!

  3. Dancing is SO difficult - and I think that tango is the hardest of them all, even though I've never tried it. Me and husband learned to waltz for our wedding and I most certainly did not like letting him lead. It's just not me. But I got a little bit better with practice - it just takes a while!

  4. Cut yourself some slack. Until you know the basic moves, it will be hard to read his lead. Give yourselves some time. It will be just fine.

  5. It takes a while to get the basics down. I've been taking tango on and off for 5 years and I still have SO much to learn. If you can afford it, private lessons will improve your skills tenfold.

  6. Tango is an altogether different beast to anything I’d seen. It’s so meticulous and beautiful. I would never have dreamt of stepping out into the dancing crowd without a lesson or two. Love it!

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