surrender to the dance: an awkward yogi’s attempt at tango

The embrace: where the communication happens (image via Tango Social Club Facebook page)

In my second Argentine tango class at the Tango Social Club, I’m more comfortable and relaxed. I feel more at ease and familiar with the other people in my class. I’m still committed to working with extending beyond my comfort zone and exploring connection.

The class focused the dissociation between the top half and bottom half of the body. In tango, dissociation is “when dancers move one body part independently of another or initiate a movement in one part of the body, so that movement in another part of the body is delayed.”

My instructor, Kristin Berg, explained how the upper body stays stationary while the lower body is active. The dialogue happens in the embrace (how the arms are positioned in the upper body) and the action happens in the legs.

It felt to me like my legs had to translate and interpret the dialogue happening in the upper body. And, in my newbie experience, a lot was lost in translation. I was also trying to talk to my legs with my head, rather than letting feeling come from the arms (the embrace).

I still received feedback that I lean too far back, which I think reflects my discomfort with physical intimacy. Despite years of asana, I had a hard time finding my central axis. I felt like my shoulders, knees and hips were aligned, but apparently my shoulders (and thus, my spine) were moving back.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my yoga practice is surrender and I’m constantly amazed at how it applies to my daily life. Likewise in tango (especially when I’m not leading – we experimented with both roles, regardless of our genders), when I surrender to what’s happening in my body, not my mind, I tap into this connection that is the essence of the dance.

I’m reminded of the words of Charlotte Bell in Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: “… surrender happens when we invest our total presence into whatever we are doing. So again, we return to mindfulness. It is mindfulness that allows us to experience our lives directly, without the intervening presence of the ego and its conditioned judgements.”

So this is the challenge: to surrender to the present moment and quiet the judgemental voice of the ego.

This is the second in a four-part series as I participate in the Tango Improv Movement class with IAYB sponsor, Tango Social Club. See the first post, “dancing with intimacy.”

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  1. Oh! When we were living in Eugene, Monica and I had “Days of Mindfulness” every Sunday. We’d wake up, maintain silence as we did our mediation and asana practice; then made and ate breakfast; then she’d work on a painting and I’d do some writing; then lunch. We’d break silence with a mindful hug after lunch, and then go off to a tango class.

    Tango is such a great mindfulness yoga practice, in some ways much more intimate and demanding than ‘partner yoga.’ As it doesn’t have set steps/sequences, the “leader” has to be sure not to hesitate or s/he will communicate confusion to the “follower.” It’s moment to moment awareness and sati (in the fullest sense of ‘remembering’ where you are in the movement) so that it becomes a true dance of intimacy.

    Like Dogen says, paraphrased: Tango is the investigation of the self; when you investigate the self, you forget the self and become intimate with the 10,000 things.

    Just LOVE the tango!

    • frank, you never cease to amaze me! that is a beautiful story. i also didn’t know that dogen talked about tango. interesting!

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