“Intimacy isn’t achieved through words. It’s embodied.” – Mark Walsh
Dancing cheek to cheek with someone you have never met. How difficult could it be? Very, and not just because of the global pandemic or the months of isolation.
I took up Argentine Tango a couple of months ago and I learned more about myself in relationships than I had in the past few years of self-exploration and analysing my previous partnerships. First I joined with the idea of play and also to potentially learn how to allow a man to lead. I danced in different forms when I was younger so the idea of partner dance didn’t scare me, but tango is on a different level.
There is no choreography. It is expressive, raw and emotional, but can also be playful. There is no competition between the partners, just collaboration to create something beautiful together. As for the leader, their only aim is to create space and opportunity for the follower to express themselves (stunning adornos) while providing a stable frame and leading gently. In return, the follower trusts the leader fully, leans on them, and allows to be led while keeping their own balance. It is the ultimate letting go and trusting while keeping yourself stable.
A friend of mine who danced tango for a while calls this the push and pull, but I think it is more nuanced than that. Yes, this dance is about two people reading each others’ signals, gently pushing and pulling, but there is also a very gentle resistance before you allow yourself to be pulled into one direction; before you follow you need to make sure that you are stable within your frame. When this happens in harmony, the movements seem effortless and there is a wonderful fluidity to the dance.
The things I noticed about myself as a novice tango dancer: it takes me a while to let go, be comfortable with the closeness and the idea of someone taking the lead. This amplifies if my partner is not a great dancer. I want to step up and make it work. At one point when I was dancing with another beginner, my teacher came up to me and said: “You don’t need to fix anything in this relationship, it is not your job to make the dance work. It is a collaboration and if your partner makes mistakes, let them learn from those. “
There is also the emotional element to tango, the storytelling of universal human emotions like sadness, grief, and love. As Mariam Rossa, a tango dancer explains it beautifully:
“Dancing is no longer a series of steps executed to the beat of the music, but an emotion that is danced as a result of you living out the story the song is telling…And in the tango embrace you find solace in another person’s warmth, someone who you barely know but for that moment in time gives you the safe space to experience without asking questions, without judging.”
Since I started dancing I have been asked out on a date in the street more than once. I feel more open and receptive knowing that I will keep my balance in any relationship (not just romantic) and I value and understand collaboration more than ever before (I always thought compromise was the best solution to problems).
If you want to learn about yourself in relationships (or need relational healing as I do), instead of studying attachment styles and analysing your behaviour, I would recommend that you take up tango. It is the embodied way to learn intimacy and collaboration, and it’s a lot of fun.