Just dance

A good friend (to everyone) and fine tanguero, Gary Horton, Jr. wrote a question on Facebook.

JUST.DANCE. Certainly well-intended advice, as I’ve heard it often from many teachers over the years. Unfortunately, the idea continues to remain meaningless and therefore useless to me. Leaders, would you please offer what you understand about ‘Just dance’? What do you feel like or imagine when you ‘Just dance’? Thanks!

A terrific, important question, Gary.

Short answer: being in the moment, involved only with our partner, the music, and la ronda. Setting aside the fear, worry, doubt, aspirations, classes, agenda. Just (!?) being with our partner.

But how?

Argentine tango can serve as a wonderful exercise in mindfulness, being in the moment, a moving meditation. For me the Argentine tango culture, apart from just dancing, has opened new and expanding awareness of other people’s hopes, fears, drives, dreams, weaknesses, and strengths.

Our dance can also be fraught with manifold distractions. “What was that latest pattern/adorno I learned?” “Why won’t that person dance with me?” “What caused that?” “Why do we feel so disconnected?” Emotional energies that we put into worry, fear, doubt, or agendas; Mental energies that we put into trying to recall classes; Physical energies we put into nonproductive tensions — all take away from being in the flow in the moment.

A key to feeling the flow as we “just dance” is having confidence in our training and practice, AND dancing within our current level of accomplishments, which, paradoxically and wonderfully, can result in our dancing beyond anything we’ve achieved to that point.

I see two aspects to the mindful preparation we want. First, we want an effective program of learning and practicing. Last month Iona May Italia wrote a lengthy guest article on this for Tango Tribe, and I’ve written a number of articles. (Put practice in the Walking About search bar.) The key here, just as for “just dance”, is mindfulness, having an intentional approach to how your work. Planning your work, documenting your progress, noting what you want to accomplish and where you need help, getting help.

Secondly, we can some, many, all of us at some time or another use help in getting “out of our head.” Mental and emotional turmoil large or small can beset even the most talented and gifted. There are a number of mind-body practices and methodologies, and books that have interested and helped me. I’ll conclude by listing several.

NLP – Neurolinguistic Programming. Understanding our own and other people’s maps of reality, and how we can influence those with language and physiology.

Alexander Technique – Mind-body usage. Natural uses of the body. Understanding choices. Avoiding end-gaining.

Feldenkrais – Awareness Through Movement. Gaining body intelligence by observing it during the course of (seemingly) simple exercises.

The Franklin Method – Books: CONDITIONING FOR DANCE, DANCE IMAGERY

MOVING TO HIGHER GROUND by Wynton Marsalis

THE INNER GAME OF MUSIC by Barry Green

A SOPRANO ON HER HEAD by Eloise Ristad

RELAXED AND FORWARD books and blog by Anna Blake

INDIRECT PROCEDURES and INTEGRATED PRACTICE by Pedro De Alcantara

THE MUSIC LESSON by Victor Wooten