When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly
But as the power of Christmas eve approaches I can still, after all these years, enter exactly the same imaginative landscape that welcomed me as an only child. In this small corner of our house the door has been reopened for me.
I smile contentedly. I feel so alive in the most dreamlike of ways.
I am their friend, and we are off an adventure again. We three.
Long may it continue. The other side of the dream is sad enough.
As 2014 draws to a close I am approaching two years of learning this amazing dance – only a few months to go – and because it is that time of year I think it deserves a resolution.
I realised recently that I was missing an understanding of the kind of physical dancer I want to become.
Here I have made some progress – the key qualities I am looking for are : Milonguero, Precise, Playful, Still Framed, Musical, Stable and Quiet
I have also thought about my emotional response to – and engagement with – the dance. I believe that I honestly do care very much about the follower. I want her to feel respected and protected, to have the chance to dance what she feels in the music and to express herself.
But I have also occasionally had the chance to dance with truly talented, focussed, balanced followers that from the moment you embrace them are very clearly significantly more experienced than me. So much more talented, surer of who they are and what they are doing.
As soon as they hold me I can feel their focus, their restrained but electrifying energy – asking what I have – wondering if I can give them the experience they are looking for.
And always – on the few times I do get these opportunities – it absolutely and completely terrifies me.
So that’s my resolution for 2015. I am going to welcome those opportunities. I am actually going to seek them out, to ask them to dance – rather than hide in the corner, terrified that they will catch my eye and invite me.
I am going to breathe in, focus, and stop being scared of beautiful dancers.
I asked how to do things, and I was told – this is how that is done. And this one, and now that one. Figure after figure.
We all do this with complex subjects – we have to start somewhere.
Over time the structure builds and the vocabulary expands – but as students we get to a time when we need to be clear. We need a vision – we need to ask ourselves difficult questions – “What am I trying to achieve? What kind of a dancer do I actually want to be?”
I know now that this is where I am. Finally having enough understanding to be able to ask the right question – “How do I do exactly this – in this particular way?”
Perhaps as social dancers attending our regular classes this is in fact a moment of choice that a lot of students – especially leaders – never actually get to. It’s hard enough to learn Tango at all – let alone in a particular and individual way. Selecting and developing a style requires authenticity, confidence and skill and these things take so much time.
With other more literal art forms than dance it is clearer – in photography the difference between a street photograph and a landscape one is fairly obvious – as soon as you look at any image you can identify them. There are clear names, clear categories. We know where we are. We don’t even need to think to get to the next level questions – “is this what I like?”, “is this the kind of image that I want to make?” – our response is naturally along these lines.
As learners of social tango it all seems so different. As we learn we are of course imprecise – so our style is ill defined. There are broad labels – ‘nuevo’ ‘milonguero’ ‘show tango’ but within these are thousands of individual interpretations and even disputes about what they actually mean – for example that ‘nuevo’ is not actually a style at all.
For me this is a very important moment – maybe some kind of crisis. Now I have to be creative. I have to decide. Only once we really know what we are trying to achieve can we pause, then rebuild our learning with a new energy and focus.
I am hoping for a new experience from this moment on – because I am thinking on a different level.
We absorb material within the context of our own personal journey. We can reject some, and absorb others. But now I can begin the process of being the kind of dancer that I actually want to be – I can try to be precise. Because, finally, I am starting to know where I actually want to be.
I want to create an image to express exactly this, to allow the follower to dance like that.
We breathe, we embrace and as always we try again.