So much is said about followers and leaders – but surely what matters is communication so that we can together share the dance and the music to take it in whatever direction we each feel.
A wonderful exercise – that thanks to the inspiration of Joao Alves – I have been including in my tango schedule for a couple of years now – is ‘dancing with no arms’. In his lessons the general approach is normally consistent – solo exercises with him and the mirror, then dancing with no arms, then drawing the embrace – and then the lesson.
After thinking about this for a while I am starting to extend this now to a structure where we as a couple will dance with no arms, but my partner can communicate to me – with her body – that she is now the leader. And then we can communicate the change back. It is going to be hard work – but so fascinating.
Our goal is that this can be completely natural and seamless – so that at any time in the dance she can take the role that we refer to as leading – and then hand it back.
All with no change of role expressed through an embrace change. That is something else entirely. With no con tricks – just a passing of the setting of the structure of the dance from one to the other, through communication between our bodies, whenever this adds richness to our experience.
We work on this ‘with no arms’ precisely because this way of moving together has already lost the symbolic confirmation of the asymmetrical embrace – and so it is much easier to break down our preconceptions.
My next goal – for many months into the future – is that from the natural follower’s embrace she should be able to take over, express herself, and then – if she feels it is appropriate to the music – to lead me simple things like an intent for either one of us to boleo or planeo.
So she takes the lead over not just so that she can express her emotion through what we think of as embellishments – to demand her emotional space – but so that she can also request a specific response from me. And I will be a good enough listener to answer her.
And then jointly agree to change it back.
Our task is in no way for her to learn the detailed role of the figures and complexity of being a leader – but instead to be able to take over the setting of the intent. And to use this to request emotion back from me in more than just those figures that we naturally associate with the role that has to work within – and not disturb – the structure of our dance.
It’s so very, very exciting – I hope so much that it works.