Editor’s Note: Michele is a dancer and writer living in Buenos Aires. For dancers interested in traveling to Argentina for Tango, she opens a window into the world of Tango in Buenos Aires. We welcome her to Argentina’s Travel Guide, and offer you this personal note as an introduction.
It is already five years, and here I am, still living in Buenos Aires, inside the next incarnation of my very long career in dance. I was a budding ballerina at three, blossoming into the real thing and then moving into Jazz, a more accurate expression of my nature at the time. My career took me through a prolific life on stage and then into teaching and choreographing, with my base in New York and work all around the world.
I moved to Miami and one day was called to choreograph for a television series being produced in L.A. Could I create a tango? With my usual bravura, I said of course, found a maestro, and tried to absorb what I could in three days. Fortunately it was a comedy scene where the few steps I learned could translate into something that worked! After the shoot, I needed to apologize to the art form. And so, in ecstatic penance, I began learning the dance for real.
Tango is not easy. It requires a sharing of energy, sensitivity to the musical phrasing, and as a woman, attunement to the nuances of the man’s lead. The steps are incidental, actually. But most teachers teach steps, so steps are what I learned. The great challenge that I presented to my teachers was how to release the powerhouse of energy my body held from all the years of dancing on my own. I am a dynamic dancer as opposed to a lyrical one, and all of the strength and control that I have absorbed through years of rigorous training is apparent in my every move. And…this does not serve Tango, at least in the beginning stages.
Tango is walking. Feeling the ground. Finding and maintaining one’s center and balance. This equates perfectly to finding one’s equanimity in life. And it translates to dancing in partnership without losing one’s own bearing. And so, the first metaphor was revealed.
The old style of Tango, the Milonguero style, has the woman more dependent on the man, relying on his strength and guidance. In response, he supports her, showing his power and confidence in the embrace as he guides her every move. This style is the reflection of the conservative cultural attitude between men and women, which has existed for time immemorial.
My first difficulty came with this style. Learning to rely on the man when I am so independent, surrendering myself so that I could be light enough for him to guide me, and yet grounding myself so that I would not fly off like an ephemeral ballerina with all of her energies flowing upward out of the body’s center…these were my challenges.
After a year of classes in the States, I realized I needed to go to Buenos Aires. But I would not go until I felt reasonably sure that I could somewhat hold my own on the dance floor. Finally I went for ten days and a few months later, went back again.
My encounter, up to this point, was with Milonguero/Salon style Tango. Slowly I was finding my way inside the energy of the “two.” My body was adjusting to a lower sense of gravity and I was moving more through my solar plexus where lies the seat of our emotions. This area was becoming the platform for my body, allowing my feet to be planted firmly on the ground and less in the lifted manner I had acquired through Ballet. Slowly I was feeling old defenses melt as my femininity began to expand, surrendering myself to the man, feeling lighter and less resistant to being guided. I watched myself shed some of my masculine force and felt my growing femininity through the power of doing less, not more.
The second day of my second visit I met my first partner, and we began to work with the concept of energy rather than with steps and figures. We danced with my hands on his chest, we danced chest to chest with no hands, and we danced without touching at all, with me following his energy only, or he following mine. The dance began to take form as a dialogue, rather than as a monologue given by the man, with the woman basically nodding in response. I now could have a voice – a voice as yet without its own style or flavor, but a voice nonetheless. We worked almost exclusively in this way, rarely thinking about steps. I began to see the possibilities of my own expression as a woman who could yield without losing her center, who could follow without losing her own lead, and who could meet the man on equal footing without sacrificing her femininity.
Time brought me another partner along with classes in another style, incorporating a technique that revolves around the spiral. In this technique the body can work with greater elasticity, going in and out of a close embrace position where greater creative movement becomes possible. I began to see how I could incorporate my own vocabulary from other dance forms into the Tango.
But I still had restrictions in my body that needed to melt. The new challenge was to create channels through which information, physical information as transmitted by energy, could flow freely so that any subtle impulse by my partner could be felt. I began investigating the subtly, the hypersensitivity that can be developed in the body to make one a better “listener” and “receiver.” In this way I also saw the possibilities of transmitting my own responses more rapidly and with greater finesse.
As the body becomes more fine-tuned, so does the heart within it. Through my discoveries in Tango, I find myself slowing down in life, tuning in to the details and finding an inner focus away from personality (the dynamic) and towards essence.
Like everything, Tango is a process. I am deeply in the process, learning to let go of resistance, learning to listen to my partner without losing myself, and learning to transmit what I feel through the music and by way of deep, subtle energy that I can now identify inside myself. I am trying not to use my muscles to drive my body, but rather to find the flow through impulse and response. I feel more and more like an instrument as I develop this natural, organic way to move through space. And beautifully, as is requested by Tango, I have learned to feel the palpable third energy created by two souls in their embrace.
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