WHY IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
We all know the expression, “It takes two to tango,” and we have probably all used it at some time. I didn’t realize the profound meaning of this statement until I started to study tango in October 2013. So in this post, I’d like to share the teachings I have been receiving about relationships through this art form. Many of you know that I’m a dancer and believe that dance is an integral part of how we should live our lives as women. It’s a sacred place for expression from our souls. I’ve studied and danced many styles: ballet, jazz, tap, African, Brazilian, belly dancing, salsa. But in tango, I was not prepared for the hold it would have on me and why. All of us strive to understand and often struggle with relationships and the maddening and wonderful dynamics between men and women. Little did I know that tango would hit me between the eyes with some MAJOR relationship aha’s!!! I’d like to share some with you here…
There are so many elements to tango, most of which I can’t cover in this post due to sheer volume, so I want to share what I’ve been learning from the two most fundamental aspects of tango: the embrace and the connection. The embrace is the way men and women hold each other in the dance. It’s fraught with intensity, passion, promise, heartache, intimacy, sensuality. Ahhhhhhhh, it’s just so good. It’s the container for the connection. And the connection is about FEELING your partner. In fact when I dance tango, I cannot dance it with my eyes open. They are always closed so that it becomes a moving meditation with the man guiding me, leading me and my trusting him. Are you catching the relationships metaphors already?!
Additionally, the connection is through the heart, literally. In the tango embrace, the man and the woman are connected at the chest, and the lower body actually does not touch in most aspects of the dance. The man leads the woman with his chest, right through the heart. Unlike salsa where you are literally sometimes being man handled as the salsa lead is through the hands. As I am still in the early stages, so much is learned as you dance with your partner. I have had a couple of breathtakingly beautiful male leads demonstrate to me with only one hand and just chest to chest what that feels like. And let me say that to be led by the male heart, as a woman, well need I say more? But what I am learning as a woman dancing tango is which man can you trust? I close my eyes and feel his heart, his arms around me, and the connection with the music. It’s like the music and the man are my lover. You can feel so much in the embrace, in the connection or lack thereof. And the same is true of course for the man; they are looking for a woman that can surrender to their lead. A woman who respects their power and who can feel him.
An interesting and unique aspect of the tango is that the woman is almost always moving backwards. She cannot see where she is going. It’s why tango clothes always have such sexy open backs. Since we are walking backwards, trusting that man to lead is crucial. Especially because tango has a very unique set of protocols around how the couples move around the room. There is a pattern and a shape to it, and the men have to navigate that while deciding which improvisational moves to use in leading you. I find it mesmerizing to close my eyes and to feel this man’s chest next to mine and to feel whether we are connected or not; to the music and to each other. When we are, it is a spectacular and very present moment experience. When we are not, you just can’t wait for it to be over, which is probably a lot like some of the relationships we’ve all experienced; we don’t feel connected so we just go through the motions, waiting for it to end.
I recently read an article on tango that was really fascinating. It spoke about the idea that when we hug anyone for 20 seconds or longer, this causes a release of oxytocin, the love chemical the feel-good chemical that our brains release. It’s also the post orgasm chemical as well. When you dance tango, it is done in what is called a tanda, a series of four songs hooked together, and the etiquette is that you dance with that person for the entire duration of the tanda. It is bad manners to step away in the middle of one. Each song is approximately three minutes, so if you dance a tanda with someone, that is 12 minutes of a hug! That’s a lot of oxytocin and a lot of good energy. I recently went to a Milonga, which are the social gatherings where people go to dance tango, and danced about 14 tandas in one night. I was literally hungover the next day, in a good way. Kind of the way you feel when you’ve been making love with someone that you are really into. It completely blew my mind!
There are also some other powerful relationship metaphors like interdependence. The woman has to lean pretty far forward into the man and at the same time, she has to keep her balance, not lean on him. So tango teaches you not to be codependent! If the balance is off and the woman is leaning ON the man instead of INTO him, she can lose her center (or herself in relationship speak)
Tango is 100% improvisational, and it’s not Dancing With the Stars ballroom dancing. This tango is social dancing, the way it was created and still done in the streets of Argentina. So it’s real and gritty and raw and takes you so deep. Just like a real relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, It is clearly not true intimacy, but it gives you an amazing platform to learn the tools because they are built so nicely into this amazing dance. As one guy explained tango to me, he said, “This song is three minutes and in this song, for those three minutes, we are in love.” He said, “you have to trust me to lead you.”
Ladies, I know how that makes your toes curl and your heart beat faster. But guys reading this, I’m sure that you would love the idea, the chance to feel that way in your own masculine energy, for a woman to submit to you and allow you to lead her wherever you choose. You can see all the control freak women in the room, which is rampant in our society of course, with their eyes open and leading the guys. This is a powerful place to learn to surrender as a woman. I’m not saying you have to surrender to every guy you dance with, because trust me, some of them are not worth your trust, just as many men you encounter in your life are not deserving or trustable. And guys, you can change pronouns here because certainly these things apply to you as well. But speaking as a woman, we must learn discernment about who we give our surrender to, under what circumstances and how far. In the tango, when that man shows you that you can trust him to lead, it’s like you fall in love!
Some people may think that the way tango is set up is sexist. As a woman who knows my own power and strength and is an advocate for equality, I find it so liberating to acknowledge that I want to be lead. How many ladies reading this are embarrassed to admit this to themselves, let alone to allow it expresssion? Surrender is a beautiful gift when done in the safety of trust.
As in life, you also encounter in the tango room the guy who blames you when you can’t follow his lead. There is a major rule of thumb in tango, that if the woman doesn’t get it, it’s not her fault, it’s yours, the man. It’s your job. One of the most amazing guys I danced with yet said to me so beautifully, as I apologized for having missed something he was doing in his lead, and he said “never apologize, if you don’t get it, it’s my fault and then it’s my job to meet you where you are!” Wow! That just blew me away, because it all was relationship metaphor.
Ladies can you trust a man to lead you? Are you too busy trying to control and dominate everything around you, including the man in your life?. If you do that, he will never be able to be a real man in your life and he will seek that in a woman who is willing to provide that. Men, are you strong enough, clear enough and trustable enough for a woman to be willing to surrender in your embrace? Can you and do you lead with your heart instead of pushing her around, metaphorically or physically?
In tango also exists the expression “the two become one.” When we embrace our partner, united at our hearts, feeling connected, interdependent, the surrender of the woman, the lead of the man is all there, and we merge with the music, we truly move as one. That is what we are all seeking in relationship. Yet we cannot receive what we are not willing to offer. In this dance you can experience the microcosm of that perfect union we yearn for.
Tango is a fantastic place to learn about yourself in relationship to the opposite sex and in relationship to the energies of the masculine and feminine. I find it to be an extraordinary place for me to fully unleash my feminine energy and to have it so well received by the men in the room that I perceive it to be food that nourishes them. I have heard many of them express how masculine they feel in tango, where they are given permission to lead.
If you’re in a relationship, this is a great thing to do together. It will deepen your trust in each other and reveal where you are lacking connection. If you’re single, it is a great way to hone your feminine or masculine energy, to become more self-aware and to learn to give and receive. Ladies, learn to surrender to that trustable man, and men, become that trustable man so that she will melt in your embrace and let you lead her anywhere…
Now I KNOW that turns us all on, inside and out…
Love & blessings,