Thursday, February 11, 2010

El Abrazo

One thing that really bugs me, in close-embrace tango, is when the leader has his weight back on his heels, rather than meeting the follower halfway to create the shared axis that makes it all work. It's a beginner's mistake, I think, but some leaders never seem to grow out of it. It's hard to follow a man who does this, and it makes me feel--and, in fact, look--like a heavy bag of groceries he's schlepping along, propped on his belly or hips for support. Quite the opposite of how one would want to feel in tango.

So one of the things I noticed at my first milonga in Buenos Aires was how the milogueros never did that. You could tell from looking at them: Each man that I looked at held the women not as if he were a drudge hefting a sack of potatoes but as if, in the fullest senses of these words, he were a man embracing a woman.

In a good embrace, there is respect for the partner and for oneself. There is communication of each partner's desires (or, to put it in more clinical terms, intentions), abilities, and current status. There is giving, attentive response to the partner. There is compromise as you literally each meet the other halfway. There is strength and power (on both sides; though it seems like a macho, patriarchal dance, the woman must be strong in herself too), there is vulnerability (yes, for men as well), and there is trust. There is the desire for mutual pleasure.

All of this and probably more--yet there are no words.

Last night, my teachers started again from the basics--standing, walking (I often forget how hard it can be just to walk, simply and slowly, with no change of direction or fancy steps to hide behind, and no way to hurry to mask sloppiness), embracing.

As they stood for a moment in the embrace, I saw it all. The gentle reach of each body to the other, while still able to stand on their own. His arm wrapped completely around her shoulders, and hers around his, their cheeks lightly touching. The ease and enjoyment of old friends or longtime lovers. Her eyes gently closed and the little smile hovering on her lips as she savored the moment...

They held each other as though they were important to each other.

And maybe, despite all my words, that's all it is.

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