Just spent two very satisfying days at Susana Miller‘s workshops, hosted by K’ai and Grant Fu, who were lovely, gracious hosts. It was also great to meet members of the tango community I don’t normally see – we dance on different nights. And Susana is one of my favorite maestras.
She brought us back to the fundamentals, which IMO is the only way to go. Here are a few of the lessons I took away (all errors in interpretation or expression are mine):
1. The lead, despite everything I have been taught about it coming from shifts in axis and weight changes, actually originates in the hands. Think about driving a car: when you turn the steering wheel, the car goes where you intend. When turning on the dance floor, the leader uses his hands to open the door, and his axis and weight automatically shifts, inviting you to pass through, then he follows you through the door. I like this metaphor because it shows the dynamic of lead and follow. I may be wrong about the specifics but I hope you get the general idea.
2. Walk like you do on the street. Relax your feet and toes. Use the cushions on your feet. When you’re standing in line at the supermarket, your body naturally shifts to one leg and your weight sinks into your hip. You aren’t falling over, are you? Use your supermarket hips (I love this idea). You’ll be steadier, and the leader will know exactly where you are.
3. Leaders, eyes on the horizon. This ensures your head is on its axis where it belongs and your balance automatically improves. Look down at the floor and your whole body will collapse. I suspect this works for followers as well but I dance with my eyes closed so I have to ask about that!
4. As a follower, don’t pay attention, be available. Paying attention means you’re thinking about what your partner is going to do, what you are going to do, and whether things are going well/not, which interrupts the flow of pure communication between your bodies. Being available means your body is in a state where it can respond authentically in the moment. Your partner moves, and you go. Be in the present. Dance “dirty”. Don’t try to be perfect, because if you are trying, you are in your head. If you find yourself in your head, count to 20. Trust your body.
My biggest challenges are maintaining my balance, and dancing “available”. I plan to practice at home, then go dancing and forget what I learned. I trust the lessons will arrive. Very Zen, really.
If you dance tango, what challenges are you working on?
Here is a very poor photo, taken by me, of Susana leading K’ai.