It Takes Two to Tango

Be there to dance – be with him
Be there to dance – be with her

About a few decades ago I was trying to make sense of dancing the tango. I went to dance lessons and learned the steps: walk to the cross – tango, stop. I have loved the music for my whole life; my parents used to take part in a small tango competition and even won a price. Dancing was the joy of their existence. Even while in his 90ies, my father would perk up in his lazy chair and as his eyes would lighten up and you could see that inside he still felt the pull to dance. My parents danced the tango at home on evenings with friends or neighbors. I remember it as great fun although I always felt somewhat embarrassed when my father would lead me to the dance floor. I was honored and eager yet at the same time it felt funny – he was so much into it – it made me a bit uncomfortable.

Thinking back at those moments I wish I would have enjoyed it more thoroughly; little does an 18 year old girl realize that all things change and pass. If I had been all about having fun while dancing I might have felt more free, but I had to be the best – better than my mother. Was there a little Oedipus going on there? If I hadn’t felt I had to compete with others all the time and that I just could have been myself I might have even remembered the steps…basic eight, rotate her body, forward ochos , now dance the step-over!

Not knowing who you are is not a thing you can afford when dancing the tango as it takes two to tango: two people who have to be really present.  When I say present I mean that you need to be both fully present to yourself as well as to each other. Two single individuals functioning as one, one follower – one lead, that is the goal. One dance, two pairs of shoulders squaring up. Resist and yield in perfect timing. He stays firm in soft elegance and grace, with sharp body outlines and vibrant energy. She stays tuned in on his intentions with sensual syncopation and soft firmness. But before you can even think of creating such a beautiful unity you must make sure that you are not in your own way and with that in the way of your partner. And no, the usual childish tricks of helplessness and cuteness do not work here. It is to tango or not to tango and that is the question.

There are many obstacles to really being present to your self as the person you truly are. Many mindsets and attitudes can be in the way of being fully yourself; a need to show off, the insecurity about your looks and skills, a worry of what other people think of you, feelings of inadequacy or a habit of proving to yourself that you can do it. These are all “indirect motivations” (LINK). Your motivation should be direct and focused on how to dance and enjoy to the best of your abilities and accept the level that you are at. Nothing is at stake but a small moment in time of your existence during which you have the choice to hide yourself behind walls of excuses and justifications or be totally present to life by means of the music and your partner.

Let nothing come in between you, your partner and the dance. No questions – no needs for answers. Let the dance be on fire and be the guide of both leader and follower. Be one with each other and one with the dance. Let the dance be a meditation of syncopation and isolation. Here a sensual leg-stroke, there a playful foot-push. The man has the woman in mind all the time; the woman’s attention is on his intentions while keeping a strong sense of herself.

So, the appearances may suggest the tango is danced as an enmeshment of two people who are so intertwined they can dance as one. The opposite is true though: it takes two fully present and separate individuals with a strong sense of themselves to merge to one. You can only merge something when there truly is something to merge! Here is what you can do to strengthen that sense of yourself:

– Be in the moment, surrender to the music.

– Use your very own criteria and stand firm.

– Understand that all people are first and foremost about themselves and coming from different backgrounds and going to different futures.

– Use your senses to the max: listen to the music, experience your body, breathe in the energy.

– Dance for the sake of dancing without any agenda.

I know, it is a lot to think about but you can take one advice at the time. Rotate them until you fully own them. It may make you a better dance partner; you may grow as a person and enjoy your self more.  And you may enjoy your Self more as you’re leaving your self-doubts behind.

Adios Pampa mia….Two pairs of eyes entangled in tango that give and receive and that do not yield but to the dance. Step swivel and sandwich ending.



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  1. Marielle on July 3, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Wonderful blog post. I love the comparison with the tango.Such a complicated dance of characters to begin with. I could feel the music. I love the notion that you need two somethings for fusion. Bring yourself to the dance and to the dance of life.

  2. Aliceann Christy on July 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Antoinetta, You describe the the nature of the dance so eloquently. Our healthy sense of self is natural and attractive to not only to ourselves but to others as well. We enjoy our nature and seeing the natural abilities of others who perform for our pleasure. How often have we heard “she is a natural” when participating in a performance. A healthy sense of self is recognizable to others and when it is a union between two partners it is even more apparent. Apparent in the uninhibited natural flow of the physical and emotional being. Perhaps this is why a dance can be so intimate and uncomfortable for many of us. It may require us to surrender to the forces of our natural sense of self. A substitute sense of self cannot feel it or sustain the movement that brings joy and synchronicity. This is true in dance and in life. A healthy sense of self shares the partnership of joy and peace in the dance of life. We find it attractive iin others and want it for ourselves. Thank you for the dance steps.

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