Thursday, 20 September 2007

My tango nemesis

I have a tango nemesis. It's not a fellow dancer, or a demanding teacher, or even the dreaded back sacada. No. It's my own brain.

The Brain thinks too much. The Brain thinks that if it's not constantly scanning for trouble, then we will be pounced on by lions (or possibly raptors). It therefore notices every little slip and examines it closely, just in case it's indicative of a general decline, or a serious problem. It does the same with every tiny social interaction, in case I have offended someone / embarrassed myself / given the wrong impression. It worries that I am dancing worse than usual in my new shoes, or that I am disappointing my partner, or, most frustratingly, that I can't settle into the following state of mind because I'm thinking too much. Argh! The irony!

The thing that made my very first tango experience so instantly captivating was that the Brain shut up, and the Zone took over. Instead of my insistant, fretful, critical inner monologue, I had a zen-like sense of expansion and an incredible feeling of connection with my partner. I felt as though I was really hearing him with my whole body, and really hearing, full stop, for the first time. It was a deeply spiritual feeling, and I knew straight away that I'd found something which was going to be important to me.

Most of the time, that's still the case. Most of the time, when I dance, I am present, properly present, which is a rare thing for me. But every so often, the Brain decides it doesn't want to go to sleep for a bit. After all, if it's asleep, who's watching for lions? And once it starts, it's hard to stop. The process goes through little phases. I can go months with no trouble at all, but then have one tanda where the Brain starts yabbering, and after that, for a few weeks, it will wake up regularly to check whether it's managed to go to sleep or not (it also does this when I'm actually trying to go to sleep...). There seems to be no way to tackle it directly. All I can do is try and focus on other things. Focusing on the music is the most successful approach I've found, as it forces me into right-brain mode, or taking my awareness to the level of my chest, where I am connected with my partner. But the Brain is mighty, and ultimately, I just have to be patient, and wait for the phase to pass. The less attention I can pay to the existence of the problem, the sooner this happens.

I'm going through a particulary tricky bout of Brain hyperactivity at the moment. The thing that triggered it was that my teacher pointed out that my focus was not as good at a milonga as in class. I knew this, of course - I'm always nervous at a milonga, and especially when I dance with him, so I miss things that I'm actually perfectly capable of following, and lose my flow. But since realising that one of my next big tango challenges was going to be to work on this problem, I am of course noticing it all the more when it occurs. The Brain is constantly watching to see what state of mind I'm in. And of course, as long as it's watching, I'm not in the right state of mind! It's all to the good, I suppose, as it provides me with the opportunity to work on it. But it's deeply, deeply frustating.

Friday, 14 September 2007


So here I am, nervously stepping out onto the dancefloor of the blogosphere. There are quite a few blogging tangueras out there, and for a while I've been watching them, admiring their style, loving their expression, coveting their shoes, and feeling that little bit less alone from reading about their experiences. And now I've decided to have a go myself.

I suppose I'd better start with a little about me. Well, not about me, exactly - I like my interweb anonymity - but about my tango life. Tango was love at first dance for me. In my very first class I had my first transcendent tango experience, a sense of complete presence that I'd never experienced anywhere else, and knew I'd found something that was going to be important to me. A few lessons later I was miraculously lucky enough to dance with my first magical leader. It was like flying. Many miles, tears, and pairs of shoes later (dear god, the shoes), those feelings, the zen and the exultation, the connection and presentness, keep me tangoing, however challenging and difficult and stressful it gets. Which is quite a lot.