There was something she said that stayed with me. So well put. ‘When he leads a step, say backwards for the woman’, Graciela said, ‘then there is one possibility: going backwards. There are not three possible steps. Not three, not two. One.’
All the time I see so called ‘advanced’ dancers, throwing their partners around, the women looking like nervous chicken trying to guess the right thing to do for each and every step. It looks like they are thinking: Did he mean here, or here, or maybe here… .Waiting till the last possible moment before moving.
Then they teach ‘active following’, taking the opportunity to teach women to take over control, thereby totally missing the point. It is like deciding which step next is more important than anything else, so we have to make sure we decide 50% each, and to make sure we pass control back and forth all through the tango. Yeah, that sounds nice. My turn! Your turn! My turn!…
If the lead is absolutely crystal clear and makes the woman 100% confident she knows exactly what step is led, she will feel like she has all the time in the world to shape the way she makes that step, thus enabling her to express the music. This is what giving the woman space is about, not sending control back and forth. It is a simplification, but we often say that in tango, the man decides ‘what’, the woman ‘how’. And you have probably heard that in tango, the how is more important than the what, no?
If the man is actually listening (figuratively speaking) to the woman throughout the dance, he will feel her suggestions and ideas, maybe even before she knows it herself and vice versa. That is when the magic occurs. Passing a stick back and forth is not very magical. Well, maybe if it were a wand…
The trouble is, I am afraid you have to dance with some really, really good dancers to understand what I mean. Then you may feel how by taking away, you add something. Remove some possibilities and open up for others. Remove the noise and free the signal. Removing all unnecessary cruft from one’s dancing is one of the things that make tango a life long project.
And the magic that arises makes it totally worth it.