Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tree Top Tango

In the previous blog, I referenced an episode where I was up in a tree with a bobcat and I want to expand on that today. 
I was back in the mountains of Big Sur and I was walking on a path that went around a fairly steep canyon.  A large tree had recently fallen across the canyon and made a bridge.  The tree still had leaves on it, and I noticed movement in the leaves, so I thought I would walk out and investigate.  It was a large tree, so I was fairly comfortable in spite of a fall of 50 or 60 feet to the bottom of the canyon if I fell.  As I approached the leaves, two little bobcat kitten heads popped up, and my first thought was, "how cute".  That lasted about one second before I heard a very aggresive snarl from behind me on the tree.  Mama bobcat was about seven or eight feet from me on the tree.  Funny how the tree did not seem so large now. 

So here is the situation; I had turned around and was facing a very pissed off mother, with her babies behind me, but the distance to the ground was way too far for comfort.  The only way out seemed to me to back her up about twenty feet until I could make a jump to the canyon wall.  So, ever so slowly I started moving toward her without making any jerky or threatening moves.  As I moved one foot slowly forward, she moved one slowly back in a dance that was as calm and charged as any in my life.  And that is what good tango is about.

As two dancers move together, they must discover a calmness that transmits no information to their partner that is not intended, and they also need that calmness, so they can read the subtle messages that are sent.
As with my bobcat mother on the tree, any tense movement could have indicated a threat to her and the outcome could have been most unpleasant.

The key to any athletic endeavour is to only use the muscles and energy necessary to accomplish the task, and have the rest in a relaxed state.  This is important for the man since his number one job is to allow the woman to feel secure and relaxed in his embrace, and if he is tense, jerky, or unsure of his balance then his partner is not likely to relax into a good dance.  The quality of the dance is determined by how the dance flows, not the number of steps.    For the woman, being relaxed is important for the quality and smoothness of her movements, but it is also essential for her ability to follow. 

A woman who lets her right arm go loose and is told to keep her arm still usually reacts by tensing up like an arm wrestler.  The problem, besides how tiring it is, is that all that tension in her arm actually stops her from feeling the subtle leads being transmitted through her hand.  For example; if there is something particularly delicate that you want to feel, silk, satin, feathers, or fur, you are likely to relax your hand completely and then gently rub it so you can feel it's softness or smoothness because it is when you are relaxed that you are most sensitive.  That is how you want to be when dancing, relaxed and sensitive.  Seems elementary, but  finding a partner that moves smoothly is a difficult task indeed.  Another metaphor I use in class is when driving a large truck you need to exert a lot of energy to shift gears or turn because they are very inefficient, and the ride is rough and uncomfortable, whereas, it takes very little energy to do the same in a high performance sports car, because they are so much more efficient, no wasted energy and the ride is smooth and comfortable.  And where does that smooth ride start?  For cars, the shock absorbers, for dancers, the feet.   But that is for another entry.