Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tango Moments - Beyond Technique

What are tango moments and how do we experience them?  This is a subjective and very personal experience rather than something that we can quantify and label, so I am going to try to relate what the experience is for me and how I seek to achieve the ever elusive tango moments.

We are primarily left brain creatures.  The left brain is the logical, intellectual side of our brain.  Our very, written language encourages the brain shift from right to left.  We are builders and problem solvers and when it comes to tango we see it as a problem to be solved by learning steps, patterns, leads and follows. We want to understand and fix problems as we see them, and then move on to the next problem and fix that. 
Our right brain processes information much faster and is where our creativity resides and as we age we generally become more left brain dominant and disconnect from our earlier creativity.  Meditation is one of the ways that we can shift our brain activity into balance and start to operate on a different level of consciousness.  It is my contention that "Tango Moments" are a result of accidentally stumbling into a brain wave shift similar to that of meditation because of a few factors. 

Zen masters have long used various techniques to affect this brain wave shift.  Repetitive chanting, concentration on conundrums, incense, drumming and  dancing are all methods used to achieve this change.  It is my belief that the combination of music, movement, perfume, textures all shift our brain waves and we go beyond our day to day consciousness and when it all comes together we get into "The Flow".  This is not just a word, but a specific brain function as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago who defines flow as being when one is so absorbed in what they are doing that a euphoric sense of clarity and purpose takes over.  When in flow you act out of an unconscious awareness that is slightly ahead of your conscious awareness.  The lower processing centers receive the information first and during flow you take action before this information goes to the higher levels of processing.*   For me, it is a feeling that I am not actually dancing, but rather the music is going through me and making the choices for me, and my partner is synched up and responding to the music on the same level as though we are one. 

Now I am not here to tell anyone to stop using their left brain.  Far from it.  I want to encourage everyone to learn certain sound techniques of movement, as well as techniques of lead and follow. What I am suggesting, is that there is a time to turn it off, stop hiding behind steps and technique, and just start dancing. Unfortunately, too often, this is where the education stops, and once a dancer has the requisite number of steps and patterns they think they are ready to get on the floor and dazzle everyone.  In the interest of full disclosure, that was the way I started,  I am after all, a left brain creature as well. 

I will never forget one night at a milonga in Las Vegas I was dancing with an Argentine woman and after a tanda she said to me "Morgan, you are a good dancer, but you know too many steps".  Well, I am pig headed, so it took me a couple of more years before I understood what she was saying and applied it.  To this day, I probably dance fewer steps than most  in a milonga, but now I strive to connect not only with the woman, but especially with the music,  

The Music.  For me this is where it all starts.  It is the energy source, the inspiration. The current coursing through my body  passing into my partner and completing the circuit that creates beautiful movement. Sometimes I can shut my eyes, get into the flow and be aware of nothing but my partner and the music and yet be perfectly on balance and aware of  our surroundings without seeing them.  The first time I actually found myself dancing with my eyes closed I was surprised that I did not need visual cues to maintain my balance, and the with no visual input, the awareness of the woman is purely through touch, smell and hearing.  A wonderful sensation.

As a final thought I would like it to be understood that the ability to experience "Tango Moments" is something that is available to anyone who embraces tango; though it is not necessarily experienced by people who have achieved a high level after many years of dancing.  There are certainly minimum requirements and a certain level of commitment is necessary.  The thing that is important is keep it simple, feel the music and connect with your partner and you can definitely get into the zone.

*Many of the thoughts on brain wave activity and so much more were taken from Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell M.D. and her book "The ESP Enigma - The Scientific Case for  Psychic  Phenomena".