The dance floor has become my playground! Dancing is playing! I think this is the goal I will strive to achieve now in every dance scene.
A few tango leads this week reintroduced the concept of “dance as conversation” to me, but that description does not resonate with me anymore. I think of dancing as playing! This week at tango was the first time I was able to add myself to the dance, where my feet and body suddenly found a voice of their own to use to express myself and interpret the music. It happened out of the blue during the middle of a night of dancing at a milonga — one minute I was a passive follow, the next, I was an active participant. I remember one particular dance with a tango lead — the dance directly after the one in which I’d spontaneously started adding my own adornments/embellishments/styling. He’d said near the start of our tanda, “I gotta say, I’m liking the embellishments” and gave me extra room to play when I told him I was bullshiting and didn’t even know what I was doing. With that okay from him to keep going, I threw myself into that dance, playing within the confines of the dance he led for me to play in. At the end of our set of dances, I pretty much yelped with delight: “Thank you for letting me play! I had so much fun!”
As I later described on Facebook:
“It was the best feeling ever! I got to play and really express myself in the dance! I changed the quality of my steps and movements to capture the powerful and tender moments in the music. I used my free leg to capture the little things, with kicks, flicks, sweeps, longer steps, trailing sweeps and steps, taps… it was like a switch had flicked that had turned on my ability to dance and express myself in the music. It was like I had been doing it all the time, even though I hadn’t even being doing it several dances into the night. At one point, I got so into it, I think I took an extra step that wasn’t led and apologized for going overboard (this was during my first dancing using styling) and my lead said it was okay, because tango is a conversation. It was the first time I ever experienced dancing tango like a conversation, and I LOVED it. Because “I” finally had a say in how to feel and express the music. I got to dance the last four tandas this way!”
As I said, I don’t think of dancing as a conversation anymore. “Conversation” isn’t the right word to express what I feel like I am doing when I am have my most awesome dances. Thinking of dancing as a conversation makes me think too much. And I don’t dance well at all when I think too much. It puts me too much in my own head and is intimidating. I dance best when I am not thinking at all.
In blues, I remember that call and response can involve taking turns by bars of music, and who wants to be counting out bars to make sure they aren’t hogging the spotlight or not taking or giving enough time to the person who they are dancing with? As a follow, we are just supposed to speak up at specific moments to influence the course of the dance, because if we are “too loud” then it is no longer a “conversation.” Dancing starts to involve worrying about how your partner is perceiving you, and about showing off for/impressing your partner or the people around you. “Am I too boring?” “Am I contributing enough to the conversation?” “Did I miss something?” “Did I misinterpret a cue?”
I don’t dance this way at all. (Alright, I guess I do actually get intimidated by dancers who I know are really good, sometimes.) Me, I just want to have fun. To me, the music and whatever my lead chooses to lead provide the playground for me to play/dance in. The playground is different every time. How much energy I decide to put into my movements, how I decide to go along for the ride — this depends on how well I think the dance playground created by the lead matches the music. As such, during dances with leads who find ways to capture all the beautiful nuances in the music, I can spend an entire dance pure following and be happy, while during other dances, I am inspired to pepper everything with my own movements, to highlight the moments my lead chooses not to acknowledge but that speak enough to me to make me want to show what I hear. This is not the same as back leading and not following what is being led, but rather working with what I am given and finding a way to have the most fun possible and stay truest to the music.
Dancing as conversation is too much about, “I talk, you listen; you talk, I listen,” because talking at the same time is rude.
Playing is just pure joy and carefree dancing!
This might not make sense to you, but it’s how I’ve come to look at dancing. And now, when I dance, I am the happiest and most carefree I have ever been!