Your heart finds peace, your mind goes blissfully silent, butterfiles are making you body fly, and for some reason you feel at home in the arms of someone you barely know…
Me too, the first time I felt connection in a tango embrace I thought I was in love.
What else could it be?
I quickly discovered that I wasn’t…
Still, the feeling stays with you, right? You start craving for it, take more and more classes, go to more milongas…
Yet it doesn’t come back. Or rather, when it does, it keeps disappearing. One moment tango is wonderful and magical, the next it is bland, too slow, too quick, frustrating. You’re addicted, but you’re not sure to what…
Connection is somehow mystified in tango: some sort of Holy Grail. It is often left to chance, as if it were a kind of divine grace that you have no control over. You might be blessed with it one day, and not the next….
Connection shouldn’t be left to chance
And yet, connecting is just an extra skill: a tool that you can learn and practice in classes, with all of the dancers you are sharing a tango with. I should know: I spent the past 2 years back in performance school, learning about connections between performers: hours of walking, moving and breathing together (awesome fun!)
And as it turns out, connection between stage performers and tango dancers follow very similar principles… and it definitely shouldn’t be left to chance!
Basically, there are 3 elements that you need to always connect with your partner. We need to practice them from the start of our learning journey. When we do, we are completely ready to connect with any partner… and our milongas completely change!
There are 3 elements that you need to always connect with your partner.
Stlilness in the mind
The basis for connection is the quality of your attention.
If your mind wanders and your attention is not on the present moment, you won’t be able to connect. The first thing you need to do is to stop worrying about work, relationships or (especially) your dancing technique and what the people around will think – for 12 minutes, you get into “airplane mode” (no turbulences!) and completely leave the world behind.
Stillness in your mind allows you to connect with yourself, and create headspace so you can let your partner in.
My connection skills completely changed when I started doing a bit of centering (meditation) before the milonga (or any performance). It doesn’t need to be much: just 5 minutes of mindful breathing in the tube can radically transform the evening.
For a more dedicated tango practice, you can also spend a few minutes a day walking alone, at home, on a tango music that you love. Focus on your balance and on deep breathing. When you do this, you feel much more calm, centred and ready to fully embrace your partner.
Relaxation of the neck and shoulders
In life, if you use strength, rigidity or full force – for example shouting at someone instead of having a discussion – you can’t connect and rarely get satisfying results. It is the same in tango: contraction, tension, rigidity…prevent connection. So, when dancing socially you need to be fully relaxed.
That doesn’t mean your body should be floppy – far from it: your core muscles are activated, your lower body is grounded and powerful (for more on power coming from the lower body, check out our online course, TANGO CORE™).
However your upper body is fully relaxed.
The tango embrace – abrazo – is a hug (abrazar means to hug). In real life, you don’t hug with tense shoulders or rigid elbows. Same in tango! There should not be any extra effort involved in lifting the arms in the embrace. So make sure your neck, shoulders, arms and wrists are relaxed. Be extra aware of the open side of the embrace: it is easy to tense it up. Keep it soft.
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Listening to your partner through your hands
You know, how frustrating it can be when you try talking to someone who doesn’t listen… It is the same in the tango embrace. If one of the partners is not listening, there can not be any connection.
Often in classes the focus is on communicating with the chest.
But there are other elements that we can use to connect: using the palm of your hands to listen to your partner, for example, is very powerful.
The palm of your hands is one of the most sensitive areas of your body. It is completely irrigated by nerves, linking the hands to the spine. With all these nerves, it is super sensitive. The picture below represents represents the human limbs based on how much we can experience from them – I know, its a creepy picture, but it is pretty incredible how we can tune into the world just through our palms, right?
You can try touching the palm of your hands gently, with the tip of your finger, and feel how extraordinarily sensitive it is. Wonderful, right?
The palm of our hands is one of the most sensitive area of our body
Similarly, when dancing tango we can learn a great deal about our partner by simply feeling their palm against ours. No tension, just softness and presence. It’s a small change in the dance, but a powerful way to get to know our partner and deeply connect.
Connection is definitely not something that should be left to chance! These three ingredients will help you connect with any partner you are dancing with.
Once you are able to connect more, the milongas change: it will not be about the level of the people dancing with you anymore, but rather about how deeply you can connect with them.
Welcome to a new world within the tango world…
If you want to go further, Pablo and Naomi go into much details on connection in TANGO CORE™, with a bonus video lesson specifically dedicated to connection. They also teach exercises you can do at home to help you master these three elements.
Wishing you wonderfully connected tandas,