One of my biggest everyday problems especially before COVID-19 was the daily commute to work. When I was in Greece I had to drive myself every morning to the office and this drove me crazy. I always dreamed of having a fully autonomous car that would just get me to wherever I wanted while I could be sleeping, reading, etc. What does this have to do with trust and musicality? Well… hop on and let’s go for a ride.
In a recent event, I was dancing to the music of the “Solo Τango” orchestra live and I had the opportunity to share a Tanda with a wonderful follower who also leads and DJs. I mention these because they play a significant role in what comes up. At some point while dancing to the song Portenisimo the bandoneons get the main melody while the violins accompany with short pizzicato strokes of the strings. When the melody starts, I place her perpendicular to me and almost without a second thought she starts a slow front ocho. While she is turning slowly towards me, I notice the pizzicato of the violins and I start tapping my feet to the strokes while she continues to the next front ocho. As the music continues in the same pattern I now release my embrace and start moving still with small steps in opposite directions of her ochos until the part of the music finishes and we close again the embrace to continue.
Lately, I find myself doing such things a lot more often. Releasing my embrace… giving space… waiting for my partner to start making the first moves instead of me and then joining them or just staying there and enjoying what she does. I manage to not freak out anymore and I now find it immensely enjoyable especially when it works well. Obviously, it’s not always what I expect and also obviously it’s not always working. But why does this work now?
Musical trust levels
Last Friday I joined the love in Yelisaveta’s Facebook group where she was discussing the role of trust. More specifically the subject was what is the role of trust and how do you build it. Apart from many other aspects around the subject of trust, I noted that lately, I notice that I have found a new kind of trust. The musical trust. This is more or less what I described in the example above.
Trusting my partner musically has two kinds of levels as I see it. The first one is that I trust that my partner is able to tune in with me and understand what part of the music I am dancing to. This means that she has basic knowledge about how music works, what is a melody, and what is the rhythm, and then she knows the specific songs so that she can predict or understand what I am trying to dance to. In this case, I don’t really need to lead every exact step. She already knows when the next will come and I mostly provide a suggestion on the direction of the move. Moreover, when this level of trust exists I also can predict the way that she will execute the next moves because we are tuned in on the same part of the music.
The second level of trust is to be able to express her own opinion on the music without me needing to suggest it. Lately, for example, I often place my partner perpendicular to me or maybe just stand still for a few moments and relax my embrace in a way that says… “OK… now you are free to do what you like.”. When I do so, it shows that I now trust you to express the music as you like without me leading you to it. I trust that you are independent and musical enough to select and start dancing to something. If during that time I manage to also start expressing something different in the music like in the above example and she doesn’t stop, get confused, or freak out from what I do… then we are on the highest level of musical trust.
As I already mentioned, this kind of communication doesn’t always work. First of all, the biggest factor in it is the musical knowledge of my partner. If she is able to understand that I give her the freedom to do what she wants and if she knows exactly what she wants to express and how to do so then it’s most probably going to work. That is why I mentioned that the partner in my example is a DJ and also leads. Learning to lead and DJing are good indications (not the only ones) that a person has invested time to listen to music, and pays attention to it. Of course, this also needs some basic technique to be able and move without hindering or blocking me, but this is the easiest part.
Finally, knowing the music also means that she knows her timeframe. She knows when the end of the musical phrase will come and she knows that she needs to prepare and return to our common dance after that. I don’t need to wait for ages or interrupt her to start dancing together again. I can trust that she will come back at the right time. Like having a date. I know she will show up on time.
Trust to enjoy more
A long time ago I was writing about how Carlitos was able to keep his cool when Noelia was expressing some part of the music in a specific video. Last year at a seminar with Horacio Godoy and Maricel Giacomini, I saw them dancing to Mariposa with each one stepping on different things. My brain exploded just watching. All this is nice when you see performances, etc. from couples that know each other well and maybe sometimes have planned how to dance specific parts of a song. But when you do it in a milonga, even with a partner you know there is always an element of unknown… an element of surprise. As a leader, you are giving up control and you wait. You never know what your partner will do. Tango music has usually more than one layer to pick from. You may think that your partner will pick for example the melody or the rhythm but you can never be sure of that. That is why I find these moments immensely enjoyable. Because of the unknown, the uncertainty, and the surprise you get from your partner.
Lately, I realized an additional impact of it. Whenever your partner picks something from the music you did not expect you just need to accept it. If you stop her and force your own idea then what is the point in giving her the freedom of choice in the first place? So you need to learn how to listen, accept your partner’s idea, and move on to express your own, follow on with her, or wait in silence. As a person who learned and was used to leading and taking responsibility for every decision, for every move in the dance, I initially found it very hard to give up control. I think when I first tried experimenting with it, I was anxious to stop my partner and resume our normal dancing with me in the driver’s sheet. Now, I find it really relaxing. It’s like driving an auto-driven car. I just provide a space and a time, and then give up control, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is obviously the one mentioned in the example recorded from another live performance of “Solo Tango” so you can understand much better what I mean. The moment I describe is towards the end of the specific video, at the beginning of the 2nd minute.
How about you? If you are a leader, do you often try to give control to your partner? Do you let them make such decisions when you dance? Do you enjoy it? Is it stressing you or is it relaxing you? If you are a follower, how often do you get such moments from your partners? How do you find them? Do you enjoy them or not? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.