Reflections after Tango 3 - by Mantas Kliminskas

Makela says, "You're falling into a step." as I attempt a trenza with my dance partner. And she is right--I can feel my foot landing abruptly on the buttery studio floor. A quick glance in the studio mirror also confirms the ungraceful nature of my movement. "Slooooower," adds Makela as she is carefully watching three couples practicing a challenging step in slow motion. "Don't forget to articulate the back foot." reminds Makela as I struggle mentally to allocate enough attention to my back foot. My focus is bouncing all over my body trying to move all the right muscles and tendons in just the right way and at the right time while maintaining a proper distance and embrace to my partner…

What makes graceful movements? The kind of movements one sees in tango performers effortlessly gliding through a dance floor and circling each other with intricate footwork. It definitely has to do with a high level of control over speed and direction in one's movements. But how do you achieve graceful movements? Sometimes Makela has us practice "moving through mud"--an exercise of slowing down one's movements to develop better motion control. And beyond the exercise, there is something special about slowing down... Maybe because our daily lives and interactions are so often rushed, slowing down feels so good. And tango seems like a perfect space for this slowing down to take place.

On my way home from Makela's class I listen to Eckhart Tolle speak about the importance of living in the present moment. Not just living but being aware and conscious of the present moment. After all, that is the only thing that is real--the present moment. The past and the future are just concepts but the reality of the present moment is often overlooked as ordinary or not-good-enough. And so, Eckhart says that the present moment is often used as a means to an end i.e. to get to the "future". Suddenly I feel a rush of excitement as I realize how these ideas profoundly relate to tango!! What about being present in every movement or pause in tango?? A continuous presence is what dancers enjoy the most--the ever elusive connection. In fact, it is usually easy to "feel" when your partner is not fully present/connected. Moreover, every movement in tango is graceful when it is imbued with presence and awareness--that is the ultimate slowing down. And so in this way every movement becomes an end in itself and not just a means to get to the next step. Wow! That's the kind of tango I want to dance!¶