19 April 2009

Keep Your Feet Together. Slow Down. Smaller Steps! Smaller Steps!

On Friday I had an excellent tango lesson with the VTTT.  We worked especially on balance and presence, and when I say it was "excellent" what I really mean is that he made me work very hard. I am too fast in tango.  My only excuse for this is that I'm too fast in life, too, but that's not much of an excuse.  When the VTTT first began with me, six weeks ago now, he spent about half the time going, "It's too big! It's too big!" every time I took a step, and the other half saying, "Slow down; slow down!"  Now the steps are no longer too big, but they are still too fast. 

In order to make me give my partner (in this case, him) some resistance (if I move fractionally after he, the resistance creates a pleasant sense of presence for him, and a sense of being moved that is actually quite pleasant for me), the VTTT made me slow down my steps to a rate that was, in fact, a kind of agony for me.  We spent I would say the last 20 minutes of the lesson with him walking me around, saying, "Slow....Slooooow...Slower, Slower."  I felt as if I'd never moved so slowly in my whole life, and I also felt that moving in that way was an incredible strain on my leg muscles.  Very, very (very) gradually, however, I began to realise that I wasn't moving very slowly at all; in reality, he just wanted me to hesitate so that I was fractionally behind the music - a fraction that most people wouldn't even notice.  And what I felt was a strain on my leg muscles actually became a kind of pleasant languor once I stopped fighting against it.  That is, once I ceased to try to be on the music, but rather waited to be moved, my body re-adjusted.  

I said to the VTTT, "Essentially, I'm rewiring my brain," and that's exactly how it felt.  I had to resist every single impulse my brain was sending me to move, and that resistance had to be enormously active and enormously strong, because the impulses were commensurately determined.  But once I'd managed to hold out against them many times, my brain did seem to get the point, and it let my body change.  It was, however, a real struggle, and a really tense one. 

Then, at the end of the lesson, the VTTT said to me, "I like dancing with you.  Most women, they just stand there, but you're able to hold your weight so that you feel me without fighting me."  I was astounded, since there'd just been twenty minutes of  "Slower...Slower...," and I took it as a huge compliment.

And then I made my fatal mistake: I told the FTT that the VTTT had given me this compliment. As a result, at today's tango class he led me through a number of weight-sensitivity moves, designed to see how well I could feel the lead.  And of course...I was terrible.  So much for holding my weight and feeling the leader. (Although I wasn't as terrible as I was last week, when he had to keep repeating, "Keep your feet together.  Keep your feet together.  It helps you feel the tiny weight changes."  And it does.) Of course, rewiring the brain takes more than one go, and of course I am fast in everything, not just tango, but I was still frustrated and embarrassed.  I keep feeling that if I could just have an hour a week for a couple of weeks in which I just danced with someone - no chatting, no gossip, just the two of us working on things we needed to work on, and mixing that with long bouts of dancing - I could sort out this problem of how to hold my weight:  I would just get used to it, get it wired into my brain.

So here is a little secret about me with regard to the FTT:  the truth is, I don't want to dance with him until I can knock his socks off.  It's not because I don't like dancing with him, and not because I think he's judging me:  I looooove
dancing with him, as this blog makes plain, and I don't think he's judging me (well, I do, but
then I remember that he isn't and get over that).  It's because it gives me such happiness to dance with him, a sort of velvety satisfaction, and I want to return that feeling.  When I finish dancing with him, if I haven't totally mucked it up, I always feel a kind of, "Woah!"  I want him to feel the same way when he finishes dancing with me, not feel either that he's done a favour for a friend (although I think we're past that stage), or that it's good, but it could be better if we fixed a few things.  I want him to have the same velvet feeling I have (from the look on his face, I've seen him  have it with a few other people). So while I love dancing with him now, and I'd never turn him down if he asked me, I daydream that a day will come when we'll be evenly matched in dance ability and enjoyment, and he'll love dancing with me, too. That's the day I'll most want to dance with him. 

(I suppose this is related to his being the teacher, even though now he's my friend, too, because there are other men I know who are wonderful dancers, but I don't want to wait to dance with them.)

So I guess I better work on that slooooowing down, and on my relaxing. And on keeping my feet together.  And on making my steps smaller.  And on getting comfortable with giros (in which I need to keep my steps smaller and to move more slowly).  And on being on my axis.  And on....

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