My Year in Tango: Part Five

A little de-mystification of the famous tango Connection

The essence of tango resides in the connection.

From “The One,” the leader, the tanguera receives the movement, musicality, and groove. And maybe then she finds that elusive tango essence, the connection.

For the beginning tanguera, a dance is just the initial venture into learning to respond and react to the leader, the beginning of understanding of the possibility of synchronicity. Sooner or later, she begins to hear comments about “the connection,” a quasi-religious state of revelation. Truthfully, I find it a bit of an overstatement.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have  an intro , a  Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three and a Part Four, all just a click away! Look for Part Six in a few days…

I have found many connections in tango. Take, for instance, my connection to the floor. When I learned to walk, I felt this great love of the floor. I noticed its color, its hardness, its smoothness, scratches, scuffs, dents in the surface. I felt how my suede-soled shoe could brush and caress it softly or glide over it with powerful strokes. I felt grounded to the floor, I walked taking long strides with my toe barely skimming its glossy surface. That was a magical connection.

Instead of resisting a closeness and a pressure on my follower, I realized holding him was the connection to receiving the music.

I also felt a connection, oddly enough, when the close embrace suddenly didn’t feel so close, but rather simply helpful. Instead of resisting the closeness and a pressure on my leader, I realized the embrace was the connection to the music. Pressing and leaning in gave me a connection to the music’s danceability.

All of this together—the floor, the embrace, the leader, the music, the conduits and connections—can culminate in a powerfully addictive experience. Of course, that is the ultimate connection, the one that keeps tango dance floors filled. All connections essentially being equal, “The Sabina Tango Evolution” continued…it is taking me a long time to get to this exalted state. But I press on, undaunted by the quality and quantity of available partners.


The mystery of the connection in tango is plaguing me. With each tanda he is moving me closer to a relaxed comfort of gliding movement; his chest, arms, hands compelling me to react in mirror-like response. Exhaling, I am listening to his inaudible murmur of movement, discerning his language and translating his gesture. We are like a school of two fish; a murmuration of starlings numbering just two, floating and flowing with each twist and turn, sharp and quick or slow and lingering, but always together in a brief I-know-you/I-know-you-not lollapalooza.

The expectation and anticipation of what he is going to do next make me rise to my tip-toes, lifting heels high, legs poised to receive his direction. I feel the lightness of his embrace and know to wait for the starring yet supportive role of the music, which comes from him. I am breathing heavily now, a mixture of excitement and euphoria. I don’t remember his name, I don’t know him, but I am adoring the translation of music into movement. I want to let him know I understand his command and control, that I appreciate his musicality, but it’s more about the power of understanding. Being empathetic enough. Being sensitive enough. Being grounded enough. Paying attention. Ironically, isn’t that what we all want in some way or another?

Suddenly I am struck with a pang of guilt. I am expecting so much from this leader, without offering much, if anything, in return. Is he going to misunderstand the smooth success of this dance for a bond between us? I erase these disturbing thoughts from my head. I am simply enjoying this too much to worry about whether or not Leader has reached his own separate orbit with visions of sugary dances together well into the future.

Plus I have more to revel in: that glorious mapley blond floor, for instance. It’s always there with me at every twist and turn, assisting me with an axis and a terra firma I never knew was possible. But, back to that human being who is somehow responsible for all this confluence, I press on, interpreting his body language and touch: I read him by touch through a language of music, held aloft by the floor from which I can push off, sink down to, extend over.

When the tanda ends, I smile at him. I know I want to move to the next discovery. It is an imaginary tournament to see who provides the best, the present; our sense of restlessness settled for the length of the tanda. I remember the words of writer Edward Abbey and wonder if he ever tried tango, “How can I be true to one, without being false to all the others.” I find a find new partner and the ebb and flow begins again.

We are like a school of only two fish; a murmuration of starlings numbering just two, floating and flowing with each twist and turn,sharp and quick or slow and lingering, but always together in a brief I-know-you-I-know-you-not lollapalooza.

We are like a school of only two fish; a murmuration of starlings numbering just two, floating and flowing with each twist and turn,sharp and quick or slow and lingering, but always together in a brief I-know-you-I-know-you-not lollapalooza.

The magic of tango will be born in these moments, if it surfaces at all. Even for still-stumbling novices, trying to interpret every nuance of the encounter and hoping the Leader will be understanding to blunders and missed steps, the connection can be a very intoxicating experience.

I was entranced by how my leaders could coax me to soar with the crescendo of the violin and provide a lively triple-beat seguidilla with exhilarating match to the brisk staccato of the bandoneon. I deduced that was the connection: the music held the mystery of tango. It was my most brilliant discovery. The evolution of my dancing collided with real meaning: the importance of the music. That was The Connection, for me. I didn’t need to be falling in love or even knowing much about or liking my leader.

We did not need any more intimacy between us other than a first-introduction “hello.” I was in the tango moment with these leaders from the instant they made me feel welcome and comfortable in their embrace. We both understood this was our time together to share a connectedness in which we ended up “acting” tango, my eyes closed, our bodies close and warm. No one needed to be talking of love or longing. If you get it right, the expressions just flow, and you end up looking like you are in bliss, because if you decide to truly trust your partner the second you each surrender to a sense of faith in one another, it just all goes right. The music could be delivered to me no matter how tall he was, how he looked or how he was dressed. But, don’t get me wrong, he still needed to smell good.

Now, the leaders I sought out had an understanding of musicality and rhythm. They needed to understand that to get it right, we would have to react to and flow with the music, cooperatively. I felt liberated with this newfound knowledge. The evolution of my tango had suddenly moved forward at an exponential rate. I also thought I comprehended what one leader I had danced with must have meant when he tried to tell me of the importance of “dance-able” music and the crucial link of rhythm and melody.

I smiled to myself about my discovery, and I thought it was something Andrew Oliver might appreciate.

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