Connecting the Beats and Molecules Between our Bodies

I was unable to make my regular Monday lesson today - due to the fact that we are shipping off to Ocean Shores for The Annual Something Something Family Law Conference!!! Stay tuned, because there will be updates about all the whacky things that happen when you take that many family law attorneys and throw them together in a convention center for several days. And there's much mire and mire to shovel through in the meantime. As I drifted past the two o'clock lesson time, I thought I'd ruminate on some mental-cud percolating from the last few lessons. In other words, these are some editorialized lesson notes plus a few mentions of tango at the end - have at 'em! If I'm feeling really brave, I'll tie it all up with a philosophical bow of the fortune cookie ilk by making a pat analogy of dance-connection and communication to connection/communication in life (you are warned - I have gone there before and I sure as shootin' shall do so again!)

Having finished our harried rush to near-complete ifunrefined raw performance choreography, Nate and I both thought it was a good time to return to refinements. First we reviewed some of the tweaks I could add to my dance, using the performance as a framework. And now we are focusing on the almighty connection! Connection is so fundamental to partner dancing that it may sound elementary. But, like a fractal, the concept can be infinitely refined at each level of nuance and subtlety. With each step of progress, another world of deeper possibilities, tweaks to habit, and rules emerge.

I am pretty sure that any of my regular leads (ahem, Andrew Wright) would balk at the suggestion that I - of all people, I the feisty, reputably willful, intimidatingly full throttle follow that I am known to be at time - am in fact "too compliant," but it is something that Nate has identified for months as a sticking point between me and the next step in my following. I respond just a touch (har har) too enthusiastically, moving where my lead is leading on instant, instead of fully settling into the connection first. I know I do this and I know all about building elasticity and shaping and the positive and negative connections, but it is an amazing leap of faith.

Short summary of relevant terms - a negative connection is a pulling between partners. Usually the pull comes from the opposite hip, although it can also be from the spine pulling away. A positive connection is a compression. Usually, in rhythm, it comes from the chest pressing into the connection. Technique enables readjusting one's body according to the dance's vocabulary so as to balance out that forward or backwards pull/push, or the side-to-side connections. In rhythm, the opposite hip and corner of the ribcage stretch away from each other, compressing the lats and obliques on the other side and creating that knee/hip/everything motion that people associate with latin motion. No matter the speed or the style, there is always a taffy to dance - an infinite world of paradoxical halves that must be crossed and danced through. Dance is never about the rhythmic point A or point B, but the worlds in between them.

When it clicks, it's life-changing. I have had giddy moments of magnificent momentum - the magic of full commitment, when your energies combine to pull you both further than you could imagine. A telemark, the swooping swing of a Viennese Walz, a good lindy swing out, or so much of what I love in blues dancing. A real connection allows two people to use each other's energy to move further and more complexly than they would be able to alone. Verily verging on motivational speaker territory, I assure you, but far more adrenaline-soaked. It is hard to get that connection, because it means trusting your partner can take it, and that you can push yourself just slightly beyond your own balance points. Hard to dance fully committed and fearless of whether you will be caught, of whether your lead will be unprepared for your full weight (usually what happens when I go into a swing out, I'll admit - most leads aren't prepared to catch any momentum and so I go crashing past that final hand).

Last week played we connection exercises through a few rumbas and then went into nightclub - the bane of every interesting dancer's career, mostly because it is so basic that it is usually danced in a painstakingly elementary fashion. But of course with the resistance - and resistance means developing the technical motion, not simply fighting a lead - that came of really shaping my movements in an almost lugubrious fashion, it became amazing. Nate said that he thought it may have been the best nightclub he'd danced (with a student presumably) at the end. He says crap like this sometimes, but in this case I believe him this time.

At my last milonga, this evening, there were few leads who could take that compression and elasticity. A follow has to also feel her partner's balance and receptivity, and there was enough shaken balance to set the higher limit of grounding and resistance. I did, however, note a succulent sense of connection through the musical beats. That part about the infinite space between beats A and B and of the space between our molecules breathing in and out, as our neutrons and protons intermingled (oh my!). My Harry Potter lead was present and we shared a good chunk of a Biagi tanda. Something I'd never done with him. Biagi is far more rhythmically driven, while I have mostly chosen him for modern, sweet, sensual, and contemplative pieces. There's a lightness to his connection - a certain sense that we contact through an ether, but within that cloud, there is a strong sense of interplay between energies. I have always been more patient in tango, able to wait the extra half second before stepping in the desired manner. And he in turn has the patience to compress our dancing against the music - to accelerate and decelerate through the infinite halves of rhythms.

I am now at the precipice of an anology for life, but just shy of that final slip off the slopes. Perhaps I'll only say in passing that - while you can infer enough of the trust and patience part to a good human connection - that I am very aware of a conversational follow that's too compliant. I can tell when, say, my interlocutor has lost interest or is distracted not only if s/he ceases to respond at all (in the "uh huh" auditory back flow that bookmarks any dialog), but also and perhaps particularly when s/he responds too quickly. There's a certain amount of time for a concept to transfer from one to the next, and it's apparent when that time has been skirted. The person who says "uh huh" too quickly, or begins to to take the next step in the conversation too quickly, often misses the full meaning of the prior communication. Waiting too long to respond becomes intransigence, but there is a certain trust and patience involved in allowing oneself to really listen and compress into that communication. And of course... I expect you to mull on that between points A and B of your reading and clicking to the next page...

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