Milonga at the Trocadero

Outdoor milonga at the Trocadero in Paris.

When we study tango, we often look down. We should look up. Or out. Or beyond. Anywhere but down. We concentrate on steps, on fancy figures, on balance, about where to place our feet. We should be wondering about where we place our soul.

Can you approach a complete stranger, open yourself to their deep embrace and accept the consequences? Those consequences can (and will) be marvelous or terrible. If the person is rude, arrogant, not listening to you, can you let go at the end of the tanda and let it all roll off you?

Or if the person came with expectations that you cannot fulfill (because you don’t understand their lead or they are asking you to do steps you are not ready for) can you see that it is about them and not you? Can you let go and move on to your own solitude or to another partner without prejudice?

Or, if you are the person who knows more, are you willing to simplify your dance so that your partner can enjoy the dance without second thoughts – even if other people might look at you and think you know less than you do? Are you willing to play the fool?

We talk about equilibrium in the dance, in our bodies, in our footsteps. But what about the mental equilibrium that comes even before that? Can you accept someone’s shortcomings when they dance with you? Can you accept your own?

The spiritual side of tango is the side that fascinates me. Can we become better, more generous people through the dance?

That to me is the only step worth mastering.

P.S. You may be wondering why this piece is called “Draft Mastery” rather than plain old “Mastery.” I have the habit when I am working on a piece of putting “draft” in front of the title until it is finished, though everything — even our lives — is just a work-in-progress. It is in honor of that idea — that we are forever a work-in-progress — that I left the “draft” in place this morning. The piece is no more or less finished than any other, but perhaps it is just a tad more honest about its pedigree.