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Friday, November 30, 2007

Breathing Lessons

I have never been very comfortable dancing with other women. It happens through necessity: due to an excess of followers in class, being picked as a helper during a lesson, and on very rare occasions at a milonga.

Upon pairing with another woman: First, there is the sisterly giggling, usually over where the collection of breasts will arrange themselves in an embrace. That relieves some of the tension but still doesn't allow for a completely relaxed embrace. With a woman, the smallness of stature, the curve of the hip, the tiny hand in mine; I don't have the usual anchors I am used to in a leader--the broad back, the height difference, the wide palm. Strength is missing.

So dancing with another woman, I am off. I am tentative. I don't move with the confidence I normally would. I feel more fragile and my partner feels more fragile than me. I am afraid of crushing her. It's hard to seriously dance.

Until my first class with Shorey this week. I was really nervous for some reason, and immediately upon meeting her I realized I didn't have to be. But on our first dance around the floor, I could feel myself stiffening up. So did she.

Breathe, she says after the song is over, you forgot to breathe. You were holding your breath for almost half the song.

So then I tried to pay attention to my breathing. To make sure I was remembering to breathe. At times, it seemed forced and artificial. But with every exhalation I could feel a loosening up: in my hips, in my legs, in my mind. As the hour progressed, those layers of separation I have in my mind when I dance with another woman started to peel away, like the layers of an onion. She was so encouraging, so completely genuine.

I am starting to see tango as a dance between humans, not merely between sexes.


msHedgehog November 30, 2007 at 12:47 PM  

I've never felt less relaxed dancing with a woman than I do with a man, but it does feel a lot different because we're so narrow. Even small men are bigger than us. There are some women I really enjoy dancing with. Women who lead are often really good, I think it's because they've learned to follow first.

I've only done it once at a milonga. She was in a really glamorous dress and heels, so was I, and we did a milonga and it was great. I think it got me lots more dances! ;)

The boobs can be a puzzle if you happen to be the same height, but it's fine as long as you're wearing the right underwear.

NYC Tango Pilgrim November 30, 2007 at 4:44 PM  

An embrace is an embrace. There is nothing weird embracing a woman, or a man in my case.

If one can hug a same sex friend, then one can embrace. Thing is simple until we complicate it.

Every teacher should put embrace as tango one O one.

Anonymous November 30, 2007 at 7:40 PM  

Dont forget to breathe? sounds like this Shorey is a great teacher who is very tuned in to connection, eh?

Anonymous December 3, 2007 at 7:18 AM  

YOu know, I think I used to feel a bit like you in the past--awkward at times. But it has gone away. I think my problem was coming mainly from dancing with other women who are usually shorter, and more petite than me (I'm relatively tall). In my mind, there was this sense of fragility about them that made me anticipate and be overly tense... much more than with a man the same height.

But things have changed. One of my best friends is an awesome leader--in fact, much better than she thinks she is. I have so much fun and joy dancing with her, particularly choppy milongas... it's something we share together, and which has made me much more comfortable dancing with other women as well...

Tina December 3, 2007 at 2:48 PM  

Brava tu!

It's a different energy for sure... I used to not like dancing with women but there are a couple of girls who are beautiful, sensitive leaders and I'm finding that when we dance, it's really special. It's a musical connection for sure, but there is also the feeling of sisterhood. Know what I mean?

Glad you found that, with the help of our beloved Shorey.

tangobaby December 4, 2007 at 9:33 AM  

Thank you all for your replies, your insight and examples.

Tina, I think you described it exactly and perfectly how I felt, that feeling of sisterhood. I think this experience is one of those moments that will make a big difference to me in my future dancing.

Ms. Hedgehog, you'll have to give me the lowdown on the underwear though...


msHedgehog December 4, 2007 at 2:57 PM  

Well, mine are only average, but I still usually wear a bit more structure for dancing than I would for everyday. I decided when I started that a bit of extra protective padding would help me (and beginner leaders!) not feel selfconscious about where I'm putting them.

I don't need it any more, really.

If they're big, though, I think it helps if they're held in place and not allowed to swoosh in a sideways direction. I know one teacher who's short and has big tits, so they are essentially what she leads with, but it works fine 'cause they're not going anywhere. It's perfectly clear and comfortable.

tangobaby December 4, 2007 at 3:52 PM  

Dearest Ms. Hedgehog,

The variety of topics you have such helpful knowledge about is expanding like the universe itself.


I will never forget what I have learned from you so far: the existence and design of McFlurry cups, the habits of hedgehogs, what slugs do when we're not looking, and an alternate use of the padded bra in tango (for not so obvious reasons).