I remember it like it was yesterday. We were dancing. The connection was divine. Music was like pulse in our bodies, part of us. It was one of the best dances I’ve ever had.
It was so good that I had to sit down and “breathe” a bit afterwards. I was almost moved to tears, and thanked tango gods for sending him my way.
What was so special about that dance, you’d ask? What did he do?
And I’ll say, “nothing”. Absolutely and literary NOTHING.
The dance had moments when he didn’t do anything. Stopped. Suspended all movement. And not a little bit, but A LOT, completely. He paused, and held the pause, and held it and held it, until the intensity of the suspension was almost impossible to bear. And then, he moved again.
The incredible power of his dance was not in the movement, but in the ABSENCE of movement. At the right moment, for the right length. I don’t remember how he moved or what he did. It was really nice and beautiful, but I surely mostly remember his pauses, because they spoke thousands of things more than most complex things anyone can do in tango.
When I watch or dance with people, either role, I pay attention to their ability to pause. Suspension and pause, done right, are the MOST POWERFUL thing we have in tango. And it still surprises me how little dancers pay attention to it.
I just wonder, “my dears, don’t you realize you’re missing out on the most beautiful, most delicious, most “goose-bump” moment?”
If you think it’s movement that gets our hearts melt, try paying attention to pauses and see what happens. The deliciousness of pauses lies in that they create diversity and dynamics. If you always move, your dance is flat and boring. You might be dancing fast or slow, simple or super-excitedly complex, but your dance is flat and boring if you don’t balance it with pauses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a pro. I will even go as far as saying “If you can’t pause, you can’t dance”.
Imagine you’re having a nice tasty dinner. And with this dinner, you were offered a bottle of a magnificent 30-year old wine. You enjoy your food, but you drink your wine just to wash down food into your stomach. Whole act takes you 20 min. Wine’s nice, but you don’t savor it. This dinner won’t be memorable.
Or imagine you have this dinner, and take your time. You stretch the pleasure into 2 hours. And you make sure every sip of this fantastic wine brings explosions of tastes in your mouth. You smell it, you roll wine around your mouth to really get all the richness of it. Now and then you can’t help mumbling out a “Mmmmhhhhhmmmmmm!” And when you finish this dinner, you’re satisfied and impressed with the experience. You’re much more likely to keep this moment in your memory.
So why does it make sense to us when we compare dinner experiences like this, but not when we dance tango?
Deliciousness of good wine is to be appreciated in taking time, pausing when you have a sip of it in your mouth.
Deliciousness of dancing is in savoring the moment of suspension, the pause, versus the movement. When you move, you can’t fully pay attention to the heartbeat of yours and your partner, for example, or hear them exhale. You are too busy. When you pause, you have an opportunity to sense your partner, to connect deeper, to just embrace or to express your appreciation.
A pause in tango is when your interaction in a couple is the strongest. If you both pay attention to this pause, and savor it, you will not want it to end!
Pauses are not to be arranged randomly. They need to fit in with the music! Only then do they become real treats, instead of a random sweet candy given to you in the middle of your steak and salad. Everything needs to make sense and have its place. And for that, listen to the music.
And when you know the music, find moments which call for a suspension and pause.
A pause for a leader is relatively easy to understand. A pause for a follower? “We follow, thus can’t define when the pause happens”, I hear you say. Well, my dear followers, in all honestly we get led a lot of things where we have pauses, much more than leaders would think. And what do so many of us do? We often fill all those precious moments with decorations up to the rim!!! We “busy” them up, instead of savoring them!
So dear leaders, make your dances memorable. Create those moments of delicious suspension. Think about connecting to the precious creature you have in your arms right now, don't just move about!
And dear followers, savor those moments, try to avoid over-decorating and enjoy the feeling of a beautiful connection without extra distractions.
And then enjoy. Once you manage to get that feeling of “an amazing pause”, you won’t ever want to go back to just movement.
Image above is from a beautiful performance by Gaston Torelli & Moira Castellano in Porec 2015. Watch it. It's beautiful. It's one of my most favourite performances.
With love for tango,
Olga Metzner from TangoBETTER