Not to be confused with wow-wow tango.
I am a huge fan of both.
One to watch and one to dance.
Wow-wow tango is what first got my wife, Patricia and I initially interested in dancing tango.
Woo-woo tango is what kept us in the game.
Wow-wow tango is what you see. Performance style. The fancy pivots and spins and everything else that requires talent and skill and advanced coordination. Beautiful. Difficult. Lots of lessons.
Woo-woo tango is not seen. It is felt. It is internal, not external. It is what goes on inside: one’s feelings, one’s openness, one’s heart strength, what one is attending to a deep level, and also what goes on between the dance partners: connection, attunement, shared energy. Rather than the classic qualities like pivoting and posture and sequences, woo-woo tango focuses on emotional orientation, sensuality, sensitivity, listening and responding.
Very little attention is given to woo-woo tango, (dancing with presence is the more sophisticated title I give it), maybe for good reason. As my favourite dancer Carlos Gavito (1942-2005), stated, (on a youtube video), “you can teach steps. You can’t teach feeling.”
Maybe you can’t. But speaking from my professional and personal experience, all that is required is that you create a safe and nurturing place and feelings will naturally arise to fill the void.
Gavito in his teaching and dancing focuses on creating that magical space: “The secret of tango is in this impossible moment of improvisation that happens between step and step. It is to make the impossible thing possible, to dance silence..”
On the dance floor, it is this moment of improvisation between step and step, referenced above. Gavito and his oft dance partner Marcela Duran, were the quintessential ambassadors of dancing with feeling, touring the world headlining the famous Buenos Aires production, “Forever Tango”. Check out youtube links for Gavito/ Forever Tango/ a evaristo carriego. Sure, this is showmanship, drama, way over the top but it showcases tango as a suitable medium for expressing emotion.
Gavito continued to teach a minimalist style of dancing that creates space for and invokes feeling and attunement to the dance as well as one’s partner. With a refined emphasis on technique, he instructed beginner dancers how to develop the woo-woo elements at the same time and in harmony with the wow-wow elements. In one on-line lesson, he demonstrates how few steps one needs to take to create a dance. He asks his class to count the number of steps he takes in a 30 second song segment: Two! (I would have taken at least a dozen in that time frame and been disappointed I couldn’t squeeze in more.) And yet through all that stillness, he and his partner maintained emotional intensity and dynamic intrigue and tension.
Which brings me to the most fascinating element of tango.
For me tango introduces a non-verbal language, structure and medium for exploring and expressing emotionality and sensuality in a socially sensitive manner.
My wife Patricia and I were fortunate to get some early-on instruction from visiting teachers, Michael Young and Beatrix Saltzinger who taught very skillfully how to blend the wow-wow and the woo-woo. Dancing as a couple at the time, it was all fun and no threat to explore where this would take us. We found out that tango was a most excellent form of foreplay and we carried on unabashedly until someone would yell, “Get a room.” Then life circumstances prevented Patricia from dancing. The oft-quoted expression “Tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal experience,” now seemed silly if not offensive.
This presented to me the opportunity and necessity of exploring feelings and sensitivity, connection and intimacy which did not default into sexual or romantic attraction. I set to work on developing a tool-kit of intra and inter-personal skills which would support and enhance my connection with my dance partner. It included fine-tuning attitudes and dynamics such as respect (even reverence), attunement, sensitivity, gentleness, support, attachment and detachment, call and response, sensuality (listening with one’s body), energetic connection (the dance in-between), creative collaboration, equality, intuition, body awareness, shared and solitary axis.
All of this is expressed and experienced non-verbally, even non-visually. One neither talks to one’s partner while dancing nor in truth, seldom looks at one’s partner, especially if dancing in close embrace. In any case, the reference point for woo-woo dancing is always internal.
It has been revolutionary for me to explore tango from within this frame of reference, not just because it changed my dancing but because it introduces a model of hetero-sexual relating that stands over against the traditional patriarchal model that I grew up with, i.e., gender difference translates into inequality and power struggles typically resolved in the sex act and often including some element of abuse of power. ( If anyone needs any further exploration of this dynamic, simply reference the last United States election.)
I believe that tango is in every way as much a suitable medium for exploring and developing one’s inner emotional and psychic axis as it is one’s physical centre of balance. Check this out with Jacqueline Goudreau and myself for the next few weeks, 7:15 to 8:00 prior to the Monday Tango Cafe milonga (as announced).