Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leading and Following

Well, my novel is essentially finished, and in the hands of one agent. (Please keep your fingers crossed that it receives enthusiastic support from someone who will promote it to achieve its highest potential) The title is Persephone’s Tango. I will certainly be blogging about the process as it, hopefully, climbs the proverbial ladder of success(or whatever else it may do). I mention it in this posting because I want to write about a piece of Tango Dharma, as it is called in Persephone’s Tango.
The distinguished mentor with whom our heroine is studying Tango, talks about leading and following. She points out that it is commonly presumed that the man leads and the woman follows. La Maestra points out that in order to achieve the dance, both partners must “relinquish their autonomy”. One of the students asks “But doesn’t the woman relinquish more than the man?” Rather than explain in words, the teacher demonstrates in the embrace with one of the gentleman in the class. When the music begins, he tries to take a step, but his partner has her weight on her heels and, though she is a slender woman, he cannot move her. His attempts to create the dance are thwarted by his partner’s unwillingness to relinquish her autonomy.
“What can you do with this partner?” she asks.
“I have to slow down . . .to bring her with me . . .and I have to mark the lead more firmly.”
            “Yes!” says the teacher, “you compromise with the partner, if you are a good dancer.” You learn what is needed to create the dance, then give what you can to that end.
            Compromise must be the unspoken commitment of both partners entering into the dance. In the class, the young man has an epiphany realizing that he’s not in control at all. The fact that he was the designated ‘leader’ had convinced him, even before learning the dance, that he was given control.
            The lesson for the ‘follower’ is just as important. The follower brings her full spirit to the dance. She (we’re using the traditional roles here for simplicity; obviously, leader and follower are gender-neutral terms) relates to the music with her unique energy, and with her body. Each partner brings aspects to the dance that are not even in their control: their height, weight, length of stride, the flexibility of their body, for example.
            The ideal Tango couple has been described as one body with four legs. That suggests the degree to which each partner must contribute and participate. Spiritually, there is a deep experience of communion that comes from this practice. In fact, I would say that all the work and practice to become a good Tango dancer, is done for the achievement of that level of communion, more than for the entertainment of an audience.
            It is valuable, I think, to meditate on this lesson, and apply it to whatever work or recreational activity you do with one or more other people. Imagine how it would be, if everyone relinquished their autonomy and the celebration of their ego for the sake of creating a singular event mutually and harmoniously. Autonomy is a valuable part of our democratic way of life, but it also holds a somewhat mythic place in our minds. Aren’t we really more powerful in life, when we learn to make the “with” choice, and hold that sacred, too.