Being Present

13th January 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

Someone once asked the Buddha, 'How do we escape the heat of the summer's day?' . The Buddha replied 'Why not step into a blazing furnace?'
I always wondered if they ever asked him for any more advice?


In tango there's two ways to avoid being in the Present when you dance. They both cause problems.

Firstly it's important to make a distinction between practicing and dancing. If you're a leader you're probably going to need to think when you practice. That's fine. But when it comes time to dance, then you dance. Simply put, you need to be able to dance without thinking. To intuitively understand what you can lead from the position and dynamics that you're in at any given moment that suits the music and your partner.

The Future

The first way to go wrong is to stay in practice mode.

To be thinking 5 steps ahead of the sequence you're going to lead. If you're in a milonga and you need to think about the steps that are coming next, there's a good chance that you're annoying the follow.

The Past

This one's trickier.

You'll hear experienced dancers saying you can have a lovely dance with only three moves. This works if you're in the Present. Because Right NOW you can only be dancing one move. Where it goes wrong is when you're in the Past thinking "This is the nth time I've danced this move, but it's ok because you only need a few moves to have a good dance."

Nope, you've disconnected from the follower again.

The Present

You know tunes that grab you by the throat and demand that you DANCE!

When you savour every last moment and completely throw yourself into it. That's what you're after. Be in the now, totally connected with your partner, the music and the dance floor.

Do whatever you do well from moment to moment and you can dance with the same person for hours without getting bored.

Making it work

  • Practice: Take the time to internalise the movements so that you can do them without thought.
  • Practice well: You need to make sure you're not leaning when you pivot, or disrupting the follow's balance and a 100 other things. You'll dance the way you practice.
  • Have fun: A lot of what keeps you both in the Present is emotional. People tend to retreat to either the Past or the Future when the Present isn't pleasant. When you dance make the Present the place you both want to be.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 13th January 2009

Related articles