Egoless Dancing

In the previous post I wrote about different love languages of dancing, and how they relate to two views of tango, which I called traditional and progressive. This post is continuation on that theme, and you should read that post before this one.

My preferred love language is the deep emotional connection. This does not mean that this is the only thing I care about. On certain nights, I seem to look for something else, such as the joy of movement. Also, the enjoyment of the follower is even more important than the deep emotional connection, so I will go towards the love language that I feel the follower is looking for. And while the deep emotional connection is important for me, once it is there, I will look for other qualities, such as musicality, dynamics in movement etc.

However, for simplicity, for the remainder of this post, I will assume we are talking dancing where the goal is to have as deep emotional connection as possible.

How can we make the emotional connection more deep? This formulation of the question already contains an underlying assumption, barely perceptible, that depth of the emotional connection is within my control. I think this assumption is not very useful. In fact it may be even be harmful.

For me, the emotional connection is somewhat magical. I like to compare it to how a fun party comes together. We can facilitate a party in multiple ways, by having a great place, inviting an interesting mix of people, preparing nice food etc. However, we cannot make party fun. We can remove any single one (or even multiple) of these conditions, and still have a great party. On the other hand, the conditions may be perfect, but for some reason or the other, the party just isn’t that great. It is more useful to think of the conditions as something that might prevent the party being fun, not as something that makes it fun.

Likewise, I cannot force a deep emotional connection with my partner. In my experience, one of the biggest hurdles preventing emotional connection are various tensions in the body. But occasionally emotional connection may be very deep even when there is lots of tension.

So, to experience deeper emotional connection more often, I need to prepare in advance, so that the conditions would be as good as possible, and as few as possible things will prevent the emotional connection. And then, while dancing, I need to let go of my expectation of experiencing something. This is not easy, and it is constant struggle for me.

What prevents the emotional connection? In my experience, we can say that they are mostly related to tensions. But even the tensions are beyond my control. I cannot force myself to relax. In fact, controlling muscles by my mind is actually the opposite of relaxation.

Often, I am not even aware of the tensions. So the first step is to become more aware of them, by increasing body awareness. Even this does not come in one step. The tensions are actually the result of habits.

Alexander technique has the idea that these habits have an underlying cause. For example, I have dislocated my shoulder twice. At that time, the muscles around the shoulder were helping the shoulder to heal by becoming more tense. However, these tensions then became habits. I still have these habits, although they are no longer serving the original purpose.

So in order to free myself of the tensions, I need to break these habits. The only way to do that is by struggling against the habit, by reminding ourselves of the tensions again and again. Old habits die hard, so this will take way more time and effort than most people realize.

Likewise, it seems we feel emotional pain also physically, and we create tensions to protect us around the area where we experience the emotional pain. It seems that often the underlying emotional pain is still there, so we need to work through that too.

Where does the need to control come from? In my experience it has a very close relationship with my ego. While the ego has a quite bad reputation, in my view it serves a very specific purpose in humans.

The purpose of the ego is to keep our world view stable. If you think about it for a while, you come to realize that it is very necessary to have a stable world view. For example, if I had to relearn every moment what purpose all the objects around me serve, it would be impossible for me to operate at all, even to lift a fork to eat.

Some religious and spiritual traditions talk about “destroying the ego”. I think this is nonsense. The ego is absolutely necessary.

However, similar to the tensions, some thought or emotional patterns are no longer useful, even if they served some purpose at some point in our life. So the question becomes: how can I change thoughts or emotions that are part of my world view? The process appears to be similar as how to learn to release some tensions. It is less about change, and more about letting go.

Of course this does not apply to everything, but only to things that are in the direction of releasing, relaxing, letting go. However, it appears to me that everything that are useful for deepening emotional connection are in this direction.

If the traditional view of tango is that the leader decides everything, and the progressive view is that we are both are equal partners and both decide, then egoless dancing is when neither of us decides unless it is necessary either to prevent accidents on the dance floor. While this is the “ideal” I am aiming for, it is not possible to attain it in every dance and expecting it to happen may prevent it from happening it.

Unless you have experienced it, this may sound impossible or even crazy. But this kind of language is typical when people are describing flow experiences (see this and this).

About Mikko

A man hopelessly bitten by the argentine tango bug.
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1 Response to Egoless Dancing

  1. Pingback: On Roles | Cerebrar

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