I learned some very interesting things during a group class by Sergiy Podbolotnyy and Elena Sergienko on our yearly tango festival, Tango Frostbite.
Their idea is that connection is formed when center of leader is connected with the center of the follower. I assume that by center they mean gravity center of the body, also known as the hara, the point two finger widths down from navel, which is considered very important by various Far East traditions.
This idea is not new for me, I have heard it from other teachers many years ago. I just had forgotten about the idea.
In recent years, I have been trying to lead from chest and create giros from internal rotation, and to relax my arms. I have done this to avoid constricting the follower. This has been a very necessary step for me. But now I have gone too far in relaxation, which has caused my frame to become weak.
It was very apparent that when trying out the class structure with the teacher, I had trouble connecting my center to the center of the teacher. This was surprising, because I consider what I have called the emotional connection to be one of my strengths. I saw that connecting this way with the teacher was even somewhat embarrassing.
After the class I observed in a day milonga that it is very common to lack this kind of connection in the dance. It is very rare to see the leader with their center towards their partner.
I suspect this is related to same embarrassment that I experienced. We dancers are accustomed to being extremely close to relative strangers — such extended periods of closeness are not common even in established relationships. But many of us still seem to harbor some kind of emotional block that prevents us from really connecting with the other person.
For the rest of the day milonga, as well as during the night milonga, I focused on starting my movement from the hara, and continuously trying to maintain the connection from the hara to the hara of the partner. Due to meditation practice, I was able to hold my attention in this for extended periods.
Surprisingly, it did not feel as “good” as my dancing before. At some moments, dancing feels very soft, and this has been the quality I have been searching for in tango. It is apparent that many followers also sense this softness when dancing with me. The softness is what I have called the emotional connection. It feels that this emotional connection comes from the chest area.
While the dancing did not feel as soft, it felt much more masculine to lead from the hara. When I have practiced this a little bit more, it will be very interesting to hear how followers experience the difference. At least I did not get any complaints so far.
During the classes I also learned few not so flattering things about my dancing. My practice partner was considerably shorter than me. The height difference caused some problems in my embrace and balance to become more apparent than when dancing with somebody of my own height.
It appears that I have been seeking the stronger emotional connection turning my chest and leaning towards the follower, but keeping the center away. Due to this, I loose balance, and then compensate for it by putting my weight somewhere than under my own body.
There is bittersweet taste when I see that there are still these serious problems in my dance. There was even a short-lived tango crisis about it. But seeing something is the first step in fixing it. Fixing deeply ingrained habitual balance problems is just not going to be very easy.