Eduardo García explains the parallels between life, love, and dancing, where music is merely romantic storytelling and each person is the protagonists of their own personal epic.
Life is like a Tango… sad, sensual, sexy, violent, and quiet. ~Unknown
Recently, The Wife and I were dragged by a few friends to a local dance club since it was Latin Night. One of the Ladies in the group, a dance instructor, started complaining how she couldn’t find any good dance partners in the area because most men had no idea how to lead or how they were so insecure in the dance floor. After a few laughs and not so few drinks later, I started to reminisce on an interesting conversation I had a long time ago, during my single days, with one of my Compadres (Wingman) about dancing and life.
As I have mentioned in a previous article here at GMP, romancing is not a competitive sport. Women are not your opponents on a chess board. Thinking like that is the same as assuming you have to beat them into submission. That mentality is the reason why insecure men go after weak minded women; opponents they feel they can easily defeat. This very reason has caused women to think they have act dumb to attract men and not scare them off.
Gentlemen, a lady is not an opponent, but a willing dance partner. As with any partner in dancing, both participants must collaborate. It is your obligation to lead and to make your partner shine. It’s not that the man is less important in this case. The roots of a tree arejust as important as the branches. It is your duty to set up the frame over which the lady glides (“Girls who glide need men who make them thump”, five extra points if you know where that is from). That means a conscientious agreement from both sides. The woman is just as responsible to interact with the man as the man is to interact with her. The roles of genders are still present, but keep in mind it is perfectly valid for the lady to take the lead every once in a while. You might be surprised just where you end up.
Now, let’s go back to the original story. One night I asked one of my old wingmen, let’s call him Brian just to simplify the story, how he was able to dance so well, always finding great dance partners when he hit the clubs. He looked at me the same way Blind Master Po would have looked at young Kwai Chang Caine, if it weren’t that Master Po was blind. “Young grasshopper, dancing is a metaphor for life and love. It’s all about understanding the rhythm and being able to see the sections.” I knew about musical rhythms, but what did he mean by sections?
Brian followed this with one of the most enlightening and eloquent explanations about life I have had the privilege to witness. He explained how dancing was simply romantic storytelling and the dancers were the protagonists of their own personal epic. Most Latin dances, like old-school salsa or Tango, are broken into sections to give dancers a familiar frame over which to work their magic. This is the same frame work a person should have when they are romancing.
The introduction of a song sets up the basic rhythm. This is where the partners meet for the first time, and start learning about each other’s style and skill level. You establish a simple step on a simple hold where both dancers are comfortable.
You learn about each other, and set up the ground rules on how this is going to proceed. If you realize at this moment you not compatible, fine. No commitment was established just yet. Just continue at this level till the song ends, not pushing forward but also being courteous enough to finish the song. If you DO connect at this basic level, you advance your movements to the next section of the song.
The verse tells the story of the song. Here is where each song becomes unique and should set its self apart from the rest. Think of this as the development of the story and characters. Here is where you start truly learning about your partner.
You begin to get an idea of how far you and your partner could go. Some simple steps and tricks are pulled, without committing to anything too serious. This will avoid embarrassing situations and miscommunications later on. At this time, it is more about having general good time, keeping it light and fun. Again, here’s a chance to choose if you move on or not.
Coro & Soneo
If you have an introduction, and the verse is the story development, Coro (Chorus) and Soneo (Singer improvisation) is where the conflict of the story is exposed, where the real drama begins. Characters are presented with what they must overcome, and their previous limits are exposed. The pair will usually break hold and show off to each other. Although they are doing independent moves, they are still done to impress their partner.
You can simply stay in hold if one of you does not feel comfortable showing off; just make sure to finish the song. Avoid breaking partnerships in mid-song as that is in bad taste. Who knows, she might not be a good partner for you, but if you are a true Gentleman, she will introduce you to her friend who might be a good match.
Say it with me…. MAMBO. What does that sound like? You really can’t say that word without a hint of naughtiness, can you? If everything went well in the first three sections, you move on to the Mambo. Mambo is the climax of the story, where your individual skills are combined into a single unit; based on everything you have seen up to now.
At this time it’s all about partnering. This is the part of the dance that most people remember, where all the flashy hand-work, lifts, turns, and flips happen; in dancing as well as in… well, you get what I mean.
The Ending or Conclusion
Ending is where things cool down.
You are given a moment to decide if you want to continue to the next song together or if you are going to take a break. If you decide not to continue to the next song, like the Gentleman you are, you must thank your partner for a wonderful dance before heading out.
By not understanding the sections, meeting up with someone will just be a hit and miss; sometimes it went well, other times it just would not click; with many confusing signals and misinterpretations. This applies to dance and to life. People tend to expect that random partners simply match, and will sometimes try to force the match when it does not exist. Other times they might even think outshining a partner and think that showing off will impress. Boys and girls will try to go all out, from start to finish, not pacing themselves and giving themselves time to evaluate what was going on and what where they getting into. This attitude always results in unnecessary complications and a lot of apologies.
What will a change in attitude provide?
1. You will start to look for a compatible partner before proceeding to take things to another level instead of settling with the first person who comes along. Even if you are leading, your partner has to be your equal, in skill and interests. No longer will you be looking for a “quick conquest” because you begin to realize that dumb partners make you look dumb by association.
2. Both partners make their intentions clear. To be able to partner dance well, both partners have to be in agreement as to what they will be doing. Sure, the man might lead, but the woman has to agree to it. Is it just a nice friendship, a one night stand, or are they interested in something more? You have a chance to clear the air and be honest during the each section so no one gets the wrong ideas.
3. Give each other time to evaluate if you are comfortable with where you are and if they are ok with the next step. Do you want to keep it as is; are you ok to moving this into something more complicated? Is she? Do either of you want to step back a bit? By staging each development, you give each other time to understand if you are comfortable with the direction that this is going. You will pace the relationship, whatever that relationship may be.
4. Always remember, the biggest problem when you head out romancing is to understand that when done improperly, confusions and misinterpretations will happen. You are not a kid and you don’t have either a quota or a deadline to get something done. Take your time and enjoy the company. Sometimes a good conversationalist is better than a complicated, drama filled, partner with privileges.
A version of this originally appeared at Being Caballero
Photo: Gustavo Brazzalle/Flickr