Step 11: Breathe
“Tango music” is traditionally played by an orquesta típica, including two violins, a piano, a doublebass, and two bandoneóns. The bandoneón is like an accordion that has bellows and buttons. It breathes. And because it is the bandoneóns that keeps the beat, the dance breathes too.
I took a workshop with Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo recently. At one point, Guillermo observed that the whole room was moving as one, with the breath of the music. It was so lovely!
Mimi also pointed this out to us in class once, to remind us to respect the space in between. Unlike the hard and definitive sound of a snare drum, the bandoneón gives you a moment of suspension. That moment is the one that allows a sacada to occur within a molineta. That moment is the one that allows the Follow to respond to a Lead’s intention. Inhale. Exhale.
I experience it similar to Vinyasa Yoga, in which you string together a series of poses in a flowing sequence, allowing your breath to set the pace. My experience of tango has a similar flow, a richness and fullness. But I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to speed up when they are apprehensive or uncertain, as if going faster will reduce the chances of them messing up. Or perhaps it’s like crossing a rickety bridge. They just want to get to the other side.
Perhaps it mirrors their breathing. Isn’t it true that when you are nervous or tense, your breathing speeds up too? Or, maybe you stop breathing altogether. In either case, the flow stops. And the dance becomes mechanical. It feels rushed. Like the air has been sucked out of it.
The solution is really the opposite of our knee-jerk reaction to speed up. To get back in the flow, one must only be still and listen — because always there is the gush, gush — the breathing of the bandoneón.
Thanks, @Vespers1005 for sharing this beautiful Polish tango with me!