As I was dancing tango with a young woman at a milonga, I encountered a familiar bump in the road that many of us trip over on our journey to proficiency. The couple in front of us abruptly moved backwards and I had to make an immediate course correction in order to avoid a collision.
I led a molinete to my left.
It was here that we stumbled upon the most common mistakes in tango.
Instead of stepping sideways in a manner that would take her around me, or even directly to her right, she moved away from me on a tangent that was neither a back-step nor a side-step.
She was so alluring that I hid my frustration when she departed my orbit. What can I say? I found her infatuating.
During the dance, the follower is almost always doing some part of molinete, that merry-go-round pattern which encompasses all the fundamental movements of tango: back-step, side-step, front-step and pivot.
It can begin from any one of the aforementioned steps. The progression of a molinete is always the same. If she starts on the back-step she proceeds to the side-step, then the front-step and then another side-step. The molinete must always be performed in reference to the leader who is in the middle of the circle she is navigating. All her steps must carry her around him as he pivots in the center.
If her first movement into the molinete takes her away from the leader, he will have to change course by moving towards her and find another way to continue dancing without barging into the couple in front of them.
As my intoxicating companion moved away from me, I closed the gap and led her into a series of rock steps that kept us out of traffic. It was at this point that I noticed there was chemistry between us. If I was not careful, I could easily become infatuated by her.
Men and women can never be just friends. Almost every woman with which a man dances becomes a sexual puzzle that his libido tries to solve. Therefore, some degree of infatuation is possible with almost every partner he embraces.
The problem with infatuation is that it causes a man’s brain to idle. It puts him into a hypnotic state that stifles his ability to indicate movement, rhythm and direction.
So there I was, dancing with this beautiful young lady. I saw the obstacle and merely stepped over it because I am not the naïve puppy I was when I began my tango quest. I am in control….most of the time, but not always. I am, after all, just a man and sometimes I find it invigorating to let the little boy in me be free.
It would be unfortunate if she never learns that the side-step initiating her molinete is taken at an inappropriate angle. It’s not my responsibility to point this out. That is a job for her instructor.
So it is for the man who never learns to harness his passion. It cannot be allowed to run wild or else he will not be able to dance. Yet he must not be a stone because rocks are not very appealing. This is the paradox that every leader must confront.
In tango there are three types of people: the observers, the travelers and those who are stuck on the round-about waiting for chance or inspiration to get them back on the road again and moving forward.