Our fitness columnist found that the key is connecting — up close — with your dance partner. She rediscovered the beauty of dancing with someone else, and also the importance of repetition when learning something new.
THE MUSIC WAS soft and romantic, and the dance reflected the sound, with steps graceful and lovely.
I watched as teachers Greg Rolnick and Blair Kaufer spun around the floor. Each step was purposeful, connected and sensual as they slid their feet across the floor in a tango. Greg told the class that tango “is about the great joy of being close to another human being.”
I was at Century Ballroom on Capitol Hill to observe the Intro to Tango class, which was already several classes into the series.
As soon as the music started, Greg told the students to tune in to their partners and practice the steps they had learned. Breathe and enjoy the connection, he said.
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The students paired up and worked on the basics, moving side to side and counting before dancing in a counterclockwise direction. The steps were simple, yet still had moments that required focus, like crossing ankles and pausing.
They teach Argentine tango at Century, and Greg told me it is essentially an improvisational dance.
“You can do pretty much anything as long as you’re working together,” he said.
In the four-week series, classes break down foundational steps, such as four-, six- and eight-count phrases, to give students structure before taking on creative movement.
After watching the students, and giving them pointers on the basic steps, Blair and Greg moved on to a more-complicated sequence that included pivots, crossing ankles and a sexy leg lift.
They moved slowly, and it still didn’t look easy.
They broke down the move — sentada, parada, giro — into parts, showing the class how to think about each section. For sentada, or seat, the follower mimics leaning back in a chair. For parada, he or she stops. For giro, he or she comes around the lead.
The students had looks of determination and focus on their faces as they worked on the steps; I could practically see their brains whirring with the new information. Blair and Greg moved through the group, pointing out weight transfers and showing leads how to move their followers into the correct position. Sometimes, dancers were so focused, they nearly collided with other couples.
As they practiced, I watched them get more confident with the complex parts of the phrase. Some people even started to add their own flairs on the leg lift. It reminded me again of how important repetition is to learning something new. Watching the couples dance, I saw how much the dynamic of social dance shifts, depending on your partner, from straightforward to partners with more flair. And with every song, they rotated partners, challenging themselves to dance with new leads and followers.
After several songs, the students returned to a circle. Blair and Greg showed them how they could incorporate all of their steps, from the basics to the day’s more complicated footwork. They moved slowly, then quickened their pace, covering more of the floor. They danced closely, chest to chest, and they danced with a bigger gap between them. No matter the pace or the distance, Blair and Greg stayed immersed in the movement, the music and each other.
I often think of dance as something to do on my own, and tango reminded me that dancing together has a beauty and connection that deserve more time and attention.