“Oh, wow, that was so powerful! Your turns are amazing!”
“The way you hold your hand? That’s the most comfortable position ever!”
“Mmmhm, I love the way you follow! You are so fast and light.”-
Verbal compliments as such can go a long way.
It was 25 years ago that an American author Gary Chapman first published a book, promoting a concept of five love languages that are represented to a different degree in each one of us.
For example, one of us will feel more loved if he receives a thoughtful gift, while another one might thrive on verbal compliments. Someone might feel validated when small acts of service are performed to ease her burden of daily responsibilities, but her partner might mainly understand the language of physical touch. Yet another one might show love in terms of quality time spent with one's partner.
These are the five love languages that we subconsciously use to both express and receive emotional validation.
Why would emotional validation be important in the context of dancing tango? That’s simple. One can dance to one’s full potential only when one feels appreciated, unjudged and absolutely comfortable in one’s skin. Showing one’s true colours takes a lot of courage, but that is the fuel that is absolutely necessary for a dance to become spectacular for the partakers.
How do we help our dance partner to get in touch with their inner splendour? That very much depends on their primary language of love. Let me look at just one of those languages today.
For a person whose primary language of communicating love and appreciation are words of affirmation, a heartfelt compliment might break the wall of self-defence. Telling them one thing that we appreciate about their dancing might give them the feeling of security to show even more of themselves.
But, careful, I am not advocating flattery here for the sake of flattery. We all have inner sensors that detect honesty from emotional manipulation. I am rather advocating openness and vulnerability.
Giving a compliment to a stranger can be a very vulnerable thing.
I often spontaneously tell my dance partners, be it men or women, what I enjoy most about dancing with them. I am simply being honest.
But some dance partners tense up and I can almost hear the inner clockwork of processing the information, trying to rang it either as threatening or as reassuring. Some act surprised and seem to wonder whether I am starting to develop feelings for them. Others again feel a touch of inner insecurity surface up and bring up an avalanche of paralysing self-doubt.
But many of them simply take such words of affirmation as an innocent, heart-felt caresses they are meant to be. I truly enjoy telling people what I appreciate about them. This world is too cruel and too cold on its own. We seem to be constantly competing with everyone around us. On every step, the advertising giants do their best to remind us of our deficiencies (because for the solutions they want to sell us on, they need to create a problem to solve, of course).
So giving my tango partner a compliment or two has a very nice potential: it can create a safe haven amidst all cold competition (and let’s get honest here, certain milonga atmospheres can be horrendous when it comes to competition!). That safe haven can help one relax into bringing one’s true self to the light of the world.
When it comes to our inner selves, there is no category of more or less beautiful, of better or worse, of winners and losers. We are all sparkling dazzling. It is just the degree of letting that inner shine show that makes us differ from one another. So helping each other bring our inner sparks to the light makes both of us feel -and dance- better.
You see, in the best possible scenario, once such two sparks meet, they can then fly together. They can play, they can talk, they can make imaginary love to one another or laugh together or feel the deep gorge of melancholy together, if they need to. In the end, they simply exist in this moment and create endless possibilities in the next one.
Tango improvisation at its best, I’d say.
So, let’s be vulnerable with giving and receiving. Let’s bring more depth and beauty into this world. It is the antidote that is most needed for the coldness of today.
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I'm Hannah A. Tomšič from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm in love with both leading and following in tango. It is wonderful to explore tango indefinitely and to help others learn. Please, join my quest. Ask a question, tell me your story, make me see another perspective. We are all here to learn from each other.