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Mariana and the CDs

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"I am here," his body said.

How many times had I danced with men who were a thousand times poorer dancers than he and a thousand times more arrogant, and whose bodies, minds, and attention were painfully not present for me?

And yet here was this world-famous superstar, with his own Wikipedia entry, and every inch of his attention was completely present and completely listening; to himself, to me, and to everything around us. At the risk of sounding like a California Flake, here was someone whom I knew had invested a lot in a long-time regular meditative practice, and who had achieved an awesome capacity for attuning himself with the present moment and all it held.

His advice: be one with everything. It's good advice, but the following of it may require some practice.... He was so alive, so free, so aware, and I experienced an entirely new kind of consciousness.

It's a dance about giving, he said.  Which feels like new news, after my three-year phase of learning to dance only for myself and not giving a $#!* about anything or anyone else.  It feels true, and like Santiago knew nothing.  —On the other hand, maybe I had to go through that long phase of learning to care only for myself in order to then be ready for this new phase.

Sebastián was, like a Reiki master, absolutely giving, while keeping himself entirely intact. It's time to let Santiago's selfish approach to dance go by the wayside. Now it's time to open my awareness so that I feel everything, but not in the vague chaotic way of long ago. Be conscious of everything, inside and outside, not just myself.

Ground. Feel heavy eyelids, jaw, neck, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, feet. feel the other person's presence and witness them as a person. slowly build the space of the embrace. Breathe out and ground and give. Maintain this energy all the way through the dance.

Mistakes are chances to slow down and reconnect, not to jump to fix the solution intellectually. Mistakes help us grow as a couple.

Pauses are a chance to ground and let it all go. Let go of time. Then, I wait for you, and you wait for me. We work things out together.

He was totally nonjudgmental and totally present in himself, totally imperturbable. In the beginning, I danced horribly, conscious of dancing with a great master, sorry for him that he had to dance with me, and by the end of one hour, he had me trusting him enough not to feel bad about my mistakes. By the end of the week, I felt safer and happier and freer dancing with him than with anyone else in the world, like a puppy happy to play with a grownup dog from the same pack.

I felt myself starting to cry just from being in the presence of something so soft and gentle, and I had to fight the tears back hard.

I felt wine and stars and honey and bouquets of peaches and jasmine and rivers and moonlight and all these poetic shit that I don't even have words for explaining. This was all new. And hypnotic. I felt safe with him. I can think of no higher compliment than that.

I admired his mental control. He said it was acceptance of chaos. He said it was letting go of expectations. Instead of trying to control things, be aware of how they are and accept them for how they are, and then things can happen. Ah: The Glass Is.

He said that people will give you things but probably not the thing you expect.

To accept everything, not just the good times, but when people break up or people go away, which I could tell was hard for him....

He said he had loved his stepfather, not because of the fact that he was a successful lawyer, but because of the little things that make up a life. Because of how he used to take his mother's coat and hang it proudly on the back of her chair.

Mariana used to be his girlfriend (reminds me of Roxana and Sebastian). Maybe ex lovers really do make the best partners--because you already know them so well and you have a lot of history, and you don't have to Be Somebody for them any more.

Once when they were first starting to really make money and they were working in Paris, they had just broken up. They were trying to practice together, but Mariana wanted to fight. And he wouldn't talk back to her. He had just bought a big investment, 100 tango cds, with the new money. And she was standing next to a window, and the cds were in a case. You won't talk to me? She said. And she took the cds, one, by, one, and started throwing them out the window, one, by, one.

When he looks at her and they are about to dance, he remembers times like that as well as the good times, because these bring them closer together as a couple.

Sebastian says you always have to be balancing self-expression with concentrating on technique. I see this in his dance.

He says the thing about technique is you practice it many times to let go of ego. Don't practice and feel like you have to Fix right away. Just practice, and it will fix on its own. (This is the opposite of what those other articles about practicing say, which is that you have to pay attention to every mistake and when one comes, stop and figure out what the mistake was so that you don't do it again.) This is what the old martial arts masters say about mastering a martial art. Swing the sword ten thousand times, and what's left will eventually be the perfect swing. I want to believe that, but on the other hand, I have seen too much evidence of people who have been dancing for fifteen or twenty years and who dance like absolute crap. Perhaps they key is to pay attention while you practice, but not feel the urge to have to intellectually control the situation. Perhaps the key is aware of what's going on, without feeling you have to grip it and change it with your rational brain. Perhaps the key is to be present in a meditative state.

When Mariana and he practice, they work for two hours, each has their own separate corner where they have tea, then they come together and dance, and when they talk, they talk about family or life or whatever, they don't talk about dancing, and this way, they gradually get better. It's just like in martial arts: practice swinging the sword thousands of times and in the end what is left is pure technique because the ego has been released, all the little things.