When you can really follow

In this article, I am sharing my own insights into relationships in life that I have discovered through a simple tango practice.

In relationships, each of us, as much as we are individuals, we are together. We are separate people with different needs, fears and history. But often, in the relationship, just like when we are dancing tango, we can lose that ability to be individuals freely and to speak for ourselves. We’d rather choose to neglect our own desires and comfort than risk to irritate or hurt the other by expressing how we really feel. We either hurt our partner, or ourselves – there is no other way.  And I am of course talking from my own personal experience. 

How many times in a milonga I felt my own posture compromised in order to give a comfortable embrace to the other? How many times in my relationships, I gave up my voice in order not to cause a conflict from fear of hurting my partner’s feelings? This to me is following without your own individuality. 

There was another tango class. As usual I’ve been struggling to follow with confidence. “Take space” he says, “Don’t be afraid”. And here I am doing my best, trying not to hurt him with my forward step.

But then, we switched roles; I was leading, he was following. I had to put myself into the shoes of a leader, the type of energy they would project; confident, grounded and without fear. It felt as if I was dancing on my own. Confidence slowly approached me.

We switched roles again. Now I was following and he was leading. Somehow, the energy that I was able to create in my body from the previous exercise was still with me. I was following as if I was leading. To my surprise I had no fears or thoughts about stepping onto his shoes. I was neither hiding, nor trying to comfort him, instead, I was holding my individuality. More importantly all my unconscious beliefs about “hurting him, or hurting me” were gone. I realised it didn’t need to be that way as I finally found a different way.

It occurred to me that without putting myself in a position of my partner, I would have been still struggling to understand how to follow. I also found out that what he actually needed was my confident expression, which caused no harm but helped him to keep balance in our dance.

To me, following is finding your expression and confidence in every step when dancing with your partner. But more importantly, in this journey, I’ve realised that taking a conscious action, both in tango and in life to put yourself in another’s shoes can gift you with a new understanding and discovery of your own role in the relationships. 

To put yourself in another’s shoes in tango means to switch roles. But what does changing roles look like in real life, in our everyday life interactions? Give it a thought and let me know. 

If you would like to connect personally, chat with me on my website:

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By Ieva Kelpsaite

I am a a relationship coach, a tango teacher and a creator of the live event Dance in Conversation. My work involves movement as a vehicle for personal growth, a way to help people to communicate and express themselves better.