One of the biggest turning points in my tango was the day I learned to listen to my partner. It made all the difference from just dancing to turning each tanda into an beautiful experience.
Concentrating on technical stuff
In the first year of my tango journey, I was obsessed with technical perfection. How to stand, where to put my arm, when to step, how far the stride should be, toe lead, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
Despite my pursuit of mechanical proficiency, my tandas with my partners felt cold, uneventful, and devoid of emotion. This, despite the fact I knew my execution was correct. It was just not happening. When I try to lead something, my partner doesn't pick up on it. When I try to move, her reactions were delayed, or off.
"What was I doing wrong?" I asked myself. I sat down and postulated that if in fact what I was doing was (technically) correct, it was the transmission of what I wanted her to do was lacking.
Observation and teachers
On my quest to find out the "Why's and How's" of my conundrum, I did two things. I took classes from good teachers and I watched those on the floor whom I considered "Good."
One common thing emerged from both of them. Patience. Nothing was rushed nor forced. I asked myself, what did any of that matter?
Listening, really listening
Many milongas passed and my experimentation continued. I had problems with the patience thing. I didn't get it. Undaunted, I kept trying. I had to. The coldness of the dance still prevailed.
One particularly lovely tanda, it came to me. I GOT IT!!!
The patience thing DID matter. It offered me an opportunity to listen to my partner. I could read her, I could gauge her actions and reactions. By listening to her, I KNEW her. Knowing this, I knew how I could communicate to her.
Giving, receiving, giving... It's working
By giving her my patience, she gave me the answers I needed. This then allowed me to give to her in ways she could follow. My tango was now a two way street.
It was no longer "I'm leading and you follow." It was more like, I led a proposition, she told me her acceptance and to what degree, and it flowed from there.
For the first time, I could see that my partner had fun dancing with me. For the first time, I felt warmth. For the first time. I felt "That Tango Connection."
That was the day I learned to listen. It was that day when tango became a beautiful experience.