What is Autonomy Within Partner Dancing?

What is personal autonomy in dance and how does it relate to empowerment of self?

Google result for the words "personal autonomy" yields: "the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one's life... " This leads me to think about the realization and awareness of choice. In the context of partner dancing then, it is important to know the choices available to me in every moment. Frequently, especially in a dance like Argentine tango, the choices seem to be prescribed by the actual structure of lead and follow. Sometimes it feels comforting to function within that, I can be in a kind of autopilot state with my partner. Other times it feels narrow and boring and I feel the need to break down the structure of the traditional embrace and allow for something new to happen, even if it "fails." I do not think one is better than the other, but I do think it is important to know that I have a choice as a leader and especially as a follower to decide what kind of connection and expression I want. 

So how to cultivate this awareness of choice without disrupting the connection with the partner? Personal autonomy within partner dancing does not mean breaking the connection, or merely switching the lead/follow relationship. To me, there are two major steps: locate one's own body and remain in a state of listening.

To locate one's own body is be connected to one's physicality: the actual dimensions of one's body, the healthy range of motion, the natural follow-through of one's movement. Where is the center? Where is the balance? Are the shoulders connected to the rest of the body? Is the size the step appropriate?

To remain in a state of listening is to be aware of the music and the partner's movements as I am locating my own body in space. This requires patience and letting go of anxiety about doing things "right." How does the music want to move my body? Where is my body connected to my partner's body? How do I see my partner's body in my mind's eye?

And so, I am empowered to generate more possibilities of expression. I feel grounded in my own body and I feel where the open spaces are for me to move into. My partner feels the same and we are able to have a conversation that empowers each other.