My Year In Tango: Intro

Sabina Samiee spent a year learning to tango. Her tango diary begins today...

At Alex Kreb's Tango Berretin, two tango dancers share a moment at a Saturday night milonga.

At Alex Kreb’s Tango Berretin, two tango dancers share a moment at a
Saturday night milonga.

I signed up for a tango lesson.

At the time, I had no idea how long I would stay with the practice and no intended finishing point. It was just going to be one more thing to add to my already very committed pursuit of all things fun and delightful. How could I have ever guessed the insights I would find, the people I would meet, and the process this would become—and all in one quick 365 days? I would never have believed anyone who told me: tango will become your faith, your religion, your life.

My first introduction to tango came as a kid watching, of all things, “Sesame Street.” The puppets danced with roses clenched in their teeth, leaning away from one another in what I would learn later was called International Ballroom Tango, not Argentine Tango. Then as a 40-something woman, on several nights seeking random flights of entertainment, I had stumbled into tango milonga-type situations and courageously partnered up when offered a chance. I knew enough by my middle years that this was something I could spend a long time practicing, learning, experimenting with. Eventually, I knew I wanted tango.

I signed up for a tango lesson. And I decided to record the experience, to write about my evolution from beginner to “tanguera.” I began a diary-like, post-lesson, post-milonga, late night exercise of jotting down “tango thoughts” and tried to maintain a sense of distance from the experience.

Much of what I am about to tell you came to me by way of my “tango connections.” Not steamy, close-to-a-man, sensual connections, but from real people who stood in front of me with either boldness or fragility or a curious combination of both. And in the braveness of the moment, they shared confidences and quiet stares, made muffled comments, and stumbled through awkward conversations. From those new to tango and from the seasoned experts—all of them, simply, realistically, people just like me who decided to communicate a bit of themselves and, consequently, made the path more interesting.

Tango teacher, Mike Eblen instructs an intermediate-level pair at SE Portland's Dance with Joy Studios.

Tango teacher, Mike Eblen instructs an intermediate-level pair at SE Portland’s
Dance with Joy Studios.

I am thankful to the many people involved in this memoir who deserve recognition but (apart from my instructors and one impressionable leader who are identified) I have declined the use of names so there is no breach of confidence, no humiliation, no hurt feelings, no egos unnecessarily flattered. Tango is, as it turns out, a very close affair. I had no idea at the quantity and quality of human social psychology I was about to voyage into.

This tango sociology makes the story of the dance function in its own unique realm of rule and ritual, within its own balanced universe. The improvisation of tango and the history of a nostalgia and culture are wrapped up in the legacy of the millions of men and women who have danced this dance before us. A connection to this powerful history can seize you with unexpected strength. And, there you have it—your first “connection” is a voyage to the culture of tango.

But this is only the very beginning…

To talk of tango, we must begin at the beginning....

To talk of tango, we must begin at the beginning….

EDITOR’S NOTE: ArtsWatch will publish a new installment of “My Year in Tango” every couple of days. Stay tuned! Here’s the link to Part One.

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