tango

My Year in Tango: Dénouement

Some final reflections before the next Milonga!

I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it?

I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it?

It is our last chapter together. I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it? Or wondering how on earth people engage in such odd behaviors…and for what?! Have these weeks of a confessional tango evolution prompted you to let tango whisk you away? I feel obligated to offer you something more. As if the story were not enough, you might feel you deserve a moral, or a summation of my psychological state? A finishing comment, perhaps, where I fillet my feelings, laying it all on the line: the reward for reaching the end, a gift to you of resonance and moment. What will that be?

My story was a mixture of real time, contemplations, confessions. And here we are, squarely at the end. In a somewhat subdued mood, I think back over the last months. This has been a journey of reflection, relation, and response, but most of all, of many connections but not necessarily to the actual human being who held me close.

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Eight

Please, Tango, take me away...

Tango....take me away.

Tango….take me away.

What began for me as a casual interest grew into a pleasure I hope to engage in for the rest of my physically able life. I get that my interest in tango will come and go, but, it is something I can always return to, and I get the feeling it will be ready to receive me with a close embrace.

I have spent much time trying to figure out the tango treasure, that feeling of soaring high, being taken somewhere special while remaining firmly grounded. We all seem to have our pursuits of pleasure, our flights of fancy: gardening, cooking, photography, biking, kiteboarding, yoga. This temporary divergence from our own “normal life” is a way to find solace, engagement, relaxation, to fly our thoughts away with something more than the expected. Tango was now one of these pursuits for me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have  an intro , a  Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three, a Part Four, a Part Five, a Part Six, and a Part Seven, all just a click away! Look for our last episode in a few days…

How do you get there, you ask? It takes time. And a focus on the music.

According to Portland tango instructor extraordinaire, Alex Krebs, a one-year dedication to the dance should incorporate taking lessons, attending milongas, listening to the music, and frequenting practica, (those several-hour-long sessions where tangueros and tangueras practice, practice, practice). Krebs describes the connection with the dance that can be unearthed with dedication and perseverance during this 365 day experience:

“Becoming one with the art, the trance: time slows down, you forget you are doing all the steps, you think about other things. There is no anxiety, no worrying. You are not conscious of anything but the interpretation of the music and the movement. The steps themselves disappear and fade away; there is no compelling force to really do anything. You have learned to use the closeness and the space.”

To get to that level, a determination and resolve to press forward must exist for both leader and follower. This has been a frequent point of discussion, I know, mostly because it runs SO counter to our own cultural sensibilities. Accepting the idea that it’s OK to have a leader and a follower is central to learning and loving tango. As you advance in your dancing abilities and with a well-informed instructor, you will get a chance to explore the relatively new concept of “passing the lead back-and-forth” from leader to follower as the playfulness and feisty nature of this dance moves into a more modern realm…but that’s an entirely different story. Let’s get back to basics.

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Seven

The beginning Tanguera faces down her first Milonga...

Every tango student reaches the moment when she realizes that you really cannot claim to “dance tango” until you have been to a Milonga. As a fledging tanguera, I needed to experience the Milonga on a frequent basis, to get comfortable with dancing among friends and strangers. But I hesitated. The idea of the Milonga is intimidating to anyone who is used to a well-lit, spacious, dance floor with the comfort and security of an instructor nearby. But attending practica (hours-long opportunities to practice with an instructor on-site) only goes so far—the real tango dancing is done at the Milonga. This was my next challenge.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have  an intro , a  Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three, a Part Four, a Part Five, and a Part Six, all just a click away! Look for Part Eight in a few days…

My time came one spring night.

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Six

The Black Knight of Tango arrives on the scene...

The tango aficionado tends to be a fascinating individual—well-read, interested in challenging music, aware of arts and culture issues and a good quiet conversationalist, capable of filling the long moments of silence before the music starts. I guess, one wouldn’t last long being less than charming in such close circles. The more I ventured into the tango world, the more I was sure tango attracted the kind of person who might be nice to add into my circle of trust. And then, sometimes I am just flat out, plain wrong. Perhaps, especially when it comes to judging people, history has proven I am a terrible, hopeless judge of character. Or should that be, hopeful?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have  an intro , a  Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three, a Part Four, and a Part Five, all just a click away! Look for Part Seven in a few days…

Part VI Lumination from the Black Knight I

By that late spring Saturday afternoon, our little class had whittled itself down to about six unreliable singles. Remember the statistical warning? People were falling in all directions…in love off the dance floor. Our steadily diminishing yet dedicated group quietly and obediently circled in the line of dance. We now had the added ability of ochos, (when the woman forms a beautiful figure 8 pattern by caressing her foot across the floor), and the abrazo (embrace), the molinete (going around windmill-like the leader in long, lean steps), the ocho cortado (with an added cross step). Whenever something new was introduced we looked rather like robots being ushered around counterclockwise by a zombie, but we tried to ignore that. New stuff threw the class into an atavistic spin.

Then, just in time to shake things up, The Black Knight came to class…

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Five

A little de-mystification of the famous tango Connection

The essence of tango resides in the connection.

From “The One,” the leader, the tanguera receives the movement, musicality, and groove. And maybe then she finds that elusive tango essence, the connection.

For the beginning tanguera, a dance is just the initial venture into learning to respond and react to the leader, the beginning of understanding of the possibility of synchronicity. Sooner or later, she begins to hear comments about “the connection,” a quasi-religious state of revelation. Truthfully, I find it a bit of an overstatement.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have  an intro , a  Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three and a Part Four, all just a click away! Look for Part Six in a few days…

I have found many connections in tango. Take, for instance, my connection to the floor. When I learned to walk, I felt this great love of the floor. I noticed its color, its hardness, its smoothness, scratches, scuffs, dents in the surface. I felt how my suede-soled shoe could brush and caress it softly or glide over it with powerful strokes. I felt grounded to the floor, I walked taking long strides with my toe barely skimming its glossy surface. That was a magical connection.

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Four

In tango, there are leaders, followers, and sometimes, The One

The leader's primary position is to lead the dance--to show, to indicate, to gently persuade.

The leader’s primary position is to lead the dance—to show, to indicate, to gently persuade.

By now you must realize that a fair amount of time has passed in my Tango Year. Since we got past the sticky intricacies of the close embrace, we must now consider another touchy subject—the leader.

Tango convention dictates that the leader is traditionally male; the follower, female. There are exceptions to this rule, but let’s not confuse things just yet. The male’s primary position is to lead the dance—to show, to indicate, to gently persuade the follower to move in a way that responds to his wish and whim and that shows her off as his willing and able accomplice.

A step back here, a leg graze there, a step to the side, a loaded pause: all this comes to the follower via carefully crafted gesture and touch, pressure, and suggestion, openings, closings and opportunities presented during moments. The follower makes the movements beautiful and languishing, and she communicates glowing appreciation of her lead’s ability. No one will ever accuse tango leaders of being egalitarian. No one will ever question who is in charge. It is the leader and, for the purposes of our discussion, I like to call him, The One.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have an intro, a Part One, a Part Two, and a Part Three just a click away! Look for Part Five in a few days…

I have obtained a sense of great appreciation and respect for the men of tango, especially the beginners: those who struggle to achieve smoothness and grace against all odds and the 21st century male form, its torso cradled daily by a desk chair after the unconscious trudge to the office, a hand that conforms most comfortably to a tv remote or a mouse. In all likelihood, most American men who can afford the luxury of tango lessons have rarely, if ever, experienced what it’s like to have nothing but their pride and their walk. Tango asks so much of the affluent American male.

That man must also forget any feminist inclinations he might have, at least as they apply to tango. It may appear that we are asking The One to return us to the days of submission, domination, but I don’t think that is the case, entirely. Still, you might be wondering, as well you should, whether an ardent feminist can, in good conscience, dance tango.

Personally, I am one of those self-professed, have-her-cake-and-eat-it-too feminists who still likes it when a man opens my door, stands up when I walk into a room, lets me sit down first, and generally shows a regard for my delicate side. And for me, tango seems inherently to invite men and women to show respect and admiration for each other through the long lost art of gesture. I would like to suggest that the tango of the contemporary world offers free-thinking, independent women an opportunity to have the best of both worlds.

Continues…

My Year in Tango: Part Three

The "close embrace" is closer than close

The Close Embrace:  it's close, and it's an act of faith and confidence.

The Close Embrace: it’s close, and it’s an act of faith and confidence.

So, I promised to tell you about the many things of tango. I am attempting to do just that, but it is a long and winding road, you know. Right when you think you have mastered something or become comfortable with an aspect of tango, something happens and you become a blithering beginner, yet again.

I began to feel my whole tango exploit was an exercise in humility, and if I could make it through the beginner tango class, the world would be my oyster, or at least, my milonga. But, before we get too caught up in the humility and the humbling and stumbling of tango, let’s talk about being close to The One. And I mean “The One” in the loosest sense of the term. This person can be someone you have never laid eyes on before, someone you adore, someone you abhor.

If you aren’t in a class, chances are he threw you a cabeceo (that fun, flirty invitation to dance) and you reciprocated, and you barely know this gentleman. Or, even less alluring, he just happens to be the next man in the rotation at the beginner lesson. In either case, you are going to get close to him, real close.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are behind on My Year in Tango, do not despair. We have an intro, a Part One, and a Part Two, just a click away! Look for Part Four in a few days…

As The One confronts you, turns to face you and offers his arms to your, hopefully, receptive reach, a lot goes through a woman’s mind. After all, you are about to press yourself up against… a virtual stranger. He is the leader (we will get to that another time), but before he becomes the leader, he becomes “the one who is very, very close.” Unless, of course, you know this person, in which case you have probably progressed well beyond the beginning tango stages, and you are most likely laughing your way through the struggles I’m describing here.

How close is “close”? Have you ever stood in line at the bank, the grocery store, waiting for coffee, and stopped to realize how close you are to other people? Strangers, united by a similar goal: deposits, groceries, a cappuccino. You are all there for a purpose; so it doesn’t seem strange or awkward to stand within touching distance, close enough to hear a sniffle or a poorly muffled post-breakfast burp, does it? Now, remove that utilitarian purpose (money, daily essentials, caffeine) and, bam!, the closeness becomes rather remarkable.

Continues…