Monday, March 22, 2010

Cinderella's lament (not about the shoes!)

I've been finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile my two lives, of tango and work. From a glorious evening of tango, where I feel beautiful, graceful, powerful, flirtatious, elegant--I come crashing down on Monday to my workday world, where I am, well, not.*

I want to live in that enchanted nighttime tango-world all the time... but I'm not sure anyone really does or can. I don't know much about what other tanguer@s around the world and throughout history do in their non-dancing hours, but I know, just as an example, that the extraordinary older milonguero, Ruben Harymbat, worked for 43 years in the Argentine post office as his day job--not exactly the highest-status, most publicly appreciated job one can imagine. I wonder how his feet felt at the end of a long day, after which he would still go out and make magic on the dance floor:

We've all got to pay the rent, no?

Even for those few who make their living touring the world as tango teachers, I suspect that teaching classes all day--once you've managed to get booked for them, which probably involves large amounts of time and effort that are invisible to we who are only students--in a place where you may not have the most facility with the language, followed by a milonga where everyone, regardless of whether they paid to take your classes that day, wants to dance with you,** then off to another airport to get to your next event, is probably not quite the thrilling whirl of jet-setting glamor that it might appear at first glance. I think it seems pretty likely that only profound love of the dance would keep anyone doing that for very long.

Maybe that contrast with everyday life has always been part of the appeal of tango, right back to its roots. Say you're a dockside laborer, or a factory worker, or a seamstress. After a hard day's work, your whole body aches--and maybe you don't have very much for supper, and maybe you don't have a lot of beautiful  clothes. But you still clean yourself up however you can and go out to the milonga, to forget your troubles in the arms of your partners, as they forget their troubles while they dance with you.

While the music plays, we lead a different life.

* Maybe it's not even unique to tango; maybe it's true of nearly any hobby. But I think that the contrast may be sharper in tango than in, for example, scrapbooking or baking, because as tanguer@s we literally costume ourselves (even if we don't dress up in tango-drag) and go to a dedicated space to play out our escapism. Which, when I think about it, is also true of things like mountain biking. But tango seems to have a special reputation in the popular imagination, even among various other dances for which the rest of what I've said may also be true, of glamor, sexuality, and general forbiddenness.Whether or not that is true, or to what degree it may be true, is quite another issue. But it's been my experience that when people hear I dance tango, they often seem mildly scandalized ... or at least surprised! I'm not sure I'd get the same reaction if I said I do line-dancing or even salsa (which, at least in my imagination, seems much more overtly spicy--heh--than tango as I dance it).

** Which I am sometimes guilty of doing, myself. 

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