Monday, December 20, 2010


"This is the tango community: A bunch of people who touch each other as if this were what human beings do best."

"He wants the woman to feel secure and relaxed. I realised that in the beginning he deliberately played his dance cards close to he chest because he was taking care of me. He sensed me. He found me. He knew what I could handle. He didn’t want to embarrass me in the Milonga, he kept me safe and always made me feel that I was amazing. That was his gift to me." 

--SallyCat: "More Tango Lessons

"By the final tango in the tanda, every hint of his physical tremor is completely gone. I am dancing with the spirit of a young man and with a soul that has danced for over fifty years. I become certain that we are dancing in the 1930s, that we have chosen each other in a packed tango hall where a live orchestra is playing, that I am the only woman in his world and that he is the only man in mine."

--SallyCat: "The Essence of Tango?"  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Warm dancing on cold evenings

I've been on a badly needed vacation, and it was my second night of dancing in an entirely new city. My first night there was at a small milonga at a lovely studio downtown--mainly older dancers, not students. It was a nice introduction to their community; I had several nice dances and started meeting people, and they were very friendly and welcoming.

But the second night. Wow.

The milonga was held in a chilly church basement on a university campus. Not the most prepossessing venue, but I think we all know by now not to judge tango solely on appearances, no? The turnout still wasn't huge, but it was a bit larger than the previous night. This group tended toward a younger crowd, being sponsored by the university tango club, but a number of the dancers from the previous night were there again--and again extended a warm welcome to me.

Wow. That was a good group of leaders. Once things got warmed up for me, I danced almost solid until the end of the milonga, and, though not all were entirely great, there was not a bad dance in the bunch. Most were very, very good; the leaders made me feel well cared-for and graceful. A few surprised me, because I wouldn't have thought, from watching them with other women, that we would dance well together--but they turned out to be some of my best dances that evening. So nice when it works out that way. It was by far the best milonga, overall, that I've been to in a long time.

Sometimes, when I'm having a good evening like that--when I'm connecting well with my partners and with the music, when all that practice means that I can move with grace and ease ... when it's all coming together--I become, for a while, the person I want to be all the time. Elegant and powerful. Un-self-conscious. I smile with the pleasure of working through challenges, and I laugh at mistakes and brush them aside. I'm not competing with anyone. There is only my partner and me and the music, only the enjoyment of this moment, and I can live in it completely.

And that leaves the smile lingering on my face as I wrap up well and step out into the very cold night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting It

With my red dress and red lips, my hair pulled back on the sides, and my black t-strap shoes, I felt a little bit retro, in the best possible way--channeling a glamor queen of the 1940s. I'd had a great day and was feeling good when I walked--maybe sashayed, a little bit--into the milonga.

My first dance lived up to my hopes. The moment I sat down one favorite partner asked for the next tanda--a wonderful way to start. It had been several weeks since I'd danced--weather and work had disrupted my usual schedule--but we danced well together, as we have been doing more and more in the last year or so.

My next dance was a vals with a nice newer leader I know from classes. It was not our best dance together, but I enjoyed the embrace and focused more on enjoying the music than on the problems we were having, so I was happy.

Then I was asked by another favorite partner: a quiet guy with a wonderful, tender embrace and a strong, sensitive, and musical lead. Dancing with him feels like a form of meditation; it's that relaxing. We glided together across the floor, almost floating. The navigation was hazardous, but nothing seemed to disturb us. Following his smooth, calm lead, my steps felt graceful and elegant. I felt a serene smile growing on my lips. The pressures I've been feeling on and off the dance floor faded away until there was only us and the music. It seemed as if, together, in those moments, there was nothing we couldn't do.

We laughed with sheer delight at the end of the tanda, and hugged our thanks. I sat down with my glass of water, and was happily surprised when he came back after the first song of the next tanda. I took the hand he offered me, and we did it all again.

I danced twice more before leaving at around midnight; it had been a busy day, and I couldn't stop yawning. Six dances in a couple of hours is a very good record for me at that milonga. The later dances were less than wonderful, but I was still so happy from my two earlier tandas that they couldn't bring down my mood.

It's been a while since I've had a night that good, in so many respects. And it always surprises me--although I suppose it shouldn't, by now--how good tango like that can refresh my spirit. I can't always make it happen--but I think I'm starting to see how to more effectively invite it.

Maybe this seeking tango-bliss is, itself, a bit like a good dance. I lead myself by inviting my own happiness, not by bearing down and trying to force it. (May all the saints of tango preserve followers from such a lead!) I may think there is some flaw on a partner's side or in the behavior of people I do not dance with--but in the end, I can only be (and must be) responsible for doing my best on my end. The circumstances may not be ideal--maybe all my favorite partners are not there, maybe we're not connecting well on a given night, maybe I'm in a difficult place inside myself--but you try to dance your best with the partners who are there. You start with the best attitude you can bring, and it seems as though, almost always, good things flow from there.

And, of course, like almost everything about tango, it's not only about tango, is it?