Sunday, July 19, 2015

Music and movement

It's something I've heard several times over the years: "I love tango, but I don't like tango music."

Call it a failure of imagination on my part, if you like, but I just don't understand it.

I'd be lying if I said that I took to classic tango music immediately. It's an older style all around, the instruments may be unfamiliar, the recordings are old, and sometimes it is strange to the modern ear, accustomed as we may be to highly polished digital production values. At the first class I ever took, I did not expect the music I heard--and throughout the course, I kept anticipating that the teachers might play something else at some point, something more like I'd heard in movies and in choreographed dance routines. But it did not take long to start feeling how music and movement went together--credit to my teachers for introducing musicality concepts so early--and now they seem inseparable, two sides of the same coin.

Dancing tango (or "tango") to other music doesn't feel right to me, in a way that I don't have the vocabulary to describe. And when I'm listening to tango music, I can imagine the dance that one could build to the song. Sometimes I can almost feel it in my body: dainty little pizzicato steps here, the swoop of a turn there, the anticipation of suspension in this drawn-out note, and now the release. How would I embellish this part with subtle footplay, if given the chance by a sensitive partner? And always, the music evokes the warm memory of the embrace.

They evolved together, the music and the dance; can they really be separated?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Closeness and distance

We have been dancing together regularly since I first began tango, which, I've realized, is now beginning to approach ten years. But the last milonga, while making small talk between dances, was the first time I shared some of the history that has been most basic to my adult life. Not where I work or what I study; something more personal that I don't always share with people I'm not sure of, but which has been foundational to the person I've become, some of the choices I've made for myself.

And then I ask him the simplest of questions to get to know a person, but one which I'd never asked before, among all our chats. And along with his answer, he reveals a piece of himself that I had not previously known.

For the rest of the evening I am pensive, thinking about how we can encounter people socially, for prolonged periods, and still not really know them. I think that I've missed out--deprived myself of potential friendships in this group, and shared, really, very little of myself, despite the feeling of intimacy in the dance.

And, let me note, I think that's perfectly okay, if that is what a person wants. Not everyone goes to an event like a milonga to make close friends. Moreover, my understanding is that there are older milonguero/as in Buenos Aires who might never have shared so much as their last names with others at the milonga, because tango was, to them, a separate world from their daylight hours, from work and family and friends. And maybe because attending the milongas regularly was, for some time, maybe a little bit shameful (more than a little bit? this is an area where I find the history and mythology of tango, as I've received them, to be particularly muddled), and at times, so I understand, even a risk to one's safety.

But it wasn't what I wanted or intended. I allowed it to happen mainly because I've been afraid. I've been wrapped up in competition with and criticism of other women--which is really, of course, mainly a matter of my own insecurity.

(The things my teachers and parents tried to tell me in grade school were right, and it's a little galling, not to realize that, but to realize how old we sometimes have to be to understand it.)

With men and women alike, I've largely held myself back, because I was afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being found not good enough. Afraid that I might not have anything worthwhile to share. And so I've missed out on some potential for actual connection, for a pretty long time, and that's something I am beginning to regret.

It's not just tango but other areas of my life as well. I mean, of course it is; you can't have a problem that deep and expect its effects to be isolated to only one facet of your life.

It's even part of why I keep this blog anonymous.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I'm not sure. I'd like to change this, maybe try to start getting to know some people better--but I'm still afraid. It's not an unreasonable fear; I've been rebuffed in attempts to make friends before. I'm sure everyone has, at some point. It's not as easy as in preschool, when another kid playing with a toy that you liked constituted enough of a shared interest to be the basis of instant best-friendship. 

But I believe this--or I try to, even when it's difficult: The potential for genuine connection is worth the risk of being hurt.