Monday, 10 December 2012

...tuve de tu boca en su frialdad...

The moment when you walk into the salon from a freezing evening.

Greetings and hugs and kisses, followed by gasps and shivers and exclamations remarking on coldness of noses or chilliness of hands.  And then you acclimatise to the temperature, like a diver adjusting to the pressure, until you're the one surprised by the cool kiss of a recent arrival.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

...Besos impregnados de amargura...

At the end of the tanda I'm kissed on the cheek.

It is a happy moment, but as is always the way with tango, there is a little bitterness there.

Neither of us wanted it to end.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

...llevando mi ansiedad de amar...

I know some people who get anxious.

Frightened before a milonga.  That they won't be invited to dance.  That they'll be turned down cruelly by anyone they invite to dance.  That they'll be laughed at for their incompetence or dismissed for their ordinariness.  They think of themselves as invisible.  Nobody that anybody would seek out.

I find that these people are very often the best dancers.  The most compassionate, passionate, exciting, surprising dancers.

I wish they could know how good they were.

But probably, changing that, would change them.  A paradox of confidence.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

...en que me encandilé...

I'm not sure I know anyone who's completely immune to it.

There are those who are less influenced, less taken in.  But sooner or later, we all see someone, somewhere, who just takes our breath away.  We're dazzled.

Their walk, maybe.  Or the way they drag something unique from the music.  The way the ground seems to pull at their feet in a different way than it does for everyone else, perhaps.  Or else they're so quick that to the rest of us they're just a blur and a visual echo.

And in that moment, we can be inspired or deflated.  Maybe it gives us ideas and hope.  Someone to aim to dance with or to dance like.  Or else it gives us the idea that we should just give up now, because how can we possibly ever do that, be like that.

One of these is probably the correct response.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012 luz de tu mirar...

A dark room.  More atmosphere, apparently.  Though the atmosphere to me is improved by the ability to see who's dancing and, equally importantly, where they're sitting when they're not dancing.  Better still, if the whites of their eyes aren't shrouded in shadows and gloom, then we can actually make eye contact.  And eye contact equals a question.  And a question gets an answer.  And an answer may lead on to a meeting on the dance floor.

For me, the brighter the better.  But I'm happy as long as I can see across the room without needing a flashlight.

Monday, 3 December 2012

...yo maldeci...

The guy in front is taking great oblivious steps backwards.

The woman behind is flicking her heels high and wide at every opportunity.

And I, in the middle, silently curse.

But things are changing.

The wide radius kickers and the oblivious step-backers are fewer and fewer.

There are more and more places where social dancers actually dance socially.

I curse less these days.

Saturday, 1 December 2012 toda tu crueldad...

We sometimes take comfort in other people's cruelty.  It lets us feel better about our own.

And you're the cruelest.  You know you are.

It makes me feel better about myself to think this of you.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

...y al ver la realidad...

Looking around, wondering where's the reality in what I'm seeing...
  • Is it in the frantic scrabble for the best dances we can possibly get?
  • Is it in the moment of kindness when someone hiding behind tears in a corner of the room is given a cup of tea, a biscuit, a hug?
  • Is it the guy frowning because this tanda is too modern, too scratchy, too loud?
  • Is it the people peering through the window, shopping bags forgotten in their hands, wondering what strange world they've stumbled upon?
Of course, thinking about it later, reality is none of these things.  Reality is the rock that we stand on while we try to touch the ephemeral.  It's harder to get a grasp on the latter.  But it hurts less when you hit it.

Friday, 18 May 2012

...todo mi ser...

The whole of my being.

I am nothing except in your arms.

I hear nothing but the music and your gentle breathing.

Our embrace contains us and everything that's important to us.

I can feel the ground pressing against my feet, and through our chests I can feel the ground pressing against your feet.

I know where you are.  You know where we're going.  We know our mind.

The whole of our being.  Tango.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

...del día que te dí...

Sign up for classes or workshops with a partner who isn't known to you. Maybe the organiser pairs you up with somebody, or you appeal online and you're matched with someone you've not met.

These workshops can feel very long, or very short. You're sacrificing your day, risking it on a completely unpredictable factor. If the two of you don't click, the lessons are going to be more about you bashing heads than about learning something new. If you're lucky enough to have a regular partner for classes, then this experience won't have bothered you often. I'm lucky enough. But occasionally, through illness or unavailability, you're thrown in with someone else for a change.

This is communication of a different kind. You're in a lesson. Feedback should be welcome. But it still must be tactful. Crush someone's confidence at the beginning and they won't be in a position to take anything else on board. Allow someone to batter your ego and you won't be able to focus on the task at hand.

Of course, for some couples, the regular partner is the problem. They look on it as a relief when they get to learn with someone else.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

...con la ansiedad febril...

Two words that never help: "Calm down."

Your partner knows that they're tense.  Nervous.  Anxious.  They know that they're likely to pass that feeling on to you by contagion.

But the objective is to do the reverse.  To stay calm and still and allow them to hook into that.  Maybe you just stand and listen to the music for a while.  Perhaps a weight change or two, so that she doesn't worry that she's missing something, or to tell him that you're connected and you're there, and that he's going to know where you are at all times.  A non-vocal reassurance.  Give them your calmness as a gift.  Don't demand it in an order.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

...tratando de olvidar te recordé...

If I forget your name, please don't take it personally.

If I smile, nod, say hello, but don't introduce you to a friend, please don't take it personally.  I remember the feelings of dances, but I remember few faces and few names.  I'm never offended if I'm not remembered, because I remember so little myself.  This seems unimaginable to those lucky people who have an infinite number of slots in their memory for different people.  They meet them once, and thereafter can remember their home town, place of work, type of car, favourite pet, and mother's maiden name.

I've been known to not recognise the odd photograph of myself.

Monday, 14 May 2012

...del desamparo cruel...

It's easy to find a comfort zone and stop trying to improve.  We neglect our own training.  We turn our noses up at possibilities to improve ourselves.

Some reach this comfort zone early.  They turn up at milongas.  They dance as much as they want to.  They go home.  They don't seek to make themselves nicer to dance with.  They've achieved their goal already.

I think we all go through phases of this.  There are times when I've stagnated.  Settled for where I am, accepted that I'm good enough.  There are times when the effort and risk of going backwards in the interests of eventually going forwards again seem too high.

And then something inspires me again.  It may be watching a particular leader.  It may be dancing with a particularly wonderful partner.  It may be failing to dance with a particularly particularly wonderful follower.  And back to the class I go.  Back to the private lessons.  Back to the practice time with renewed enthusiasm and determination.

I'm back to enthusiasm at the moment, and so I realise that I've been neglecting my tango education recently.

And by neglecting that, I've been neglecting my dance partners too.

Friday, 11 May 2012

...y allá en la soledad...

The milonga has to begin at some point.  It begins now.  Some people have arrived already.  They change their shoes.  They pour water into glasses.  They eat a grape or a crisp or a biscuit, whatever happens to be set out on each table.  They are itching to dance, but the floor is empty.  Who will take the first step?  Who will make themselves visible first?  Knowing that there's no way they'll be dancing their best after an hour in the car, or a walk through the rain and the cold, or an argument about the fact that they'd forgotten to feed the cat before setting off.

Whoever does it, is temporarily a performer.  They don't want to be.  But they'll be watched by others, wondering whether it's safe, yet, to come into the water.

It's difficult: dancing without other people to shape your dance, to give you boundaries, to make the pace.

But they manage.  And soon dancers will fill the floor.  The crowd will fill the room.

And there is the solitude: gone.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

...que te imploré...

Just let there be one more tanda, we plead.  One more tune.  Just a short one.

Our feet beg us to stop.  Our heads hurt.  We forgot to drink enough water.

The neighbours are banging on the door insisting that the music be turned off.  Now.

Our hearts entreat us for another moment of connection.  Another moment of stillness.

Everyone wants something.  Not everyone wants the same.  Not everyone can be happy.

We leave with mixed feelings.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

...el fuego de ese amor...

People get confused.

Tango works because there's a framework and there are rules.

You nod, you dance, you separate, you go on with your lives.

But sometimes the lines blur.  Especially in places where the rules aren't so established.

And people get confused.

It's not always easy to make and break such profound connections over such a short period of time.

It's easy to mix up the music and the dance with the real world.

It's easy to mistake that temporary love for real love.

It's easy to expect the fifteen minutes to become fifty years.

But it's over.  Until the next time.  Except when it isn't.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

...buscando de olvidar...

It's an expression of empathy, this dance.  Empathy to the nth degree.  We look to lose ourselves in the moment, in our partner, in the music.  This is desirable, to me.  But we have to do it because we want to communicate, not because we want to run and hide from ourselves.  While we're giving our all to our partner, he or she is likely to be doing the same for us.  And if we're not there anymore, how can they do that?

We have to be present for our partner, not absently dreaming the dream.  I think that resolving this contradiction is why people end up talking about having one body with four legs during the dance.  Somehow our thoughts synchronise, they don't stop.  I'm starting to feel this.  I've had a taste of it.  I want more.

Monday, 7 May 2012

...Sin rumbo fuí...

I'm lost.

The room's too big.

The aren't enough chairs.

Nowhere to sit.  Nowhere to stand.  I'm either in a crowd or in solitude.

If the environment is wrong, we wander hopelessly.  We can't settle.  We can't feel at home.

If the seats don't surround the dance floor, we feel cut off when we dance.  We feel like we're dancing in an aircraft hangar.

Another day, another place.

The room feels right, it feels like everyone in it is tuned in to the music.  Hearing different things in it, maybe.  Interpreting it uniquely in each case.  But in tune.  And when that includes even those who're not even dancing at the moment, then we're the opposite of lost.  We're found.

Friday, 4 May 2012

...como una maldición...

We all carry around our curses.

For me, there've been different things at different times.  Some seem constant.

Posture, of course, for me.  Always posture.  Slowly it improves, but as I dance I always feel it's wrong, know it's wrong.  I think we learn to live with these curses a little more, as our tango maturity develops.  We figure out that we can't worry about all our inadequacies all the time.  If we do, we dance like robots, constantly correcting ourselves.  Overcorrecting ourselves.  Forgetting the dance itself.  We get lost in the technicalities.

I know those whose curse is that they bend their legs too much or not enough.  Or they hold on too tightly or lean their head too far forwards.  Their arm on the open side of the embrace is too stiff or too much like jelly.

And the more you fixate on your problem, the bigger the curse grows.  Until your fixation on the problem is your real problem.

And to break the curse?  Apart from practice, I've still found only one answer:  Patience.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Llevando mi pesar...

We have baggage.

We carry ourselves from place to place.  We rarely leave everything else behind.  We ask ourselves, why should we?  We've earned this baggage.  It's the reason that people are often proud of their scars.  Evidence of existence.  Evidence that something happened.  We cling onto our emotional scars in the same way.  If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be who we are.

And tango taps into this, just as it takes us away from it.  If you've not experienced sadness and despair, it's much more difficult to connect to the music.  If you have, you can hear it multiplied a thousandfold in those voices.  In the violin.  In the bandoneón.  And at the same moment, your own pain is elsewhere.  Put on hold.  You're in someone else's shoes for three minutes.


... and silence falls as the cortina fades away.

We wait for the next tanda.

It won't be long.

I think I can hear it now.

Sounds like Donato...

Friday, 27 April 2012

One (1)

One doesn't step into the line of dance without looking where one's going.
I sometimes step into the line of dance without looking where I'm going.

One always uses the mirada and the cabeceo to invite someone to dance
Though if she won't look in my direction I might have to go up and ask.
"The cabeceo wasn't working..."
She'll smile politely.

One is infinitely patient with one's partner, and convinces her she can do no wrong
On the other hand, I sometimes get cross with myself.
However, I have so far resisted the urge to tut.
So at least I've done the least I could do.

We often talk about what one could, should, or must do in a given situation.

One is obviously better than I am.

'One' is a gender-neutral, third-person singular pronoun.  'One' is generally someone else.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Two (2)

The nub of the matter.

It takes two to tango.

We probably heard this from the beginning.  We get told it many times.  We dance together.  If we don't dance together, we dance alone.  Dancing alone is not tango.  It might be something else, but it's not tango.

We have to go into each tanda knowing this.  Knowing it in our bones.  I hear a lot of people talking about this.  They all say the right words.  And then a surprising number of them go out onto the dance floor and perform for their partner, rather than dance with them.

It may be the leader, who takes his duty as the 'shaper' of the dance too far and claims all the music for himself, leaving his partner to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

It may be the follower, who takes every opportunity the leader offers her to decorate, embellish, flick, kick (or stick her heel into an innocent passerby), with no reference to the music or to her partner's dance.

If you don't go into each dance feeling like you're a team, or at least feeling like you might become a team, then what actually is the point?  Who's it all for, if it's not for you two, together, at that moment, in that place?

We learn early on that if you don't commit to each step completely, things go wrong.  Why does it often take so much longer to learn that we need to commit ourselves to each dance in the same way?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Three (3)

There are three dimensions.  Three comprehensible ones, that is.  When we start to learn to dance tango we only use two of them.  In fact, right at the beginning, we probably only use one.  Forwards and backwards.  It's enough.  And then, we learn to turn and the possibilities expand thousandfold.  Our movements are now free in the X and the Y.  Floorcraft considerations permitting.  And maybe we stop there.  We can dance, in those two dimensions.  There are infinite possibilities already.  I think many people don't realise that a third dimension exists.  I think I'm only just becoming aware of the third dimension.  Like someone who's spend his life looking at the ground in front of his feet, and now has suddenly noticed the sky.

And I don't mean using the third dimension to bob up and down like a cork with every step.  And I don't mean using it to allow a couple to launch each other into the air or perform acrobatics.  I mean using it to modulate each step.  To provide extra information.  To change a sideward 'plonk' step into a smooth sinking into the floor, or to change a slow pivot into an edge-of-the-rollercoaster, edge-of-the-cliff, preparation to dive.

And here's an interesting confluence.  Interesting to me, anyway.  The ear has three canals responsible for telling us how we're oriented in our three-dimensional space.  And the ear is also responsible for allowing us to hear the music.  And this prompts me to ask myself a question: how three-dimensionally do I hear the music?  I'm told I have good musicality.  I feel that I have good musicality.  But perhaps I'm complacent, now, and lazy.  The music is deep.  Compared to the music, I dance shallowly.

Time to listen properly, again.  Time to scratch further into the surface.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Four (4)

Corazon.  Tangos speak often of the heart.  Usually about how it's broken, pained, sad, lonely.

And yet when we dance, our hearts are as close as they can be.  Sometimes we can feel the beat of each other's.  Each has its own rhythm.  Above and beyond (or maybe below and beneath) the compás of the music.  Between the rise and fall of the breathing.  Personal, but shared.

There are moments, at the top of the music, at the height of a breath, when it feels like your heart may just burst before it beats again.  And then it beats again, and a bandoneon sucks the air out of you, and you take a step.

The human heart has four chambers.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Five (5)

Sometimes there is the lightest of pressures between palms.

Sometimes the grip is firm and strong.

Some women squeeze their partner's hand when something goes wrong, or maybe when it goes especially right.

Sometimes the hand is flat and horizontal, sometimes it's cupped and vertical.

Occasionally it's painful.  More often than not it's another expression of personality.  Another level of communication.  Another way of being close.

The hand may move or flex or tighten or relax during the dance, or it may be constant and unchanging -- a rock to hold on to.

And as the last note of the music fades away, and we wake from our trance, we often don't release hands for just a few seconds longer.  We try to hold on to it.

The human hand has five digits.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Six (6)

"I'm from hither.  It's just South of thither."

"Oh, you must know X and Y!"

And it's true surprisingly often.  The travelling tanguero will enjoy the 'where are you from' question frequently, and will enjoy watching the most unexpected of connections reveal themselves as the conversation continues.

I enjoy returning home and being able to say to someone that they're known and remembered in a different town, county, country, continent.  Some people are hubs for these connections.  Some people seem to know everyone.  Or if they don't know everyone, everyone knows them.

And the world shrinks a little with each new connection.

Various studies have suggested that there are, on average, roughly six degrees of separation between every person on the planet and every other person on the planet.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Seven (7)

Feeling lucky?  One of those days when you arrive somewhere, you don't really know anybody, but you can't wait.  You invite somebody to dance who you haven't seen dancing.  If they accept, well, they're obviously feeling lucky (or desperate) themselves.  A complete leap of faith.  When you go somewhere new and alone, you depend on somebody feeling lucky.  Otherwise where would your chance be?  Your chance to let everyone see that you're not a stamper, stomper, cruncher, crasher or basher.

I try to take a chance on somebody new, when I get the opportunity.  They could be the best dancer in the country, but they still need someone to gamble on them for that first dance.

When the gamble pays off, winning the lottery has nothing on the feeling.  (I'm willing to be proven wrong on this one, if the universe insists).

Seven is considered a lucky number in many cultures.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Eight (8)

There's magic and joy and sharing in tango, but in order to experience that you need the base requirement of trust.  I sometimes wonder that any of you women out there manage to trust any of us men at all.  How do you let go and give yourself completely to the moment, as the best of you do with every single tanda?

I've seen some very untrustworthy men recently, whose behaviour prompted me to write a very long and angry post, which I've now deleted.  I rewrote it and deleted it again.  Suffice it to say that sometimes just taking a breath doesn't seem sufficient.

An Octopus has eight arms, matching the number of tentacles that some men appear to have while dancing.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Nine (9)

Cloud nine: Where you end up after a particularly blissful Di Sarli tanda, perhaps.  I'm still at the point where I have to use enough of my brain consciously for navigation that being in this state is relatively rare.  But it does happen.

It's why I'm still here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ten (10)

Have you ever danced with anyone while you've been in a bad mood?  I have.  Most people I know have.  I've danced with people who've been in a bad mood.  It's never a good idea.  But what do you do?  Going and cooling off and calming down and chilling out will just take too much time.  Tango is meant to be the part of the week that reduces our stress levels, if we can't relax during that then what hope is there?

The worst is when you're in a bad mood because of the person you're dancing with.  Mutual politeness might prevent it being mentioned, but she's wound him up by dragging him out for a dance when he was desperately trying to get a glass of water, or he's wound her up by standing in front of her just at the moment she was about to successfully get a nod from the man she's been attempting to dance with all evening.

In all these cases, we're probably dancing with a good friend who has temporarily annoyed us.

We'll get over it.

But it's a pretty sad experience, being party to a grumpy dance.  They're another thing you get better at avoiding and preventing.  And if not avoiding or preventing, at least recovering from.

Counting to ten is an old technique for keeping calm in the face of aggravation and provocation.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Eleven (11)

The music is distant and tinny, today.  My legs feel slow and ponderous and as though they could float away from the ground at any moment.  Breathing is laboured and heavy.  The connection doesn't always happen.  Sometimes it will start this way, and then things will come right.  But not always.  It's possible to have a bad night.  We shouldn't be too mean to ourselves.  It doesn't mean we're going to be spending the rest of our lives dancing on the moon.

We'll be back to Earth tomorrow.  Or if not then, the day after.

Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon.