Tango Flash Mob

Posted in Post with tags , , , on April 18, 2011 by Tanguera

Our first Tango Flash Mob at Eau Claire Market on Saturday evening was well received – and went off without any interference from security. We gathered two handfuls of Tanguerians and had at least one standing ovation (well, they were already standing and they applauded when we finished … ). We kept Darcy busy for two hours – playing mostly tango but also a few other tunes from his repertoire. I think he went home exhausted, but feeling more appreciated and ‘flush’ than most weeks.

Remember, Darcy is almost always there on Friday and Saturday evenings and you don’t need an invitation nor a reservation to dance tango anytime you happen to be at Eau Claire – or anywhere else. Watch for more Tango Flash Mobs in the future – and – call your own! I’d be happy to get the word out for you anytime. Once we can get some good video footage (any volunteers?) we’ll put it up on You-Tube with all the other International Tango Flash Mob videos and put it on the Facebook Flash Mob page (also need a volunteer who has Facebook – I don’t). Thanks for coming out!

Take The Lead

Posted in Tango Teaching with tags , on April 12, 2011 by Tanguera

A woman has the capacity for unlimited pleasure. Although she may be rendered momentarily content, it seems she is virtually insatiable and will never be completely satisfied. In contrast, men are seemingly easily satisfied. Seldom is it heard that a man requires his woman to change (usually, he doesn’t want her to and that’s another problem). Often, to the point of stereotype, is the story told of women requiring their men to change. Sometimes, disappointed and unfulfilled, they will leave in endless pursuit of Mr. Perfect. Others will stay to wreak (or leak) their dissatisfaction on the man who will often not defend himself – until, at some point he bolts out the door. Women are tough. They know men are capable of more and they hope for and even expect it. They expect to be treated like the Goddesses they are. Men have to be tougher. Men, you have to become Tango Gods.

Angel Coria insists that the man must lead. He must lead the tango at all times and he must lead well. If he stops leading, even for a moment, the woman will begin to think. This can be dangerous. If the woman begins to think she will undoubtedly realize that she is dissatisfied about something, about anything, maybe just the fact that he momentarily stopped leading, maybe the color of his shirt. Angel jokes, in Spanish with gestures, that the woman will want to get married, make a home, then have children, and all of this is very dangerous to the man.

Since my mind is often my own worst enemy I savor the moments in which I can be rendered thoughtless. Somehow, solitary meditation doesn’t quite have the same appeal or effect that being embraced by the music, the man and the magic of tango.

I don’t always want to ‘lead’ my life. As an independent, single, self-employed, mother of two, I have ‘led’ far too much.  I started leading the tango because I was bored; because I wasn’t being ‘properly’ and consistently led; because the repertoires of the men I was dancing with were limited and I began to know what was coming next; because I was far more inspired to co-create with the music than they were; because I wanted to expand my knowledge, my dance, and to teach.

But, as a woman, what I long for is to surrender; to be securely embraced by a skillful and creative leader and taken to Tango nirvana. After two husbands, several dance partners and several other lovers, I’m having a difficult time trusting that’s going to happen anytime soon. If and when it does … you can be sure that I’m never going to want it to end.

Changing Partners

Posted in Tango Teaching with tags , on April 5, 2011 by Tanguera

Changing dance partners is encouraged in order to become a better dancer. Changing life partners is not. Yet, we do, as serial monogamists, upon occasion (and far more often than not it seems), change life partners.

When one ‘dances’ repeatedly with the same partner, one becomes accustomed and comfortable with the familiarity. Comfort, trust, stability in a long term relationship is desirable. But, sometimes one becomes bored and restless, begins to look around for something more entertaining. We search for ways to ignite us – wanting to feel something – alive. We think it will help to find something, or someone, outside of ourselves to engage us.

When a woman dances only with her own man, she soon knows all of his moves and begins to anticipate. Her need to maintain vigilance, sense his every move, and surrender to his prompts, diminishes. The man stays safe because his woman no longer challenges him to become a better leader. All women are different – some more difficult to lead than others. Shorter, taller, lighter and heavier, standard and automatic – Oldsmobile and Ferrari. One tanda, with anybody, is doable – only about 10 minutes long. A life-time, however, can be a very, very long time – especially when you’re not ‘dancing’ well together.

How does one maintain novelty in a long term relationship? Maybe a cortina is necessary. Certainly, although not sanctioned, the changing of partners helps one to become better – if one is willing to learn from previous mistakes and apply changes. Does this require a regular change of partners? Not necessarily. You’ll likely, eventually encounter those dreaded feelings of familiarity and inertia again. The biggest challenge is to stay exactly where you are and create every moment anew and/or come to terms with the process of maturation. Go out, learn new steps and bring that knowledge home to your partner. Practice perfecting new steps together. Get deeper into the feeling of the music. Switch the lead – maybe he embraces in the alternate position and leads backwards, maybe she leads. Don’t expect and anticipate. Surrender to the possibility that one or the other may surprise you – pleasantly or otherwise.

And, when you’re bored, go to a milonga. Dance with as many different partners as you possibly can and at the end of the night, feeling re-energized, look into the eyes of your beloved, take his/her precious hand in yours, count your blessings, and go home together.

War Dances

Posted in Tango Teaching with tags , on March 29, 2011 by Tanguera

The following quote is from War Dances (2009) by Sherman Alexie – an American First Nations author. This advice is from his father:

“If you really want a woman to love you, then you have to dance. And if you don’t want to dance, then you’re going to have to work extra hard to make a woman love you forever, and you will always run the risk that she will leave you at any second for a man who knows how to tango.” p. 61

It fascinates and concerns me when I hear that one member of an intimate partnership dances and the other doesn’t. Curious, I always want to pry and ask questions, but, often I barely know the people, so keep my mouth shut. I fear for the safety and future of their relationship. It’s true that I don’t know the nature and purpose of their union and I shouldn’t judge it based on my own ideals and preferences but I have an insatiable curiosity, a desire for understanding, about what makes relationships work – since so many don’t.

Certainly, tangoing together is not a safety net in itself (and sometimes it’s a huge problem!) but at the very least it is a shared activity and a way to connect intimately when either the talking or the sexing isn’t going well. Not dancing together, as Alexie’s father suggests, requires one (or both) to work extra hard at keeping the relationship together. And, damn it, relationships are difficult enough to maintain without adding more barriers to the mix. Relationships are about compromise and co-creation so I always wonder why, if the wife wants to dance, the husband doesn’t get over himself and join her – not because he necessarily wants to – but because he loves her and she wants to, and it’s an activity that requires a partner. I bet she has, or would, make compromises for him in return.

At this point in my tango addiction I don’t think I could be in a relationship with a man who didn’t dance. Tango holds a very big place in my life, and so does my man. I can’t easily separate them – not time-wise and not in my mind or heart – and I don’t want to. Thank goodness I don’t have to choose between them; I don’t think I could.

The Sum Of My Sorrows

Posted in Musings on March 23, 2011 by Tanguera

This excerpt, written in Buenos Aires,  is from my upcoming book:
Love, Death & Tango

It’s not so difficult to find joy in the natural environment; in traveling to the beaches and the mountains and the forests of the world. What’s not to love – to find happiness in – the sand beneath your toes, the sun on your face, the cool crunch of snow, the smell of pine needles, the sound of the waves? It’s easy to maintain a gentle flow of happiness when you’re on your own and your whole life is not overturned by someone else’s wishes. Or, to find joy and hope in the face of a newborn or a new love.

It’s not so easy to find joy in the squishing dog shit on broken pavement. Not so easy to sink peacefully into profound breathing meditation amongst constant traffic noise and exhaust fumes. It’s difficult to feel the natural flow of energy from the occasional tree trying to survive in a concrete jungle. It’s difficult to maintain joy when your friends are dying and your family is crying because you’re not there. New friends, you know, for the most part, are temporary as they drift through too. A new love, a strange and difficult new love, threatens to release its grip on the tenuous chord of life.

Moments of joy fleet by as you reach out to grasp and savor them while weighed down and held back by so many sorrows, so many ties to the past. You long for an unfettered future and a vigilance to maintain  presence in the unmaintainable present. You desire to taste the joy, the happiness that comes so briefly like a kiss on the lips not leaving a trace, no scent. You are reminded always. If it were easy to be happy, easy to discover joy, there would be no search. It’s true that the search is essentially a journey inward and it is true that you can stay home and sit with your 20-year old surroundings and patterns and habits and search inside. No matter where you go – there you are – and the only thing that remains constant is what you have inside yourself. It is also true that with each new external adventure you gain new material to add to the inner mix. As you gain, so do you lose. The hardest thing to lose is someone you love. The hardest thing to let go of is a staunchly held belief. The hardest thing to release – is that which you want to keep.

So here I am, having made the journey to the end of the Earth to find something more. This time of mine for searching, for finding something new, for filling myself up has become a time of great loss and of emptying myself out. To lose what matters forces one to consider carefully that which really matters and only, only, only, focus on that. It becomes evident that there is no time to waste on the superficial and superfluous if one is to lead a conscious life. If one does not wish to touch that authenticity – by all means waste away – there is no shortage of ways to do so, no shortage of diversions and no shortage of people satisfied with going that route. I have engaged in diversions repeatedly, as living with sorrow requires regular escapes into fantasy or other forms of numbness.

But, so far, what I have found works best, the most honest, healthy and loving diversion, is dance; specifically the tango. It hasn’t always been easy to drag myself out of the abyss of self-pity and into a dance hall, but when I am successful I am rewarded for my effort. The load of my losses, not yet released from the shackles of my suffering and my restructuring, becomes lighter as I float across the dance floor in the embrace of my (sometimes anonymous) partner. I close my eyes and let him and the music take me to another place. It doesn’t matter who he is as long as he makes me feel safe, happy, young, and beautiful, even if only for one tanda. One short, sweet tanda after another and I make my slow journey back from the dead.

WAIT!

Posted in Tango Teaching with tags , , on March 17, 2011 by Tanguera

The world is changing fast and we’re in too much of a hurry; like we’re trying to get away from it, like we’re trying to get ahead of ourselves, like we think we’re actually going somewhere and that it’s important to accomplish many things along the way. It doesn’t matter if we’re not actually going anywhere or if there is no deadline, we still, for the most part, act as if we’re in a hurry. It makes us feel vital.

We rarely know how to slow down, breathe and relax. In addition to moving as if it could save our life, we often ingest substances and engage in distractions to help us deal with our anxiety. We don’t know how to simply wait. We become impatient if the line-up is too long, the wait for our meal is too long, the wait for an email or telephone response is too long, the perfect job isn’t coming, the perfect relationship escapes us. We don’t like to wait. We want it and we want it now – even if we’re not very clear on what ‘it’ is. We’re not comfortable with incompletion, the unknown, loose ends, we like to have things all figured out and expedited smoothly from one goal and then on to the next. We constantly bolt forward, often unnecessarily, to escape the discomfort of not-knowing and waiting. We do this in life, we do this on the dance floor. The dance floor is the one sacred place where we should be able to just slow down and enjoy the present moment with no goal to be achieved, enjoy the music and enjoy each other. It’s a great place to take a breath and practice waiting.

Most people are moving too fast on the dance floor. This is how accidents happen. If we ever knew it to begin with – we forgot to slow down and sense the music and our partner. We have become desensitized and insist on following prescribed patterns etched in our head rather than feel with our body, our heart, our intuition, remain curious, act spontaneously, and to improvise.

(“Well, how do you improvise”, you say, “if you don’t have the tools in your toolbox?” Your body, in its infinite wisdom, will lead you if you let it. It won’t be perfect but it will be yours – not something some teacher taught you. The very first tango dancers made everything up. The god of tango did not come down from the sky with his tablet and instruct them. )

There are men leading too fast and too harshly and women who are anticipating – moving without first being invited. Physically we’re ‘yelling’ at each other, ‘speaking’ at the same time and ‘resisting’. It looks like we’re dancing.  Let’s bring it down to a whisper. Let’s connect and sense each other at a more subtle level. Let’s speak one at a time – flow back and forth gently in ‘conversation’.

In life, it looks like we’re moving along with the rhythm just fine. Are we? When we move on autopilot, are we able to sense the subtleties and the subtext (the underlying, and usually greater, message)? Are we able to hear the soft sounds of our intuition, our own higher power or spirit or whatever is greater than our ego? How are we doing in our relationships? Do we really ‘feel’ each other? Do we feel the yearning for a deeper connection? Do we feel the desire for peace and peace of mind? Are we satisfied with a sometimes, somewhat, skillfully executed acrobatic experience – on the dance floor and in life?

Last spring I arrived late to a class that Leo was offering before a film about Tango that he was presenting. He was short of leads so I filled in as he was already counting out the basic. I paired up with a woman and began to feel the music. I was interrupted by her impatient, almost scornful, “I’m waiting!” Taken aback, I defended myself kindly by saying I was intending to begin at the next count of 1. But, had I been fully in my magnificent witty and compassionate masculine (I can appreciate how long it takes to be a man now), I would have responded “Fantastic! That’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing – waiting.” All the good comebacks arrive a little too late to be effective.

So, women – wait, don’t anticipate. This should be your mantra. This is one reason that it’s a good idea to change partners – so you don’t know what he’s going to do next. Men, don’t move so fast, wait. Sense the woman’s weight and change it slowly, let her adjust her balance and stay momentarily sustained on her axis. This helps her to improve her balance and not lean on you. Wait for her to do an adornment, give her time to relax into you, give her the opportunity to surrender.

Wait when you’re speaking with someone. We’re usually so busy formulating our next sentence and can hardly wait to blurt it out that we’re not really listening to the other person and not sensing when they’re finished relaying their thought – or listening for the deeper message behind their words. We’re uncomfortable with silence and we just want to be heard. Instead, try taking a pause, letting the other person’s words sink in, breathe and then offer your thoughtful reply. Conversation is not a contest.

And in life, as difficult as it is (don’t I know it!), wait. Stop trying so hard to execute, accomplish, hurry and control. Stop the struggle. Waiting may save you from doing or saying something that you’ll regret. Waiting may save you from having to do something all over again. The time spent in waiting may actually save you time in the long run. Wait for the answers to reveal themselves. The way will be shown if you stop and wait, patiently wait, seemingly endlessly wait, chew your fingernails, count the fibers in your carpet, follow the path of your breath silently through your body, and just wait. And pay attention. The perfect answer, the perfect solution, the perfect way will reveal itself. I promise.

Tango West

Posted in Post on March 11, 2011 by Tanguera

We hit the highway west last Saturday morning in search of spring. Victoria, our final destination, seemed just out of reach for one day’s drive so we decided to make a leisurely Tango Adventure of it.  I contacted people in Kamloops  and Vancouver to find out what was going on in those cities and was pleasantly overwhelmed with the kind generosity of  people – even strangers – who offered us their hospitality. It’s not difficult to make fast friends by speaking the common language of tango. One stranger put me in touch with another stranger and soon we had secured dinner, dancing, tango conversation and a bed in Kamloops with a lovely couple who were eager to meet us.

If you haven’t driven west through the Rockies in the winter I would recommend that you do so – at least once and very carefully. It’s beautiful. A monochromatic scene: heavy sky, white-topped peaks, endless forests liberally frosted, branches laden with snow and tango tunes on the stereo. We stretched our legs and enjoyed a morning coffee at Laggins in Lake Louise, walked through the silent forested back way to the Post Hotel where we discussed an aspect of the implementation of an ocho. Had there been music and less area carpeting we would likely have forgotten the sense of propriety, that seems to takes over when in Lake Louise, and graced the beautiful hardwood with our footwork. I contained myself.

While attempting to ‘maintain a line of dance’ on the Trans Canada, Tony found he had to dodge potholes, flying gravel and sleeting snow and streams of run-off from the melting banks flanking  the highway at the higher altitudes. Still, the new car sustained minor injuries. Thank goodness for glass insurance.

Lynne and Mike have been offering a weekly practica and their experience and expertise to the small tango community in Kamloops for the past year. Sometimes teachers from other locales come to town to teach. We spent hours discussing many aspects of tango – including how to build and maintain a community. We enjoyed their in-home dance floor and wonderful hospitality while we watched the snow fall all night over the city. By the time we left for Vancouver in the morning, it was already melting and starting to get messy. Thank you Lukows for your kind hospitality and your passion for tango.

Granville Island is one of my favorite places on earth. After filling up on Island delicacies we headed to the milonga at Bean Around The World. The café was full of, mostly, highly skilled tangueros. This was the final night at this location and for this particular milonga until September. Semiral (one of Vancouver’s finest teachers) was the DJ. No one came over to us ‘out-of-towners’ to greet us (except the one collecting money) or to ask us to dance. I found this … shall I call it … lack of hospitality last time I was in Vancouver too. Not like Calgary where we make an effort to greet newcomers and make them feel included.

Clarry had invited us into his home for the night and we stayed in his Tango memorabilia room after we shared a bottle of wine and some tango gossip late into the evening. Thank you Clarry for working so hard to spread tango to others and for your community spirit.

Monday night we took a break from tango music in Victoria and went to Swann’s where a different band plays every night. The Flying Saucers are heavy on the sexy wind instrumentation, playing mostly jive, swing, lindy and other bluesy, jazzy numbers. With a floor too small to quick-step and our other hopping abilities limited, we improvised with some kind of swing/tango fusion and DAMN we had fun!

Café Casablanca is a little café in a light industrial area of Victoria where Tangueros meet every Tuesday night on a spectacular dance floor. The music is mixed and often . . . a  bit challenging . . . even for me. We happened upon a Mardi Gras theme night and I danced with a masked man while the pom poms from his crazy jester’s hat kept hitting me in the head. Although we probably looked silly – I had my eyes closed and the experience was sublime.

Tony’s mother, who loves to dance Ballroom regularly in Courtney, joined us to watch tango. Tony got her up on the floor and taught her the basics and she had a fabulous time – as did we. We were lucky enough to meet up with Cathy and Leslie, in between trips from BsAs (via Calgary and Lethbridge) and India.

My Wednesday night flight was delayed due to winter still raging in Toronto. So rather than wait, we decided to dance instead. I could leave another day. After much searching we finally arrived at St. Matthias Church Hall where a lightly attended TangoVita practica was underway. I was blessed to be able to dance with two highly skilled Victangueros who were kind enough to ask me (and to ask Tony’s permission – he was so impressed). Tony and I were able to spend a good chunk of time working out some moves.

Thursday was a very early morning and I reluctantly said good-bye to beautiful Victoria where the flowers know that it’s time to stretch even if winter still falls from the sky and swirls around them.  I wasn’t too sad as I had more tango commitments at home to keep me happy at home and many invitations to return to where spring arrives first.

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