A Little Time Off . . .

This page is on hiatus while I take care of some medical concerns. I hope to be back and updating again soon. Thank you so much for your support and patience. --M


It's been so long, I hardly know where to begin.

I organized a regular practica, and then gave it up - not even a full year later. Not only was the practica not breaking even, but I'd have to be in bed the next day to recover from it.

I'm still selling custom Mr. Tango Shoes (Jorge Nel), and selling tango clothes from the US and Argentina. 

I still dance.

Sort of. Sometimes.

Rarely, if I'm honest. Once a week if I'm lucky. Twice a month is getting to be more common. A couple of tandas and I'm done.

I have choices to make. If I go to a milonga across town and I have a flare-up - I'm trapped. I don't drive, so I'm stuck until the dancer who brought me is ready to go home. I can make the best of it but since the cabeceo is a tradition largely ignored here, it means verbal decline after verbal decline - or running away to the loo, or outside, or to get a drink. All I really want to do is sit - not run around avoiding getting asked.

Worse, in a way, is that I really do want to dance. But there is always that one tanda too many, or the un-tested leader who digs fingertips into my ribs, and I'm in pain the rest of the night, the next day . . . 


Just skip the milonga? Stay in? Sometimes it's just so much easier.

I miss dancing, but I'm afraid of the pain.  The fear is winning.

I didn't want to live this way. Making decisions based on potential pain instead of potential joy. And now there is even more than just the pain.

Three times this month, I found I could not swallow. Not because of pain, but because I couldn't make my muscles remember how to do it. A stupid thing, really. They only lasted a minute or so. And yet there was a quiet panic.

My fingertips can no longer feel the difference between very hot and very cold things - unless they are hard enough for me to push against. I burned myself trying to be able to feel the heat from a microwaved frozen entree. The panic gets less quiet, and a little more insistent, with that.

Vertigo. Fleeting, but unpredictable. My balance, which I train constantly, suffers occasionally, and like the vertigo, unpredictably. I'm fine, and then I'm not. What if that happens while I'm dancing?

Tremors when I'm over-tired. 

I bring my laundry list of bizarreness to my doctor and my hands are shaking. The thing I blurt out isn't one of the items on the list. It was too big to write down. For the first time in the 5 years he's been treating me, I cried.  

"I can't dance. I'm afraid to dance."

He puts a hand on my shoulder and then looks at my list. 

Tests. More tests. He requests an MRI and the insurance company refuses it until every other test has been done.

Low B12? No.
Lyme disease? No.
Lupus (Is this a House episode?) No.
Myasthenia Gravis? No.
Neurosyphilis? No. 
Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis? (I hope that's not on the quiz.) No.

So many tests that I stopped asking the nurse what they were testing for this time.

Multiple Sclerosis?
MS? That MS? 

My doctor sighed deeply. 'When everything else has been eliminated, well . . .  there is still the MRI.  And a few more tests."  

And in the strangest words of comfort I've ever received from a doctor, "there's still a chance you have some interesting, exotic infection."  He half-smiled. It worked, I smiled back. 

As I was leaving, he asked, "When is your next big dance to-do?"

"End of October - I'm going to Albuquerque."

"We'll get you dancing by Albuquerque."

Please. Yes, please.

Dancing the Note - Laurenz "Alma de Bohemio"

Backstory: I have a frustrating problem with some tango songs. I love them so much, and feel so strongly about how I want to express them, that I am frustrated at my body's inability to express it the way I feel it. 

Laurenz' "Alma de Bohemio" is one of those songs. 

Even though I love this song so much, I know it causes some dancers just a small amount of anxiety. The vocalist, Alberto Podestá, carries one soulful note for so long, almost 12 seconds, it can feel like tan eternity between beats. For one long moment, there is no beat, just that strong, clear voice.  What do you do with that?

You can try to hold the position you're in, if you managed to be ready and stable when the note started - - otherwise you are forced take a step, mid-note, where there is no beat. It used to feel absolutely maddening to me - moving during the note didn't feel right, but neither did simply stopping. 

And my breath always catches while he sings that note, I don't know why.

During the milonga . . .

Part way through the tanda, Alma de Bohemio started and I felt that familiar mix of excitement and anxiety. I tried to put aside everything but my enjoyment of the music and that magnificent voice. 

As the phrase with that one incredible note started, I could feel my partner's body prepare, almost coiling. A deep breath and the note began, and we both suspended, still moving but oh so slowly, not stepping, almost floating above the note. As the note dropped and ended, my partner slowly exhaled and uncoiled, stepping finally as if landing from a long glide through the air.

After the song, I looked at my partner, blinked twice, and gibbered. Words were coming out but I'm almost sure they didn't make sense. Inside my head was much clearer. I had only one clear thought: 

So that's how to dance that note. 

One demonstration that I particularly like, is the one below (with John Miller and Iona Italia) - which shows, imo, beautiful expression and respect for that note - and the rest of the piece.

Foot Pain Relief Class for Dancers

Saturday, April 26th from 4:30-6:00 pm at Austin Bellydance Studio.

I've got 8 spots only - this is a very small class!
$35 for the class and 5 piece equipment take-home kit with full instructions.
(Or $15 for class only.)

 In this class, you will learn:

 - how to recalibrate the proprioceptors of your feet and ankles after injury, to help prevent re-injury and increase stability.
- how to prepare your feet and ankles for dancing to prevent further injuries, and dance better, dance stronger . . . and dance longer!
- what to do after a long night of dancing to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and get your feet and ankles on the road to recovery! 

Register and prepay here: https://squareup.com/market/mari-johnson-leona-training/foot-pain-relief-class

Virtual Shoe Designs - next step Colombia!

If I could, I would create virtual shoe designs all damned day. I would just sit at my computer and make pictures of shoes. Oh wait . . .

That's nearly what I have been doing.

This is the second most addictive thing I've ever done - tango is the most addictive, of course. When people started asking me how a particular shoe model would look with different materials, I thought I'd just grab the image from the Mr. Tango Shoes website (with permission of course), and clone the materials from pictures of swatches. Once I started, . I . could . not . stop. I haven't even figured out what shoes *I* want yet! 

And then I found a way to make animated .gifs . . .

Clearly, a monster has been created. 

Not only do I have a wonderfully creative outlet to mitigate some of the stress I've been under, but it's sufficiently geeky to hold my interest longer than half an hour! People have been emailing me from all over the country (and Canada!) to see if I could design a shoe for them. 

I've got 88 Mr Tango Shoes ladies models rendered and posted now - including the "Pucca" and "Fernanda Ghi" practice shoe models. Per one dancer's request, I even rendered the fabulous two tone "Dinzel" in some white/black, red/black, and red/white Swing dancing varieties. If you have a shoe idea you'd like to see, send me a message, or comment here, and I'll see if I can design it and render it for you!  Now, not only can you order a custom shoe, but you can see a close approximation of how it will look before you order it! (Believe me - that's handy. There have been a couple of what I thought would be gorgeous combinations that were, well, not so gorgeous. Hey, they can't all Mona Lisas, you know . . .) 

Ladies Shoes Gallery on Picasa: https://plus.google.com/photos/103462873333877980961/albums/5987102264003309361

The gentlemen's models can be found here: https://plus.google.com/photos/103462873333877980961/albums/5990097575743994897

Soon I was thinking beyond just materials customizations to structural ones. Adjustable toe box buckles are tremendously helpful for people with hard to fit feet, or bunions, or compressible feet, etc. Soon I was sending Jorge Nel a steady stream of "Can we do this?" emails. Toe Box buckle? Yes. Flexible shank/flexisole shoes? Men's shoes, yes. Women's shoes, not yet. Completely custom material to match a performance outfit? Yes. The list has been growing.

In September I will be going to the Colombia Tango Festival and then visiting the Mr. Tango Shoes factory in Manizales for a few days to learn how the shoes are made, how to design them, and how to repair them. Who knew dancing tango would lead to a complete change in careers?

Meanwhile, dancers from all different styles, from beginners, to professional performers, have been writing to me to tell me what they like about Mr. Tango Shoes - and what they would like adapted. Jorge Nel has been completely open to ideas - as he always has been. Now I understand why so many dancers are so loyal to Mr. Tango Shoes - even if they dance Salsa, or Ballroom, and not tango.

Check out the website, www.mrtangoshoes.com, to see current models, heel options, and materials. Then you too will find out why Mr. Tango Shoes' amazingly comfortable dance shoes are so popular with dancers from salsa, ballroom to blues, tango and swing! (See a review from a salsa dancer here.)