Sticking the End

(image courtesy of

When I was in middle school I decided to take gymnastics. I have no idea, even to this day, what possessed me. It was, as the kids say, and epic fail. I was terrible at it. My balance was always bad. I had little-to-no natural grace. I seemed to run and jump about as if I were playing dress-up in someone else's body for the day. I could never get my limbs to do what I wanted them to do, when I wanted them to do it. As painful, and occasionally absurdly ridiculous, as that experience was, I managed to take away two lessons from my year in gymnastics:

1. Do the things that scare you.
2. "Stick the end"

The first lesson is pretty self-explanatory - and it has always paid off well for me.

Sticking the end, as my coach constantly reminded me, meant ending my routine resting in a balanced, stable position. If the routine was set to music, it was also a way of respecting and acknowledging the music. It meant learning precisely how much momentum I would need to get to where I was ending - and no more. It meant being in control of my body - not just hurtling myself to the spot where I stopped. For my coach, it was the epitome of grace and precision. It was a statement in itself.

That second lesson came back to me when I started letting myself really feel the music. Some music in the milongas was familiar, but much of it was not. The more I learned, the better I could move my body with true intension, to the music. When I watched other dancers who "stuck the end" of songs, I was struck by the grace of it - and how much seemed to be required to do it. I would not only have to really learn the music, but be in control of my body while I was being led by someone else. A lot of factors to contend with when one can barely manage a molinete.

NOTE: "Sticking the end" is not synonymous with ending in a "tango pose". I find those a bit silly. They're fun for playing at in practicas ("You be Gavito, and I'll be Marcela Duran, okay?" Yeah, I love that game. So sue me.), but not something I'm comfortable with in a milonga.

The feeling I like best is simply an acknowledgment of the music and ending in a balanced, comfortable position rather than being caught off guard mid-ocho when the music stops. Daniela Arcuri made a point of saying several times that marking the end of the song, like some adornments and embellishments, need not be visible to anyone outside the couple dancing. Although I heard that months ago, I didn't truly know or appreciate it until quite recently.

I admit there is a part of me that finds being able to mark the end of the song in some visible way a little too gratifying - especially when the music is quite challenging. It's a bit like trying to prove how well I know the music, when there's no one I need to prove that to. Once I start down that path, I begin dancing for the tables, and that's not where I want to be in this dance. Every so often I have to remind myself about what my priorities are. Sticking the end is really for me - for my relationship to the music.

A story . . .

A few weeks ago, I recognized something in the dance with a couple of my partners that perhaps had always been there - but I just hadn't appreciated. I still wonder, have I been missing it all this time?

The last song of the tanda was ending. We were gaining momentum in that build-up phrase that comes before the chan-chan. It was Pugliese, so the last phrase was long, and the chan-chan coming was soft and slow. We came to rest on the first chan - and as the last note played, my leader gathered me to him, closed his eyes, smiled against my temple and sighed - marking the end of the song in gestures no one else would see.

A gift for me, not the tables.

Thank you.


jimgil said...

Thought you might enjoy this rhythmic gymnastic routine done to Gotan. She "sticks the end" pretty well.

tangocherie said...

The truth is if you have a great salida and you "stick the end," the middle pretty much takes care of itself.

Mari Johnson said...

Jim - I've seen that video - it's amazing!! Beyond amazing, really. Supernaturally amazing. :)

Cherie - couldn't have said it better.