León en el Sol - The Lion in the Sun

"To touch is to open us to a story we have not yet heard, to an unworked work, a narrative without a beginning and an end. [ . . .] 'Touch signifies 'being in the world' for a finite being." (Derrida 2000, 161).

León en el Sol
The Lion in the Sun

The Lion, a visiting guest of my regular teacher, held me like he'd known me all my life. Every time I danced with him, at a milonga or in classes, or during the lesson, he smelled like "outside". I have the quoted because I don't know how to describe it. The smell of sun on leaves? A bit like that.

His embrace was pure warmth. No hesitation. No self-consciousness. No vanity. We just worked, and danced, and worked, and laughed, and danced some more. It was like dancing outside when you're a child that doesn't know to be self-conscious - warm, bright, energizing, playful. I don't think I learned a single new pattern during the lesson or the classes. We focused on embrace and posture, which of course makes everything else possible. Most importantly, I learned to trust myself. Even to relax and get free of my inner critic for a little while. That was the first lesson where I could quiet "the voice of doom" that chants "ohnoI'mdancingwithateacher". The same voice that tells me I'm not good enough/strong enough/graceful enough.

For the duration of the lesson at least, I didn't feel like I needed to be embarrassed by my emotional response to the music. So as much as I could, I held him the way he held me - like a long lost friend.

I learned to follow his breathing - though we didn't talk about that. It just came out of the time dancing. It was something I used to do/know and somehow forgot it for a time - listening and feeling for my partner's breathing. There's so much information there.

We worked hard, covered a lot of ground, and spoke very little. Laughed a lot. The more I shared of myself in the music - the more he shared, and the more I learned. It was a relief to dance to the music - and not to the voice of the inner critic. (At least until the camera started rolling. But one takes what one can get.)

Don't chase the music

The lesson I am forever learning and re-learning . . .


Old Marquez from Pompeya, to Carlos Gavito: "Have you come to ask me what to wait for? [ . . .] For the music to reach you and not for you to chase the music."

Gavito: "I never forgot that advice and I still keep repeating it to myself. Don't run. Let yourself move with the music and not with the step."

- "I Wanted to Dance - Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango" by Ricardo Plazaola

No quiero hablar / I don't want to talk

A wonderful friend, Eduardo Castro, translated a poem I wrote into Spanish. Then I lost the email for ages - but I finally found it. I so love the way it reads in Spanish. Thank you again Eduardo for doing this.

I don't want to talk
No quiero hablar

At the local milongas,
En las milongas locales

surrounded by good friends,
rodeado de buenos amigos

it's very common to hear,
es muy común escuchar

How's work?
¿Cómo te va en el trabajo?

How are things going?
¿Cómo van las cosas?

What's new with you?
¿Qué hay de nuevo con tigo?

I don't mean to be evasive.
No pretendo evadir.

I really do want to be connected.
Realmente quiero estar conectado.

To let people know how I am.
Dejarle saber a la gente como estoy.

I am grateful to be cared for.
Agradesco que se preocupan por mí.

It's just that the milonga is . . .
Es que la milonga es…

vida / seguridad / un secreto / revelado.

. . . too many cliches to finish that sentence.
. . . demasiados clichés para terminar la frase.

Too many words and not enough meaning.
Muchas palabras sin sentido suficiente

That's the real problem right there.
Ese es el problema verdadero allí mismo

Too many words.
Muchas palabras.

At the milongas, for a few hours,
En las milongas, por unas horas,

I am not haunted by my past,
No estoy obsesionado por mi pasado,

or worried for my future.
o preocupado por mi futuro.

I am human.
Soy humano.

a whole human being,
un ser humano completo,

moment to moment,
de momento a momento,

tanda to tanda.
de tanda a tanda.

So just sometimes,
Así que sólo a veces,

I don't want to talk.
No quiero hablar.

Please know that I am grateful.
Por favor, comprendan que estoy agradecido.

But let the music tell my story.
Pero dejen que la música cuente mi historia.

And I'll dance the answers to your questions
Y voy a bailar las respuestas a sus preguntas

whether I mean to or not.
aunque la quiera contar o no.

Tango is not "that kind of friend"

(Adding a few things that went to Facebook notes, but never made it to the blog. Originally published May 28, 2010. Picture courtesy of Morguefile.com)

You know that friend that you might call if you ever get into a lot of trouble - like "ending up in jail" kind of trouble? The one that you'd call to bail you out and then she'd tell you everything is going to be okay. You just need to get your life together and make good choices (for instance not the one that landed you in jail), and all it takes is the right attitude. And possibly the right man (or woman). Do you have one of those? I have a few.

Tango is not that friend.

Tango can't bail you out of jail, because tango probably got busted the same time you did. In fact tango was probably driving. Tango isn't going to tell you everything's fine, because it's not, and tango is all about telling you the hard truth. She'll also probably tell you that your ex deserved it. And tango sure as hell isn't going to lecture you about good choices, and putting your life in order.

Tango is going to sit in the cell with you, crying, smoking (can you still smoke in jail?), and agreeing that this situation well and truly sucks. Tango may remind you of the last time you ended up in such dire straits. And that it sucked then too.

And then tango is going to crush out her cigarette, put her arms around you and hold you like there's no one else in the world that matters to her as much as you do. And she'll tell you that the most important thing, the thing that really counts, is that you're not alone. She understands and you don't have to put your life together and make good choices for her to love you. She loved you just for showing up.

Perhaps, back in her childhood, her lark’s voice
acquired that dark intonation of a back alley,
or maybe it is the romance she only names
when she gets sad with the alcohol.
Malena sings the tango with a somber voice;
Malena has the sadness of a bandoneon.

Hugo Diaz - Bailando en la tierra

It's hard to describe what Hugo Diaz does for me. There's something about his music that makes me want to dance barefoot. I want to dance it on bad floors. Floors with texture. With stories. Or in the dirt. That would flat out do it for me. I want to feel the earth under my feet.

Or maybe I want the earth to feel me.

More than most other musicians, Diaz's music always feels like it comes up through the floor, through my feet, to my heart. It doesn't go through my head - in fact it seems to bypass my brain completely. I can't think about it. I have to move to it. Not a lot, sometimes just a little - if I'm not dancing, sometimes I just sway. But I have to move.

And if I'm dancing Diaz with you at a milonga, I'm trusting you with a lot. I would rather sit out the tanda than filter the experience through thoughts of "Am I being too emotional?" or "How do we look?" No dancing for the tables with Diaz playing. (God willing, no dancing for the tables with anyone playing.) So I'm choosy with that one.

And with Diaz, I am a little bit, well . . . demanding. I want that emotion back. If you don't feel one way or the other about Diaz, then maybe ask for a different tanda. What a leader leads, or how he leads it, means a damn sight less to me than how he feels about the music. If you love the music, I can feel it. If you're bored by it, I can feel that too.

If you love it, I'll make it work - whatever you lead.

Some great Hugo Diaz resources are available in Alex Tango Fuego's latest post . Go have a look and a listen. I think I might have to start every morning this way.

Delirious Milonga - The Prequel

This is another video from the same lesson. I was going to skip posting it because there were so many places that I anticipated the lead and ended up somewhere other than where Daniel had meant (but of course Daniel then just followed whatever I did and made it work as he always does.) DH was also sitting a bit too close while recording and felt that he cut off too much of us during that song, so he wasn't very happy with it either. But as I described the lesson to other people the subject of this particular song came up quite a bit, so I decided to post it anyway so that folks would know what song I keep prattling on about.

Milonga of My Dogs

Daniel and I are dancing here to one of my favorite milongas, Canaro's Milonga de Mis Perros. Not only is it a fun one to dance to, but it's about dogs (see Ms Hedgehog's post here), so of course I love it. It's not played very often at milongas so when I do hear it, I go a little nuts for it.

Another reason I like this video is that Daniel and I are laughing almost the entire way through it. In fact I start giggling before we even start to dance - which Daniel seemed to find very funny. :) There's a point where I misstep and get nervous (you can hear Daniela in the background telling me to relax) and I do just as soon as I start paying attention to the music again. And by the time Daniel and I get to the end of the song, I'm almost out of breath from trying not to laugh. (I've noticed frequently that the more I laugh, the less I follow lol. A classic case of what DH calls, "LOLwhut?")

NOTE: (Here are Ines Rossettti and Augusto Lagardera dancing to the same song at Club Villa Malcolm. The video is dark and a bit grainy, but still fun to watch.)

Delirious Milonga

Milonga lesson with Daniela Arcuri and "Latigo" Daniel Ponce 2/13/11)

When I watch this video from my typical analytical perspective, I cringe.

I regret having Dennis record it.

Every time I know I'm being recorded, I get nervous and forget everything I knew 3 minutes before the camera started rolling. This time was no different. I was exhausted, having stayed far too late all week and most especially the night before, and it shows. My balance suffered. My posture was crap. I wasn't able to keep my center/core firm. I was so tired that my knees felt like I was walking through water. I'm off the music in several places. (And of course there's that usual self-critical voice saying, "Christ-on-crutches is that really my butt???")

Now for the part you can't see - the reason this video is up here at all. The reason I don't truly regret Dennis recording it.

What you can't see are the tears streaming down my face from the pure bliss of dancing that afternoon. Daniel () and Daniela put me through my paces and the lesson was incredibly useful - but the best part of the lesson was the part you see there. Just dancing milonga - so tired I don't know how I was even standing up, let alone dancing, and nearly delirious with joy. Daniel told me he could feel my joy in the music clearly (and he responded in kind) - and that was more important than anything else.

So I posted the video for three reasons.

I wanted to share what a lovely dancer Daniel is. Truly, if you have the opportunity to see this man dance, or better yet dance with him, take it. His emotion simply radiates from him.

I wanted to see what I need to work on most - especially when I'm tired.

But most of all, I wanted to remind myself of the most important part of tango - the part no one can see, but your partner can feel, and that's the love of the music and the dance. Everything else is secondary to that. I may not always be able to give great posture, perfect balance, elegant musicality - but I can try to give my love of this experience every time I dance.

No Particular Order

"What a terrible, beautiful limbo we're in, this intimate and temporary time, glimmering between Before and After."
D.G. Fulford

Tango has confused and confounded my body. The music can be so bitter, so sad, despairing - yet I often leave the dance floor elated. Dancing, any dancing, makes me laugh. Not light, tinkling (dignified) giggles, but breathless, blushing, belly laughs from the core of my body. As far as I know, I have always had that reaction. In drill team, jazz, ballet - it was always the same. Keeping a serious face was impossible for any length of time. Even when the music was slow and sad, moving my body to music felt ecstatic.

And now there is tango.

An example:

There is a leader that, for some reason I cannot understand, makes me positively gleeful when we dance. I often laugh so much that it's hard for me to follow smoothly, but bless his enormously generous heart, he just keeps going laughing with me and hugging me like the I'm the most important person he knows. For 10 minutes. Then the music stops and we wipe the tears from our eyes and part ways, catching our breath.

In the midst of the upheaval in my life right now, that carnival ride of a dance is what I need sometimes.
I know that part of me is laughing from sheer release, in bounding joy at being able to move at all. My body has always needed to move and when, for awhile, I couldn't move well or easily, I was filled with fear. What if I would never get better? Would this be the new baseline? But I did get better - and every day that I dance my dance is, at least in part, a dance of blissful gratitude.

But laughter, I know for me, is also a mask. It lessens my anxiety, gives me a little breathing room - and conceals what I'm not ready to share on the surface. Sometimes, like anyone else, I laugh to keep from crying. From seeing the enormity of the challenges around me. And sometimes I do both. What do you call it when you're laughing and crying, ecstatic, yet sad? So happy that I cry - so sad, that I laugh at the absurdity of it.

What is that, besides overwhelming?

In this limbo - in this place where all I can see is how unprepared I am - is tango. What does it say about me that there are times when only this music can reach me?

The beauty of dancing to tango music is that it allows for such a huge range of emotion. When I listen to an upbeat, almost cheerful tango, with incredibly sad lyrics - I feel a kind of belonging. A satisfaction. I feel understood. When the bandoneon weeps, but the piano seems to sing almost happily in the background, I feel relieved - not that there is a component of levity in a sad song, but because the full spectrum is there, in the music - ready to speak to whatever I need at the moment. Maybe that's why it's so easy to find one's story in tango music. There is simply so much story to find.

(Image courtesy of Morguefile.com. )