|Photo courtesy of www.morguefile.com.|
While I dance I can not judge, I can not hate, I can not separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance. - Hans Bos
It seems like I keep having the same conversation over and over about my upcoming trip to Buenos Aires.
"Are you studying with [famous name]? Or, [another famous name]? Or, how about [this other famous name]?"
No. No. and No, not that one either.
For three reasons.
1. I'm going to see/study with friends who have been so positive and so supportive of my dancing and blogging for the last 3+ years. They are my priority. I'm going to study with Cherie and Ruben, Alejandro Gée, Iona Italia, and one of my tango partner's teachers, Natacha Iglesias. How much I'm able to study with them, or with others, will depend of course on scheduling, time available, and my own stamina. There are so many more people I wish I could study with and visit - people I've talked to via my blog, friends of friends, my teachers' teachers - but there have been too many scheduling conflicts and lack of funds to get to everyone.
2. I'm spending a significant chunk of time visiting sites of Argentina's Dirty War as part of my work in Human Rights (mostly prisoners' rights, treatment and torture) causes here in the US.
3. I'm effing broke. The only reason I can afford this trip is because the flight is being paid for in airline miles - otherwise this vacation would be years away.
Numbers 1 and 2 are pretty clear I think. Surprisingly, it's number 3 I seem to have to explain a lot. It's taking just about every dime I've got to pay for the travel and lodging. I've got just enough money to take some lessons from people I've been corresponding with who are teaching tango from the perspective I'm most interested in - tango as therapy (see second half of post below.) (Plus as many milongas as I can squeeze in.) And that's it.
I'm not buying shoes, leather goods or tango clothes - I might be able to swing a key chain souvenir or two. I know inflation is rampant and prices are higher than ever in Argentina. While I am sympathetic to circumstances, that fact does not create any additional spending money. The situation is what it is. I simply don't want to (and couldn't even if I did want to) pay the same amount for a private lesson with [famous teacher] in his Buenos Aires apartment as I pay here in the US when he's on tour. Everyone is absolutely entitled to make a living and I don't begrudge anyone charging fully what the market will bear. However, I'm just as entitled not to spend my money. I'm astonished to get this attitude from some people that if I were truly serious about this dance, I would find a way to study with so-and-so etc. Find a way? Unless your way involves magic money trees, I'm out of ways.
Plus, I simply can't make myself believe that it's worth it. Maybe it's because I already have a teacher I like so very much. My maestra, Daniela Arcuri continues to develop me as a dancer far beyond my expectations. Even after all this time, when I have a lesson with her, my body feels better, my dance feels more natural and effortless, and my partners' feedback is glowing. I study with other teachers, locally and those who touring the US, and I learn a lot from them as well. But when it comes to putting the pieces together, I go back to Daniela.
I have come to a place where I know what my goals are in this dance, where I am, and where I am going as a dancer. I'm not going to Buenos Aires to prove that I'm a "serious" tango dancer - and lessons with famous tango teachers wouldn't prove that either. I am studying with people that will not only help my dance, but buoy my spirit, and nourish my soul.
The Heart of my trip: Tango as Therapy
" . . . movement is one of the great laws of life. It is the primary medium of our aliveness, the flow of energy going on in us like a river all the time, awake or asleep, twenty-four hours a day. Our movement is our behavior; there is a direct connection between what we are like and how we move." (Whitehouse, 1969-1970, pp. 59-60).
Everyone comes to tango for different reasons, with different stories, and different needs and expectations. I can't judge anyone else's reason for dancing, and rather expect the same consideration.
Is tango a physical therapy?
Four years ago I sat in tears, when my doctor told me that if we couldn't reverse the muscle damage, I would very soon need a cane to walk. I was 36 years old and couldn't get up a flight of stairs without resting. I am now 40 years old and barely recognize my body. Even though I am still not ahead of the muscle loss, I am gaining ground. I am more toned than I have been in many, many years. Stronger, faster - and fighting. I fight to keep dancing.
Is tango emotional/psychological therapy?
I don't know that anyone can answer that for someone else. It has been for me. It has been for many people I know - here in Texas, in Buenos Aires, and all over the world. Some of the details of that have been covered in other posts, the rest of the story is no one's business but my own. I have seen incredible changes in people as a result of dancing - should I not believe my own eyes and ears?
This may shock some of my readers, a few of which have told me that any therapeutic aspect of tango is a North American/marketing invention, but the first person to tell me about tango as a physical and psychological therapy, was a porteño. He generously shared his story with me, along the stories of two of his friends who found tango to be a way to survive after truly life-shattering circumstances. He has since put me in touch with others, in Buenos Aires and elsewhere, who have similar stories. Tango has been therapeutic for them. I can't help but want to explore this further. So with the encouragement of many friends, dancers, teachers, and health professionals (both here in the US, and in Buenos Aires) - I am pursuing knowledge in that field.
Will I come back from Buenos Aires a better dancer? Who knows? Who cares? Going there isn't about leveling up, or upping my game or whatever. I hope to come back a better human being.
"I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what it too deep to find for words." - Ruth St. Denis