Choices

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 . . . 

Choices.

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.)




The Tango Shines . . .

Take a minute to watch this (sorry I could not embed here.)


It's a beautiful video that I can't stop watching. It takes me back to Buenos Aires, if only for a few minutes. Cab rides, wandering the city with friends, having cafe con leche *everywhere*. Dancing, watching dancing, dreaming about dancing . . .

Every time I drift away and think I'll never make it back . .

I'm back in its orbit . . .

Tango

"Tango
Always ending,
Always reviving."


About the video:

This poetry video is an elegant dance between the city of Buenos Aires and the Tango. The poem is written by Andres Bosso and the music composed by the poets brother, Jorge Bosso.
The city of Buenos Aires, the poem and this intimate partner dancing inspired us to shoot this video.

The Great Shoe Experiment Continues - Part 2!

Last time 13 people got to take home a pair of dream shoes (or two pairs) that they designed! And now, it's almost that time again. We're embarking on round two of the "Great Shoe Experiment" --  http://www.mytangodiaries.com/2013/11/jorge-nel-mr-tango-shoes-coming-to.html

Below are some of my color/material ideas for the next order of shoes from Mr. Tango Shoes! (www.mrtangoshoes.com) Tango, ballroom, salsa shoes for men and women - for social dancing, performance and practice.  

What is your dream dance shoe? Do you like different designs for different seasons? I have to admit - I'm dying for some color. I keep getting variations of "black-and-something" - it's time for a shoe with (gasp) -- no black! .  (This is my favorite part - getting everyone's input on the shoe they'd like designed for them!) 

Possible color combinations - what do you think, teal, purple/silver with black/silver trim - too much?

I wish I'd thought of that red/beige pattern/copper suede combo in time for Valentine's Day!

More, more, more colors!!

More possible color ideas - the teal, leopard and beige is calling my name . . .

Leather swatches - laid out with comparable patches for size/design reference.

Suede swatches - missing #59 dark brown suede.

Fabric swatches - I'm missing #62 and #63 glitter fabric swatches in white and purple - but they can be viewed in the picture from Mr Tango Shoes website.

Mesh swatches - I'm still missing #73 gray mesh swatch.

And here are the swatches and options from Mr. Tango Shoes website. Please visit the website for all the options available and bigger, better pictures of shoe models that can be ordered. 



The swatches on the website are not to scale.

Depression is a lying bastard.

Courtesy of Morguefile.com - btw, if I had a jar like that, it would have to be much bigger. And full of paper money. And I would have to go to the ATM.


Warning: This is not a tango-related post. Well, not directly. Kind of. I don't know, really.

It's been so long since I've updated, and I tell myself (and everyone else) it's because I'm so busy. "Busy" sounds so much better than "hiding". It also has the benefit of being mostly true.

I have 4 part-time jobs - ghostwriter/content producer, shoe sales and leather restoration, web traffic data analyst, and certified personal trainer for dancers. (According to one of my online Argentinian friends, the fact that I've got several jobs and am working in leather, makes me an honorary Argentinian. I think that's good, right? Does that come with a lifetime supply of empanadas?)  I'm also still a student working on my next certification. Pretty impressive, right? I can revel in a feeling complete bad-assery for about 15 minutes before it completely wears me out and the truth comes back in.

While it is true that I've got a lot going on, that's not actually the whole story. It might not even be the most important part of the story. (Btw, the thing I like doing the most is sitting on my ass in a room full of shoes, shining leather. Or recovering soles. Or making leather hair thingees out of suede scrap - that is also awesome. You know why? I don't have to shave my legs, or put on make-up, or try to think up normal sounding conversation. It might also be that I like the smell of leather and glue, but I don't think we should dwell on that.)

I love all of those roles - and I do find them very fulfilling. Even the data analyst job, which probably speaks to my less desirable OCD qualities. But if I'm honest, I'm really trying desperately hard to stay busy. I don't need to have 4 jobs - only one of them is actually paying any bills. I just want very much to keep moving. To feel some forward momentum. Busy-ness fills the dark, scary gaps for a little while. Because if I stop to look around, if I stop treading water  . . . I just sink. I sink so quickly.

I don't know if it's the long, unusually cold winter (and then warm weather, and then cold weather, and then warm weather again *sigh* - which makes me think of this cartoon) or the job change, or just a combination of everything. I'm in a bad place. Unfortunately, that place has gotten so familiar, and so perversely comfortable, it's very hard get out. If you've never been here, can you know how absurdly easy it is to stay down? Down starts to feel safe. How does that happen? Logically, I know how it happens. Because depression lies to you and tells you it's better to stay down. Outside is scary and makes you vulnerable. Better to stay inside where you're still vulnerable, but no one knows it. As the Bloggess so accurately summed it up, "Depression is a lying bastard."

So that's what I'm trying to write about.

This was supposed to be an attempt at an explanation to those who've been asking why I'm not out much anymore. The explanation feels so weak. I'm running away from the things that would almost certainly help me (dancing, friends, socializing) because those things absolutely paralyze me lately. Not all the time - just often enough to keep me from wanting to try. I do venture out occasionally, reach out to friends - especially those who have had to get used to this kind of crap from me. It's hard on them, and knowing that makes me retreat a little more. "I'm sorry" escapes my lips more often than "hello".

I'm not dancing much because right now dancing is physically and emotionally incredibly hard. I have no stamina. Because my spirit hurts, my body hurts. The autoimmune disease that I thought I had beat, seems to have taken residence again. Or maybe it happened the other way around. I'm never really sure - chicken or egg? Depression first or pain first? I'm battling constant nuisance infections, aches, asthma attacks. I'm back where I was 6 years ago - fighting for breath, fighting for energy. I feel like I'm walking shoulder deep in water. And what I would give to be able to sleep through the night. Instead my night looks more like this. Seriously, clowns scare the holy hell out of me. I blame Poltergeist.

I'm dancing badly. I feel rough, even to myself. Dancing creates that usually so desirable quiet space, but right now that's what I'm trying, for better or worse, to avoid. I don't want to be in someone's arms when the sinking starts. It really can be that fast. Before one tanda is over, I can go from peaceful, almost blissful, to searching frantically for exit signs. It's crushing, my breath catches in my throat and the air evaporates from the room. Panic replaces peace. Tears well up in my eyes. Apologies fall from my mouth out of habit. And then I'm out the door - to the bathroom, outside - somewhere with air. I can fight it off for a little while, sometimes a couple of tandas in a row. I've made it through my own practica twice - 2 hours each time, once (at my Mr. Tango Shoes Trunk Show) because I didn't dance the entire time.


That's me sitting on the floor during the Mr. Tango Shoes Trunk Show/Sizing event. I was happier that afternoon than I had been in a long time. What made me think wearing a skirt for that kind work was a good idea, I'll never know. But the moral of the story - yay shoes!


Most milongas/practicas are just too many people for me. Too close. Dancing often leaves me abraded and raw. Often I dance with only a few people, not because I don't want to dance with other people, but because I don't know how many leaders would respond if I don't get away fast enough when things go south. If I don't keep it together.

But I'm in business now. In business for myself - so I have to hold it together. At least for a few hours at a time. I'm usually so exhausted by the end of a practica or milonga, that I go home and collapse. I managed two practicas in one day last week and was almost manic I was so proud of myself. Then I spent the next two days sick and sore. (And pondering questionable decor purchases. I didn't buy it. But I thought about it really, really hard.)

The upside, well not really upside . . .  amusing side? Entertaining side? My humor is becoming even less appropriate than usual. Which of course also worries me a little. What few filters I had on my mouth seem to have gone missing. Lots of thoughts that should have stayed in my brain accidentally make it out of my mouth. I end up having a lot of conversations that later on I think might have sounded like this.  (By the way, I almost ordered greeting cards with that on it. I couldn't stop laughing at it. Not the happy kind of laughing, but the maniacal, hysterical sort of laughing that makes my husband worried and suspicious. I didn't get the cards, for the record. But I think they're still in my Zazzle cart.)

So, even though it's far too late for the short story of all of this, the summary is - I'll come out and play as soon as I can. As often as I can. (When I haven't given myself mild food poisoning with my own cooking, which is why I'm writing this and not dancing.)  

I'm not ok, but I will be. If I say weird shit, you can take comfort in the fact that that's always been going on in my brain, I just kept it quieter. I guess that's not very comforting. Never mind. 

Meanwhile, I'm making leather crap in my office, playing "which of these is not like the others" with data, and telling myself this. If you have been in this place, you might want to get this pin too. It's a good reminder.

Thanks for reading this far. For reference, if you ever get this bad off, it's really helpful to get an animal hat like the one I'm sporting below. I don't know why. It just is. That's a lion on my head.  Hear me roar. :)