You say goodbye, I say hello . . .

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello

More milonga observations . . . "You say goodbye, I say hello... "

When I first started going to milongas, I would enter as quietly as possibly, skirt the edge of the room and sit at the back. If someone waved or said "hi", I'd manage a little wave back. I wanted to avoid drawing attention to myself at all costs. That, and it's a bit of habit. In my family, we tend to arrive at and leave gatherings quietly - not wanting to interrupt anyone. Of course milongas are filled with strangers (at least in the beginning when I first started going), not family and friends, so there's an added stress. Not sure of the customs and habits of other dancers, I kept to myself initially. Then I met La Milonguera. Or rather she came over to meet me. La Milonguera seeks out new faces and makes them feel welcome. She greets them, asks where they're from, and introduces them around if there's opportunity. Once La Milonguera welcomed me, I felt instantly more relaxed - and that feeling stayed with me. Just taking time to greet people makes them (and me) feel more comfortable.

Now that I know more people, I can start recognizing the people who are new, or at least new to a particular milonga, and if I see them sitting by themselves or looking for a friendly face, I go over and welcome them. If I can, I introduce them around. And when I enter a milonga, I look for people I know and greet them almost as soon as I arrive (if they're not already dancing or immersed in conversation). I still can't make myself interrupt anyone.

However, come the end of the evening, I still usually try to slip out quietly. I have a tendency to not say goodbye and I'm not especially surprised to look up and see that someone else has slipped away and gone home. In particular, if I'm leaving because I'm hurting, I tend not to tell anyone - which is the exact time that I should be letting someone know what's up. I'm working on that. It also goes back to the not wanting to draw attention, I suppose - and the way I was brought up to not interrupt anyone. But not everyone was brought up that way. For lots of people goodbyes, I've recently learned, are very important - sometimes even more important than saying hello. So not saying goodbye can hurt feelings. I truly had no idea. The answer? Take time to do both if possible.

So in your family and your gatherings, are hellos and initial greetings more important - or goodbyes at the end of the night? Both?

se llama tango... y nada más

Long, winding, ranting, and babbling . . .

How did I forget how hard it was to get here?
To do this?
How did I forget how elated I was just to be asked to dance?
And then to be able to finish a single tanda without pain?

When did the picture of how I wanted to dance become more important than the dance, and the leader, in front of me? It seems lately the stronger the emotional need I feel in the moment for tango, the more brittle and unyielding I become in my experience of it.

Granted, it was a hard week. A terrible week. Bad news turning to worse news turning to unthinkable news. Plus, I had run out of the medication I use to control pain - and a clerical error (combined with my own poor follow-up) kept me from getting a refill for another 3 days. It was so easy to forget how bad that feels - it had been months since I'd been in that much pain. It's so hard to do the simplest things in that state. Sentences get disjointed. My memory fails me.

Trying to explain to my nurse how I felt... like a porcupine turned inside-out, pin pricks covering my skin. Touch makes it better and worse. Or rather, makes it worse, then better. If I can make it through the initial hot, sharp touch, the pain subsides in that spot eventually. And it's such a relief. But I have to get through the initial increase in pain - like trying to settle into a tub of water that's just a little too hot.

So in this state - this prickly, frustrated, anxious and, if I'm honest, terribly needy, state - I went out to dance.

I walked through the door of the milonga sharply aching for contact with the music and the crowd. In my desire to shield myself from any further pain though, I had started putting wishful, and ultimately useless, parameters on the contact I wanted.

I became critical. Reserved. I watched the leaders, taking in the atmosphere. He's leading linear boleos? At this milonga? groused my exasperated inner voice. I was annoyed for no good reason. This leader I was watching was one I deeply enjoyed dancing with. He had plenty of room for the lead and his partner very clearly enjoyed it. I was deciding, before even being asked, what kinds of things I wanted or didn't want in a dance. Where was this coming from? Would I want to be judged this way - from the sidelines?

In the state I was in, I just wanted to be held and walked - but it's two people that make the dance, and putting my preferences before even being invited to dance was bordering on absurd. In that mindset how was I going to be able to follow? To allow myself to be truly led? That's not entrega. If there's an opposite to entrega - then this was it. I was breaking my own rule to trust first, not wait for a leader to prove something to me. Trust first. Be willing first.

I want to be this kind of follower. In many ways, like I want to be that kind of Buddhist. A blank slate with no expectations, no past, no future - only the moment before me. So much easier to preach that in my blog, and practice it through my comforting veil of a pain-controlling regimen. But when things got tough - I got bitchy.

I was never one of those "naturals" I read about so often - the natural follower. The one with good instincts. Naturally musical. The one who trusts, and because she trusts, can be open to the lead - no matter how advanced. The one who can just be quiet and listen for her partner with her heart. I have to work at it. Some nights I have to work so very hard to stop "working". When I get to that place, it's magnificent.

So for a few minutes I held a "come-to-Jesus" meeting with myself. . .

Just stop.
Turn off the chatter about "I hope he does" or "I hope he doesn't."
Let go of "trying to follow", "worrying about following" and just listen.

Finally, near the end of the evening of one of the milongas, I managed to stay in that space for the entire tanda instead a moment here or there stolen between bouts of nerves. Maybe I had simply worn myself out. In my leader's embrace, I finally let go.


I write less these days. I'm still thinking, dreaming, and being overwhelmed by tango. The words just don't make it to the page fast enough. Everything seems to be going by me so fast. An entire year has gone by so fast. And now a life gone so fast.

Yesterday I got the news that a friend and coworker had passed away. I'd known him for 6 years. Breakfast tacos at 10am, the #5 bus in the afternoons, watching him glide down the street on his bike in terrible weather - routines that formed the fabric of a daily work life. Undone. He's gone and all of those tapestries he was woven into are unraveling. Made worse by so many other routines unraveling at my work. Like every other organization, we're worried about our jobs. Our processes are changing for efficiency's sake. We must all daily justify our worth (and expense) to our organization. No wonder we all feel like unraveling. When people are fearful, it's hard to join together. Empathy seems so risky. We scan the horizon with our tired, nervous eyes - for changes, threats to our security, the next cut. Our friend is gone, but it's strangely quiet. Public displays of grief, of pain, of loss - while they are present, they're subdued by this organizational feeling. We mourn in our silos.

My work day ended. I met my friend to talk about what happened, but still found it so hard to talk about anything. Nebulous feelings of isolation. I thought about going home instead of going to the milonga. I thought I'd be poor company. But every time I've skipped tango because I was feeling rough, or sad, or tired, I've regretted it. I went.

I put on my shoes before I even got in the car. The feeling started then - a little lighter. Still heavy, still weighted and sad, but just a fraction less so. The car ride was quiet. Streaming tail lights and street lights made my already tired, red eyes water. My friend dropped me off and I trotted across the parking lot. Outside was cold and dark and sharp-feeling, but the doorway shined gold and warm. I had no idea how much I needed this. I tumbled in, grateful I'd already changed shoes, and greeted my friends who had arrived before me. I think I smiled. I meant to.

My friend, "So, how was your day?"
I faltered. Tears threatening.
Me, "I'm just so glad I'm here."
She, "Well, so are we."

How could I have thought of not going?

I danced. Not as much as I usually do, but I still danced. I was held and hugged and enveloped by music and friendship and tango.

Baby tanguera at One Year Old

A week of anniversaries. Most importantly, my 14th wedding anniversary is this Wednesday. My husband and I have actually been together about 18 years. Wow . . . Our marriage is old enough to vote. After 14 years, my patient and supportive husband, has found himself married to a rabidly obsessed tanguera. He's coping as well as can be expected. ;)

This week is also the anniversary of my first steps in tango. My first class at UT, my first milonga, and my first dance.

"Your baby at One Year - Milestones this month (from"

- Your baby now drinks from a cup without assistance. (well, wine glass anyway)
- She can stand alone for several minutes. (but she doesn't like it very much)
- Baby walks well (that might be a bit generous.Still working on that whole extending the back leg/walking with intention etc etc)
- Baby expresses her wants with gestures and words instead of cries. (gesture, schmesture, she uses the cabeceo)
- She engages in gibberish conversation. (oh, no she doesn't!)

Baby tanguera at one year old. That's me.

It overwhelms me to think too hard on getting here. My husband told me, 'you like this right now - so throw yourself into it. This month, take all the classes, go to all the practicas and milongas. See what happens. In a month, or three months, if you still like it, we'll work out how to keep it up.'

That was a year ago. Since then, this has been the year of eating, sleeping, dreaming, walking, thinking, writing . . .

and living, tango.

The first two months of my tango life, I danced between 15 and 20 hours a week, with all the classes, milongas, festivals, and practicas. I wonder if I'd started slower, if I would have stuck through the scarier parts. Like jumping into frigid water, I wanted the scariest, most uncomfortable part to be over with quickly. That meant no hesitating. No taking it slow. No easing into it. I dove in...

Heart first.

The first milonga I attended, my hands shook so much I was afraid to dance. Of course my "dancing" at that point, consisted of walking back and forth, and getting about every third cross lead. Maybe it was too soon to go to milongas. But that was the advice I got - don't wait until some mythical tango competency is acquired - just start going. Watch people. So that's what I did.

This Friday I will celebrate the anniversary of my first dance. I'm going back to La Tazza Fresca where, one year ago, a gentleman asked me to dance and I finally got the nerve to say yes. We danced to Pensalo Bien . .

Pensalo bien,
antes de dar ese paso,
que tal vez mañana acaso
no puedas retroceder.

Think it well,
before taking that step,
that perhaps tomorrow maybe
you may not go back.

Talking at the milonga

Silence is Golden

Part 1:

Just a warning. If you bring up business/work/politics I will try to listen, but I will likely forget everything you've said by the time we stop dancing. So if you need a response to something, an answer, or a commitment of some kind - email me. Any business matters at hand dissolve in my brain as soon as the music starts. You've been warned. Email me.

Part 2:

Twice this weekend I was informed that the conversation my partner was having with me on the pista was loud enough to be heard by other dancers. And that's annoying. They're right, it is. I hate listening to the couple behind me prattle on and on when I'm trying to listen to the music - so I know how annoying it is. This weekend there were a couple of times when several dancers were talking so loudly that no one could hear the music. I'm sure before I realized that, I had been contributing to that din. My critics were correct that it is disrespectful to the music and to the other dancers. To dance well, we must listen well, and if we're talking, then we're at most, only half listening. The music deserves more than that - or why dance?

Message received.
Shutting up.

Apilado Class - the Sequel

(Pictured above, Carlos Gavito and Maria Plazaola (I think) - courtesy of - click on picture to visit the site.)

I had my second apilado class with Daniela Arcuri Friday night. I thought this time it would go so much more smoothly since I've been practicing somewhat regularly... well, okay, once a week at most. But still. Thirty seconds dancing with my teacher and she had a checklist of about 6 things that needed adjusting. Shoulder down, chest more forward, knees bent more,... more than that... heels together, now you have more room for molinetes - sweep out longer... and relax, and breathe.

When the pieces fall into place, the result is amazing. Intense connection and the ability (for me, anyway) to follow the tiniest lead almost instantly. When one piece goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart - particularly in turns. Without a very solid connection torso-to-torso, it's very easy for my partner and I to pull apart (actually, it's usually me pulling away by pulling my shoulder blades together) just enough that I can't feel weight changes clearly, which makes exiting the molinete, or even ochos, very tricky. Also, the greater the height difference, the more challenging it can be to find that "sweet spot" in the alignment. I have to make small ajdustments in my alignment more often - but remembering to keep my energy (and my torso) directed up is easier, since the first failure to do so results in an almost instant loss of connection and lag in my following.

Daniela warned again of back pain that can result from not having proper alignment and posture - or from simply overdoing it. Apilado, especially deep apilado, is not maintained throughout the song - some steps and movements require a rising up slightly (into more typical milonguero/close embrace, minus the shared axis/lean.) So far I have yet to experience any back pain, but then I've never had more than a couple of tandas in a row in apilado.

After the class, during the following milonga, and in the practica on Sunday - I had a few different leaders tell me that they would dance apilado more if there were more followers who preferred the style. As it was, the only two women in the apilado class this time were another tango instructor who was already very well versed in apilado, and me - with four leaders. I wonder if the leaders are as grateful for followers that follow it, as I am to leaders who lead it. As challenging as it is, I'm so relieved when I feel that invitation to lean - and that push of energy from where we're connected in the torso all the way down to my toes, into the floor. There's nothing else like it. Tango almost always feels good - but dancing tango in apilado feels phenomenal.

That experience can make it harder for me to transition back to salon, and especially open, embrace - where my partner feels like he's miles away in comparison. I have to remind myself to feel for the invitation to lean - wait for my leader's close embrace and step back (pulling me to him). If I forget, which is easy to do immediately following a tanda of apilado, I end up putting unwelcome pressure on my new leader.

So much to remember . . . For now, I'm just waiting for my next opportunity to dance.