The Fear of not Moving

" . . . tango is what remains when you remove all movement, when the only thing that is left is feeling."
- Carlos Gavito, (1)

Three steps forward, two steps back.
At least I have made some progress.
But I am still rushing. Still moving too soon.
And too fast.
Falling away.

Tango, it seems, can't undo a lifetime of constantly moving.
Constantly running - always closing the doors behind me.
It's exhausting to keep moving - but terrifying to stop.
To wait. To listen.
Sometimes stopping feels a lot like suffocating.
What am I so afraid of?

Feeling? Possibly.
Entrega? Sometimes.
El duende? Frequently.
But even those aren't really it.

Maybe that there will be nothing.
Not the little nothings that inhabit tiny gaps in our day.
Those traveling moments of suspension between one thing and the next thing.
Falling forward into the next moment. Not those.
Big nothing.
Thunderous silence in the absence of. . . .

the absence of what?

The absence of me?
Expanded. Dispersed. Without bounds and without borders.
Between notes, between steps,
between one breath and the next,
between his heart and mine.
Letting go.

Free-fall in the pause.

So I court the pauses, write about them, wax nostalgic about them as if we're old friends.
But really, all I do is peek at them around corners, and then take off again as they approach,
often leaving my partner chasing me in the embrace.

I want to stop preparing for the next thing,
stop being ready,
silence the constant "what'scomingnextwhat'scomingnextwhat'scomingnext."

At practica,
"So what are you working on?"
Being here,
doing this,
nothing else.

"What does a dancer feel when he pauses? Fear, the fear of not moving. Dancing - moving, in effect - is like escaping from something: from a silence, from a commitment." (Ibid.)

1. "I Wanted to Dance: Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango" by Ricardo Plazaola
Picture courtesy of

Highlights of Houston Tango Marathon

I wasn't able to make Sunday's festivities due to injury, but here are the highlights from the Houston Tango Marathon Friday and Saturday in no particular order (after the first one):

- No. 1 highlight: Watching the most beautiful, romantic marriage proposal ever of Alejandro Almanza and Pilar Prieto on the dance floor Saturday night. It was so sweet, I cried all over myself.
- the music! The music was outstanding all weekend - thank you so much to the dj's.
- our hosts provided wonderful food and drink to enjoy. It must have been a challenge to provide so many delights (tamales, fruit, baklava, etc) for so many hungry dancers. And whatever that hot drinking chocolate concoction was - it was amazing!
- the space itself - the rooms, the floors, the lighting and the sound quality were all terrific. Rice University has great facilities.
- this was also the first time, I think, that I've been in Houston when it's sunny for than one day at a time. I was beginning to think I would be cursed to bring bad weather with me every time I went.
- while all three performances Saturday night were accomplished and musical, I especially loved watching Eric and Rebecca. I was mesmerized by their graceful connection, timing and elegance. They both moved with such purpose and intention, without rushing or using rapid fire moves. More importantly (to me anyway), they were also a pleasure to watch on the social dance floor with every one I saw them dance with.
- conversations with old friends and new,
- playing "wait for it" during practica on Saturday with a very sweet and patient tanguero from Austin, and then totally tearing up a crazy milonga tanda after that,
- time with my wonderful hosts who not only provided transportation to and from Houston, but made me feel so welcome in their home. Thank you so very, very much!

There was more but I'm still recovering so that's all I've got for now - thank you to the Houston tango community!

I don't want to talk

"Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.
Marcel Marceau

At the local milongas,
surrounded by good friends,
it's very common to hear,
How's work?
How are things going?
What's new with you?

I don't mean to be evasive.
I really do want to be connected.
To let people know how I am.
I am grateful to be cared for.

It's just that the milonga is . . .

. . . too many cliches to finish that sentence.
Too many words and not enough meaning.
That's the real problem right there.
Too many words.

At the milongas, for a few hours,
I am not haunted by my past,
or worried for my future.
I am human.
a whole human being,
moment to moment,
tanda to tanda.

So just sometimes,
I don't want to talk.

Please know that I am grateful.
But let the music tell my story.
And I'll dance the answers to your questions
whether I mean to or not.

(Image courtesy of

"The Handbag", Tango, and Enjo-kosai

The Handbag

Kyoko Wakao & Teruyuki "Mocky" Saito
Written, Produced & Directed by Ivy Yukiko Ishihara Oldford
Original Music by
Riaz Hassan

I loved this video the moment I watched it, and yet even now I hesitate to post it. When I was first sent the link, the summary that accompanied it said it was about a Tokyo salaryman returning a bag to a high school girl at a subway station - and then I suppose sort of randomly taken to dancing Argentine tango in the middle of that transaction. When I watched the video, I could see quite a lot more going on, though I didn't know the complete story until I read the blog post by filmmaker, Ivy Oldford, here.

If you'd like to see it before learning any details about it, simply watch it embedded below:

What I loved immediately:

- The music moves me. It's so beautiful that I immediately went looking for the artist and the song. Both of which you can find here.
- The camera spends a lot of time focused on the dancers' embrace. I wish more tango videos would spend the time focused there, than on the dancers' feet (of course this video has quite a lot of footwork focus as well.) Their embrace is appropriate to the music and to the story they're telling and it's nice to actually be able to see that.
- The way Kyoko Wakao can dance in loafers. I can't even walk gracefully in loafers, let alone dance. The shoes, by the way, were new, and had not even been broken in. (See tango instructor, Kyoko Wakao, dancing in more traditional tango attire with her partner Ezequial Gomez.)

Themes and Context

Like anything else in life (and art), context is everything. As soon as I saw the female lead in a schoolgirl uniform, I recognized the Lolicon theme (named for "Lolita complex" and describing the attraction of older Japanese men to young women, typically wearing school uniforms) which is quite prevalent in Japanese pop culture. What I didn't see immediately, but wondered about, was the appearance at the end of the video that the dance was a compensated transaction. When I read Ivy Oldford's blog post, I got confirmation that was the intention.

Enjo-kosai, or compensated dating, while it has been occurring for quite a long time in Japan, is starting to alarm even the Japanese media. In Japan, prostitution is a very tangled issue with nebulous laws and it doesn't have the same stigma that it has in the United States. In a few important ways (that would take too long to address here) I think Japan is somewhat more realistic in its views on sex. Yet no one can deny that several factors in the culture are creating a generation of "young girls who view sex as a clear form of acceptable capitalism." (1)

That is when I wondered whether I should post video.

While the music and the dancing are compelling, the context of the situation is very controversial. Should I try to separate the dance from the story? Of course not. How could anyone? I've read manga and watched anime for over two decades, so these themes hardly stun me. Yet I wondered (and still wonder) who I will offend. However, if I never learn anything else from my tango journey, I have learned this - the dance always tells a story - intentional ones and unintentional ones.

So watch video. Take or leave as much of the context as you like. Let me know what you think. Does it bother you to see tango viewed as in some way transactional? Does it call on tango's own supposed historical themes and connections to prostitution? How does knowing the more complete story change how you look at their dance? Or does it?

More articles on "compensated dating" in Japan can be found here:

(1) Prostitution in Japan: A Young Body Worth a Profit:
Japan for the Uninvited:

(not tango-related, so feel free to skip this if the topic holds no interest)

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise." ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I should have expected that comments would come via email, rather than get posted on the blog post itself - but I didn't expect this many emails so soon.

I'd like to address some of the questions here, rather than answering the same questions over and over via email. The topics of underage sex and prostitution are well outside the scope of this blog and so I'm hesitant to launch into essays on the subjects, but I do have a couple of "short" (well, short-ish. Shorter than dissertations, anyway) answers for the questions that came up most often.

"Aren't you offended by men being attracted to women in school girl uniforms?"

Well, how about cheerleader uniforms, as is more the case over here? Should I be offended by women being attracted to men in UPS uniforms? Or firefighter uniforms? Let's drop the uniform question, because I think we can agree that isn't really the issue. The age, or the perceived age gap, is the issue. I address that later in these comments.

"So what is your position on Enjo-kosai? You never really say in your post."

There was a reason for that. My position will likely change depending on when you ask me and the context within which we are discussing it. I do have a few thoughts about it though.

First, if the prevailing attitude (worldwide) tells young women (and young men) that they are only valuable, attractive and accepted if they have money and material goods - and that obtaining those things is more important than showing good judgment regarding their physical, mental and emotional health, how could you expect to avoid this scenario?

Second, if you think the "my body is my currency" attitude only prevails in Japan, which was the attitude in a few of the emails I received, you should work in a women's health clinic on any major college campus in the US (and increasingly, sad to say, high school health clinics.) Or turn on the TV for that matter. The attitude, in various forms and to various degrees, is everywhere.

Third, if the legal system charges only the sellers and not the buyers in the sex trade, as in Japan, the system is broken and the laws will never stop the trade.

"Do you think prostitution should be legal?"

If we lived in an ideal world, filled with ideal people all living in ideal circumstances, than perhaps prostitution could be a victimless "crime". Or even better, prostitution would find no market. But the world being what it is, and people being what they are - prostitution has quite a market and it certainly has victims. Most importantly, it has victims before money ever changes hands. So my answer is hypothetically maybe, realistically, no. The letter of the law versus how the law is actually enforced however, is a whole other issue, and again, well outside the scope of this blog.

May-December Relationships

If the issue, as one email suggested, is with the "appropriateness" of the May-December romance, I would sugggest focusing on what makes you personally happy and fulfilled, rather than judging what makes others happy. I know several loving, devoted couples, both where the man is older, and where the woman is older. Love and attraction are rarely predictable or convenient and frankly, if both people are adults, what makes them happy is their own affair. Who can say what body one's soul mate should arrive?

Don't Save Me

"Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett

Four different advertisements telling me if I take this or that tango class/workshop/intensivo, I will:

- get immediate results!
- save years of learning!
- experience efficient technique training!
- advance faster than ever!

The classes fill up fast, so there must be quite a market for efficient tango learning.

Is it just me that thinks the words "tango" and "efficient" should never be in the same sentence?
Learn tango faster?
Are we racing?
There is no end (thank God) - so what are we saving years from? Or for?
Isn't the journey the point?

I don't want to be saved the time, or the years . . .
or the mistakes.
Mistakes take me deeper,
reveal something more . . .

Our miles make our tango.
Our dance tells our story.
How fast would we want to make that?

"In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet."
- - Alice Abrams

(Image courtesy of