Nancy Learns the Tango

Month: October, 2012

You Know You Have A Tango Problem When…

After my initial foray into the world of Argentine tango—even before I was aware that there was a world, a friend sent me a checklist of the telltale signs that one is becoming a tango addict.

I thought it was amusing, though I didn’t recognize myself in any of it.

Until now.

A couple of things have cropped up lately that have prompted me to submit my own entries.

I remember thinking (a little too smugly) how fortunate I was to have a strong body, good posture and no knee issues.  While all that  remains true, there is the little problem of my feet in the 3” heels.

I won’t go into too much detail, after all, who really wants to hear about my foot pain?  Suffice it to say that many hours on one’s toes in one’s beautiful tango shoes, is a sure way to get to meet your local podiatrists.

And after making the rounds and gathering the  opinions of foot doctors and friends, I have collected a shoebox full of information.

I cried at the first opinion.  Hoboken Foot & Ankle said to stop dancing or I was surely headed for surgery.

I wept with relief at the second.  Hoboken Ankle & Foot said that with modifications and perhaps a lower heel (sniff), I shall live to dance another day.

I sat up straight at the third.  My teacher Dante said that with a combination of dance sneakers (there is a sneaker for every occasion), toe exercises, and working with my friend Suzanne (a Feldenkrais teacher), I could keep serious injury at bay.  And take my feet into my own hands.

I laughed at the fourth.  My mother suggested that I take up bridge.  Which is her solution to many of life’s problems.

I can officially say that I have tango-foot.  Though there must be salsa-foot, samba-foot and rumba-foot.  Not to mention ballet-foot.  Ouch.

And if that weren’t enough tango trouble, my best friend said that she thought I was developing an unhealthy obsession with the dance.  And that I had become unavailable and she felt abandoned.  She also said that I was using tango to avoid loneliness.  To which I replied: “Exactly!  And it’s working.”

I didn’t understand what she would have me do instead.  Sit home alone in a lotus position and be one with loneliness…every night?

Isn’t this what I’m supposed to be doing?  Engaging in life, learning something new, making friends (women and men), and having the most wonderful time.

I assured her that I loved her, would never leave her and that an intervention was not necessary.  For that is what addicts say.

When I told Dante of the tango mess I was making, he laughed, high-fived me, and said: “Now you are a dancer.”

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green

Follow (Interpret) The Leader

When I first began to learn the Argentine tango, a few of my girlfriends bristled at the idea of giving up the lead and of having to take direction from men.  And worst of all, of having to wait to be asked to dance.  “Nancy, how can you do it?”

I listened to stories of couples that decided to learn a social dance right before they got married.  About how he wanted to lead and she wouldn’t let him.  About weddings almost being called off.

I have one good friend who decided to take up tap because she didn’t have to depend on a man to learn the dance.

And I must admit after my very first tango class I left thinking that the dance sets women back decades.  He initiates, he decides which steps and when and he determines the pace.  I am to obey, going backwards, in heels.

Though it only took the second class for me to understand that my role is as important as his.  For without me, there is no dance.

And while it may appear as if I’ve canceled my membership to NOW, I do have a lot of say as to how this dance is danced.

I am the one that determines the closeness (or not) of the embrace.  I am the one that interprets (as opposed to follows) his steps.  If I do not feel his lead, I simply don’t take it.  And when asked to dance and choose not to, I always have the option to say, “No thank you.“

Oh, and have I told you that tango law states that if a step is missed, it is always the lead’s fault?  Liberating.

And so in giving up the lead, I’ve come to enjoy and to expect men to…well…lead.

I danced with a man at the Union Square milonga who was so timid and limp in his affect that I’m not even sure a dance had taken place.  Though I knew something must have happened, for when the music stopped, we were at the other end of the pavilion.  I had to stop myself from saying: “So lead already.”

I want to clarify that I am not talking about physical strength here.  While I do appreciate the beauty and thrill of being in the arms of a strong man, it is his intention that gets me to take the first step.

He starts the conversation with the invitation of the embrace.  And no matter how simple the steps are, he is able to communicate movement clearly.  I answer by interpreting his movement so that we may remain in motion.

And that is our shared goal.

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green