Nancy Learns the Tango

Category: Uncategorized

It Takes Way More Than Two

Last Tango in Chelsea. A tribute to Triangulo: New York City’s only studio dedicated to the Argentine tango—closes. For now. We await its transformation to a new location.

I’ve never been much of a party girl. Or if I had been, I have no memory of it. I hated bars. And a barstool doesn’t have any back support. I failed substance abuse, and the only altered state I could manage was a sugar induced one. But intoxication took on a whole new dimension, and all my head-spinning attempts at inebriation vanished the moment I took my first steps of the Argentine tango.

It was on pure whim, some amount of guts, a free Monday night, and close proximity to the PATH Train that first led me to Triangulo. As soon as I walked into this dance studio, I knew I’d entered another realm. The room was warm and inviting and evoked another century, with its burgundy colored walls, its gold accents, and crowned with a collection of ornate, mismatched chandeliers. And all of this against the backdrop of the lavish, Bruegel-like mural of tango dancers—in full swing. Dancers that I’d eventually come to learn were real people —the luminaries of tango past and present.

So with one foot in, I signed up for my first beginner-class package, and followed the well-worn path of tangueras before me—the dancing odyssey of intelligent women—who were once level headed.

Though after my first class of stepping on, and being stepped on, I wondered why in the hell I’d want to obey, and follow any man around a dance floor, engaging in something that set women back decades—backwards and in heels.

But, it only took until the second class to understand that my role was as important as his. For without me, there’d be no dance. And if I ever got past the awkward, jostling beginner stage, and avoided shoulder dislocation from over-enthusiastic leads, I might actually learn.

So one class per week became two, and two became three, and in no time I’d developed a pretty healthy tango habit. I became a willing participant in the twelve steps of tango addiction. I danced almost every night of the week. I planned my life around classes and milongas. I made excuses for, and bowed out of social events that interfered with my tango schedule. And if this were even possible, I found seven nights a week to love shoes that much more. My work suffered. My feet hurt. I laughed more. I talked about tango so much that my friends and family were either becoming very concerned—or entirely bored.

But nothing could stop me. How could I turn my back on so much joy? For the first couple of years, I took every level of every class with my beloved first teachers—the talented triumvirate of Carina, Laure and Dante. And if that weren’t enough of an embarrassment of riches, along came two powerhouse couples in the form of Carolina and Andres, and Ana and Diego. Triangulo’s teachers were determined to make dancers of us all­—and they used everything they had to get it done. With their passion, dedication, creativity, generosity, and a whole lot of laughing, we became tango dancers.

But Triangulo and the Argentine tango turned out to be more than I’d expected. Aside from learning the dance and having a cult-like, nifty, portable skill, I made friends. Good friends. People shared their lives with me—in between dances. I met someone who told me that he had nothing until he’d found tango. Another told me that after a bitter divorce, tango had prevented him for walking into oncoming traffic. And since then he’s met and married the love of his life—a tanguera he’d met at the Union Square milonga. A dear friend recently told me that tango allowed him to enter (with another) into a world without words. I saw how tango changed lives, and in some cases, it even saved lives.

I met people from all over the world, and though we spoke different languages, we danced in only one.

On a lighter note, I’ve never laughed as hard as I have on this dance floor. Whether it was cracking up mid-dance over some of the best jokes I’ve ever heard, or whether the hilarity was due to Dante’s Always-Keep‘em-Laughing School of Dance. At times, it’s been near impossible to maintain a serious tango face.

And all of that happened here, at Triangulo—our dancing living room.

These days though, Triangulo is much more than a dance studio—it has become a refuge. As I witness the decimation of social, economic and environmental justice, and when I can’t take another piece of breaking news, or one more obscene tweet, I always had Triangulo. And because of tango’s own constitution—its respected rules of etiquette, I knew that when I entered this studio of friends, or potential new friends, I could expect to enjoy an evening of vibrant, joyful, equitable, civil, and consensual dancing.

Tonight, when I leave for the last time, I’ll be accompanied by tango music as it tumbles out of the third floor window and onto 20th Street. There were times, that if I listened very closely, I’ve been able to hear the music almost all the way to 6th Avenue.

Carina, thank you for creating the warm, welcoming and vibrant place that we’ve come to love, and to depend on.

Whenever and wherever Triangulo’s transformation turns out to be—when you build it, we will come.

 



© Nancy Green 2017

 

See what Triangulo is up to now.

 

Ten Cents a Dance (adjusted for inflation)

She was twice his age, her vermilion hair matched his red velvet suit, and her three-and-a-half-inch sparkly-gold tango shoes allowed her to peer over his head–by at least a foot. Who was he dancing with? His grandmother? His great-aunt?

It was one of those evenings of watching others dance tango, and spending a little too much time on the sidelines, not dancing—having not been asked. Tango etiquette has some antiquated rules of engagement, and the one that causes the most chafing is that men do the asking. If that weren’t problematic enough, combined with the lead-follow imbalance, the New York tango cliques, and the exclusive couples, it can all add up to doing some extra time on the bench…

 

I’ve been published in Salon.com!

To see how it turns out:

http://www.salon.com/2017/07/09/paying-for-it-ten-cents-a-dance-adjusted-for-inflation/

 

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© Nancy Green 2017

My Best Girl

If you sit down at my computer and look through my web search history from say, a year or two ago, you’d find what you might expect: evidence of my tango obsession. Queries such as: Where to buy the latest Comme Il Faut tango shoes in NYC? Or, what is the ratio of men to women at every milonga in the tri-state area?  Or, what’s the weather in Buenos Aires?  And, is there tango in Trenton?

Though lately, my concerns have taken a decidedly different turn. These days I find myself shopping for things like dependable bed wetting supplies, and attractive, waterproof sofa covers, or searching for information about the causes and remedies for urge incontinence. I’ve also been watching YouTube videos on the best way to convert baby diapers into doggie diapers. And just to allay any concerns that you may have for me, I’m happy to report that I’m not in the middle of this type of health crisis–yet–but my dog is.

My fourteen-and-a-half year old beautiful, precious, obstinate, funny, Tibetan Terrier is beginning to fail. Most of my free time, with my pup’s reluctant blessing, used to be taken up with everything tango—dancing my way through the week. Now, much of my days and nights and thoughts are dedicated to the care of my feisty, four-legged, octogenarian (in dog years); Tingri. My best girl.

At the beginning of our journey’s end, I made my way to a section of the A&P that I knew very little about, the baby care aisle. There I stood, head in hands, trying to choose between Pampers Cruisers adorned with Bert, Ernie, Elmo and Big Bird or Huggies Little Movers decorated with Disney characters. I chose Elmo: Tingri’s ethos has always felt much more like Sesame Street than Walt Disney.

This is my first hands-on experience with elder care and it has been quite a ride; at times very funny, sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, and often frustrating with overtones of relentlessness.

I can’t say that Tingri has taken that well to wearing diapers, or being dressed at all for that matter. She has a charming habit of ripping them off, destroying the nappy and spreading its sodden contents all over my apartment—every hour. Even a velcroed diaper cover didn’t keep them on her. My determined little Houdini, managed to remove the diaper–while leaving the cover on–in a move not unlike yanking a tablecloth out from under the table setting or removing your bra through one sleeve without taking off your shirt.

That’s my girl.

I’m just now realizing how my life has been altered since my apartment became the equivalent of a canine nursing home. I’m reluctant to invite friends over, my kitchen counter has become a diaper prep station, and conversations about tango have been replaced by the physical woes of my scruffy, aging pup.

Last week I bumped into a friend in the hardware store. I was buying Goo Gone and Gorilla Tape, provisions for my baby-diaper-to-doggie-diaper conversion. My friend asked if I was doing some home repair. I told him that Tingri was incontinent and it was less expensive to convert baby diapers than buy expensive dog diapers. I went into great detail explaining how I cut a hole for her tail, reinforced that hole with strips of Gorilla Tape, and then cleaned my gunked up scissors with Goo Gone every two or three diapers. He just stared. “You know Nancy, you could have just told me you were doing some home repair,” he said.

I also dance less, though every now and then I do take a break (which may be more of an escape) to head to a milonga for a much-needed change of scenery and for the chance to slip into that blissful dancing meditation that tango can be. Even then, Tingri is always in my thoughts. Whether I nuzzle my partner’s neck, or give him a couple of swift pets in praise of a dance well done, or wonder what kind of a mess I’ll find when I get home, she is with me. I often leave the dance early—even before the stroke of midnight to head home and check on her.

Tingri and I made a contract fourteen-and-a-half years ago. I promised to love and care for her and she promised me nothing. I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it and cannot imagine my days without her.

Here’s to you Tingri, with all my love.  My best girl.

Tingri adjusted

Copyright © Nancy Green 2015

Sandy Don’t Dance

The morning of Sandy, while I was out doing some end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it provision shopping, I passed by Giovanni D’Italia, our beloved shoe repair shop.

I asked Nick why on earth he was open?  Were they expecting a flood of emergency shoe repair issues?  A run on waterproofing supplies?

He looked at me and in earnest said, “Some people need their dance shoes.”

Well yes, some people do.  And as we would soon see, some people would need their hip boots and waders. Including all at Giovanni D’Italia, who found themselves under water, as most of Hoboken did that day.

I am one of the very fortunate.  My street does not flood…yet.  My home is on its foundation.  No lives lost.  No looming insurance nightmares.  But no power for a week.  It was like camping…indoors.

After five days, the charm had worn off and I had some options.  A place to go where the lights were on and somebody was home.

I was conflicted about bailing on Hoboken though.  About missing the volunteer and communal opportunities.  And the free food.  To which my best friend, who is one of the flooded weary said, “So what.  I’d leave if I could.”

And so, by candlelight I packed a bag that included my dog, external hard drives, hair care products, survivor’s guilt and my tango shoes.  For you never know when a tango opportunity will present itself.  With a quarter of a tank of gas I fled for higher ground to my family in Massachusetts.

Dancing would have to wait until the waters receded, tunnels were pumped out and New York was turned back on.  And as I write this, our PATH train, one month later, is still out of service.  Indefinitely.

In exodus, in a lit and heated home, I spent all of my time and data allowance on Twitter trying to get a grasp as to what happened to New York and New Jersey when Sandy came to town.  I’m sure that I was quite tedious to be around.

One of the signs that one is becoming a tango addict is that one could turn any conversation to tango within two minutes.

I found that I could turn any conversation to Sandy within one.

When the coast was clear, and I did not need a flotation device to cross town, I returned to clean up and pitch in where I could.

And so, accompanied by battery powered Pugliese, I listened to tango music while I scrubbed my flooded friend’s defrosted fridge.  By headlamp.

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green