My tango desert continued thru Dec and January-holiday activities followed by the flu, which took all of January. I began teaching ballroom and tango again at church but haven’t been back to PDX. A week ago Takeshi – a 19 yr old young man from Japan – arrived for a two month homestay. I didn’t know him before -not at all really. But almost three years ago I visited Japan and his boarding school. He remembered me, got my email from his former English teacher and began writing me a few months ago asking “Can I have homestay with you?” I couldn’t think of a reason not to welcome him, having been the recipient of amazing hospitality myself on so many occasions. In the first week we’ve gotten him registered in English class three days a week, found some great jeans at a great price at Ross, and ordered him some cheap dance shoes for when I drag him to Valentango tomorrow. He’s never danced….ever. But he’ll look great because today we got him a nice haircut! We opted out of tango tonight, changing our plans. I think he was a little disappointed but I was tired and really wanted to see the opening of the Olympics and just relax. Tomorrow we’ll spend most of the day at the festival and he’ll be immersed in the tango world, another great adventure which he’s looking forward to. We’ll hook up with family members for dinner at the Observatory in PDX, a favorite place for our family and a real American experience for Takeshi. It’s great having him here, but I confess I’d forgotten how much work and how intense it is to have a young one around all the time, especially if you are working full time. It’s tricky! Now he’s naturally pretty dependent on me…but hopefully that will change by and by. Today he had a good success that way as he rode the bus from school to downtown and found his way to my office. Oh, and he’s made food for himself three times already, and washed his clothes once! He’s a good kid . . .but can he dance? Time will tell.
My tango life has been a desert for months–ie: not much dancing for me. Two reasons principally: no more cartilage left in the left hip and, 2. it’s a long, long drive up to PDX—yes, I know some do this daily–one hr each way–but to drive 2 plus hrs depending on traffic to dance for two hrs–when you’ve worked 9-12 hrs….it’s a challenge in these days for moi! SO yesterday, when I finally made it up to Dance With Joy studio to take a class on dancing Piazolla, listen to an amazing lecture on the history of tango and then dance a bit at the milonga—ahhh….a long and deep drink from the tango well! Of course that is a drink that just makes one thirsty for more, yes? Many thanks to Fabian Salas, who I met for the first time but enjoyed tremendously in the film Tango Lesson. Fabian is an excellent, very clear teacher and quite humble, really. One can imagine being a long-time friend with such a person…and yes, with his amazing and ever-smiling, laughing partner and spouse, Lola. I bought all his dvds so I can continue to study with this one, very possibly one of the best living tango teachers we have. He’s certainly a treasure.
Last December when I was in the midst of Christmas gift collecting for my 8 grown kids, their partners and my dozen grandkids…I hoped for some opportunities to give experiences instead of things. Most of us have an abundance of things and not much room for more. It was then the White Bird Holliday specials popped up in my Inbox! And there on my laptop a radiant and irresistible invitation beckoned: Che Malambo- 14 gorgeous Argentinian men….DANCING! But to which child could I give this gift of a marvelous, testosterone infused performance accompanied by moi? Who would love It as much as I knew I would? I collected Juliet at 5:45 and headed for the Observatory for a yummy supper con vino before the show. Once fortified we set off with bubbling with anticipation, after all we’d waited for nearly four months for the day to arrive. And now we were here….settled in our seats, close enough to see facial expressions but distant enough to catch full company designs. Lights down…curtain opens and there they were….stretched out across the stage–all in black shirts and pants and black heeled dance shoes…each with a drum slung across his chest….VaVoom! They began drumming and dancing and dancing and drumming…..and so it went , energy flashing, sweat spraying from their long locks as heads turned…! And on they danced, never dropping the intensity until the final bow! Then the audience on their feet, shouting and clapping until the dancers were coaxed into “otra!” One more….please and thank you. And what is Malambo? It is a kind of folk dance—somewhat related to flamenco—but not flamenco. It comes from the Argentinian gaucho and is a competition dance. Many movements are similar to tango boleos, but many are simply folk dance type movements inspired by the gaucho, the Argentinian cowboy. There was singing too–with guitar and drum…and dancing similar to an Argentinian folk dance called Zamba…..and there was an amazing series of displays of bolas, Argentinian gaucho balls attached to ropes traditionally used by gauchos for hunting. But here a single ball (leather and hard about the size of a small tennis ball) was attached to a rope and swing at the dancers side making a whirring sound and a visual design in the air. One dancer with one ball whirring, then two…then many dancers at once…with one and two balls whirring at each side…and furious dancing at the same time….How do they do that!!!! Incredible! I was so pumped after dropping Julie back home I had to dance myself–so off to the milonga I went….only danced two tandas but they were lovely…..so lovely I returned again tonight and was well rewarded for my effort. I enjoyed a most splendid milonga set with my best milonga partner: Sonia….and after a couple of okay sets, danced with a visitor to PDX, Raj….I hadn’t planned on this–and was already in my street shoes so pivoting was not happening well—but towards the end of the tanda he took me into close embrace and the connection was perfect….subtle, fluid…sweet indeed. What a delightful surprise gift. Arrived at daughter Hope’s 20min later more tired than I have been in a while….the best kind of tired……the kind you seek again tomorrow. That’s tango. Happy tango.
I have a new job, albeit temporary and that is definitely one of the best things about it. It is a good job and will help me along my financial way, but it’s outside PDX by at least an hour and a full half hour more to my daughter’s place in Vancouver WA. So, I am a little isolated with no tango here in the state capital that I have yet been able to find. Alas. So my dancing days are limited for a while…maybe for another 10-12 months. Meanwhile my aging body has developed some arthritis which is also proving to be a bit limiting. Stretching and jumping on my cellerciser are helping, and acupuncture. And avoiding caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, gluten….oh my! Lots of changes to incorporate. But how I do miss dancing several times a week. One saving grace is I have been teaching in my church once a week–that’s something at least. I enjoy it–but it’s not a good substitute for a milonga experience. My prayer today is for less pain and more dancing.
“No, you’re the best!” “No, you are the best!” And back and forth, back and forth we exclaimed our deep and enthusiastic appreciation for the milonga set we’d just finished and then tumbled into laughter. My return to the tango floors of PDX after a long hiatus was a joy-filled reunion with lots of tandas and re-connecting with old tango friends. Happy happy tango indeed!
Only one thing missing: my best all time partner, who has, sadly, been absent for more than three years. I ask: can there be another lead for me with that deep and beautiful a connection? The kind where your intuitions merge into oneness and your bodies almost as well? Nothing sexual ever…..but such a connection I’d give a lot to find once more. Bliss on the dance floor. Beautiful, beautiful bliss.
So here I am in Scottsdale doing a three day interim ministry training(IMT)….and don’t you just know that means sitting for hours on end and being boored as the sessions drone on. Ugh! So happy me to find there’s a practica tonight! Whoo hoo! But fearing I might slip and fall, I decided to run out in my rented car at the lunch break to find a pair of cheap ballet slippers as I’d been unable to find my dance shoes in my over stuffed trunk at 4 am in the rain before n anxious rush at leaving PDX in an anxious rush 4 days ago! They were more expensive than I expected but I reasoned a broken hip would be a bit more costly, and smiled at my clever and wise choice. I looked up the Phoenix Tango calendar, noted the address and scurried off after the evening session, hoping to get in 60-90 min of tango. But alas, when arriving at my destination I became confused! All I could see was a Navaho School surrounded by chain-link fence and only a couple cars out front. Gladys, the little woman in my phone, kept telling me I had arrived, and I kept wanting that to be true. But it wasn’t–no matter how many times I checked with the night custodian or drove around and around–there was no practica there, What to do? The time was passing and my disappointment was rising like molten lava in the center of a volcano…….Finally I stopped he car and called Mike, my son-in law and asked him to check the Phoenix Calendar again for me–he din, even reported the address again–and tt was the same I had noted: 4525……OKAY! I give up–and begin to drive back up the road. But when I come to a service station I stop and go into the little store and ask—“I’ll look it up,” he says.” And–he does. I say “Look up “Holy Grounds Coffee House,” cuz Mike said that’s in the same building. Then I see–the address is 44, not 45! I thank the nice young man and drive back the way I’d come, passing the Navaho school and slowing to see the address is the local UCC church. Ha! The tango practica is held in the UCC! Great. I park and go in. It’s now 10 pm but the website says they go to 10:30. But when I enter the room, there are just 4 people–and they are clearly packing up tp go. “Oh No!” I whine, “You’re not leaving! I have been looking for you for 45 minutes!” One couple is not tempted to linger—they’re off. But the organizers stay and I dance with Rose of Sharon and Bob with a Z. First Bob–then Sharon–I have fun–enjoy–but so so sad that only 4-5 min of dancing is all I could get. On the other hand–whoopee! I’m so glad I kept looking–now I have 2 more tango friends–and yes, I did get my heart rate uo a bit!
That’s what she expressed enthusiastically, sharing high fives with both hands as the milonga set ended….me reciprocating with “Yes….we win!” The exuberance of our dance carrying our spirits upward into the air as we savoured those moments. But what means that expression: “We win!” I’m laughing as I ask myself this question because it’s impossible to explain in words. Of course, I’ll try. For me it means we danced our best dance possible at this time, technically precise and artistically connected to the music and one another’s dance. It means we shared a dance epiphany of sorts, we found newness in well known movement patterns, while also somehow expanding our own dance vocabulary. It means this entire milonga—-this four hour period of time devoted to dancing tango, was worth every moment, because every moment was captured in that one set we just completed, a culmination of sorts, of many years of classes and practicas. I remember that when I was first learning tango, I heard stories of older masters, men usually, who’d go to the milonga and dance only one, two or maybe three times the whole evening which extended for four or five hours or longer. Now, many years later, I finally get it. When we are first learning we want to dance every dance….even feeling if we don’t we have missed an opportunity or have even failed somehow. But when we finally arrive to a level of (perhaps not of mastery-that’s too arrogant) but efficiency or confidence perhaps, dancing every set is no longer the point. What is? I think now -after 12 years of classes and five trips to BsAs, for me the point is to dance my own dance with honesty, integrity and above all: gratitude and joy!