I’m sheltering in place at my daughter’s home in Palm Springs, unable to get back home. Happily there’s Alexa who, when asked, will shuffle and play songs from a favorite tango band-Otros Ailes. “Alexa, play Otros Aires band,” I say loud and clear. The music fills the air and at once my spirit lifts, then my feet and the dancing begins. No worries that I have no partner here, only two small dogs I’m watching until my daughter returns. I dance anyway, as I have since I was very young. I dance because doing so makes me happy, invites me to be in cinc with the music, invites me to smile and just be. Plus, I’m moving and not just sitting. My daughter Hope has a sign on her kitchen wall: “This Kitchen is for dancing.” Well done, Hope! I raised you right!
I saw that film recently, the one about Mr Rogers. It wasn’t so much about his long-running TV show for children as it was about the way he lived his own life . . . and that was beautiful as well as deeply moving. Fred Rogers created community wherever he was by the way he opened his heart to others and truly appreciated each soul he encountered. He lived out of an attitude of compassion and gratitude. We need that sort. We need more of that sort in the world just now. Like we need a felt sense of community. In Buenos Aires this is found in “my barrio,” whichever one one claims or lives in. It’s there one goes in an an evening milonga to see friends we know and respect and love. It’s where we are known, respected and loved. Being there feels like home even if we don’t know all the players, when enough acknowledge us, embrace us with their smiles as well as their arms, we know we belong. I almost didn’t stop at the Sunday afternoon practica today as I would be very late with only an hour or so left after visiting coffee hr after church and the art museum after that with my beloved niece. But tossing caution and reason aside, I did stop and found a beautiful day in my barrio. I haven’t danced much of late and didn’t expect much, but was warmly welcomed and affirmed by several sincere souls. “It’s good to see you out, we need to see you more often, let me give this lady a hug hello, I need to dance with you soon . . . ” All this and I didn’t even get to dance a milonga tanda! I’m inspired and encouraged by my beautiful day.
I for one will be glad to see this year come to a close. It’s been a tough one for sure. From the very beginning a string of illnesses and injuries-mine and those of close family and friends- has interfered with the dancing. As 2020 looms in the near future, my health has mostly returned to normal, save a lingering cold. My family members are all recovered but some friends, one in particular who is also part of the tango community, is still in recovery from a terrible car accident. It wasn’t her fault, but she’s suffered a complete life altering because of someone else’s mistake. It’s been over four months since she’s been able to work so her business has come to a halt and her resources nearly depleted. While I continue to pray for her complete healing I find myself profoundly grateful to have healed nearly completely from my terrible fall last October. On my way to dance at the Portland Tangofest, I tripped on an uneven place in the sidewalk and took the worst fall of my life, hitting the concrete sidewalk hard with my face. I took the brunt of the fall above my left eye which was swollen shut soon after I arrived at emergency. CT scans revealed a fracture in the orbital bone but fortunately no surgery was required. However, it would be many weeks before all the swelling and bruising dissipated. I looked truly hideous for a while and just stayed home. I returned to dance shortly before the Thursday Norse Hall milonga celebrated it’s 10th year and last milonga ever. Wow. I really hated to see that one close. But, change is always happening, all around us. We can count on that for sure… and a new Thursday milonga opens in 2020 in a new location. I write today from Fresno where I am enjoying the holidays with family. While there’s not much tango here, everyone in this family dances-at the drop of a tune! Even the youngest, baby Oliver, just one year old! He’s the best dancer ever, moving and shaking at the first hint of music. That’s my baby! Can’t wait to see what kind of dancer he becomes as he grows up! Noe, my eight yr old grandson, in heavy into Polynesian dance! Delightful! So, looks like 2020 is likely to hold plenty of dancing, maybe even more tango for Mema! Bring it on!
Takashi arrived February 1 and left today, April 3 at 6 a.m., one minute ago! Among a few new things he is taking dance shoes; shoes to dance Argentine Tango in. I was able o get him to two tango classes and two milongas, one at the Valentango and one at Wed evening at the Norse ballroom. Plus, he attended my Sunday evening dance class at the church once and learned the box step and the basics of swing. While I wouldn’t call him a natural exactly, Takeshi did learn quickly. Now, if he wants, he can continue back home. I doubt he will, but one never knows. We were up at 3:30 a.m. to leave by 4 and get him checked in–A few blocks from the Holden’s, where we stayed overnight nearer the airport, he said he thought he may have left his wallet behind….but wasn’t sure. It was too late to go back–so we didn’t as he assured me he had money in a separate place. I agreed to mail the wallet if I find it. His last words were: “I’ll come back.” I think he’s like to do that–maybe study for a year or two here. But I think I spoiled him–as I covered all his expenses while he was here, including his food. And, being 19 and a growing boy, my food bill more than doubled the last two months. He checked his guitar….more comfortable he said. Sadly he never did play it for me–always practiced in his room when I was at work. He always chose long driving trips to ask me deep or hard questions like: what’s the meaning of life? and What does the Bible mean to you? Or, if we were the same age, what kind of relationship would we have? He is one interesting young man……! Safe travels, Takeshi!
They were here in PDX….well, there in PDX–now an hour’s drive for me as I’m temporarily in Salem. So, as Takeshi had plans for the evening and my dear Sonia was planning to go–so did I. What a wonderful and uplifting evening! Aah, the music!! I was blessed with two tandas with Sonia–great and fun milonga sets….and a lovely tanda with a favorite young guy. A few other tanda’s filled the evening so I stayed to the end and then went to Sonia’s to sleep and drive back early next day. Felt like old times–an old times I have really missed. Next day the left hip was quite sore, but I managed okay and got back to exercising. I first saw this band in Canada several years ago–then in Bs As and now, years later, they have found their unique voice. A great sound and a joy to hear. Now I am enjoying their cds.
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.