Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Tango Lesson

I still remember my first tango lesson. I felt timid at first about being so physically close to someone I barely knew, waiting for his leads and knowing I mustn’t even move without first feeling a nudge, or a turn, or an invitation from him. I waited on the tips of my toes, unsure of myself and what I was supposed to do, but excited by the newness of it all, like an eager pup sniffing out a strange new land. Even during that first lesson, I quickly became enveloped in the elegance, restraint, and subtleties of this beautiful dance, and my love was immediate. Since that first lesson over five years ago, I’ve danced tango all around the world and learned many things from my evolution in the dance. What I love about tango is its subtlety – in the arms of my partner, in the spaces between the dancers on the dance floor, in the silence between two notes in a song – those little spaces are where tango truly breathes and pulses with life. It isn’t through watching the showy performances of the maestros that one learns to dance tango; it’s in the little, intimate moments when you’re dancing with your partner, creating your own movements and improvisations, filling those spaces with yourself and not caring about who’s watching or what they might be thinking of you.

Tango is the poetry of the dance world, and like poetry, it is something that tends to come and go in my life by spells – sometimes I become utterly absorbed in it for months, and other times it won’t ignite the slightest interest in me for a while. For the last several months, I’ve been in the latter category, without any inclination to do any tango dancing at all. Then last week the thought of dancing tango suddenly sprouted in my mind and took root, and I decided that it’s time for me to explore Seattle tango. A tango dance, called a milonga, is like a daybreak – it’s either happy-full and hopeful, or pierced with doubt and needles of anxiety; it can go either way, depending on how you look at it. This past weekend, when I went to Red Tango milonga, it was a bit of both. I arrived feeling unsure of myself, thinking it’s been so long since I’ve danced tango, and I don’t know anyone here, and what if I make a mistake, and so on. I felt unanchored and nervous, flung out of my comfort zone. However, almost immediately the familiar sights and sounds of my favorite dance wrapped a comforting arm around my waist and reassured me that I can do this, reminding me that this is an art form I love. Feeling that old excitement again restored my confidence and helped me forget all about my worries. The DJ played various styles of electronic music, and I took my turns with several dancers, becoming part of the circle of bodies cutting slow trails around the dance floor. I felt lighter and more confident when I walked home after the milonga ended, like I had accomplished something real by pushing past my fear to the open expanse on the other side.

Now that I’ve danced again, I feel like I’ve been released of a continent. Like my very first tango lesson showed me, tango is my dance that has a way of transforming me after just one evening. Lesson learned: always keep dancing.