Monday, June 1, 2009

Burn after watching

BREAKING NEWS: While surreptitiously trying to destroy videotape evidence of their tango dancing with the help of a few matches and a little gasoline, Irene and Man Yung accidentally set an entire city block on fire. More details on this story to follow on News at 11.

For most (normal) people, the experience of watching oneself stumble awkwardly on video in a laughable imitation of what is commonly recognized to be "Tango Argentino" - could be summed up in one word:


We are not even talking about body dimorphic disorders - thinking one looks too fat, or too skinny, or too short, or too tall, or too hairy, or not hairy enough - that's a whole other can of (trauma) worms.

It's only natural. In order to muster enough courage to actually dance tango in public (and not be completely paralyzed with embarrassment at one's own furtive and grotesque girations) a dancer must entertain some illusions about his or her own dance abilities.

It's the confrontation with reality that occurs in self video viewing that gives rise to THE HORROR. That is, the HORROR of discovering that one does not really dance like Eugenia or Geraldine or Andrea or Roberto or Javier or Julio or Chicho or any of the the deities in the pantheon of Tango Gods - but rather, more like oneself, be it "Fred Bloggs" or "Joe the Plumber".

The cringe-worthiness of all this makes most people want to reach for the flame thrower.

So why do we try to amass as much footage as possible of our dancing and film ourselves at every available opportunity?

- Is it because we look forward to watching videos of our tango dancing with glee - and emerge from the experience fully vindicated in our belief in our tango arch-superiority?

- Or do we take pleasure in its dreadfulness, and revel in the modern tango equivalent of masochistic medieval self-flagellation?

- Or perhaps we are planning to unleash our enormous secret cache of toxic video like a tango "dirty bomb" on an unsuspecting population to further our nefarious plans to rule the (tango) universe?

The answer is none of the above.

So what is the purpose of taking and watching so many of our own home-made tango videos? Videos made during the first year of tango, when I was sporting black ballroom shoes with every outfit I was wearing and Man Yung was wearing tweedledum pants with suspenders. Videos made during our second year of tango in which we would race around on the dance floor with all limbs straight like we were doing a tango goosestep, trying to imitate the performers on Solo Tango video clips. Videos made during the month when Martha and Manolo visited Toronto in 2006, when we took all 52 hours of classes that they scheduled, and our feet hurt so much I was dancing in ugly flat shoes and Man Yung was dancing in kung-fu slippers. Videos of us doing amazing steps that we can't remember how to do anymore. Videos of us dancing badly. Videos of us dancing well. Videos of us dancing tango in our underwear. Videos of us dancing tango in down jackets and scarves. Videos of us laughing. Videos of us arguing so intensely our faces were turning all shades of white, black and red.

We didn't take months of private classes, prepare a storyboard, dress to the nines and hire a camera crew and a skillful editor - just so the bestest and the brightest bits of us would be captured for prosperity . The videos may be mundane, or boring, or stupid, or awkward, or embarrassing (and have enormous blackmail potential) - but there's one thing that they all have in common. They all contain the TRUTH.

We have learned that it's fine to be continually shocked at what we once thought was "ok" or "quite good" - indeed, we would be much more concerned if the film of yesterday did not make us squirm with embarassment today. The changes in our perception and judgment is a gauge of how far we have travelled. The videos show us in our tango evolution.

Our constant self-confrontation, self-scrutiny, and ultimately, self-acceptance is turning out to be more effective kind of "burning" than any jolly videotape bonfire. We already find that the more we film, the more the camera is starting to disappear. And one day, perhaps we ourselves, our egos will be consumed - and nothing will be left on film but "Tango" itself.


Anonymous said...

Hahahhah, that's great. I think youtube is the worst thing to happen to beginner dancers, one's most awkward stage captured for posterity.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Jean-Pierre,

Au contraire - Youtube is the BEST thing that has happened to beginners! Now that every conceivable tango figure in the universe has been uploaded for public viewing, any beginner can quit expensive, boring and time-consuming classes and participate in free "Tango Distance Learning" courtesy of Youtube! Dance floors around the world have been undoubtedly enriched.

Thanks for your comment!

Irene and Man Yung

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