When people compliment us on our dancing, I say "Thank you very much!" and also this: "But you haven't seen us fighting!"
Our Tango journey has been a VERY difficult one. We're surprised we haven't killed each other by now, since we both know how to use weapons (and can improvise if weapons of choice are not handy). Man Yung used to write big "X's" on the calendar every day we got into an argument. It kind of looked like this (BUT MUCH ANGRIER):
We are still semi-angry to this day and can't look back and laugh about it even though in retrospect we were fighting about really stupid trivial stuff like "Steps" and "How to embrace" and "Lead and Follow". It's only a dance, for God's sake!
OK, maybe I shouldn't have made such a big fuss over stupid Tango things (but I also say Man Yung shouldn't have overreacted!). Luckily and through much perseverance, we weathered the storm(s) and now the urge to murder has gradually been displaced by the happier urge to dance. Here are some of the things that almost triggered Tango Armageddon - oh how silly they are now!:
1. Man Yung's posture didn't remotely look like the posture of the Tango dancers in Tango X 2
This was before the Campeonato and its Tango Salon/Tango de la Pista clones in suits - I too was once mesmerized by the sight of macho Argentinos (the Zottos and the Misses) as straight as pins in sharp suits and gomina-slicked hair, executing razor sharp turns and spins to the tune of Cafe Dominguez.
Why can't Man Yung look as good in a suit? Why are his legs and body all bendy instead of straight and twisting me in awkward direction all the time? Why can't he dance exactly like Zotto/Missee and why can't we also look all elegant and detached doing pretend social dancing at a pretend a milonga on a stage?
Boy am I glad we didn't go that route because then we would have joined the Tango Borg! The big machinery of Tango Championship has been churning out so many identical looking and dancing "winners" over the past few years honestly we can't tell which couple from which and judging from the increasingly "meh" reaction all over the Tango-verse dancers don't really care any more. Standardized Championship Tango is not something we want to dance - the more we dance, the more we like just being ourselves and expressing ourselves in our own way, as imperfect as we may be.
2. Steps, steps and more steps
I used to wish that the internet connection would break down so Man Yung won't be able to learn any more steps. Every week he would be trying something new. Even in the middle of the night he would sometimes wake me up and want to try yet another new combination ("But I have to go to work tomorrow!!!" I would protest). I couldn't keep up and I thought we looked silly tripping over our feet attempting yet more new stuff in the milonga.
"Can't we just play it safe and like, keep it simple?" I would beg. "Manolo said dance no more than ten different steps at a milonga, but you are dancing like a hundred!"
But no, Man Yung's brain is not wired that way and more and more steps we certainly did do. I can say now that "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" - and voila! Dancing with Man Yung for me as a follower is like dancing with everybody in the world at the same time. I could dance with anyone and it would be a cakewalk!
On the flip side I am now terribly bored if I have to dance with someone who does less than a million steps. If I get to dance with a gentleman like this I go back to the table and say exasperated to Man Yung, "He only knows three/four/five steps and he did them over and over and over again for the ENTIRE TANDA!" I'm sorry guys, if I agreed to dance with you you must be a lovely dancer, but because of Man Yung I have a very low threshold of tolerance for repeating sequences. I even get bored if Man Yung doesn't have something new that week.
3. Dancing with Man Yung on an unruly dance floor filled with inconsiderate dancers = 95% chance of Man Yung wanting to kick someone's ass
When Man Yung's mom heard that we were going out to dance Tango, she disapproved. "Those dance places are full of hoodlums! You don't want to go to these dangerous places!"
Ha ha we thought, Man Yung's mom doesn't know anything about Tango. It's only filled with docile middle-aged folk swaying mellowly to the music and not causing any trouble!
But of course she was right and we were wrong. Tango is filled with many over-the-hill, selfish, show-off hoodlums. In their quest to do their solo exhibition or super-impress their partners they jostle the people around them and fire off kicks and boleos in all directions.
Man Yung would get pretty ruffled when such folk would tailgate us, cut us off, charge into our space or deliberately dance into a very physically threatening manner. I would try to pacify or reason with him. "They haven't kicked us yet!" I may say, or, if they have kicked us and have sheepishly apologized, "At least they said sorry!"
"I have a responsibility to protect you on the dance floor," said Man Yung. "I am not going to wait until you get gouged in the shins to do something proactive. 'Sorry' does not excuse this kind of reckless dancing, I'm going to stop it before it happens!"
You know what, getting kicked or stepped on the dance floor hurts. If you get slashed or stomped by those dirty, germy, flying stilettos or heels, the bruises may fade but the scars might stay forever on your calves and feet.
I have thought about it...Man Yung has a lot of self control considering the numbers of really crazy out of control dancers we have encountered on the dance floor over the years. If I was a leader, there would be a lot more broken noses (in fact, I want to break some noses now, but Man Yung is restraining me).
4. Man Yung offers too much unsolicited advice
I used to hate it when Man Yung offered "constructive criticism" of my dancing. It was super irritating to be trying to dance and having someone say to me "You're going too fast!" or "You are dancing without emotion!" or "You have to do this step like this!"
I would dig in my heels and plug my ears and of course, do exactly opposite of the said advice.
In my wiser middle-age, I am starting to understand the value of good advice. If someone loves you, they will tell you honestly what's wrong so you can improve. If someones doesn't give a shit about you, they will let you keep on doing the stupid things you are doing (and even encourage you) until you dig yourself into a hole that you will not be able to dig out of. Man Yung's advice comes from a good place! Made me a better person (and a better dancer).
5. Man Yung is dancing with every lady in the room - except his own wife
Actually, this isn't something that bothered me - it was something that bothered Osvaldo and Coca!
"Irene!" Osvaldo and Coca would say. "Where is Man Yung? What? Why is Man Yung dancing with that lady? Why isn't he dancing with you!!!?!"
"But of course Man Yung must dance with the ladies. They are more beautiful and better dancers than me!" I replied chirpily.
Osvaldo and Coca would roll their eyes and stare daggers at Man Yung when he came back to the table.
Osvaldo and Coca (and Martha and Manolo, and Alberto and Paulina) have been in Tango so long, they know about all those going-ons between men and women in Tango. In their experience, Tango Lotharios are dancing with all the ladies because they are on the prowl for their next sexual conquest. Men (and Women!) are not to be trusted! You got to keep you jealous eye on your partner!
The longer they know Man Yung the more they understand Man Yung and know it is ok. Unlike quite a few leaders in Tango, Man Yung is only interested in dancing Tango and not anything else. He isn't dancing Tango with the pretty young ladies because dancing is the only way for an old guy to get close to them (and maybe chat them up). He isn't dancing with the voluptuous ladies to feel them up (and maybe to flirt with them). He is dancing with all the ladies - young and old and of all sizes and shapes - because he just wants to dance Tango.
"When I am dancing Tango and in the music, the furthest thing from my mind is sex," says Man Yung. "I WISH I could think about sex while dancing Tango, but it is impossible. This just shows, you can't have everything that you want!"
Martha's Apartment in Buenos Aires
A Non-exhaustive set of Tango links in Toronto
- La Cachila - weekly milonga
- Paradiso -- weekly milonga
- Practica El Beso
- WE Tango
- Tango Sur - classes, shows
- Rhythm and Motion - classes, milonga, practica, annual Toronto Tango Festival
- Tango Obsession - classes, weekly Practica La Coqueta
- Tango Lirico - classes, practica, weekly milonga
- Tango de Oro - classes, shows
- Tango Soul Productions - classes, weekly milonga, shows, El Congreso annual Tango Festival
- Vivatango - classes
- Tango Argentino - classes
- Club Milonga - classes, special events
- Alternatango - classes, weekly milonga
- University of Toronto Tango Club - classes, practica
- El Abrazo - classes
- Tangoloft - twice monthly milonga