Wednesday, September 3, 2008

80 kilos = 176.4 pounds?

I have a good friend in tango who is one of the best followers in Toronto. If there is anyone who is truly "Milonguera" here, it would be her.

All the leaders that have had the privilege of dancing with her know what I am talking about when I say that she is one of the best followers. But does she care that she is one of the best followers in Toronto? Does she mentally replay all the lovely compliments that she receives from the people she dances with and the people who observe her dancing? Does she lie in bed awake at night thinking about where she is ranked on the fabulous echelon of great dancers in Toronto? Does she even read this blog religiously to see whether we have mentioned her name in the context of "great following" or "great dancing"? Does she even care she is "Milonguera" or not?

Actually, no. Therein lies her secret.

She started to learn tango around the same time that Man Yung and I started. Although she felt immediate love and affinity for Tango music, she has never done more or less than any normal, sane person trying to learn the tango in learning how to tango.

Sure, she took some group classes, and maybe a handful of private classes when she was a beginner - but she has never shelled out thousands of dollars for private classes week after week for years from the top instructors. She doesn't attend every single milonga and practica available, and when she does appear at a milonga, she dances only a few good tandas with the best leaders - and enjoys all of them. She has been to Buenos Aires (once), but she didn't take classes from morning to evening every single day and then burn herself out by staying at the milongas until 5 a.m. in the morning every single night. She doesn't have a thousand pairs of tango shoes. She rarely watches tango videos on Youtube, and she doesn't read tango blogs (even when I send her links). She has no idea who Rick McGarrey is, and couldn't care less. She enjoys tango music, but neither the music nor the dance are all-consuming obsessions for her. She has no desire to be DJ, instructor, performer or to become any sort of authority on either the dance or the music. She has a well-balanced life outside of tango - in fact, in living her day-to-day life, she actually has great long moments in which she is not thinking about tango at all (GASP! HORROR!)

Yet, despite all this and despite not having previous dance training/superior alien DNA-infused genetic makeup/Argentinian ancestry etc., my friend is a beautiful tango dancer. That's because when she dances tango, ALL of her dances tango. And when I mean ALL, I mean not an iota more, and not an iota less.

"Not an iota less": This means she is not thinking about who to dance with next, whether she looks good in her outfit today, what she is going to do on the weekend, whether or not to invest in that particular RRSP, etc.

"Not an iota more" (and this is the tricky one): This means she is not thinking of what she should do in the dance to make herself more impressive, more elegant, more stylish, more musical, more "milonguera/tanguera". She is not thinking about about what adornments she should nor should not do, in fact, she is not even thinking about her feet. She is not thinking about adopting any currently chic embrace or fashion or idealogy just so she can appear more "authentic" or "legitimate" in anyone's eyes. She is not thinking about dancing like Samantha/Geraldine/Andrea/Corinna/Milena/Eugenia/Villa Urquiza/Villa Devoto/Nuevo Tango/Nueva Pompeya/Barracas/Boedo/Lanus/Retiro whoever or whatever, and it would not make her any less tango if she did not have to fantasize about emulating someone else's style.

Here's an excerpt from a documentary "El último bandoneón" (The Last Bandoneón) by Alejandro Saderman. In this excerpt, you can also find examples of tango dancing by three women who dance with their "ALL": Margarita, Lidia and Ofelia.

This is priceless:

Javier Rodriguez: "Dancing with women like them is something different. It's not because they weigh 80 kilos. They don't weigh 80 kilos... they are 80 kilos... of tango."

For women like Margarita, Lidia, Ofelia, and my good friend, whether 80 kilos (or 50 kilos, or 150 kilos) equals 176.4 pounds is completely irrelevant. The real question is the question of being. When these women dance, they ARE tango.


Anonymous said...

Amen! No one believes me when I tell them to stop taking so many classes and just dance. Tango is not about being technically perfect (like ballet must be), but about being fully present.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Johanna,

I agree, while classes are beneficial, they become a distraction if the dancer is focusing too much on what he or she thinks they should be regurgitating from the classes on the dance floor. Don't even get me started on people who think that they are great dancers solely on the basis of how many private classes they have taken and with whom. If that was the case perhaps we should choose dance partners solely on the basis of their resumes? It would be an interesting alternative to the cabeceo!

Thanks for your comment!

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