Tango Photo: Daniel Käsmayr, Artwork: Jalita Aspelin
I used to dance Argentine Tango. A lot. I’ve been dancing for more than 8 years and it used to be the factor that decided which city I would move to. I started in Paris, the mecca of Tango in Europe. I’ve been there. In the obsession of having to dance every single day. Taking 12+ hours of classes per week. Walking hours on straight lines on the floor. Perfection the position and angle of my feet for aesthetic beauty.
I’ve had those feelings, so strong that I couldn’t continue to dance anymore. After 3 days in a Tango Marathon where you dance almost non-stop for days with the same people. The energy you build up and in the end. The body and feet are so tired that the only thing keeping you dancing is that energy that’s more alive than ever. When all the other layers have been stripped down naked. In that sense, Tango can actually be quite similar to Yoga. Just that it can take 3+ days and perhaps 30h of dancing before reaching that sensation. And sometimes it doesn’t happen.
Tango people are brave. Especially travelling Tango Marathon people. We spend a lot of money, time and strength to maybe chase a 10 minutes dance with one person. Checking airline tickets to be able to come back to the office on a Monday morning. Sleep? Naa maybe next week. Really mind over body to somehow an extreme. There is a lot of outside factors to get there, to reach that bliss. The event, the people, the setting, the music, everything has to be right. The shoes, dress, hair, have I eaten? How do I feel? We are not always in the mood for “connecting”.
There are so many things that have to be right. Then there is always a lot of competition. Not maybe competition but as a woman, there are 90% of the times more women than men. Even in balanced Tango events. Other women who are better dancers, more slim, beautiful and who are also on the “hunt”. Sometimes going to a milonga feels a little bit like in the jungle. Everyone want their piece and sometimes it can be messy.
There are no boundaries for what you are searching for and I’ve even seen some pretty serious competition between women and men. Maybe you will find your favourite dancer from yesterday. But then he might have found someone else this night. So you need to find a new one. Constantly changing, often disappointments and sometimes pure heaven. I’d say it’s a lot of effort. So much effort in the “outside” to eventually reach that energy on the inside.
As much as I love Tango, the music, the feelings, the strength in the legs and the feet. Beauty, elegance, unity and energy. It can also be tiring sometimes. Tiring because of expectations. Tiring because we all are on such a different journey. Tiring to constantly connect and share with other people.
Sometimes this is fine, sometimes I don’t want to share, don’t have enough to give. But also the need to take and get energised from others. For most people, Tango is perceived as something difficult to master. Wild passion in red and black and love between two people. It’s actually quite different from those passionate theatre posters.
Social tango is less theatrical and more about movement, energy and connection. Tango is actually not that difficult, the steps are fairly easy. What is difficult is to become aware of your body, your posture and movements. And then be able to manipulate them to work in harmony with your partner. And even if you are fully connected, the other person is maybe not, so the dance will be “broken” and missed.
What I don’t like with Tango is that there are so many things that need to be right for you to get the same things out of it. Some teachers may argue that it all depends on ourselves and you can have great dances with all kinds of people. That actually does not work for me. Either I feel it, or I don’t.
Pretending to be in a state just doesn’t do it for me. Even if I were to concentrate only on myself and sensations, I would see it as almost “rude” to my partner. Like dancing with a doll, not paying attention to the other person. Too many dependencies in the equation. And I’ve stopped that, dancing “just to be kind” and sociable. If I don’t get out what I want from it, I’d rather not dance.
Maybe it’s about me being older knowing more what I want from life. Maybe I’ve become spoiled. After so long time it becomes harder to experience the same kind of joy I used to have. Because I want more, “just enough” is not sufficient. The people I truly enjoy dancing with are not that many anymore. More importantly, they are very far. I do miss travelling for tango sometimes, that special friendship and feeling of adventure what feelings you will encounter in the weekend. So perhaps tango has become a bit exclusive. And I don’t want to start over again from the beginning.
We all have our journey, I’ve done mine so I want to evolve, not go back. Maybe it’s me, I want more out of life. I still love Tango, the music and that feeling will never go away. But I need more, I need to feel that more often, even if not so strong, more often. And maybe with some easier logistics. Maybe I don’t have to travel around the world to look for that person who will help me to feel that. Maybe I can achieve it by myself?
The Yoga shadow
As described in earlier posts, I was quite young attending my first yoga classes. As with Tango, I think it takes a long time before exploring Yoga fully, maybe even longer. I’ve always liked yoga, but I wasn’t passionate about Yoga. I envied people who were. I guess maybe there was not enough place in my life at that time.
Yoga is actually a good complementary activity to Tango. Most dancers do a terrible job stretching and taking care of their bodies. It was Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga that first got me into some of those Yoga sensations. I’m not sure if it’s was the cold weather, the early mornings or the reawakening of the body by sweating all out.
So here I am. A former Tango addict who has transformed into a yogi. How did that happen? I have always done some kind of yoga and it has kind of stayed with me. I realise that by practicing I get closer to myself and I get similar sensations as with Tango. Different though as I know I can get it every day and the only thing I need is my mat and myself. So it’s much easier to reach daily bliss. I also like the body and breathing aspect that connects to the soul.
In a good Yoga class with great music, you can definitely get that collective “breathing” feeling that I liked so much about Tango. I think Yoga gets to us all sooner or later in life. Therapy, physical conditions, prenatal yoga or for anxiety, older people, maybe that’s why I got so hooked, it’s very inclusive. I don’t say I’ll never dance again. I think it’s like with cycling, once you have learnt it’s there. I’d love to go travel in Europe and the States for Tango, meet new people and do other kinds of events. Why not a Tango/Yoga event?
Originally published at shivasdance.com on January 29, 2016.