Friday, November 1, 2013

Tiger & Tango

Why is golf on television so popular?  Golf on television is the greatest inducement to an afternoon nap yet devised.  One guy after another hitting a ball with a stick to the hushed voices of the announcers is like counting sheep to a Brahms' lullaby.  So why the great interest?  People can relate and connect with their heroes.  Just like the kid shooting a basket and pretending he just won the championship game, adults like to imagine similar things. 

 As adults it is hard to connect with many sports heroes because one cannot relate to their activity.  Few of us will ever have the vertical leap to jam over Lebron, and even fewer have any desire or ability to run a football into the jaws of an NFL defense.  But many of us can go out on a golf course and feel that we are experiencing the same sensation as Tiger Woods.  Likewise, tango dancers are less likely to connect to ballet dancers because it is an activity that few can or want to do, but tangueros can relate to their heroes in the tango world because like the weekend duffer vis-à-vis Tiger Woods, the only difference between the new tango dancer and the top level performer is the quality of execution. 

 I suspect most golfers would jump at the opportunity to play a round with Tiger, just as most tangueros would love the opportunity to dance with their favorite dancer.  This is a story about one such night.

The Moment

As she settled into my arms, she comfortably moved into a close embrace, turned her head to the right and placed her cheek next to mine.  The connection was light but felt like it could not be broken.  The music started to flow into me and my body responded with slow movements, but something was different.  As I moved, she moved in perfect synchronicity with me, or should I say, with the music.  It was as though we were each being moved by the music and feeling the emotions of the composer.  I realized immediately that there was no feeling out period required with this woman.  We were straight into the dance and moments away from the zone.  As we moved I gave up all thoughts of steps, patterns or leads and let the music take over as the flow began.  I was aware of the texture of her skin on my face, her muscles contracting and relaxing, her breathing.  Normally when this close I can feel the woman’s heartbeat because it is usually racing, but this time I was only aware of one beating heart.  Had we just synched up so thoroughly?   I felt and sensed her in many ways; but the change started happening.  My vision blurred into an amber haze and I had no need to look where I am going because the floor had emptied, so we could just focus on the music and the dance.  I am not sure if my eyes were open or closed because I had sunk so deep into my mind that my only awareness was how she felt and the way she moved in my arms.  This woman is an artist.  While her technique is impeccable, what makes her an artist is that she has learned how to connect on another level.  Dancing with her is like being enveloped in a spirit that just moves with you like a shadow and imbues you with energy and allows your mind to free up and get in the flow and move into the zone where one can find the moment. 

When our brief dance was over, the room was going crazy with applause but we just looked at each other for a brief moment with that spaced out look that lovers share in afterglow.  Here we were in an old American Legion building, surrounded by pictures of young men getting ready to go off to wars long past, listening to music of Argentine composers long deceased, and it all came together for us for just a few moments, and yet those moments are what I live for.   Moments of connection.


The Back Story

About a year and a half ago I was teaching in Reno and “Forever Tango” came to town to perform at the Nugget for a week.  Being a poor tango teacher, I was not able to afford the ticket price, so I figured I would just have to hear about the great dancing from the rest of the tango community.  A group of locals decided to go to the show together and they announced that after the show they were going to try to go backstage and invite the cast to an impromptu milonga at the local American Legion Hall.  Like Cinderella, I figured I would not be going to that ball, so I went off to work knowing that classes would be pretty small since so many of my students were at the show.  I taught my classes and then hung around the studio feeling a bit low since classes were small and income was negligible.  It was about 11 pm when I left the studio for home.  Since the American Legion Hall was only a few blocks from my house I figured I would stop by and see if the locals had any luck getting some members of the cast to stop by, and if not maybe they would be dancing anyway and I might get a tanda or two.   

As I drove up to the hall there seemed to be light, so I figured I would stop in and see what was going on and at least hear about the show I could not see.  I walked in and was in for a couple of surprises.  A few fold up tables were put together length-wise and seated around the table on one side were about a dozen cast members and on the other side were the local dancers, and what were they doing?  Eating pizza and chatting. 

Now let me paint this picture.  As I entered the entire room went silent and stared at me like I was a homeless guy who stumbled into a posh party.  The cast was gorgeous with most still in stage makeup, and the locals were all dressed to the nines having been out for a big night on the town.  I on the other hand looked especially scruffy.  I have never been known for dressing up for class as I consider it an athletic activity, so I was wearing my usual work out pants and a shirt that was well wrinkled from a night of teaching ballet and tango.  So I was not only uncomfortable for being late to the party and dressed inappropriately, but the table was completely full and there were no open seats.  I quietly said hello to the table at large and skulked over to the refreshment table for a glass of much needed wine. 

As I stood by the refreshment table trying to blend in with the walls I noticed something strange.  I was in a room with wood floors, music playing, a table full of professional and amateur lovers of tango, and NO ONE WAS DANCING!  The cast members were pretty much chatting among themselves, as were the locals.  I suspect none of the locals wanted to be dancing in front of this group of Argentines, and for their part, the Argentines had just finished dancing a couple of shows and probably were not feeling a big need to get out and dance.  At this point in the evening I figured I had already embarrassed myself by showing up, and since I had no place to sit, I figured I would ask one of the local ladies to dance with the hope that people might start dancing and I would not feel so noticeably out of place.

 We started dancing and on the next song a few more of the locals started dancing, and then a few of the Argentines started dancing with each other.  So now people were dancing and things were looking up, but I noticed a funny thing.  Tango segregation.  The locals would only dance with the other locals and the Argentines with the Argentines.  I have never supported segregation!  Something had to be done so I did it.  I walked over to one of the beautiful Argentine women (as if they weren't all beautiful!) and asked her if she would like to dance, to which she assented.  That first dance is what is written about above and we went on to have a few more dances before the evening was over.  The Argentine couples began to strut their stuff, much to the delight of all, and it kind of turned into the “after show, show.”  It also opened up the dancing and the night turned into a great milonga.  In the end, not only did I get to see a show, but in my own way I managed to be a part of the show.   This is why tango is similar to golf.  Kind of like a golfer going out for a round and being joined at the last minute by Tiger Woods, the dancers in Reno that night had their moment of a round with Tiger, and it will no doubt be remembered and cherished by all who were there.

By the way, a couple of days later I found out that beautiful Argentine woman I had been dancing with was Marcela Duran!

You can see her dancing with Carlos Gavito on the video page of this blog.