What dancing Tango has taught me
He looks her in the eyes and she smilingly nods in approval of that request for a dance A tango
He carefully takes her hand and gently pulls her towards the dance floor her dress leaving an invisible trail of untold stories behind her
They embrace in an endless elegance her hand delicately resting behind his shoulder and his firmly on her back
They close their eyes swaying softly to the sounds of Buenos Aires before he begins to lead the dance
Effortlessly they seem to fly across the wooden floors only the momentary movements of their feet binding them to the wooden grounds beneath
It is in this moment that she feels lifted by a balance long thought lost and warmth deemed of past existence
And so she dances hoping
for this tango to never end
The music paints the air in the colours of a small town milonga lost in a garden of wine-dipped roses
They pivot in slow and perfect circles that would have caused the moon to blush in jealousy
For the duration of this one and only dance him and her they seem connected like two mirrors shedding light upon one single reflection
The pulsating rhythms intertwined with their heart beats which unlike their swiftly moving feet are waiting to be raised slowly
The music gently fades out and so she draws herself away from him before they both take their seats in shy independence and solitude
Like two friends turned into strangers again for they only knew each other for the duration of this dance.
8 November 2015
The last time I took regular dance classes I was 14 years old - you will see this magic number pop up on quite a lot of occasions in my writings. :D It was the age at which I started moving to different countries, the constant city-hopping making it very difficult for me to keep up with old hobbies, not only because of a lack of time and acquaintances, but also because new countries always presented new opportunities and traditions I wanted to try out, and how could say "no" to those?
Growing up, my brother and I developed a deep fascination for Latin America - their languages, culture and dances. We used to watch endless hours of Spanish movies, Mexican soap operas and Argentinian plays together. When I was little we used to play fiery rhythms on our old cassette and CD player, while placing my tiny feet on his and dancing salsa or his own, simplified version of tango with me. I cannot name a precise year during which his love for Latin America slowly started slipping into the background but by the time I was 14, we did not dance together anymore. Before moving to Italy, I started a few failed attempts at taking up salsa dance classes and tango, but the first lesson of each turned out to be either a complete disaster or an evening spent witnessing the incompetence of dance teachers who simply regarded this form of art as a way to make money rather than an expression of oneself. Once I had settled abroad, learning languages and following up with classes and political projects became top priority. Even though I did manage to take a few enjoyable Salsa classes and participate in workshops, it never quiet felt "true"
By moving to London and choosing a degree that for now seems to require me to work abroad only in the summer break, I suddenly found myself with the time to pick up my neglected and lost passions: I have time to do art again, my sketchbook being filled with more strokes than ever and I also have time to take up dance classes again. However, I am not continuing Salsa or Ballet, but instead making an old dream come true: learning how to properly dance Tango. Argentine Tango. I have been taking tango classes several times a week and there are no words for how wonderful they are and how much these few hours that feel like being in a different world mean to me.
My tango teachers, Leandro Palou and Maria Tsatsiani, are both incredibly talented and famous dancers who regularly tour around the world for workshops, international festivals and shows.
Photos from www.tangoacademy.co.uk/gallery/performance-images
Yet, despite their renown careers and participation in internationally acclaimed productions and tango events, both of them are just so humble and incredibly warm-hearted. They manage to create an absolutely wonderful atmosphere in the classes, making all of us feel like students and family at the same time.
Tango being a dance and dance being a form of art, Maria and Leandro always emphasize that tango is not just a dance made up of different techniques and elements, but that it is more like a language, a dialogue between two dance partners that can take any form. One of the most important things I have learned from them is to “listen” to my dance partners, to be able to understand where he partner is guiding me without speaking a single word. The more classes I have been taking, the more my dance partner Sam and I have been able to understand and "feel" this concept (when we don't giggle about our latest classes at university) Even though tango is a partner dance, it is also a lesson on independence and on a deeper understanding of oneself. That being said, one of the most challenging aspects of tango to me was being in axis (eje in Spanish)
Particularly on the weekend skill workshops, where unlike in our weekly dance lessons, the ladies and gents are taught separately, Maria focuses our attention on finding balance in our bodies and shifting our way to stabilize ourselves. Seeking your axis in tango means using the energy of the floor to find your own balance in your body, so no matter what you are doing, pivoting, turning, or walking, you are in control of your own movement and do not depend on your partner.
In my first few lessons this seemed a very paradoxical idea to me, because tango is a dance in which two people who are leaning in toward each other; particularly because Leandro and Maria always showed us the magic of the close embrace, during which the two partners are absolutely connected, exchanging energy through a chest-to-chest heart connection. Despite this connection in the close embrace, each partner should be so balanced that if the other dance partner was to disappear, he or she does not fall down and is standing stable in the eje. And really, that is the beauty of it: when you and your partner have both the connection to each other and the connection to your own bodies.
Reflecting upon this, I realized that searching for your balance or your axis is a very powerful metaphor for a woman, because as women we are traditionally defined by our relationship to someone - that being a friend, a lover, a mother, a sister - as is the case in tango, because it takes two to tango. At the same time, in tango, when you have found your balance in tango and have managed for the alignment of your body and weight to put you in a stable and independent, yet connected position, it feels like you are having a little epiphany.
That being said, another thing I have learned from Maria and Leandro is that tango provides metaphors for our lives on and off the dance floor. Particularly the posture of a person is not just a position that we are supposed to stand/dance in, but also a reflection of who we are. The way we connect or the way we lead or follow are also a perfect reflection of our social, emotional and mental status on a particular day. Leandro taught us this concept by asking us about our emotions and perceptions of different musical pieces he played, emphasizing that while today a particular song may sound "nostalgic," we might perceive it as more "sad" and "broken-hearted" the other dance, hence also dancing differently to it.
I have started to realize that a few minutes into the tango classes you can tell more about a person's character or the relationship within a couple than you might could after talking. It almost seems as if tango has the capacity to bring out issues or emotions that we might not be aware of - all of which affect the way we dance and connect with our partner.
Tango has become my magic little getaway from the busy university life, I spend most of my time throughout the week looking forward to Fridays and Mondays (the days on which I have classes).
Leandro would say: "You are in a bubble... all of a sudden the tango finishes and you realize that there are people are around! The magic of the abrazo is that it increases the sensation, the connection between the partners, the feeling of the music from deep inside... and nothing else matters. This is the very essence of the Argentine Tango"
Σας Eυχαριστώ Πάρα πολύ! Muchas gracias!