Sunday, June 20, 2021

Olga Metzner :: I dance with a man who tries to impress. Me, the people watching, himself. He’s a good dancer, but he tries too hard...

I dance with a man who tries to impress. Me, the people watching, himself. He’s a good dancer, but he tries too hard,...

Posted by Olga Metzner on Friday, June 18, 2021




I dance with a man who tries to impress. Me, the people watching, himself. He’s a good dancer, but he tries too hard, and it feels, especially from the inside. There’s no lightness in his movements, no joy, just pride and fear of judgement. This fear takes away the ability for us to connect, and I’m growing increasingly distant, slowly starting to judge myself, too, and the connection falls apart. I know what it feels like to be him, because I’ve been that dancer as well, when I tried too hard. I’m learning to let go, and it’s hard. 

 I dance with a woman who is afraid to give me her weight, even a tiny little bit. She wants to be a butterfly, light and feathery, I sense she dreams of floating above the floor, and even her clothes somewhat reflect it, her skirt is soft and moves with every breath and tiny move we make. Her hand is like an eggshell in my hand, I’m afraid to crush it, and I can’t anyway, since as soon as I try to hold her hand a bit tighter, her whole arm goes limp and I get a sense I’m crushing her. So I let her be her feathery self, but I can’t lead her, can’t connect to her. She is afraid to be heavy, so she disappears altogether. She’s so sure that a follower being light is the right thing, that she misses out on the one thing that makes this whole experience worth having: the connection, the interaction. Her tango is so full of question “am I too heavy now?”, that it becomes really hard to dance with her, lead her. I have been that woman, too, and I remember with such gratitude one teacher who told me to hold him, trust him with my weight. Years have passed, and I learned to have a gradation of heaviness and lightness, and play with it. And yet we can never know just how heavy or light we are for others. 

 I dance with a man with wonderful, warm close embrace, and I really really enjoy it. He is comfortable and soft and affirmative enough so that I genuinely feel cared for and connected. I smile to myself as I move. But then he opens the embrace… and I lose him. His head sinks into his shoulders, arms tense up, elbows shoot out sideways, and he shrinks a little. I’m so keen on getting back to that wonderful close embrace, and he’s keen on doing that giro with sacadas and parada in the open embrace… ohh! Finally back to the sweet close embrace, now we can really enjoy, both of us! After the tanda I think to myself, how I wish he worked a little more on his open embrace… He could be really one of my favourite dancers! Just a little but a big thing missing. And I tell myself, next time we dance I’ll try to keep the close embrace intact, for as long as it’s possible. 

 I watch a woman dance. She is amazing, her whole body dances, not just her legs. There’s very little decorations in her movement, yet she’s full of expression, femininity and power. Something about her is mesmerising. I want to be a bit more like her. How, how does she do this? She is just standing there, not moving at all, and yet there’s this intensity about her, that I want to dive into, swim in, feel connected to, learn it, and make my own. I ask her to teach me, and she passes her knowledge to me, over the years. And yet, I know this particular thing that drew me to her, that made her so fascinating, that thing eludes me. Maybe one day I will learn, maybe it’s something you can’t learn, maybe it’s something you might only live up to. That’s my goal, to find this thing, that I can’t even name, and it will be the source of my search for the rest of my life. And for now, I keep on watching this woman in fascination and admiration. To be there to watch is a real joy and honour. 

 I dance with a man who is sweet and musical, but I’m afraid to crush him. I make myself as light and as soft as possible, and yet he’s eluding me, as if afraid to touch me. Why are you so afraid of me? I answered to your cabeceo, I’m ready to be fully with you, completely merging with you and with music, why are you so afraid? Be with me! Dance with me! - I want to tell him. But of course I can’t, I can only make myself light and follow… I wish we didn’t miss out on the opportunity to be in a moment of togetherness, but you can’t be together if there’s fear or shame. So we move, we dance, but there’s so much more we could be. 

 I watch a couple dance. They are older, and there’s something truly honest about them. They stand out on the dance floor, and while everyone around them whirls and twists, they gently glide. I’ve been trying for more than a year to catch his gaze, pre-pandemic of course. He’s not the most technically perfect dancer, but he is honest. But he never looks at me. At times I wish I were older, maybe he’d look my way then. I’d so love to feel the honesty of his embrace, the commitment he clearly makes to being there with his partner. Nothing fancy, just together. One day I came up to him at the end of milonga and told him what I thought. He smiled, and said he can’t believe I’d like to dance with him. Why is it that we are so used to being put in one box within our community, to never leave it again? We are missing out on so much. I’m missing out on being able to dance with him. He is missing out on dancing with younger people, and showing them maybe what honesty in the dance really is. I don’t know, I still hope to one day dance with him. Still hope. 

 I dance with people, I watch people. This is tango, so familiar and yet so elusive. 

 Let’s keep dancing.

From Olga Metzner on Facebook - she's based in London.

Here's her website: https://www.tangobetter.com/

And she's got more articles & stories here: https://www.tangobetter.com/stories

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Up close and personal

My dad was a geologist (oil exploration type), who resigned from Union Oil Company ("of California") to go independent. A one man office, looking for oil and gas. We moved from Jackson, Mississippi, where he had been running the Union Oil office (New Orleans office before that), to Lafayette, Louisiana, in June of 1974.

We had to live in an apartment temporarily until we closed on a house, a nice one under big oak trees with a swimming pool. It looks like it's still there - Bendel Executive Suites now. In Mississippi, me and my buds would always be exploring our neighborhood, exploring the woods, camping out, and generally being up to Junior High no good. Generally restless.

Being one month shy of my 14th birthday, I got bored, and started walking around exploring. Not too far down the road, walking obviously, I discovered a little white shack with a red tin roof sitting on the banks of the Vermillion River. "Pack and Paddle" was an outdoor/adventure gear shop - canoes, backpacking, camping, hiking gear. They also offered guided day hikes and weekend canoeing trips. The Whiskey Chitto River, the Bogue Chitto, the Tangipahoa, Lake Martin, into the backwater swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin (Buffalo Cove), even up to Arkansas and the Ouachita and Buffalo Rivers. At the time, the Buffalo had been named the country's very first National Wild and Scenic River.

Joan and Dick Williams were the owners. Dick was a dentist, so that's how they could afford to build P&P as a business. I can't imagine they were doing much volume out of that little shack on the river, but it was a mecca for outdoorsy people in the area. Eventually they moved to a larger location and added skiing stuff. It was more or less home base for the local chapter of the Sierra Club and the Ozark Society, who also sponsored various trips.

I fell in love with that place that summer, and would spend hours and hours looking at gear and books and talking and lurking. They were patient, no doubt, with this new kid hanging out in their store. We had family friends living there in Lafayette – the Campbells. Dad had mentored Dick Campbell as a young exploration geologist right out of college back in New Orleans, with Union Oil. Their middle son, Eric, a few years older than me, was an avid backpacker. Somehow, I talked him into going on one of the P&P weekend trips to the Kisatchie National Forest, I suppose that was in the fall of 1974. I was hooked.

I was also lucky enough to be the last kid in the house. My brother and sister were both off at the University of Texas (in Austin), so I was like an only child. Dad, being independent now, was much less stressed, and much more relaxed. As such I think he was more open to my outdoor proclivities - and financing them. (I was a Boy Scout-almost Eagle Scout back in Mississippi, so he and mom were always taking me to the various activities. Camp Kickapoo. Luckily it was all good and above boards back then. No pedophile Scout leaders for me, thank god.) We lived on a small series of lakes, possibly oxbow orphans, that dumped into the Vermillion River, which was a few streets away. I still have my 17'-6" Grumman aluminum (whitewater double keel) that I begged my parents into buying for me. It's collecting dust now, suspended upside down under the back deck.

Every day after school I was on the lake, paddling around, exploring and checking up on my own personal boondocks. I remember laying back on the poop deck looking up at the cotton ball clouds. Daydreaming. No one, absolutely no one else who lived on those lakes ever went out on them, much less even into their own back yards. They were mine and I was theirs. Their protector and guardian and overseer. I did my best to control the water moccasin and copperhead population. Only once did I manage to drop a copperhead into the canoe with me. I would get up some speed, stroking my mean J-stroke, then silently glide up alongside the poor innocent snake, paddle raised high, and then whack the shit of them behind the head with a deathblow. This little fucker wrapped around my paddle after my errant first shot, and then dropped down into the canoe when I raised the paddle up again for the second blow. I'm not sure how I managed to escape un-bitten. I'm sure I was shitting bricks in the process.

So back to P&P and their gear and trips and such. Over time, mom and dad funded a full contingent of camping and backpacking gear. My first pack was a Jansport – the one with the U-shaped aluminum tube at the top to form a shelf for your sleeping bag. North Face Chamois (-5f) sleeping bag. A Eureka tent to start, eventually graduating to a Sierra Designs 4 season dome-with-a-vestibule number. Climbing pack, ropes, chocks, Galibier PA climbing shoes, Vasque hiking boots, the whole shebang. I was a very lucky kid/teen. I have been very lucky/blessed in this life. Extremely lucky these past few years. Blessed be Sugar G. I led a charmed life/upbringing during those years. These years, too. That fact is not lost on me. Anyway, I was going to say that starting the next summer, I would work part-time in the summer. So I had some of my own money. What, maybe six bucks and hour as a brick-layer's helper? Couple-a'-three thousand a year? I tried to get a job at McDonald's where all my friends worked, but they wouldn't hire me. I attributed this to being too smart. (grin)

So really back to P&P now, and maybe even the point of why I ended up writing about this. They also sponsored an Explorer Scout Post. Hayden "Tinker" Groth and Owen (can't remember) were the leaders. Tinker was an undercover narcotics agent with the Louisiana State Police. Owen was a petroleum engineer or land man as I recall. Our main trip of the year was a ten or fifteen day trip to the Weminuche Wilderness, in the San Juan Mountains. The Grenadier Range. The Needle Mountains. Near Silverton. We would ride the Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad to Elk Park. We had ropes, but no hardware, so only walk-up mountaineering. Class 3/4. Ah… throw in to the P&P mix the Jim and Nancy Scott rock climbing trips to Enchanted Rock (a granite batholith near Fredericksburg, Texas) and to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma.

These photos are the topos/quads for Needle Mountains/Grenadiers, Elk Creek, etc. We explored and climbed and camped and hiked all around these peaks each summer for two weeks. Well, the summers of '76 & '77 for sure. I can't remember if we went in '75. All year we were doing other trips, shake-down backpacking and hiking and canoeing and kayaking. P&P had two fiberlass (pre-roto-molded plastic boat days) Phoenix whitewater kayaks. Trips to the Guadalupe in central Texas and to the Nantahala in North Carolina. Explorer Post, Sierra Club, Ozark Society, on my own/solo.

It was an intense and amazing four high school years. Trips nearly every weekend – big trips at Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Working part-time now at Turf Photo Supply – camera sales, black and white film processing and printing, equine photography (winner's circle and photo-finish) at the country horse racing tracks around Lafayette. I was the home stretch judge's camera man at Evangeline Downs. I was a self-taught photographer, mom & dad paid for a subscription to the Time-Life photography book series. I somehow ended up the Comeaux High yearbook and newspaper photographer – self-taught darkroom tech. Lots of stories. Lots of living for a high school kid.

I ended up being the "outings chairman" for the Sierra Club chapter there. Planning and organizing all the various outings. I also ended up being perhaps the primary guide for P&P for a few/several years. Canoe trips to the aforementioned rivers – day and weekend. Trips into the Atchafalaya Basin – Buffalo Cove via the Fausse Point Cut. Day trips to the Tunica Hills (near Angola prison), weekend backpacking trips to Kisatchie, Chicot State Park, orienteering courses/meets, all kinds of trips. I think people thought I was in my twenties. I was mature for my age – all my friends were adults. I was going to bars drinking starting at age 16. No one ever said anything.

Then in the summer of 1978, I went on a 33-day mountaineering course at the National Outdoor Leadership School. Wind River Mountaineering WRM #43. Wyoming, near Lander. We went in at Dubois, came out at Pinedale, summitted Gannett Peak and several others, with lots of technical climbs. Lots of stories there, another time.

Back in Lafayette, I met my daughter's mother in September and the rest is history. I kept leading trips for P&P for a while, led my own climbing trips to ERock and the Wichita Mountains (from Baton Rouge) to help fund my college education at LSU. After Katie was born in 1988, and I started working full-time in the corporate construction world, the outdoor/adventure stuff started to taper off. We still went car camping – various trips in Texas, NM and CO. I'm at the point now that most of my gear, really all of it, needs to be let go or even thrown away. My old tent and down sleeping bag are nasty now. Climbing ropes getting retired to tie loads off when I'm hauling stuff. Or perhaps a bit of shibari. (grin)

So here we are. Today. These images. Earlier today I was prompted by an Instagram post of a landscape photographer who I follow. The peaks in his photo were instantly recognizable as Vestal and Arrow, above Elk Creek. These are the first peaks we would come to after disembarking from the train. We would always camp at Vestal Lake the first night. Anyway, the memories flooded back. I looked up the USGS topo maps and downloaded them. I still have the originals somewhere. In a box. In my hoard. And slides, tons of slides.

Thanks for reading. It's nice to dredge up these old memories. Nigh on forty-five years. Long time. Lots of years of good life. I'm a very lucky man. Knock on wood.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Queer Tango Documentaries

Sixty-three (63) documentary and short films here, mas o menos.. Be sure to keep pressing the green "View More" button at the bottom.


#queertango #tangodocumentaries #tangodocumentaryfilms #tangoshortfilms #shortfilmsabouttango #inclusivity #safespace #safespaces #thequeertangoproject #queertangobook