I was dancing last night at a huge new studio with these cool mylar panels on wheels in lieu of mirrors. Anyway, I was focusing on walking a bit - back and forth in front of the mirror (mylar) - and I noticed that my/our walk was looking pretty damn good. More importantly, feeling good. Really good. Natural, comfortable, relaxed.
I went from bitching and moaning a few months ago about not enough tango in my life - not dancing enough - wanh wanh wanh. To now.
As it always is with tango, the change was gradual...almost imperceptible. It's like one day - "boom" - it just hits you. At least that's what it seems like. No good, nasty walk one day, the next day you've got it nailed. Of course, we all know that it doesn't happen like this, even though this is what it can feel like sometimes.
I'm going back to the very beginning to tell a story about the evolution of my tango "walk". After my second divorce, I wanted to take dance lessons. I wanted to be a better dancer. A dancer, period. I didn't really dance much for all those years in my various (two) marriages. If I would drink, my inhibitions would come down and I would get out there and do okay. But, I didn't want to have to drink in order to dance. I reasoned that if I took lessons, then I would "know" what I was doing, would feel more comfortable, and would dance more...right?
Lucky for me, the only dance lessons I could find in Aspen were Argentine Tango lessons. A friend I worked with had planted the AT seed two years before. She had always been going to this tango class and that tango festival - so I called her to find out more about it.
I was such a dancing mess, that I couldn't even take group classes at first. I took four (or was it six?) hours of privates before I started the group classes. Also, I have to say that I met a woman at a party - we were dancing - she was showing me how to swing dance - I was doing my best at the Texas two-step. I told her about my plans to take Tango classes - and she was up for it.
So, we start the group classes in September - in the usual format of beginner first and more advanced students in the second class. I was going to just sit and watch the second class - but Heather grabbed me and said that since I had taken so many privates - that I could join in - that I would do fine. I figured that more was better, right? Jump in the deep end with both feet, right? Totally immerse myself in tango, right? (Big mistake...HUGE mistake!)
I did okay for a while - until we got to the molinete (grapevine) a couple of months into it. I just could not get it. My basic vocabulary and fundamentals were just not there - not in place yet. Plus, this woman quit in frustration (with tango, not with me) and I began to convince myself that I was rhythmically retarded or something. If you are beating yourself up, tango doesn't work. Tango is all about confidence - especially in the early days. Remember the story of the little train - "I think I can, I think I can..."?
So I quit after 4 months or so. Gave up. Wussed out. Didn't look back. Been there done that.
Don't worry, stay with me...the part about my walk is coming...soon...
Then I met another woman. We met through work. I was doing consulting work for a yahoo/jerk/prick and she was working in the office. One day, the casual conversation touched on Tango. Of course, I chimed in "I've taken tango lessons!" And we were off...starting group classes in September.
This time, it helped to have someone encouraging me to stick with it. She encouraged me, I encouraged her. There were tough times in the early months when we both wanted to quit. But we stuck with it - persevered - supported each other - practiced with each other - and practiced more even when we didn't feel like it. We were at each other's throats at times...but we came out the other side eventually. (It wasn't just the two of us...our little group of five/cinco...three followers and two leaders...we all stuck together...advanced together...practiced together...lamented together...wined and dined together...talked of tango and sex together...our little cinco...magnifico...I miss those times...)
My partner and I took class after class, workshop after workshop in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Denver. Every chance we could get we were dancing tango. We went to every Denver Tango Festival. Then we reached that point where you realize more is not always better. My retention (of workshop material) was zero. My mind was full. So we would go to the festivals just to dance - sometimes no classes at all - sometimes one or two classes. There is an osmosis with tango. It has to seep into your pores, your thoughts, your muscle fibers. The neural peptides have to get reworked and rewired. Hardwired. Muscle memory. Brain ingrained. You reach that point where you are dancing without thinking. The Zone. The Tangasm. The Tango Trance. Whatever you call it, it feels good.
But (and there always is a "but", right?), my walk sucked. From that September, through April or May, my walk sucked big time. Now I say that "I had a fucked up walk". I danced for close to a year with a fucked up walk. The pisser is that NO ONE TOLD ME! Or maybe they did and I wasn't hearing it. Luckily, through YouTube, I could see what the walk was suppposed to look like. It began to dawn on me, then waylaid me like a ton of bricks - "my walk sucks!". It sucked to realize that I sucked. Suckage. I love that word.
The fact that my teachers never told me was source of concern for me. If I am walking like this (with fucked-up-ed-ness) week after week, month after month and no one tells me - especially my teachers - that's not good. I made a decision that I needed outside help - outside of our little box canyon of a valley. So it was off to Santa Fe for a workshop and privates with Cecilia Gonzalez. Good god was I star struck. What a putz. More workshops and privates in Denver. Privates at festivals. Blah Blah Blah.
Then my tango partner moved away in August...2006.
But my walk continued to improve. It was gradual. (Remember that in small towns we don't get to dance much - one year in a small town is like three months in a big city...) It was "okay" enough for me to feel "okay" about going to Buenos Aires a year ago - last April ('07). Six days of intensive study with Gustavo y Giselle. Then G&G gave a workshop in Atlanta last summer - four more days of intensive work.
2007 was the year of tango osmosis for me - everything started to sink in. Even though there really wasn't that much dancing. Eleven days in Buenos Aires, one day at the Denver Tango fest (I almost quit tango again after that - all bad/unpleasant/heavy dances), five milongas in five nights at the Fandango de Tango Festival in Austin, some good practicas & milongas in Austin during the month of November - and that's about it. A few milongas and practicas in Aspen and Denver during the year - once a month maybe.
It was at a practica in Austin in November that I first tried dancing an entire song with nothing but the walk. No side steps, no nothing, just walking and pausing to the music. Of course, you need the right song to do this - something like DiSarli's Verdemar. It also helps to have a follower that you feel inspired to "only" walk. She said "it's nice to dance with someone who has the balls to only walk". That was three months ago. Just in the past two months of dancing did my walk really come together. And just last night - watching us walk in the reflective mylar - did I realize that it had.
The journey to rid myself of "my fucked up walk" started almost two years ago. And now, I only have another eighteen years to go to perfect it. 2026. I will be 66 years old that year. I'm looking forward to it.
[Postscript: One point I failed to make...tango cannot be rushed...more is defintely NOT better...it may even be worse...you can't take classes/practice/dance 50 hours a week for a year and expect to learn tango...it can't be learned in a month...or a year...take a few classes...dance...don't think....let it soak in...take more classes or privates...dance...don't think about it...don't worry about it...don't fret...let it seep into your bones...into your soul...be patient, and it will come to you...]