Monday, June 2, 2008

Tango Fever (Part 2): By Laila

I'm very happy to say that I just received Laila's Part 2. Take it away Laila...

Tango Fever, Part 2
From Laila

"The following Saturday morning, I enrolled in my first tango lesson.

The instructor, Nora Dinzelbacher, whose striking beauty was enhanced by glistening, long black hair, welcomed me to class. “First you must learn how to walk,” she told the class. Walk? I can do that. As Nora moved gracefully and with determination across the classroom dance floor, I attempted to model her. However, I soon realized that my walking was completely wrong and so were my shoes, which were flat and didn’t give me enough support in a forward lean. To walk properly in tango, one must stand tall, thrust the chest slightly forward, pull the hips and buttocks up and then push them out a bit and walk with the knees touching each other before each forward or backward step, as if they were fastened together with elastic bands.

So many challenges confronted me at once: standing, then walking correctly, dancing with my chest leaning forward and walking backwards in a straight line in high heels. Then I needed to learn how to dance with a partner - “breast to chest,” forming an A-frame so we could walk without knocking each others’ knees or kicking each other. With my torso pressed against my partner’s, often someone whose name I didn’t even know, I felt awkward, but sometimes comfortable, if the man and I had a good person-to-person and dance connection. When Nora reminded the men to tighten their embrace with their partners, it would cause some nervous giggling among some of the newcomers. Hands on hips, Nora would respond: “Don’t you like to embrace? Why do you think we Argentineans invented the tango?” Yes, I do like to be embraced. I do. I do.

To cope with the intricacies of learning the tango, I have adopted beginner’s mind. I have learned how to walk – and its importance. Oscar Mandagaran, a great tango dancer and instructor, explained that “When one man wants to compliment another man on his dancing, he says, ‘He walks well!”

After many months of listening to and dancing tango, I was bitten by the tango bug. For those of you unfamiliar with this condition, the melancholic chords of the bandoneon pierce the skin ever so gently, enter the bloodstream and then slowly, steadily seep into the heart where they make a home. When one person dances with another who has also been stung by this musical critter, the result can be a delightful affliction.
Several years later, I now enjoy moving in a close embrace, especially if my partner took a shower and didn’t consume too much garlic prior to the milonga. And I’m more confident doing figures such as ochos, molinetes and ganchos without putting him “out of commission.” My initial awkwardness has evolved into some level of confidence and has rewarded me with an abundance of joy. When my partner and I dance as one to the music and I feel his perspiration on my cheek and his heartbeat, I know that there is a heaven after all.

A friend expressed surprise that I could not just pick up tango. “After all,” she said, “You’re a salsa dancer.” To that I replied, “Salsa is to tango what checkers is to chess; you don’t just learn the back and forth moves. You have to learn many facets and how they interconnect. And you need a lot of patience.” I could write so much more about my tango, but I hear the bandoneon calling and I feel a warm, inviting hand in mine – and a fever coming on."


Tara said...

Wonderful writing Laila! I have a bad habit of only scanning when I read, but your style of writing has me savoring every word. Can't wait to hear from you again.

Laila said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading "Tango Fever" and I'm very appreciative of your kind words, which inspire me to write more.

Anonymous said...

Laila, I'm happy to see you're writing about this passion. I know nothing about tango, but it always seemed to me a special, incredibly beautiful and difficult dance.
I would love to see you dancing one day.
Congrats on your birthday, I believe it was last week, wasn't it?

muchos cariños de tu amiga cubana.