Monday, October 27, 2014

The Right Tango Partner

           It is possible to master the fundamentals of tango and yet remain ignorant of the purpose of this dance. We gather to have fun and to heal. We are drawn to tango by something akin to our sex drive: a need to make contact with the opposite sex and to move in harmony with the music.
               Skill is not a prerequisite for a successful tango engagement; necessity is.
               The gauchos and fisherman of early twentieth century Argentina and Uruguay were busy with cattle and cod and you can bet that they had no time to practice a cat-like walk on the pampas or at sea. The women at the bordellos waiting for the herds to arrive or the ships to dock were equally busy living the life of a prostitute, where good negotiating skills easily trumped a need to move with precision. Tango was born as a result of men and women doing what they needed to do in order to survive.
               No man is an island in a sea of men; he is simply another drop of water in the ocean, grounded to nothing.
               Most men cannot live without the presence of the fairer sex in their world. Our need is much more than a desire to procreate, we crave to be a part of their world, to delight in the sound of a lady’s laughter, to engage in frivolous banter, to be treated with an affectionate warmth that only a woman can generate, if only for a short time.
               I watched a movie last weekend called Fury. It is a gruesome war movie about men in a tank. They share an intense bond that is dissolved by only one thing: a man’s desire for feminine companionship.
               This is demonstrated in a dinner scene where the tank commander, played by Brad Pitt, forces two German women to cook him dinner and serve it to his men. One of the men tries to disrupt the civility of the occasion and the tank commander indicates that he is ready to fight to preserve the sanctity of the meal.
               I believe it is entirely possible for a tanguera to become so focused on improving her skills that she completely obscures what it is that she brings to the table. She is God’s gift to men but sometimes she forgets or maybe she has never realized this to be true.
               All men desire to be king of something and that something is nothing unless there is a woman in it.
               I am like the gaucho and the fisherman in Argentina of old. I am traveling around America in search of employment to provide for my family. It is a years-long endeavor as well as a solitary existence except for the times I get to dance tango.

                 The right partner for me, therefore, is not the tanguera who executes molinete with flawless perfection whilst performing a myriad of dazzling adornments; she is the woman who needs me for whatever reason. The right partner brings beauty into my world, moves with me to the music and soothes the savage beast that lives in the hearts of men.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Battle of the Sexes

               I’m a big baby. I can be moody and sometimes resolve never to dance again with a tanguera who has slighted me but I usually get over it. I spent a lot of time, energy and money to learn how to lead the tango and it irks me to have that discarded as a casual endeavor equal to something like lifting the toilet seat. Also, the use of perfume in lieu of showers really bothers me.  
               I say this because I want women to know how combustible a man’s constitution can be though he may appear quite calm.
               I have to assume something of the sort is also true for women. I think that, for many women, men are the biggest problems in their lives, and vice versa for men. An engagement on the dance floor with a member of the opposite sex sometimes feels like a battle-field assignment but you shouldn't back off from giving it all you got.
               A tango dancer needs to be aware of the possibly fragile nature of their partner that could not be discerned from the cabeceo. Do not shirk an engagement with this person, but rather confront their moodiness head-on. Be the bull or the stubborn mare, get angry, flare your nostrils but, above all else, do not walk away.
               Moodiness is no match for tango, a dance that handles unbridled passion with twinkling piano keys. The world is a big place and the emotional forecast is often stormy.
               Tango is not for the faint of heart. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger is an adage that is so true in this dance. You may not have enjoyed that tanda but the fact that you didn't back down from the dark clouds of a poor disposition is a tiny, yet satisfying, victory. A win is a win, no matter what the size.
            If you are here seeking only the fair-weather tanda, then maybe you should go back to watching tango on the computer screen or reading about it in books. We are emotional creatures. Times like these will make you a better dancer and add to your enjoyment when that sunny-day dance finally comes your way. 

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Slut Shamer vs. the Tanguera

               Tango has a tawdry side and it is difficult for me to understand.
               Every now and then a woman with whom I am dancing will perform an embellishment that can only be described as vulgar. I've seen a great number of these in my eight years of tango dancing and they always have me asking, “WTF?”
               Recently, a Facebook friend posted a youtube clip from an opera called Carmen. I couldn't understand the words they were singing because it was in French but I knew what they were saying: Carmen is a slut!
               She’s not just a slut, she’s a slut with a knife and she used it on the woman accusing her of promiscuity. Carmen gets arrested but manages to seduce the soldier guarding her into letting her go.
               There is a monster that lives in the universe of women that never rears its ugly head in a man's world. It is called the Slut Shamer and it’s a real killer.
               Slut shaming is a new word used to describe the means by which women condemn inappropriate sexual behavior by other women. It begins at an early age and is pervasive throughout all cultures. The definition of inappropriate is entirely up to the plaintiff. The tactics vary from simple name calling to imprisonment and even execution.
               I think that women live in constant fear of the Slut Shamer. For some there comes a point in their lives when they can’t take it anymore and they call the beast out. Tango is one of the arenas where these women make their stand and when they do it can be quite shocking.
In the video, Carmen doesn't succumb to the guilt her accuser tries to force upon her. She holds her head high and struts unashamed.
And so it is with the risque embellishment. The follower does not cower in fear of reprisal having made her blatant display of passion, of l'amore, she continues to dance, oblivious to any reaction the audience may have.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tango Is Not Just Music and Dancing

               At a recent milonga, I spied a young tanguera in the throes of communicating disinterest. A young man, so new to tango that he could not lead a back ocho much less be considered a tanguero, was propositioning her for a dance. She slumped in her chair trying her best not to look at him and he was doing his best to get her attention.
               I had already heard her decline his blatant offers with a polite, “no thank you,” but he was undeterred; his patient was flatlining and he was going to do everything he could to save her. He was certain that a dance with him would resuscitate her. 
               He was desperate because she wasn't the only one who was dying.
               Watching the scene play out from across the room I wondered if I should amble over and rescue her. I decided that would be too rude and that she would just have to ride this wave all the way to the shore.
               I couldn’t blame the young man for not giving up. She was intoxicating. I knew that beyond her youthful good looks she was an absolutely delightful dance partner, something he would not know until he began taking his tango education a bit more seriously.
               I was staring in amazement at her ability to appear lifeless when a potential Romeo walked past and was immediately pulled into her orbit. It took Christ three days to rise from the dead but this girl did it in three milliseconds!
               Sitting bolt upright, her neck extended, she smiled at the new man in her life. It made me happy to just to watch her shine.

               Tango is not just music and dancing. It is old men remembering when that light once shone for them as well as the times when they could not even get a fire started.

For more of the Kayak Hombre, read my books Fear of Intimacy and the Tango Cure and River Tango. Available at in paperback or Kindle editions.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tango LaCrosse, WI

                Wow! What a wild weekend: a tango birthday party on Friday, a milonga at the Cardinal Bar on Saturday and, to top it all off, some excellent tango in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, of all places. Whouda thought?
               When I first arrived in Wisconsin ten months ago, there was almost no tango in southwestern Wisconsin, now there are two, albeit small, communities: one in Viroqua and the other in LaCrosse. I had been to a workshop and milonga in Viroqua but was not aware that there was anything going on in LaCrosse, a small city located on the Mississippi River.
               More information can be found on their Facebook page Practice/lesson is Sunday evening from 6:00 to 7:30 at the Moonlight Dance Studio at 601 3rd St. South. There is plenty of parking.
               It was a mostly young crowd of college students led by a local tanguera named Diana Greene. There were nine people attending, six women and three guys. I found all the tangueras to be absolutely delightful and extremely dedicated to continuing their tango education.
               I have faith in the survival of this community because it has support of the students and faculty of the local college: University of Wisconsin LaCrosse. 
               It was a long drive for me, taking me from Wisconsin Rapids on Friday to Madison, then to LaCrosse and back home Sunday night, but it was worth it. I will definitely be back every Sunday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tango Poetry: The Tango Let Down


               an exhilarating experience

                making life seem plain.

               Struggling for words,

               trying to socialize,

               I have nothing to say.

               What could I say?

               They’ll never understand.

               They could not understand

                entering another’s soul,

                running free inside of it,

               riding a roller coaster of emotion

               on the melody of a song

               and the touch of her heart

               beating against mine.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The 2nd Coming of Adam Hoopengardner

               Tango in Madison this weekend was great and it was all because of Adam Hoopengardner. He wasn’t even there, nor was his partner, Ciko.  Just the fact that they were coming to Minneapolis on November 7-9 was enough to make a normal tango weekend in Wisconsin’s capital city, 300 miles away, into the best one I’ve seen since I arrived 10 months ago.
               Throughout my entire eight-year tango education Adam and Ciko have always been in the background.
               At the NYC dance studio You Should Be Dancing on 8th Avenue, where my favorite tango instructor, Dragan Ranitovic, taught for many years, they host an alternative milonga that is always well-attended.
               Of the many tango festivals I’ve attended all across the country, Adam and Ciko were frequent performers as well as teachers.
               For three years I attended the Tuesday practica of the Penn State Tango Club and I was always asked if I’d be attending an Adam and Ciko workshop which was always in the not-too-distant future.
               When they were teaching in Media, PA, at the Sangha Space tango studio, I just had to go. It was such an experience that I blogged about it when I first began writing about tango regularly. It wasn’t my greatest piece of writing but it was an awesome event!
               The teaching duo’s events are more than instructional sessions; they are religious revivals! That is because their charisma generates an enthusiasm that motivates their followers to get out and spread the word.
               This weekend, three of those infected with AdamandCikomania, came to Madison to proselytize. This trio of college students were very well-versed in the art of dancing tango. Their demeanor at both milongas they attended was the epitomy of what is known around here as Minnesota Nice. They made every man and woman with whom they danced feel special, including me and I have to say that I am overwhelmed!
               This is not a new phenomenon. Everywhere Adam and Ciko go there is a fervor in anticipation of their arrival. I experienced it in NYC, in Philadelphia and on Penn State’s main campus in the heart of PA.
               Having participated in several of their workshops I can say the expectation is not mere hype: these guys deliver!

               I had a great time this weekend and I am looking forward to the Adam and Ciko festival in November, I hope to see you there so we can all 'pray' together!!!

For more of the Kayak Hombre, read my books Fear of Intimacy and the Tango Cure and River Tango. Available at in paperback or Kindle editions.