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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Ties that Bind

                Women and men are different. The disparity between the sexes is a fact that is often ignored. Recognition of a partner’s distinction is the glue that binds in the tango connection. 
               Girls think about getting married; guys think about getting laid. Ladies pray for peace; men prepare for war.  
                I live in an apartment. It is a cottage house divided into two apartments: upstairs and downstairs. A young man lives in the upper level. He has two trucks, a fishing boat and a motorcycle. 
               This is a lot of stuff considering that he is the estranged father of a two-year old baby girl.  
               The young man’s mother arranges visitations for her son with his daughter because he won't do it on his own. She is making sure her grandchild gets to know its daddy. 
               It is interesting to watch the events unfold as the toddler inevitably brings the father around to the idea that he’s got to grow up and start providing for his offspring.
               The father and child getting to know each other is a bonding process and a very strong one at that.
               Entire societies revolve around this paradigm: sex, babies, responsibilities. Not everybody chooses this path but its existence shapes our worlds and the education of the sexes. Women seek commitment and men resist it.
               I meet many tango dancers who refuse to adhere to the status quo but it still makes up a big part of their perspective, whether they like it or not.
               In tango we must accept that there are things we can never understand, primarily the opposite sex.
               I don’t understand the words to most tango songs because I don’t speak Spanish. I would never tell someone I speak their language when I don’t. This would be an insult, as it would be if I claimed to know what it is like to be a woman.
               To admit to yourself that you don’t understand is a humbling experience. Humility is the beginning of all learning and that is where the couples must begin when they make contact.
               When you join in the tango embrace you are dancing with a stranger from a strange world. You must always keep in mind that you know nothing about that person. Every move your partner makes should be unexpected. If it is then the unexpected can happen.
               This is tango, a dance like no other. Every encounter is a gamble. For some, the outcomes of the unknowns are devastating, but for others the results are beyond their wildest dreams. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tango's Unforgivable Sin

           Memories are events recorded in our brains based on emotions experienced by our entire bodies. An idea is a person’s interpretation of memories. Music is the acoustic expression of an idea.
           When two people join in the tango embrace they attempt to make something unique and pleasurable; they endeavor to convey in movement the emotions that became a song.
           This is not always a harmonious union; sometimes one of the partners is more worried about appearance than connection.
           An insult shouted at you from afar is not as hurtful as one spoken to your face. An injury inflicted when two people are connected physically, emotionally, mentally and possibly even spiritually can be extremely painful.
           We think not just with our heads but also with our hearts, our hands and much, much more.  
The dancer who gives 100% to the endeavor experiences 100% of the disappointment in the the couple's failure to connect, not just with each other but to the song as well.

           The unforgivable sin in tango is to join in the embrace and then to dance alone.

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.