EXCERPTS from

Until Forever: The Dark Silences of Argentine Tango

Surviving a milonga
Requires great pscyhological fortitude. One must exude confidence despite rejection, patiently cultivating enemies and allies for what will surely be a long journey together. While maintaining some dimension of uniqueness despite envy or disapproval. While keeping faith in the immanent glory of an admired dance. The drive to be witnessed is not, after all, a territory of the insecure.
Who knew (least of all, she!)
That she yearned to charm with sultry obedience, the arch of her foot, the twist of her chest. Who knew that she would find satisfaction in being an extension of his body.

She feels very proud of her obedience. She offers it, she codifies it in her gestures, she exults in it. She may have come in order to “meet someone” or “express herself”, but now she just wants to be pretty and do it right. It gives her the surge of relief that, truly and finally, she is a good girl.
Your eyes seek
A willing partner. Not only strangers will reject your gaze, but friends who have another agenda tonight, people you used todance with regularly who moved on or up, and your own romantic or dance partner who isn’t interested at the moment. No one is required to explain themselves.
Is it my ochos? Is it my smile?
He pours lavish praise on my friends. They are skinnier and younger and more charming than me. Is it my dancing or my personality?

I decide to ask him, straight up, if I am on his list of “good dancers”. Daring, this one or anyway first time, just rips open a box of pain. All the times I didn’t know. All the quiet self-assaults in this forest of doubt.
I thought we were well-matched
On the dance floor. Apparently he was well-matched with my guest-room. We are like drug dealers: We have a visible conversation (that’s the dance) while making a handoff. We are making back-room deals for professional connections, sex, and a place to sleep, while we dance. This is ugly. No one wants to talk about it.

No one wants to admit the desperation that is electroplated to the pride and glamour of this life. I try to tell myself that what I make is art, or pedagogy. But I fear that what we make at tango, is lies.
Trying to finish this book,
I was interrupted by women talking about their suffering: A friend called to lament. For ten years the lament has been the same, and is the same with every woman who books a private lesson with me: Not being given a chance. Not being seen, at all. Efforts unrewarded. Accomplishments unrecognized, erased, canceled –for no reason. Rejection, disappointment, waiting.
African Candombé
Moved from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. In both cities, Europeans copied the African dancers. Meanwhile African dancers were interested to learn the European mazurka. Although the Mazurka was Polish, it was common in Italy. It was highly improvisatory, without set figures, drawing on a vocabulary of more than 50 elements.

In 1867, ballet was performed in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colón, which wasted no time in establishing its own ballet company by 1880. Tango was born with pointed toes.
the Argentine chest
Is not Italian. Here, the shoulders are curved and the chest is sunken. This applies to every man and woman I see at tango and in the street. Apparently a chest is something you need in the New World, not the Old. French male posture is similar to Italian. Germans too sink the chest. No need at all for a proud posture. Whereas in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and certainly Argentina, one must confront the situation with heart, and one must show oneself. There is no getting by on your brain alone.
A rhizome
of tens of thousands of volunteers in large and small cities have given their time, energy, and money to build the infrastructure and do the ongoing labor to identify venues, furnish, decorate, set-up and-break down, manage registrations and accounting, promote events, teach classes, and host practicas, milongas, and festivals. The vast majority of these people have never been paid.

This infrastructure is, from the point of view of Argentine tango teachers and musicians “a marketplace” offering the opportunity to earn sufficient foreign exchange in a few months of travelling work to sustain a reasonable life in Buenos Aires for the rest of the year.
One of the first
things that “free thinking” tango people do is throw out the ancient cabeceo, a sublime and egalitarian technology for the very contemporary issue of consent.
In both group and private instruction,
Students are routinely denied value. Teachers will evade questions, either by making jokes, reiterating that tango is “difficult”, or telling students they “think too much”, They will refuse to teach the thing the student wants to learn, insisting they should “work on basics” instead. And they will fail to provide the purchased service (instruction), simply “showing” the movement repeatedly without disclosing actionable instructions. Further, they blame, abuse, and tease the students. Refusal of accountability seems endemic to tango exchanges.
What anyone presents today as “authentic”
Is necessarily incomplete. No one feels urgently that we ought to ensure that our shoe technology, underwear, or muscle tone is authentic to the Golden Age – despite the dramatic differences these would make to the experience of the dance. Nor are the authentocats insisting that we should never dance to pre-recorded music or that men should train three years with other men before daring to subject a woman to their skills. Of the items on the menu of “known” historical practices, some are selected as authenticity fetish.
The man who embraced me
Moments ago now embraces another. The man who danced with me last night ignores me tonight, pursuing another. My partner of years allows himself to be seduced, returning later with apologies and love proclamations, a situation which, like abuse, cycles constantly between painful negligence and redemptive adoration.. I sit waiting to be “chosen” by one or another or any man.
Like heroin,
Tango can provide “short-term relief from stress, anxiety, or depression” but the body adapts, and then the addict is no longer feeling high, but feeling “trapped”. Tango is a “drug that becomes the center of their lives.” Rapidly “things they used to cherish lose importance.”
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What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens  – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking.

A book must complete and reconcile it all.

Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mysterious force which brings both ecstasy and agony to our lives.

I invite you to join my resolution to take a look at the dark silences of Argentine Tango in our lives. Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating. You’ll receive:
  • a pdf preview of the book
  • a workbook to help us be systematic in looking at tango’s reality in our lives
  • When the printed book is ready, you will be the first to receive a copy.

TangoForge

Until Forever + Dark Silence Workbook

Table of Contents

images by Romain Baillon,  Evelyn-Bencicova, unknown.

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