Fundamentalism Embodied: I try it, as a Mark.

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Day Four of the tango festival. I’ve had it with being Diva Freak. I can only keep it up for so long without a single person telling me they’re grateful to see some freedom and creativity on the dance floor.

I lock into close embrace, and I stop dancing with men. Because every man who marks me gets so excited upon realizing that I will actually do everything that he opens the embrace and goes wild with three or four stale (and rusty) gancho volcada sequences, and this doesn’t make me look any better.

After days of sitting because I didn’t feel inspired enough by the dancing or music to stand up, let alone make eye contact, I grind through every tanda, losing count of the girls.

I decide to try competing with the guys by playing their game, instead of playing my game. If most of the guys in the room are feeling masterful with a total of four movements (steps, change of foot, rebote, and cross) why should I hold myself to a higher standard?

And oh, my, was it easy to dance that way!

I was proud of my musicality for a minute, but then I realized I’ve been dancing to these same boring-ass songs 6 nights a week for 10 years, so I better know every note. So long as I restricted the movements, the girls can pretty much hit it with me. (When they feel uncertain, they move, at best, several notes later than the mark.)

But the coolest thing I learned is that dancing this way pretty much allows you to ignore the girl while maintaining the semblance of perfect control and dignity. Instead of depending on her to understand and participate in my mark, I rely on my adept knowledge of which foot she’s on. If she skips something, the movement becomes a mark’s adorno. If she falls or dances a sequence I didn’t mark, I stand elegantly until she’s done with her solo.

When she forces three steps of a giro when I’ve only marked a back ocho  –I never, ever actually mark that sequence because I am so bored of it as a revel– I can let her drag me around, and even make a fancy pivot out of it. Pretend I marked it, then initiate the next attempt at whatever it was I actually wanted to do (although after her maneuver we are now facing a different direction in the line of dance than I had intended).

With these camouflage tricks I emerge feeling great about myself from every dance because I am totally detached from whether she did it with me.

I have achieved the male fantasy of potence and independence.



HOWEVER, in dancing this way I weaken the tango community by allowing revels to believe they are dancing well when in fact they are not, and allowing her to repeat again sequences that she will have an ever-harder time escaping from. And I weaken my own dance by allowing these sequences (and they are not very nice sequences) to become grooves and habits. I relax and take the easy way, relinquishing my creativity, which will retreat from me. This is why the level of dancing is falling precipitously in recent years. Because the seduction of masculine mastery has overtaken the ambition to virtuosity, which is never reached without perilous risk.

This is why our archetypes matter. Do we strive to be a tanguero who is elegant and dignified or a scrappy, humorous, charming old milonguero who has his own steps, different with each of his ladies?

This is why the word ‘style’ matters. I believe ‘style’ should be personal and unique, not conformist. If the male fantasy is to be flawless, he will likely be alone. I have danced with these guys, whose posture and giro is rigid and arbitrary. They make no adjustments to my body and capacities. I am not there. They cannot tell, or do not look for my sensitivity, using excessive force to get their way, more focused on avoiding mistakes than creating something new.

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