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The Berlin Interviews


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It’s striking. Every time I talk with someone about having finally found the dance partner I’ve been looking for, and my plans to return to Berlin to try working with him, people respond with intense encouragement. “Go!”

Many people have gone on from that point to offer assistance. I feel that I am surrounded by angels.

I’m a bit surprised by the ferocity of their response. At first, I felt the decision was very selfish, but there seems to be going else going on, which I am trying to understand.

Psychologists tell us that when a response is stronger than warranted, it has sources external to the situation at hand. In this one, it seems obvious that their response is not just about being happy for me. It has something to do with them.

Probably a lot of people wish they were free or daring enough to change their life to follow their artistic dreams.  Many feel stuck where they are and unable to consider such things. Some people may touch the knowledge that they have not had the chance to develop artistic dreams.

I am not that into the concept of  ‘vicariousness’. Many tango couples offer this to their students –an image of art, romance, and glamour. Plenty of that around. There’s a power in the responses I’m receiving which I don’t see elicited by every beautiful [voluntarily] impoverished tango artist.

I don’t think it’s me. 

I think it’s something about the palpability of the risk, the visibility of the calculus.

It’s not just the weather that’s at stake in my return to Berlin for the winter. It’s taken a few years to build friendships, spaces, infrastructure, and a business here in Sydney, and even a fledgling open-minded tango community who keep my spirits up. In Berlin I’ll be a newcomer again, head-to-head (if not eye-to-eye) with some of the most respected dancers in the world. And everyone knows that no partnership is easy, even if (or especially if) it’s inspiring enough to cross the world to make. Perhaps its that last which is most moving for people. I am daring at something which could well fail under the very best efforts of both parties.

“You’ve got to try”, they say. After looking so long, on the brink of retiring my tango dreams for lack of an artistic match, this is a chance not to be missed. My friends don’t have to be dancers to get that the dream is more precious than anything I might risk, and that it’s rare to have a clear shot.

If you want to help build the catapult, I’m open to any ideas you may have.

And I think there’s something about tango here, something relevant to Rebel Tango…

I don’t think anyone chooses Argentine Tango (or anything else in their lives for that matter) for passivity, obedience, properness, or authority. But that’s what we get. We choose self-expression, we get rules and hierarchy.

And I don’t think anyone stays because it’s a nice hobby. We stay because tango pierces through to our soul, in ways we cannot understand or articulate. And every time we enter that grim room of factions and territories, smirks and smug scowls, we know exactly what we are after.

My daring decision resonates with everyone I speak to who has kept walking that gauntlet of calculated kisses, acting for their desire in fear and trembling, hoping against recent evidence for the dance with wings and singing hearts, opening that inauspicious black bag one more time.

This is what social theorists call “agency”. In a lifeworld constricted by mortgages and media consolidation, we are hard put to manifest higher forms of our humanity, like making art. Indeed we are hard put to define freedom, let alone act on it.

When we stride forth into the dark, black bag in hand, resigned to the incomprehension of our friends, fully intending to stay up too late, unable to rationally justify any of it, but with perfect clarity and courage toward our intent, we defy the limits and circuits which have become our landscape. GO!




a clear shot, at anything, is rare


When I originally wrote this post, I didn’t mention Roberto’s name. Here’s the first photo, by Boris.

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