Marathon psych

Tangotourist in Europe, Summer 2014

Runners have to train for the psychological challenge of marathon chemistry. Your body goes into death mode and you want to quit.

I think I might just stick it out. The food is good.

Good conversations at breakfast. Everyone hated the music last night.  “I needed more power,” said the 60 year old man sitting next to me.

The showers, bathrooms, food, stage dressing room, services, and food are great, but people didn’t like the fact that the sleeping rooms were already too hot with direct sun at 7 am (the music goes to 5, so people need a bit of sleep). And people are incensed that the gender ratio is not, as promised, balanced. Compared to Sydney I didn’t notice it , but this is a fundamental principle of marathons. If there are too many girls it’s because the organizer wanted or needed the extra money, but it betrays the fundamental trust of the marathon contract.

Yoga under the trees and a shower. Bright, cheerful afternoon milonga. Slowly people sidle up to me and tell me they love my shoes or wings, or both.


I see some pink shoes dance by and realize it’s the guy sleeping next to me. People are so tired that they just go into the dorm and sleep whenever. It’s strangely not weird to go from the formal relations and clothing of the milongas to underwear.

It’s 02:30 now and I’ve had five partners today who rocked my world (4M, 1R), in addition to dances with sweet M, who has become remarkably good at cabeceoing people on the other side of the hall in the dark. And is also dancing with charm and confidence.

Spent some hours today chatting with some marathon vets. There are two kinds of marathons, marathons and encuentros. At the latter the dance and etiquette are rigid. It’s the Susannah Miller style of close embrace with feet forbidden to leave the floor. Also the cabeceo is required, there are rules of floorcraft, and a couple is not allowed to dance more than two tandas. ( Here if you enjoy your partner you continue as long as you want. Most of my partnerings have lasted 2-4 tandas.)

In the non-encuentro marathons, some are very free dancing, including what is called here “sport” dancing, which is athletic. “Not everybody can do what Chicho and Juana do. It takes too much training.” But most of the marathons are rhythmic dancing, composed only of ochos, giros, rebotes, and steps. Some people I talked to said that there is now something called “marathon style” and even some marathon sequences. They described some of these as “washing machine dancing” – ocho ocho giro, ocho, ocho giro.”

What I like least about the marathon is the relentlessness of the music. One DJ played one Nuevo song today, but it was only one minute long, and not even a tanda (an extended cortina). I’ve talked to quite a few people frustrated with this. A group of us popularized a gesture to describe our feelings – cutting one wrist and then the other.

What I like most is the non-urgency. You can chat, nap, write, have a shower and put on a new outfit, and the milonga will still be going on. Through the day and night the room morphs unevenly from casual milonga to dining hall to formal milonga. And because we’re in Germany, people drink beer for breakfast with aplomb.

Make that 5M…


By Sunday the girls are getting acid from sitting and the organizer gives them a free glass of champagne. The last session runs from 1300-1800 and you start to realize you need to secure those you’ve been waiting for. I’ve made friends with an elegant Czech couple and I tell her I’m dying to dance with her husband. She snaps her fingers.

We started with only a few steps left in a song. But it only took those few steps for him to stop, exclaiming “you”re a Nuevo dancer!” “I don’t call it that. I just dance the whole tango lexicon.”

He promptly loosened his fingertips and tried every move in the book. One or two were rusty and he repeated them, giving me more freedom to show him the way. After the second song he blurted out “perfect!” And after the third he just nodded and said “That’s Dancing.”

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?




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Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

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 mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

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