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Prayer for Virtuosity

I’m in the gorgeous Clärchens Ballhaus Spiegelsaal, staring at the ceiling, trying to ignore how boring the sex is. My neck doesn’t like this Victorian posture, and keeps returning my eyes to the dancers.

I’m drinking my life away trying to transform monotony with the force of my hope. I stare at this dancing night after night trying to burn through my monumental disinterest in what I see. I hope that watching is a form of prayer. I am praying to get beyond my hostility at what seems to be a commitment to mediocrity, at dull sequences, smugly repeated. I am praying to fall in love with tango again, and these men.

Surely I could walk away. Indeed there are many nights when I want to walk away. I just can’t yet face the prospect of a disembodied evening, without the ritual of intention toward intellectual-physical-emotional communion. So I watch and wait.

I grew up in a different time, and place, when the men were ambitious, and the women wanted to move their bodies, an era of Argentine Tango virtuosity.

When dancing used to be about the girl’s level, not her ass nor her willingness to reverse cabeceo. (I watch enough to see that this is how a lot of the “popular” girls are getting it on. I don’t understand being so hungry that you would demand a dance, no matter how nice you do it.)

Now we dance in restraint and repetition, like a mantra no one can translate, hoping ecstasy will grace us through sheer devotion.

The differences between the dancers are, well… not enough to make me want any man here.

The angle of his wrist … the failure to extend a knee … his upper back arching in the wrong direction …. an unwillingness to pause… Too many front rebotes with left … an absence of earnestness, of vulnerability in pursuit of excellence.

Smug repetition instead of ambition, and the choice for repetition with women who think a tight skirt is enough.

What is most dramatically disinteresting in the men is that they are doing it alone. This is apparent because their dance is basically the same with everyone. We know how to maximize pleasure. The sexual revolution was about this. We ask the other one “what do you like?” Here are men whose idea of pleasure is to do what they feel confident in. The partner has no subjectivity in this game. I hold my silence, despite my urge to use a line from the start of a sex scene in the movie Creative Control: “Hey, there are two people here.”

What is hot for me is when a man is interested in something beyond mastery. They realize my body, my capacities, my training, they feel the space/time I create for them and they are suddenly freed to go to a place they’ve never been before. Sweat flies off of their faces as they move.I feel I am carrying something sacred. Young Rodrigo Videla at La Viruta danced his heart out through me, desperate to show himself. That was one of the greatest honors of my life. Roberto has achieved this with me several times. His willingness to receive this gift from me and to dare to touch his creativity is the deepest bond of our partnership. It’s happened with other men, strangers, who saw and felt in me a chance to express themselves. This is the experience of Argentine Tango virtuosity that I crave.

These days few people are sufficiently interested in their own talent to even try to use me.

There are indeed different pleasures to be had from tango. I don’t want to be seduced, I want to be challenged. To challenge me he has to take a risk. He has to challenge himself. He has to be willing that we fail. He has to be willing to be angry with me, and to manage that frustration peacefully. He has to make the possibility in himself for elation, and for that elation to end. The tango I want deals in real relational emotions, not faked and fleeting romance.

I want to be challenged. These men do not.

Tonight I have 80 square cm of paper with me, and it’s the most precious thing in the room. I write, because that is how I work to the other side of obstacles. I stare, but I cannot want any of these dancers.

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