The back room

mpop candelabra

At the moment, my favorite place to dance is Milonga Popular’s “Candle Floor”. The second room is overseen by DJ Gökhan Aksakalli, who plays almost entirely music that I want to dance to. It’s dark. The dancing here is languid and sensual. Pairs of all (and often mixed) levels explore Organizer Sven Elze’s first commandment: Embrace! People are making out on and off the dance floor. I feel free there. I meet my partners here to practice, and I also train by myself, dancing tango moves solo for balance, aesthetics, and improvisation (and pleasure, in fact!)

Lately I’ve been training with Antoine Gallix. He turns out to be a beginner, although I didn’t notice this for a few weeks. He moves like the dancer he has become through several genres, I respond with tango.

I didn’t notice because despite knowing only about two steps (ochos and sacadas) he is dancing so much tango, indeed much more tango than many of the purported “elites” of social tango, with whom I cannot survive a tanda anymore. Some of them are dancing frantically in the front room. (In fact their vocabularies aren’t much bigger than Antoine’s, having abandoned most of our inheritance of the tango Lexicon. They just do it faster.)

Antoine stays connected and attentive to me. No matter what happens, he never abandons the movement. He always uses his body and modifies the embrace to build a shared balance with me.

Because of our commitment to connection, our movement sometimes takes us to a shape not listed in the Lexicon. At first this embarrassed me. I take a great deal of pride in clean, precise, structured tango movements. But then I realized that the thing to be proud of is the deeper lesson and gift of tango, which is a technology for uniting our bodies and communicating. If this technology allows us to do something I’ve never done before (especially with someone who’s relationship to tango is relatively young), I should be proud of my mastery of this art, not ashamed to have deviated from its narrow aesthetic.


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