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The New Normal is All Pleasure

Last weekend at an undisclosed location, I taught a micro-workshop and danced the first tangos of 2021. This meant it was time to manifest my resolutions: to increase the parts of tango that make me happy and transform or abandon the parts that make me unhappy. Of course, developing this resolution as a practice was also something I wanted to convey to the students.

I don’t have a blueprint yet, but I’m determined to take on each site of patterned pain as it confronts me and to share my experiments to inspire yours.

Experiment 1

I am definitely feeling wary of entrusting my heart and body to strangers. Anonymous milongas were once a routine of pleasure, but Fundamentalism transformed most of them to an insipid circuit of conformity. I get pleasure from friends, long-term tango relationships that develop, and spaces where play, experimentation, and admiration are more valued than control. Therefore, bubbles or small communities of dancers who grow together are more promising.

Such a community asked me to improve their circular voleos. Of course this is familiar territory, but when we arrived to the technique for the movement of the free leg, I caught myself. Voleos are one of the places of maximum pleasure – a whipcrack of joy and connected elation. But that very joy has been shamed as “showing off” and Fundamentalism’s sexist retrenchment has delimited the sensation of the voleo by demanding that woman keep their thighs chastely bound. I have too much muscle to do voleos this way, but I rebuke myself anyway.

So I taught the technique in an entirely new way: “When someone marks a voleo, they invite beauty and pleasure. Don’t throw this opportunity away. Find for yourself what feels most beautiful and wonderful.”

Here are the variables to explore:

  1. Tilting the pelvis to keep the legs together or keeping the pelvis level for a stronger base leg.
  2. Flexing or extending the base leg’s knee.
  3. Flexing the free leg’s hip on the front voleo to make the voleo bigger.
  4. Externally rotating the free leg’s hip on the back voleo to make it bigger.

I did ask them to point their toes, but left the rest up to them, asking them to practice with the wall until they found their personal voleo.  Why should I impose a definition of beauty or right on them?

Experiment 2

After the workshop, as usual we have a social dancing evening. I felt the inflection point between the high of the class and the dread of the social part, during which the students expect me to dance with them. But I’ve already given them everything I have as a teacher and after that effort I want to be off duty.

I withdrew with my teaching partner. “Dare we confront this?” We analyzed our desire. Of course sometimes we love to dance with students. But when it’s expected, I feel the blood drain out of my body. I hide in the corner behind a glass of wine. Hiding or making excuses protects me from the effort of the dance, but not from the guilt at disappointing them.

We discussed our desire. What we want to do at such social events is to take the social energy and context for artistic development, which might or might not include dancing with some of the students.

• • •

Some transformations –like teaching women to make their voleos personal– are easy and joyful.

Not all will be this way. Breaking the silence of expectations was quite scary for me. I was shaking. But fear is a sign that we are doing something that needs to be done.

A mine, in a forest.

Transformed with care.

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