Like many people I started dancing tango because of Sally Potter’s movie, The Tango Lesson. Different things about the movie moved us, as different things bind us to tango. I wasn’t attracted to the music, passion, or romance (aspects I learned to appreciate only after many years of dancing). I was attracted to the complexity and to the way the movie portrayed tango as appropriate to every landscape, every emotion, every surface of their lives.
I waited 9 years after seeing the movie to start dancing. Finally having made enough peace with my anorexia to go to a dance class, I started. And I continue to ride, trusting the power of tango that I don’t understand. And also trying to make it mine.
My first dance partner, Fritz, like so many of us, found a truce with himself while dancing, and would seize any music, anywhere. We danced in shoe stores, to pianists in fancy malls, to every street musician we passed. One Sunday afternoon my car broke down on Hollywood Boulevard and I was told the tow truck would arrive in about 3 hours. I called Fritz: “the pavement with the stars on it is pretty slick and there’s a guy with an electric guitar in a doorway.” By the time Fritz arrived another musician had assembled an elaborate drum kit composed entirely of cast off metal kitchen trays and pots. He made beautiful rhythms and we found hours of tangos in them.
Fritz and I practiced weekly on the slow nights in local hiphop bars, taking advantage of their empty polished concrete dance floors. (This is how I learned to dance fast and strong.) One night walking back to the car we found a lone saxoponist tucked back into the alley were the busking license inspectors wouldn’t look. Our dance with him was one of the sparkling memories of my entire dancing career.
Too many of my dance partners and friends since Fritz have been rigid about music, or flooring, or shoes, or shy to dance where people might stop and watch. But I’ve also noticed that outdoor milongas, live music, and admirers always seem to charge and energize dancers.
I’m so pleased that Alistair has initiated Sydney’s “Moveable Milonga”. Once a month we are experimenting along a route of bars, trying out their space, music, and ambiance and sharing our spirits and improvisation.
Notable contrasts with ordinary milongas are: cheerfulness, fun clothes, inspiring other patrons to get up and dance, and discovery of tango affinities to unexpected music (especially American Blues).
During the April outing, the guitar player we were dancing to commented to the audience about the experience of playing with us “I can’t tell if I’m controlling them, or they’re controlling me.”
I have long believed that something special happens to leaders dancing to live music. They can feel where the music is going before it happens. I call this “animals in the room”, by which I mean that all kinds of subtle communication still flows between us as animals, and is flowing between the musicians and dancers. When we are in our brains and words, we may block or ignore our sensitivity to each other, but when we are in our bodies we still feel one another.
All of that is interesting material for further investigation. But the thing I find most powerful and significant about the movable milonga is not the setting, nor the cocktails, nor the music, but the awareness of everyone present that we must create the experience, not merely consume it as we ordinarily do when we go to a milonga.
The Moveable Milonga is open to everyone. Please join our facebook group to keep up with our next moves.
3 May 2012