My dancing slowed down in 2019 because I felt I wasn’t getting much out of it.
It ground to a halt in 2020 and 2021, along with most dancers. But in 2022 and 2023 it hasn’t renewed itself.
When Roberto and I get together to make some art or teach, dancing is fabulous and full.
But the two or three milongas I’ve been in in the last couple of years have only reinforced my pause. Maybe I should explain why.
About 6 months ago I went to a milonga alone, as a stranger. I knew no one there. This used to be a nice experience. People would be warm and positive to meet someone new, and invariably I would share mutual delight with one or even two Marks.
A Mark of sufficient level showed up, realized me, and we danced. But he was, not untypically among tango me, a block of ice. He expressed nothing but his own composure. This familiar flavor of masculinity is just not interesting anymore.
The alternative to expressionless formality seems to be the joyful growing space of neo and fusion communities, characterized by playfulness and friendliness. While I appreciate these characteristics and encourage these communities, I don’t dance much there, because the dance I crave is courageous play resting on training and technique.
Unfortunately, the communities who encourage creativity and self-expression often do not value mastery as the basis for artistry. Many neo events do not even include classes.
As a dancer I have always had two aspects, mastery and expression. As a beginner I was known equally for studious solo training at the weekly practica and for my fabulous 15cm platform stilettos. I always used tango as a chance for fashion sculpture and I never questioned that it must be done with rigor.
Ironically it was my very rigor and discipline that made me seem extreme. Of course I must dance both roles, do the cross on both sides, train my body for power and flexibility. These ethics placed me distinctly outside of a form of “traditionalism” that is about keeping women’s knees tightly bound in a skirt that aims to eroticize her ass, dancing an tango abridged so as to be independent of her skills.
In Berlin I was persistently marginalized as “nuevo” or “open embrace” no matter how often I danced close embrace milonga in my properly grandmotherly 8.5cm dance shoes. I was a woman with a bad reputation, because I dare to move my legs fluidly, as women were allowed to for a few years between 2005 and 2010. Because I mark, and to facilitate dancing both roles, wear platform sneakers. Because I know what I’m doing, which on a woman, always invites punishment.
The exile has only increased with my fame and confidence, and with the miseducation of new dancers who are told that whole swaths of tango music and dance are “inauthentic“.
I am tired of defending myself, of trying to convince people of my knowledge.
Insofar as it seems to be a purposive misperception, it feels unhealthy to expose myself to this negativity.