Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Tag

DANCE AS LIFE   Leave a comment

DANCE AS LIFE
By Cafe Girl
Published by courtesy of CAFE GIRL CHRONICLES

I used to think my dance lessons were all about timing, steps, musicality, and technique.   Lately I have come to realize that that there’s more too it than that.  The more I dance, the more I learn about life.  According to my teachers – dance is life.

And nowhere was this more apparent than on my recent trip to New Orleans where I managed to squeeze in a two-hour tango lesson with the very elegant, “man in black” – Alberto Paz.   He was gracious and patient, and I immediately felt at ease with him despite the usual stage fright I feel whenever I dance with someone for the fist time.

“There is no test,” he said. “You’re here to learn.”

Lesson #1: “Dance is like life. You have to understand that it’s not about pass/fail; it’s about getting the most out of it.”

Alberto was surprisingly complimentary at what little technique I had managed to pick up in Buenos Aires.  (Ah, me of little faith.)  He liked working with beginners, he explained, because there were few bad habits to correct.

Doubting myself – as usual – I told him that it was his excellent lead and clear direction that enabled me to dance well

Catherine,” he said. “It’s a compliment so take it and just say thank you,” he said.

Lesson #2: Dance is like life. You have to give yourself a little credit.”

I decided that the next time someone paid me a compliment, I would own it.

I would say: “It’s mine. I worked for it.  I deserve it.”

As the lesson progressed, the steps started to feel different – they started to feel “right.”  Alberto’s small tweaks were making a big difference to my comfort level.   But just to be certain, I asked, after a particular sequence of moves, “Is this right?”

He tossed the question back at me, “Does it feel right to you?”

“Yes,” I said.  “I can definitely feel a difference.”

“Then, it’s right,” he said, then added: “Never ask a man his opinion. He’ll never tell you the truth. If you ask him if something looks good, he will always say yes.”

As naive as it sounds, it came as such a revelation that I actually asked Alberto if I could write that piece of wisdom down before I forgot it.

He laughed, put his arm around my shoulders, and gave them an affectionate squeeze . “But you already knew that!” he said.

Lesson #3: “Dance is like life, It’s about how you feel and not how someone else makes you feel.

Probably the hardest lesson of all was just learning to slow down.  Tango, more so than any other dance, requires the dancer to be in the moment, wait, and savor each step. However, I sometimes I approach tango as something “to do” rather than something “to dance.”  I want to make sure I do all of the steps whether I enjoy them or not.

As Alberto so eloquently put it as I rushed through my steps of our last tango together, “Slow down, you always have time to make a step, but once it is made you can never take it back.”

Lesson #4: “Dance is like life. Make every step count!

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THE GIFT OF TANGO   Leave a comment

Standing in the living room, we formed a circle and held hands. One by one we introduced ourselves. Some came from Texas, others from Chicago. Then there were the hosts, the family who owned the farm surrounding the home where the ritual was taking place. We were from California, and the words “traveling tango teachers” sounded awkward and somehow out of context with the spirit of the moment. Suddenly, and all at once, they began to sing a harmonious hymn that filled the room with sounds of purity, love and a heartfelt appreciation for the joy of being alive, surrounded by friends and family. Then, we sat down at the dinner table and celebrated Thanksgiving in the heartland of America.

We’ve been traveling quite a lot embracing our chosen vocation of preserving and fostering the development of new and established Argentine tango communities. We bring along our passionate love and dedication for the music, poetry and dance, empowering the force of knowledge to free the minds, to encourage the bodies to accept the closeness of other bodies for engaging in enjoyment of the music and joyful sharing of the dance. Returning to places we have been, where the Argentine tango already has a established presence, we have also discovered new fledgling hamlets. There, the desire to dance the tango is only surpassed by the energy and passion with which the people go out of their way to reach out, grasping as much tango as is humanly possible.

In retrospect, our intuition, our confidence and our faith in people has allowed us to establish a presence for the tango as far north as the city of Anchorage in Alaska, and as deep in the south as the city of New Orleans. Along the way, we met great people in Winnipeg, Canada, and found ourselves a family in the heartland of America. So, when Thanksgiving caught us wandering through the prairie, we never felt away from home. We never paused to question what does a traveling tango teacher do when the moan of the bandoneon and the whine of the violin, are replaced by the call of the turkey on Thanksgiving day .

We found ourselves holding hands with our new friends and their families, saying grace and feeling thankful that our lives are so blessed with the gift of tango. We are thankful for the possibility of sharing that gift with warm, gentle, generous and caring human beings who had morphed from total strangers to affectionate friends in the brief time it takes to embrace and walk a few times around the dance floor.

This is the kind of rewarding experience that reminds us about the quality of life that Argentine tango can bring to those who dare to be close. There is nothing like the shared intimacy of a sound, a scent, a gesture, a look, a smile, a tear. Intense moments that soothe the soul, energize the heart and make us feel alive, vibrant, inspired, and above all thankful. We have connected, we have made an everlasting impression, and there is a part of us that forever will be special. Step by step we keep navigating the dance floor of life. As we go around, there is always something or somebody who reminds us how important it is to be at peace with ourselves, to give each other the gift of tango, to hold hands, to embrace, to love the music, to absorb the culture, to teach by learning and to learn by teaching.

Posted November 27, 1999 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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