One Possible Reason Why You’re Not Dancing As Much As You Want

Fourth Article in It Takes One to Tango Series

by Mitra Martin

Did you ever throw your bicycle at someone because you were mad they didn’t dance with you?
I did.

There was a time in my life when I was one frustrated Tango girl. I thought I was better than I was. Way better. (Still do, haha.)

I would go to festivals and have these amazing, unearthly, peak-experiences which made me think I was a rockstar. And it felt so unjust that weekend after weekend, the nice leaders in my own community would look past my eyes.

Once I had a friend who needed a place to stay, so we offered him the couch for a few days. A nice dancer friend. And so that weekend, we went out to the milonga together. Man, did I want to dance. I was all ready to dance. I was so excited to dance. My body wanted to dance, my mind wanted to dance, my soul wanted to dance. Everything felt like dance.

But, I didn’t dance. I just sat there. Like, the whole damn night.

My nice Tango dancer friend who was crashing at our house danced, lots, and very happily. After awhile in abject frustration I drove home and had so much furious movement energy inside of me that I grabbed my bike and started biking savagely all around the neighborhood.

The Buddhists say that anger happens when you want something and you’re thwarted. I was feeling pretty thwarted. So when I happened to meet him at 4am as he was walking from his parked car back to our comfy couch...well, you can imagine the rest.

(I didn't really throw it at him. I angrily shoved it into the sidewalk. Sort of toward him. Still, no excuse.)

I am calmer, now. I understand more reasons why dances don’t always happen, even if you want them, especially if you think you deserve them.

photo by Fanny SchertzerOne of the more invisible reasons, which you have a bit more control over, you brave dancers who are working on establishing a solo tango practice, is that whereas you THINK you know the music maybe you don’t know it as deep as you THINK you do.

If you are someone whose body, mind and soul really really really want to dance, like, more than you are currently dancing or with more different people, then you might try learning more about the music, as a starting point.

So how do you start learning about music ? Here are three ways you can start:

The Lomuto Method. At first I would hear these exotic, weird names of orchestra leaders that just had a terrific magnetism. “Lomuto.” What a freakin’ beautiful name. I had to know more about Lomuto. So I would buy Lomuto CDs and try to get the feel of Lomuto. Nobody suspects Lomuto, after all.

The DJ Shorey Myers Method. You can go to those festivals and dance your heart out and with a little luck you might have one of those rare unearthly peak experiences. Immediately when that happens, while you keep yourself from fainting or dissoving into a puddle of bliss near the vegetable platter, you should go to the DJ immediately and find out what the song was. If your DJ is in a chatty mood, ask them furthermore why did they chose this song, what they played before and after, what they love about this song/orchestra, what do they hear when they play it. Go home, acquire the song and its sister songs (buy the whole album, help the Tango music economy). See if you can find videos on YouTube of great dancers performing to that song. Start a love affair with the orchestra and get more albums.

The Shuffle Method. Once you have a neat little library of music, then you can build music listening into your solo practice time. Here’s a fun place to start. Choose a song from your Tango collection at random. I just did, and lucky me, I got Di Sarli-Podestà’s “No Esta,” no joke! Now you can try one of these things that I have done:

  • Lie down on a yoga mat and listen to two or three times, just daydreaming 
  • Vocalize along with the song as you listen. A mix of humming and not-quite-singing. 
  • Or, free-write or free-draw anything that come to your pen as you listen 
  • Or, find out the English meaning of the song’s title, listen for it in the song, learn what the lyrics mean

Any of these is a nice first step to getting closer to a Tango in your library. There are, of course, more formal and analytical ways to find kinship with this gorgeous music, and to practice actually moving in ways that fit with it, and I’ll share some of those in the next chapter.

When you really dance, you and your partner become the music.

When you both know it intimately, you can truly participate in something beyond yourself.

As I’ve put more time and effort into learning about this music, which to me has some quality of the sacred in it, I’ve thrown fewer bicycles and found myself happier at milongas. Even the local ones. Sometimes. :)

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.