A Backstage Peek At the 10th Graduating Class of Tango Challengers

Accelerator...A good word to sum up how it feels around Oxygen Tango.

When I got to the 10th Oxygen Ball for the 10th Oxygen Tango Challenge class on Friday June 28th, the anticipation and excitement was as strong as the familiar heat of a milonga. There was a packed house full of familiar and new faces all listening as Mitra talked about the Tango Challenge journey.

Like most of the others I was waiting for the dancing to begin again, but for the 5 Tango Challengers there that night it was a different experience. To get an inside peek into their adventure, I cornered husband and wife tango challengers Gordon and Zana when they took a break to cool off by the fan and pumped them for info. (The fan that never seems to penetrate to the dance floor).

Listening to them was a reminder how overwhelming diving into a crash course in a new experience can be. I was surprised how much it seemed to change them, and how much meaning they both pulled out of it. While everyone was on the same journey together, the experience was very unique to each individual.

For example, Zana enjoyed the group experience and camaderie and experienced a relatively smooth path. That camaderie kept her motivated, and having tons of classes made it a great immersion experience.  I smiled hearing that she had no more life outside tango and that her friends don't know her anymore and that she now had new friends! (Ah, the Tango vampire transformation!)

Gordon called it a "revolutionary experience" and something that gave him meaning from the inside rather than just learning technique. His experience was "challenging, full of blood, sweat and tears." For him it was more of a solitary struggle, with the first month full of fustrating pieces-like a jigsaw puzzle without the final picture, but he found the joy in the dance by the end. For him it was a personal and meaningful experience.

They both summarized very nicely what took me years to realize in the leader and follower roles-that it's a challenge, and the payoff gets better and better as you go.

It took me awhile to find that new "tango world" though I searched for it for years. It's amazing to see the immersion and how fast they improve and fell in love with it and even found connection and meaning during the journey.

During the ball, it was even fun dancing to the live music which can sometimes be a challenge depending on the band.  Even the DJ (Varo) was digging it. When I asked Mariana (a tango dancer of some experience) what she thought of the performance of the Tango Challengers, she lit up as she told me how she really loved seeing the beginners and all the hard work and effort they put in. And the intense concentration on their faces under pressure of performing.

It was so much a surprise when Varo finally called out "Last Tanda!" that 4 women fainted... or just cried out "NO!!!" in unison. Interesting how the DJ always has numerous women surrounding him...

And then the part very few others will see of Mitra's serenading during cleanup and the very end with the world famous cleanup song.  The whole thing was over so fast.

Seven more challengers will perform next time at the graduation ball on Friday July 26th... soon Oxygen is going to need a bigger space!