Monday, May 31, 2010

Her Shoes at My Door

Her Shoes at my Door

She forgot her shoes at the milonga.
I agreed to take them to her the next day,
But this morning I saw them waiting at my door
And I lost my senses for a moment.
"Maybe I could keep them," I told myself.
"They look good at my door,"
I thought.

I reluctantly decided to give them back.
So I drove by and dropped them off.
"Shoe delivery!"
I said.

She, her husband, the dogs, the cat and I
Talked for a while.
But my mind wandered for a while
Back to the shoes by my door, my mind
Wandered to a pretend world, a woman in my life.
She was upstairs watching a tango video,
Telling me to come upstairs
To see.

She just took a shower.
I felt her presence, good to have her here.
I was fooling myself that I could live without her,
That I could live without a companion.

Yes, I was fooling myself.
I had to give the shoes back.
No woman upstairs,
No woman freshly out of the shower,
Talking to her dog, as if he understood,
Swooning over a tango film clip
On the computer screen.

My shoes sit now alone at the door.
I wonder if they are angry at me.
Her shoes told me more about myself
Than I was ready for this morning.

The novel woman,
With her shoes at my door
Was a fiction written
Just for me.
By a lonely heart.

by Mark Word
31 May 2010

Photo credit:
"Los Zapatos Abandonados,"
Sybille Word
18 Jan 2017

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Organic Tango: Inspired by women

Organic tango* is a term I use to describe what happens when the music and and the chemistry between two people create something that is unique.  Organic tango is happening all the time, but sometimes we just don't realize it. 

In therapy sessions with individuals and couples there is often at least one moment that is "momentous."  Maybe it's a woman who realizes down to her bone that she is not even remotely to blame for her rape when she was a girl.  The years of self-blame melt in one session.  Or the couple that realizes that they truly do adore each other, and they commit to work of being a couple.  Today, a combat vet in my office cried for the first time about his friend burning to death in a Bradly Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, and a weight fell from his soldiers.  His heart beat went from 102 to 70 beats per minute in just a few minutes.  His migraine headache vanished.  I call this "a holy moment" because in religion the expectation is normalized that if one recognizes holy moments, more blessings will come.  "Then a window from heaven will open up with a bounty more than you can receive."  I have holy moments all the time.  In therapy sessions with combat veterans.  Moments with my children.  On the dance floor.  When these holy moments happen on the dance floor, Organic Tango is happening.

If you don't recognize these moments for the holy moments they are, then I believe they will disapate as efemeral warm-fuzzy moments.  It is kind of like Moses hearing the 10 Commandments but forgetting about them after the long trek down Mt. Siani.  "Hey Moses, your hair turn white, man.  What happened to you?"  Moses says, "Man, it was really cool. Lightning and stuff.  You shudda been there, man."Take note of the holy ground that you are trodding upon.   It is my job in therapy sessions to recognize these moments from what people are saying, and point out the moment.  Otherwise it too often disappears as just a "warm fuzzy" for the moment.  Holy ground becomes the dance floor when a woman says, "You know that thing we did over in that corner. [She's pointing.] What was that?  It was cool."  Scheeez.  I don't know anymore.  Focus, Mark.  Try to reconstruct.  She helps with a vague description.  It was a special moment in the music and how she responded.  Yes, now I remember. Something just grew out of the moment, the music, the connection that both of us had never experienced from classes or with other dancers.  This is organic tango.  No preservatives or pesticides or artificial fertilizers.  It nourishes your soul.

Here is some practical advice of how to remember these moments, a way to "count your blessings" to be ready for more:  Name the new move after the woman who inspired it (and take note of the music).  The ladies have led me so often to new places on a discovery walk.   In the last reflection, I said "women do lead."  This means "lead to organic tango."

So gentlemen, buy a spiral notebook.  I have been naming inspirations after my tangueras for about four months now. It has been wonderful, and more organic tango is blooming in my tango garden all the time as a result!

As for the ladies:  Having a turn, sacada or gancho named after you is much better than in the medical science community. How would you like to be Jessica Alzheimer or Susan Heimlich? Embarrassing at cocktail parties.

So I am dedicating myself to remembering those women who inspire a particular move and/or the music that led us there. The one woman who has inspired me the most was Alicia.  She is responsible for countless steps we have co-discovered. One paso I call, "Ocho Caminando de Alicia" keeps her in the cross system (ochos atrás) while alternating my forward traspies both on the open and closed sides.  Because of Mary Ann (Austin), I was inspired to do the Ocho Caminando on the closed side in milonguero embrace for the first time some months ago. 

The second person responsible for many moves started inspiring me on her 3rd month as a tanguera. Janet somehow is responsible for so many new ideas that I cannot even remember which ones belong to her (sorry Janet).

Most of my best inspirations often come from a partner who fully accepts me. It is hard not to sense the critical thoughts of any woman who is judging me as if I were in some sort of audition, and thereafter I usually cannot grow organic tango in her presence.  I can dance well because I dance in honor of the music, composer and musicians, but she must be put out of my thoughts.  Physcially we are dancing but their is no psychological connection.

Female teachers used to intimidate me, but now Mardi Brown (Austin) is great for organic tango, or better said, offers me a great musical pathway that is wonderful.  Her organic tango can last for a whole song or tanda.  Austin's new world class teacher and dancer, Daniela Acuri, from Buenos Aires inspired a new clockwise turn recently as we were dancing. Later, I perfected it in cross system with a veteran dancer, Kathy D. So it has her name as el círculo de Katrina.

Just recently el círculo became an INCREDIBLE move because of all the other women who taught me how to make it work with most anyone.  An interesting alternative response to my lead came from Johanna in LA. Other women were doing what she did but she was the first to do it very cleanly. Before Johanna I was misunderstanding what some women were doing until I saw (felt) Johanna do it. So now I recognize that women interpret el Círculo de Katarina in two basic ways.

The great tangueras in Santa Mónica, California recently, made me realize that each woman makes me speak my tango with their dialect and accent. With Sara (Santa Barbara), I was able to do little nuances that I would have never tried before. However she kept catching little things and I kept getting more subtle. Her organic tango moment is called el decrecendo de Sara (small steps that melt into only body movements) -- so luscious.

Wanda, from San Diego, allowed me to pause and improvise off of the sub-rhythms of tango (musically stated 1/4/7 of eightnotes or quarternotes or even half-notes).  Again leading me to places I had never been before, but that was also true of Caroline, Sara W. and Wanda in California. I now see this ability to not pull me into the next step as the epitome of a great tanguera.  (Note to guys:  Going slower in these sub-rhythms can also be led with talented beginners; so don't blame women if they don't "get it."  Also, guys this rhythm is the essence of tango/milonga/canyenge; so if you don't know what this means, send me an email.  Women cannot very easily inspire you to dance to this; it must be by listening to the music.  I discovered it by dancing by myself a lot.)

There are other pasos like el Péndulo de Mari (Austin) that is outrageously fun in a milonga.  It had never worked in close embrace and it was taught by a famous tango great (Salas) as an open embrace caminada.  But one evening Mari and I discovered something new in the milonguero embrace.  This was truly organic tango because she is somewhat shorter than I, and even now the pendulum is somewhat easier with tall women usually.  Not for her though.  The move belongs to her.

Dayna is responsible for a counter rhythm with a barrida during a molinete (two against three). I don't know what the heck I should call that. ¿Perhaps la cosa de Dayna? I am not going to describe this because I don't have command of English enough to do it justice. 

Just this Sunday, Sara M. (Austin/Seattle) along with the music inspired an extended segment in which she was dancing on the downbeat and I on the upbeat. It was an out-of-body experience. ¿Poli-ritmos de Sara?  That was definitely organic because it was in close embrace.  She owns it, and the music really called for it.  It won't work just any time -- a hallmark of truly organic tango.

How often does organic tango happen?  At the start, I said "all the time."  But are we recognizing these moments?  Just last weekend on Friday, Bentley created the "Pivot de Bentley," which I didn't even recognize as being that special until she pointed it out as being so fun, and yes, another organic tango moment. This led Kathy D. to comment (at a práctica) last Sunday that she felt the Pivot de Bentley wasn't soft enough. So Kathy inspired the softer version and by accident we created a leg-push sacada (her left leg) with a thigh sacada (her right leg) all with my left leg. This is repeated about 4 times for a 360 degree fairly tight circle. We are in the cross system. It is awesome. Thank you ladies! The result (according to my notebook): A combination (in cross) of Pivot de Bentley and círculo a la izquierda con sacadas alternadas de Katarina. Incredible.

From writing this article, I know that I am already in trouble for not naming all the other great inspirations from countless tangueras. I am humbled by their generous contributions to my treasure chest.

An important note:
These moments I am describing here are in some ways not true organic tango, which can go on all night.  But I do not have the words to describe this phenomenon.  Tango is not a compilation of steps like other dances tend to be.  And Organic Tango is not just steps or moments.  The best organic tango is an entire tanda with an organic embrace, which I call the "docking station embrace."  I feel as if I am floating in space but at the same time I feel I am home and safe in my partner's arms.  This happens all the time, but I am at a loss to describe it.  A few examples of the hights of these moments are empirical examples that something special was happening, abstractions of the larger painting.

So from my spiral notebook, which I only have started, I have these moments (listed below).  My hope is that a few tangueras will remind me of some holy moment / organic moment / nirvana nanosecond / heaven-on-earth tanda with me (or talk with any man who understands organic-Sprache or will simply listen to you.) 

Organic tango is good for you and the environment. And like the other types: It takes two. 

My Organic Tango ListHelp me with my list, ladies!
  • Ochos atrás y caminando de Alicia (México)
  • Cuñita ganchos de Alicia
  • La sentada de Alicia
  • 3 contra 6  Vals de Alicia
  • Lápiz con enganche de Janet (Austin) and many more
  • Círculo del Reloj de Daniela Acuri (Buenos Aires)
  • Círculo cruzado hacia la derecha de Katrina D. (Austin)…
  • …y traducción de Johanna (Los Ángels)
  • Decrcendo [term from music/Latin] de Sara W. (Santa Bárbara)
  • Pausa de Wanda/Johanna/Sara W. (tangueras de California)
  • La Milonga-Péndelo de Mari (Austin)
  • Multi-ritmos molinete de Dayna (Austin)
  • Pivot de Bentlye (Austin) [Just this Friday at Uptown]
  • Docking Station Embrace: Christina (Alemania); Tatyana and Irina (Rusia); Alicia (México); Kay and Pat (Austin)
  • Docking Station Embrace teachers: Daniela Acuri (BsAs) / Phyllis Williams (Dallas)
  • Hand melting in mine:  Teresa M. (Cuba); Mari (Austin)
  • Dynamic breathing: Alessandra (Austin)

    From Sunday night’s práctica in Austin:
  • Sacada doble y vuelta suave de Katarina D. y…
  • Milonga contra-ritmos de Sara M. (Austin)

*Organic Tango:  After finishing this article, I did an Internet search on "organic tango."  Others have defined "organic tango" and we are on the same wave length.  Both of us agree on taking away the Tarzan mentality from tango -- "Me lead, you follow.")  Go to for a great definition.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Women DO lead


Evolving away from the Tarzan-Effect

But how do women lead?

They lead the way to new dance ideas.  Sometimes by just pausing and allowing four possibilities rather than the one they learned.  A tanguera is like a guide, leading me by giving me possibilities I never had considered.  She opens the gate, and says, "Hey, Mark, here are four paths.  Most men go down this path, but here are three other paths."  Now, I decide to take path number three.  Later, I tell her that I have never done that before, and add:  "You inspired me."  She says "thanks," and adds, "You are a great lead."  What?  Who was leading whom?  If nothing else, we were co-discoverers on this journey that neither of us had ever made.  But it was her LEAD that allowed me to take the road less traveled.

The problem here is the word "lead."  Some leaders push or pull others along.  Perhaps that was the man's role when tango began.  The concept of leadership has evolved, yes, but in many ways nothing is really new.  History is replete with leaders that did not push or pull.

 The Santa Mónica International Tango Holiday (SMITH) gave me further insight into tango not as a "men-talk-women-listen dance" but a "men-speak-with-an-accent" dance.  In other words, I only speak without an accent when I dance alone.  I speak through a woman, and she can make my thoughts sound eloquent or dull; French or Spanish.  But I must be careful to say here that she is not my interpreter, she is like an interpreter, but much more.  She LED me to say it, I said it, and then she put her own accent on it.  Of course, this may be what she is experiencing too; so the analogies only come close to describe what I think is going on.  Whatever the case, I firmly believe that tango is more sophisticated than the Tarzan-Effect: "Me talk; you listen." 

Perhaps all my thoughts on women and leading in one sentence should be:  "He leads; she follows" because the phrase "women do lead" can be misunderstood too.  I don't want to create a monster.  I have danced with advanced dancers  who pull me into the next step she is thinking I will do.  I didn't say that, and the music didn't say it either.  Leading in this way is not allowing me to speak in her dialect; she has put words in my mouth and reiterated what a teacher taught without regard to the moment and the music.

Tango can be a soliloquy or monologue for two.  However, for those who have experienced a tango conversation, "women do lead" will make a lot of sense.  My hope is that men start recognizing the women who inspire them to do something that is not in their cookie-cutter vocabulary that they have learned, but something that was truly the making of great poetry of two people speaking a unique language that no other couple in the world can speak.  That, mis compañeros de tango, is the beauty of tango.

Trailer on next article for women-inspired tango:
In the next article, I will attempt to reconstruct some of the steps that women and the music have inspired while dancing.  Their dialect and these moments still influence the way I now "talk."  Here is an index of inspirations that I will mention just some my most wonderful tangueras:

De Alicia (México):

  • Ochos atrás y caminando
  • Cuñita ganchos
  • La sentada 
  • (Y mucho, mucho mas de Alicia)
  • Lápiz con enganche de Janet (Austin)
  • Círculo del Reloj de Daniela Acuri (Buenos Aires)
  • Círculo cruzado hacia la derecha de Katrina D. (Austin)…
  • …y traducción de Johanna (Los Ángels)
  • Decrcendo [term from music] de Sara W. (Santa Bárbara)
  • Pausa de Wanda/Johanna/Sara W. (de California)
  • El Milonga-Péndelo de Mari (Austin)
  • Multi-ritmos molinete de Dayna (Austin).
  • Docking Station Embrace: Christina (Alemania); Tatyana (Rusia); Alicia (México) and teachers Daniela Acuri (BsAs) / Phyllis (Dallas)
Hot off the press just from last night’s práctica in Austin:
  • Sacada doble y vuelta suave de Katarina D. y…
  • Milonga contra-ritmos de Sara M. (la de Austin)
¡Hasta la próxima!  Or as we say in Tejas: "See ya in a bit"!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tango: Speaking in her Accent


Near the border of France
I enter a milonga in Saarbrücken.
She is French,
We speak in German.
But our mutual language is tango.

The music starts.
Our embrace, melds two hearts,
Two cultures.
And like tango, a dance of immigrants,
Our souls transmigrate to a place we both have never been.
Our movements interpret a tango both familiar and new.

My feet had spoken this same tango in my kitchen two days before.
But now I speak with a strong French accent, her accent,
Her way of making what I say different.
New to me, new to her.

Now I lead her down a familiar path,
But she opens a gate to a new place.
I see a French garden with a fountain.
I have never been to this place.
Neither has she,
Although I was sure it was her favorite place.

I speak with the accent of each tanguera I hold.
The magic of tango is the moment I am no longer just me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Tango: Is your tango sustainable?

Is your tango sustainable?

"Green-Tango," is taking care of yourself and having a tango community that will last.  "Red-Tango" is a live-for-the-moment tango whether for oneself, for just one couple dancing dangerously or even a community which does not concern itself with being sustainable.  That's red.  What's green?  Sustainable, lifetime enjoyment of the pure enjoyment of tango.

Shoes for Green-Tango
Tango shoes for women can cripple a woman over time.  That's their choice, but not all are going to play that game.  Green-Tango is devoted to comfortable shoes for women, who presently are harming their feet and bodies (with the shoes I so adore).

Immune-System Green-Tango

Tango is usually at night and lasts late into the night.  Does it always have to be that way?  Green tango communities have at least some milongas that are early.  Just sometimes we need to get a good sleep, necessary for healthy bodies which we need to dance tango in our 90's and beyond.  A person who does not sleep enough is hurting many things, but the most important is their immune system.

Safety is social, and social is green: 
Green is old, old tango culture, and it is too often forgotten with new generations, who focus on the thrill of cool moves and the nightlife, but safety is a philosophic pillar of Green-Tango.  A code of ethics of safe dancing is a necessary part of a green tango community.  Sorry, O Thou Tango Teacher, but all that energy spent on teaching volcadas, and every other kind of "-ada" needs at least a 10% tithe to the danger of such things -- especially to the most common victims:  Women, their backs, their bare legs and their exposed feet.

Green Ears
Music that is not at ear level to blast in one's ear on one side of the room.  I always wore hearing protection as a professional drummer.  Always.  Many of my musician friends now have serious hearing loss.  Yes, there is Green Music and Red Music.  The Red Musicians eventually become the No Music musicians.

Green Tango is part of evolution
Old stuff and new stuff together.  Sustainable tango is the dance you dance all of your life because you can.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rejection: Solutions 7 & 8

This is the last of a series on dealing with rejection.  The assumption from the start was that tango gives its own special challenges for rejection for both men and women.   Tango is not to blame.  Rather, feelings of rejection in tango are probably latent and unresolved  rejections from early in life.  It's like going back to "middle school" all over again.  So now with new maturity and eight different solutions to rejection, I hope now that anyone reading this will get a sense of how wonderful it is when a person finds mature solutions rather than just giving up on tango and the challenge to grow psychologically and spiritually.

Since this is the last of the series, let's review in just a few words all the solutions so far.  Then we'll expand the new territory,  Solutions 7  (dance-to-the-music) & 8 (dance in the kitchen).

All Eight Solutions for Rejection

1. The "I-will-get-better" Solution.  Maybe I am rejected now by better dancers, but eventually not.  Here is the link.

2. The "Just-Ask" Solution.  A risky solution, but one can ask the person who has systematically rejected us.  (NOT to be used on the same evening or after a few rejections.)  Here is the link.

3. The Military Solution.  One stuffs feelings and is actively seeking to dance with others as a way to avoid a downward spiral into self-pity.  Here is the link.

4. The tango walk by oneself Solution.  Bi-lateral stimulation of a graceful walk has the brain finding solutions and resolution to problem.  Here is the link.

5. The embrace Solution + Solution 4.  Now bi-lateral stimulation to the brain through the walk is added with an empathetic embrace. Here is the link.

6. The tango community Solution.  The community, same-sex friends, couple friendships helps us through seasons or moments of rejection.  (This one is problematic if the community is unfriendly. Come to Austin.)  Here is the link.

And finally, 7 & 8.

SOLUTION SEVEN is the dance-to-the-music solution. 

As with other solutions, each solution (except 4 & 8) may be the central problem.  If one allows the music to drive you to move, then it is more likely to be a solution.  Until you get to that place, music may be the very thing that causes fear of rejection or is tied with love that was lost.  But f
or now let's focus on the power of music to overcome rejection. 

I used to feel nervous with certain women because they were tango teachers, or critical out loud in some way, or just by the way they approached the dance with a "show-me-what-you-got Mister" look.  For the performance-oriented women (or my fear of them), I use this dance-to-the-music solution.  It is sadly a common experience to run into a woman who is unkind, or clearly indicates that she expects me to prove myself.


The first time I used the dance-to-the-music solution was in Denver.  La sangrona  was wearing a beautiful dress.  We did not know each other, and both were taking a risk.  Unlike the men in  her tribe, I must have held her two tightly.  She over-reacted to me from the first moment I touched her, as if I had pulled down her dress or something horrible. She could have politely said that she prefers to be held lightly. Each person likes the hold differently, and in Buenos Aires, there are certainly good leads who hold more firmly. But instead of stating her preference, she was aggressive with me.

Querido Tanguero/Querida Tanguera, you cannot expect even the best dancers to understand the culture of tango, or even to have good social skills!  Two excellent tangueras latinas have told me once that my light hold on them was not a true embrace.  Each woman is different, but the latinas were nice about telling me their preference.  One was my tango coach, and she told me that right after I came back from Denver! 
Last but certainly not least...

SOLUTION EIGHT:  Dance by yourself in your kitchen.

As a therapist, I suggest to the men who return from combat only to find that their wife/girlfriend has abandoned them, that they learn to take care of themselves before getting into a new relationship.  "Dancing in the kitchen" is what I suggest, along with fixing themselves a good meal with candlelight.  After I suggested this for the first time a while back, I started doing it myself, and it is wonderful.  I also write in a journal at dinner.  Tango music in the background with wine.  ¡Maravilloso!

I find myself so refreshed and learn so many concepts while practicing by myself.  "The kitchen" means simply at home on a non-carpeted floor.  With solution eight, all of the other solutions come into being, except Solution 2, which, you'll remember, is risky and perhaps totally unnecessary if you are working the other solutions into your life.  Some will ask about Solution 5, the embrace.  Well, querida tanguera, you are are embracing yourself -- something worth doing because you are so incredible as I imagine you dancing with yourself in your kitchen with a glass of red wine from the vineyards of Argentina your hand.

Rejection?  By now it is being rejected from your life.  Welcome to what tango is all about. 

Monday, May 3, 2010


This is the fourth of a series on dealing with rejection using tango to grow psychologically and reduce the drop-out rate when rejection/drama turns a person away from the beauty of tango.

Solution six may be the most powerful of all eight solutions. It is the Tango Community.

La Communidad de Tango exists better with your positive input, but it lives with you or without you. The concept of community is like gravity, which pervades everything you do, but you don't give it much thought. You don't say, "well that volcada would have been weird in outer space." Or, "that sacada on the moon, would be outrageously fun."

If the community is as powerful and as unnoticed as gravity, take some time to notice it. I once went on a medical mission to eradicate tuberculosis in Haiti. That is when I realized how important a strong community is.  Without a strong community, one can be hurt on the street, and there may not be any paved streets for an ambulance to come to one's aid. For that matter, there may not be any ambulances or sanitary hospitals -- sadly even more the case right now than when I was in Haiti after finishing graduate school.

A healthy tango community rivals, in my experience, the best of any church community I have ever experienced: Sometimes there's a place to stay at total stranger's home; a warm welcome and trusting embrace in France or Denver or Houston or Portland; a shared joy that is sophisticated but childlike. What a wonderful balance in the tango community.

After the first reflection on Solutions 1-3 on rejection, I received an email from a wonderful dancer and good looking young woman I had met at a few out-of-town tango festival milongas. She surprised me with an email about feeling rejected, sitting out too much and feeling terrible.  She wondered if she would give up tango altogether. I told her about SOLUTION 4, 5 and 6. However, she found number six to be the most powerful solution for her situation.  She gave me permission to share her experience: 

"Mark, I tried the solution six at the yesterday’s milonga. It was amazing. I concentrated on being thankful that I am in the great community of very kind and intelligent people. I sat down in a chair and relaxed. Then, I danced non-stop for two and a half hours. There were not many people there because most everyone in town went to a nearby tango festival. But I danced, danced and danced. And I enjoyed it a lot. I even introduced myself to an older couple. They danced a bit and mostly watched. When I was leaving they told me how much they enjoyed watching me dance. I was touched. . . .Thank you for your help. I knew something would happen and I would not quit tango."

Also, she realized how she was not doing what others had done for her.  Many had danced down to her level when she was a beginner, and now it was time to give back. Since implementing Solution Six, I have seen her a few times dance and have danced with her.  She so fully gives herself to the dance, the music and her partner -- over and over -- an does this with beginners too! 

An Important Aside
Surely there are people with whom we all do not want to dance.  Some women actually hurt my right ankle because they pull away or have poor balance. If a woman has an embrace phobia, I won't be coming her way very often. If a woman dances for herself or is watching who is entering the room, I will not be dancing with her for quite a while.  But beginners need a community effort to bring them into this wonderful thing, called "tango."

The Overdose of Medicine

The tango community can be salutary -- medicine for the soul.  However, rejection can be caused by the community; so the over-all Solution is not in just one thing. That is why there are many different Solutions.  Ever hear of "shunning in Seattle"?  Maybe the reputation is not fair.  But whatever the case, not all tango communities are equal.

"Men have it easy"
How maddening to sit there wanting to dance, ladies! Feelings of rejection ooze from some tables.  Earlier reflections have dealt with this subject of what a lady can do to dance more. Here, I just want to say that men do not have it easy when it comes to rejection.  Sure, I dance all night.  No rejection?  Really?  The main reason that men stop dancing, I believe is because of rejection.  They may be dancing, but their partners may never really have given themselves over to the dance, the music, the community or to him.  It feels terrible to be holding a woman who exudes rejection.  (Solution 7 will address the partner who is rejecting you while dancing.) 

A buffer for rejection (for guys part I) 
Tango has its pluses.  Learn the cabeceo (not asking but using one's eyes and a nod of the head -- coming from the word "cabeza" or "head").  Women will think you have it easy just because you are dancing.  You may feel the girl-talk on the side burning you ears about who can and who can't lead.  I heard it all through informants, and although it hurt, I learned what path I must take:  It is one of humility, hard work (lessons/practice) and lots of dancing with people at or below your own level.  Eventually, I started getting compliments and even a few informants (female spies), who have helped me know what a lady wants.  What we men need is something like Cosmopolitan Magazine which reveals all the secrets of how to please women.  Or you can just go to the many tanguera blogs, especially my esteemed Austin tango blogista, Mari.

Mark's Rule of Seven (for guys part II)In the world of Salsa, the cabeco is unknown.   I used to ask for dances in El Paso as the only white guy in the club. I had a "limit" of asking SEVEN WOMEN before I would sit down and stop asking for any ONE song.  Use the cabeco!  Seven woman looking away does not take much time, and your ego will be spared major trauma.  In the my Rule of Seven, mostly I gave up because the song would be over soon.  I just kept asking because the music was driving me mad, and I had to dance.  I had no choice but to ask.  The good news is that eventually, I was dancing non-stop.  The Latinas knew that I would turn them efficiently without hurting them, that I danced musically and that I was dancing with them without expecting "special benefits."  Lastly, I had one advantage that the Latinos never seemed to understand.  I never looked around for my next partner while dancing.  These are tango basics too: Don't hurt her; dance the music not the steps you just learned; leave your passion on the dance floor; and be present with her until you escort her off the floor.  Eventually, the El Paso salsa community accepted me.  I was dancing just as much as before, but the rejection stopped, once Solution Six was fully implemented.

Part A and Part B of Solution Six
So there are two parts.  Part A is to appreciate the community, helping it grow and share.  Part B is slowly to build trust so that the community appreciates you.  Interestingly, being accepted may have less to do with the opposite sex.  This is true of the tango community and is especially true in the salsa community.  Once the men were shaking my hand and embracing me in El Paso, the Latinas accepted me as a part of their community.  Men who are a menace on the dance floor will never be fully accepted by other men in any dance community.

Querida tanguera/Querido tanguero:  You will know when you arrive in the tango community.  You will start appreciating the friendships and the hard work of organizers, teachers and DJs.  You will feel it in the embrace of men and women in the community.  You will know that your heart has grown to make room for something very wonderful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Older Woman

The Older Woman

I knew she gave herself fully to the best tangueros.
I watched in awe of her animated femininity.
So far ahead, she was, from my level of dancing.
But then one evening she made it clear
With her eyes and a upward whip of her gaze
That I should escort her to the dance floor.

My body and hands vibrated the frequency
  of not being sure of myself.

She embraced me and said in a whisper:
"Listen only to the music. I have watched you do this.
Hold me until you can feel my heart beat with that rhythm.
Then we will walk as one, impelled by the music to move."

She melted into me; I could feel my heart slowing to hers.
And the music took away the need to impress her
Because we both stood in awe of the music together.
Our breathing became one,
Our walk came as if from one heart.

Between songs we shifted deeper into the embrace
That evening she gave me the gift, though I was not worthy of it.
Though ten years younger than I,
She was my "older woman," mi milonguera.
Tango had found her a decade before it had found me.

She showed me the gift.
The way to make tango to a woman.

To better understand "the gift," I recommend that you read this:  

Next:  Solution Six for rejection, tomorrow!