My latest tango lessons

DSCF2041 My tango lesson yesterday did not go too well. Ariel was tired. I was tired. It was like we were two slugs dancing. The difference between us is that even when he is exhausted he dances great, me on the other hand: my legs were wobbly, I couldn’t stay on my axis and even the simplest things felt like I was wading through treacle. Every new tango I thought, ‘Sal, focus. You’re gonna dance like you know you can this time.’ But no. It just was not to be.

In the beginning if a class went along these lines I got very despondent. When I arrived in Buenos Aires I was still in the phase of wanting to be perfect. I wanted Ariel to see me dance and tell me that I would be a great dancer. I wanted to stun him with my brilliance. I knew that no way was I brilliant. But I desperately wanted to be. For weeks he used to ask me to walk alone, and then walk alone with decorations and then walk alone with full turns in every step. I used to cringe with embarrassment as I wobbled and tipped in front of him. Sometimes I felt like crying. Sometimes I felt like screaming. But I didn’t. I just kept trying. He used to say to me ‘Don’t worry. Even if you don’t do it great, it will help you dance better. And one day you will do it great when you are not even trying. And even if one day you do it great, then another day you won’t. And it’s ok.’

Over time I noticed that my body was remembering, learning, becoming steadier and more able to do what had once had seemed impossible. I realised that every single thing we did was going in to my head, into my body and into my soul even when I thought it wasn’t. I learned that the combination of my subconscious mind and my body is actually unstoppable. If I allow myself to relax and simply try things out in the classes rather than worry, then some day later (maybe the next day, maybe the next week, maybe the next month) I will find myself doing them quite naturally. This leads to some very happy moments of surprise and delight. Gradually I have stopped worrying about being perfect.

I am not saying that I don’t still have bad days. Now that I know Ariel far better, I am not one to hold back my feelings. I swear a lot, have been known to refuse to carry on doing something, have stamped my foot with frustration. I give him the evil eye (see the picture above!) when he is telling me to correct one of my bad habits yet again. But always we laugh within seconds and he gives me the ‘don’t worry speech’ and we live to fight another day!

And I am not alone in my ups and downs. Over my months in Buenos Aires I have met up with many tango dancers who are here to learn, just like I am. Most of them have shared at least one of their bad moments with me. And I have shared mine with them. It goes something like this…

We arrive. We want to learn fast. We want  to dance great. We take too many classes. We dance every night. We get tired.  We get confused. We get frustrated. We convince ourselves we can’t dance. We ask ourselves why we ever came here in the first place. Maybe we are exhausted. Maybe we had a bad night at the milonga. Maybe we had a tough class. Maybe we are just human.  Maybe we have a cry. Maybe we laugh with a friend and share our gruesome experiences. We pick ourselves up. We carry on. Then, one night or one class or one tanda later it all comes together again and we are flying once more. It’s all part of the process.

I am learning that a tango journey cannot be rushed. The body will take just as long as it needs to walk along its tango path. The more I think, the more I worry, the more I care… well it’s just better if I don’t.  I know I will have low energy days and I know I will have days when my body just isn’t working well, but now when I walk out of my class, whether it has felt great, or whether it has felt less than great, I KNOW that my body has learned something, all by itself. And I know that one day soon or far it will reveal what it has learned to me, and I will smile again.

And there is something else too. Now when I think of what I seek DSCF1963in my tango it is not perfection. Instead I want that my body understands enough to allow my soul to dance. The truth is that in my most recent dreams I see Carlos and me dancing close in the Buenos Aires milongas when we are in our eighties, him singing his favourite tangos in my ear, my heart beating next to his, our two bodies melded into one. In the end, those are the tangos I long to dance. By then, the perfectly executed back sacada will be a dim and distant memory, but my soul will be singing with joy to simply be walking backwards in his arms.

See the story in pictures of one of my tango classes


27 Responses

  1. Dear Sally,

    I just loved this post. It reflects so well my own struggle has been along my tanto road, even beyond the visits to BAs. We want something so badly, and we are trying so hard, and yet there are moments in which everything seems to crumble and we believe we are going really nowhere. It’s just about keeping on trying… and remembering, we all have our Tango Roads, and we just need to learn to enjoy them.


  2. Yes Tanguera, you are so so right. Enjoy! SC

  3. oh sally — that last picture of you and your man is so beautiful! he looks so passionate for you. this post made my day, thank you!

  4. Dear Nuit – when I first saw that photograph of us I cried. I thought ‘If it is possible to take a picture of love, then I am looking at it.’

    And surely it is too, a photograph of what argentine tango is really all about… SC

  5. Sally,

    I loved this post. All of us who dance tango have been down this road. Some days you just can’t dance at all and others you can do no wrong. Your photos and the last photo showing the reason we go through all this just sums it up perfectly. Thanks for taking the time to reflect on this issue and to share with the rest of us. Your comment about not caring about dancing perfectly but just well enough to reflect your soul was wonderful. In my opinion, that is what tango is all about; your soul and another merging in this dance to create something larger.

    By the way, I met you and your handsome novio at Gricel the first night that you ran into Caroline there. I was the one with Caroline that told you that I loved your blog.

  6. Hi Connie, I remember the night at Gricel perfectly. It was a moment of happiness for me when you said that you loved the blog. One great thing about sharing my experiences is that I meet lovely people from all over the world who know exactly what I go through, simply because they dance tango. To know I am not alone in what I feel keeps me going some days… Thank you. SC

  7. Sally, in tango, as I’m sure you now know,
    you just have to put in your time.
    Come back soon!

  8. Ah Cherie. I sure do know it. And I am happy that I do. I bounce back fast these days. To be here at all, to be dancing, to be loved, to be alive… it’s enough. It’s more than enough! SC

  9. SC,

    By feeling the energy radiated from his hands and ten fingers, I could tell the emotion within. You don’t have to dance the perfect tango to feel the perfect one.


  10. TP

    Yes his fingers tell a story of passion.
    And yes it felt perfect.


  11. Dear Sally. How wonderful for you, and of you. The timing couldn’t be any better. I so needed to read that right now.
    You made many valuable points. This is the post I will go back to more than once, in the future, I believe.
    Thanks a lot for writing and sharing!

  12. I cried as well upon first sight of that picture of you and Carlos… wow. That is love.

  13. How right you are!! Such a familiar feeling expressed so well! Life is as tango and tango is as life!
    Abrazos grandes chica
    Charlotte xx

  14. Frances, to write about my experiences is a joy. To know that others read and identify with what I write is a greater joy. Thank you for sharing back with me!

    Tina, yes my friend, yes.

    Charlotte, and whether we are in Buenos Aires or in Southampton, UK… it’s just the same huh?


  15. Hi Sally,
    Your description of your experiences with the tango filled me with hope. I have been asked to dance a tango scene for a film shooting in two weeks, and until a few weeks ago, I had rarely seen the tango, let alone tried to dance it. Fortunately, with the help of my wonderful teacher, Nadia, and my new film partner, Angela, we are making many strides forward, and of course, quite a few back. I am always struck by how much I enjoy the process and the sheer beauty of this dance, but also by it’s difficulty. Like you, it is my goal to go about it it in a relaxed fashion, trusting my body to remember and my mind to be still. Wish me luck.

  16. Hi Mike,

    Wow! I cannot imagine how I would have coped with filming a tango scene after only a few weeks dancing. I am delighted that my experiences give you hope. I wish you every success with the scene, and that perhaps you will be inspired to continue dancing the argentine tango long after the film is made. Is there any possibility I might see the film at some point in the future? I would love to. SC

  17. es la verdad….

  18. Sally,
    It’s called “Burn Up”, a two part miniseries airing in the spring in the UK, Canada and possibly the US. Not sure when, but the tango scene is in the second part and will probably be mercifully short. As for continuing on, my wife assures me that considering any other course will have dire consequences.

  19. sallycat,

    You are a generous and amazing soul. I will read your post again and again–I know that much. And the photos made me smile, and nod, and then cry at the same time (that last photo got me). I loved seeing you and Carlos together. That was beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing.

  20. Mike, will have my family in the UK on alert to record the series for me. Suerte!

    Tangobaby, your comment made me feel very special. Thank you. Thank you.

    Miss Tango, si es la verdad…


  21. Wow Sal – coming late to this post and those amazing photos. Seeing your concentration and your frustration but what a reward at the end. You’re a lucky and a lovely woman (and that’s a great wrap dress too!).

    Love from us in Derby, all looking forward to seeing you soon!

    Jo x

  22. The very same the world over!!

  23. Hello Sally

    I started reading your blog about a month ago and I’ve just been quietly enjoying it but I just had to speak about this beautiful post. I’m half Argentine/ half French born and raised in the US. I’ve always been curious about my Argentine heritage and long to visit and experience my culture. The reason I’m commenting today is seeing the picture of you and Carlos almost brought tears to my eyes. And your sentiment about longing to dance in his arms in your 80’s…my Abuela and Abuelo are just entering their 80’s and a couple years ago I asked them to dance for me. In my life I had yet to see them dance and there in the living room to a CD of Carlos Gardel, they moved into the dance so naturally and so simply that it nearly broke my heart. They didn’t appear to be thinking about anything just literally moving as one as naturally as one breaths in and out. I truly hope you and your Carlos have those same moments in your 80’s and that someone has the gift of seeing it and being awash in it as I did.

    Thank you for sharing this journey.

  24. Dear Christine, and I in my turn must say thank you to you for sharing this precious story with me. I am going to translate it for Carlos and I know he will be very moved. It is a beautiful moment that you write about, and quite the most lovely comment to come home to read.

    Thank you. SC

  25. So true! It made me cry. My own class was like this this week. A few days ago I was flying, then I landed again with a nasty bump. I want too much to do everything perfectly – that’s just my nature, sadly – and when it’s just not working it’s hard to remember that it’s still progress. But reading this reminds me that we’re all on the same journey, with the same ups and downs, and I feel less alone. And it reminds me that the reason we all dance has nothing to do with technical perfection, but is something which is always available to us, if we are open to it, and which makes all the work (and tears of frustration) worthwhile. Thank you.

    And oh! Those bloody back sacadas!

  26. Hey Psyche,

    Yes we sure are all on the same journey. And I’ve just finished writing a post that I hope will help you a little bit as you make the trip here and dance the next part of yours! I sort of wrote it for you… hope that’s ok.

    From one adventurer to another, suerte. SC

  27. This made me cry :o)

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