Monday 8 March 2010

birthday waltz

Gipsying around Europe for work, I dance tango whereever I happen to spend the night - if I am lucky to be in a tango-city. Now I am in Salzburg, where milongas are few and far between, so last Thursday I ended up - by pure luck - in the most atmospheric pub of this lovely town, where apparently people who love traditional music gather every week to play their instrument, chat and party until the small hours of Friday.

I ordered a beer, noticed again thatin Austria it is still possible to smoke everywhere in public houses, and continued to watch people. Salz-burgers are easy-going and smiley, and life here has the same sweet pace I know from other cities in Mitteleuropa, no rush, as if we didn't have agendas and dead-lines, as if we were going to live forever.

Everybody was warmed up, music was flowing, when one of the organisers said that two of the local guys were celebrating their birthday ("Geburtstagskinder", they call them in Salzburg, as they do in Bavaria). Suddenly the tunes turned into waltz, and for the next half an hour the Geburtstagskinder danced in the middle of the pub, their partners changing every few minutes - and announcing it was their turn to waltz with a short clap of hands.

Later, I asked about this and it turns out it is an old-ish tradition for celebrating birthdays or other events - in this part of Austria as well as in Bavaria. It is called "Abklatschen", from the hands clapping.

Tangueras and tangueros, does this remind you of anything?

Sunday 28 February 2010

Short story

If tango is a language, or a conversation - as people often say it is - then it is not like me saying something and you replying, etc., but more like me starting with a letter, you continuing and so on until we have the whole word, and then we add another one, and another one... until we hopefully have a sentence. If we are very lucky and patient, we get to a paragraph. There are couples who dance together for a lifetime. They are the ones who bring into the world entire novels, working their way through many drafts.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Why dance? (1)

I dance, these days, in order to be better able to listen to the music. To feel part of the orchestra.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Change of perspective

Soon after I started dancing, I was amused to see how much tango is like life. Today, I sometimes note that life resembles tango, and this worries me.

Intimacy and beauty

Tango has waited for me at thirty, confirming Troilo's prediction. And it has been, for the past three years, the matrix of my life, structuring it beyond reasonabe. Why tango, they sometimes ask me, and the best answer I come up with is that tango is a unique blend of intimacy and beauty, like I have not encountered elsewhere, never so intense and reliable. Perhaps, making music with somebody else - a violin and a piano - can be as intimate and beautiful as dancing tango; this is out of my reach. A few conversations have been like that - but these are even less reproducible than "tango moments".

But, unlike music and conversations, enjoying tango at its fullest calls for a kind of basic moral ability which I believe is itself elusive: to accept, perhaps even to love, people, for what they are at a particular moment. There is no way you can dance tango and ignore your partners, they are too close and you are too dependent on them as they make your dance possible. Sometimes I try to do the ignoring, ready to pay the price of a mechanical dance, but I believe not even then it is possible to entirely shun knowledge of the other.

This tender acceptance can perhaps be cultivated, but there is nothing to guarantee it. Sometimes I become misanthropic.

What hooked me to tango at first was its most obvious and glowing side, the intimacy. But what keeps me going is beauty.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Memories from my first encounter with tango

Dancing, the life of my body. I am in his arms and my senses are slowly retreating from the world. At last I cease hearing anything: I do not hear the music because the music is now within me, within us, in the moving connection of our bodies. I do not see him – he is too close; I see nothing and because I do not need them anymore, I eventually close my eyes. We are moving like two blind people. At first, I feel the skin of his neck, the nakedness of his foot, his hand gliding on my back, but these sensations disappear gradually. The limits between us become irrelevant, like the limit between the mouth and the nose, or between the breast and the chest – and are thus increasingly difficult to perceive. I am sinking into myself, now it is a different myself, entirely surrounded by his-myself, tenderly separating me from the rest of the universe. There is only one event within my new self: the dancing.