Monday, January 11, 2010

It was the music that drew me in...

The tempo was slow but intense, and the melody worked its way into my soul. The sheer magic of a bandoneon and a violin evoking such lyrical interplay between man and woman made me want to learn the argentine tango.

There I was, the latebloomer of a dance student, learning ballroom. A sure sign of advanced maturity among my peers, and an even surer sign to my daughter that her unpredictable mother was nearer to that mid-life marker.

At first glance, I thought it was a funny dance, with intertwined legs and curious movements. Why the ballroom aficionados and die-hards were engaged in the seemingly acrobatic steps and loving them was beyond my understanding.

I remember the first time I saw this dance. The loud upbeat music of the jive gave way to a poignant note followed by another and another, and the dancefloor suddenly filled up. One by one, couple by couple, the dance came to life.

Come closer, step forward, step side, lift your leg, twist to the side and then to the other side, then a kick or something like that. And again... move in close, step forward then back, step side, twist and kick... and again...

I asked what kind of dance that was... such haunting music but the steps were so alien and funny to me. Argentine tango was the reply. My consciousness honed in on the word "tango" and concluded that it was the good old tango that I could only watch from the sidelines, requiring training and practice and lessons and practice.

And again and again, every time I was in ballroom sessions, I would sit out the argentine tango, because I refused to learn. Too intimidated by what the name implied, and too shy to even try.

But the music kept haunting me... why not give it a whirl?

So one afternoon, three months into my ballroom lessons, in the confines of my favorite ballroom joint, I finally gave it a try. Basic steps: left hand on partner's right shoulder, right hand in partner's left hand, left foot forward and right foot collect and right food step side and left foot collect and left foot step backward and right foot collect... and move to the music, follow your partner's lead.

And again, and again, and again... follow the music, move with your partner.

The music kept me going through the basics. From watching on the sidelines and silently laughing at the dance, I had taken the first step into the world of tango, and little did I know there was no turning back.

Argentine tango asks of the dancer but one thing: the passion to make the music come alive in dance. It is not about how hard it is to learn, but rather how much you let the dance and the music teach you about how much you have inside of you.

Tango on my mind, and in my heart.

P.S. The song that haunts me to this day is Astor Piazzola's Oblivion.
Listen to it here

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