Descending – Tango


Photo Credit: Zabara_Tango

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

An excerpt from the poem “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich.

Around three years ago, I learned how to scuba dive. I’m not a natural, and I haven’t returned for a couple of years now. The hardest part about diving was the moment my face and mask went under the water; I had to resist the natural urge to buck against breathing underwater and surface.

It’s really a form of meditation to stay under water and reserve the air in the tank. I had to learn how to breath slowly and disassociate my fears from reality. I coaxed my brain into believing that breathing under water was natural. Slowly I pressed the air out of my jacket and descended with my gauge clutched in my left fist, in love with the ocean and deeply terrified all at once.

For a lady, tango also calls for dissassociation. When I join a partner on the dance floor, I close my eyes and try to forget I have any choice in my movements. A tango professor advised me, “Listen, the truth is that the woman has nothing to do with the rhythm. The man decides the rhythm, and you have to follow even if he’s off rhythm.” As a new dancer, I fight to keep my knees brushing together and my legs jutting out behind me. I try not to have any say in our steps–to let my right arm relax and let my self doubt disappear for a few minutes. Dancing with a new partner each time is like learning a new language. Some milongueros create their own favorite steps.

The scariest moment is when I stand on the milonga floor for the first tanda and I feel out of my league. I close my eyes and know I’ll be descending into the abyss, ready or not.

I’ll know when I’m really in the moment, that I’ve really achieved something, when I can listen to the music and enjoy it–to incorporate the song’s meaning into the dance.

7 Comments

Filed under Tango

7 responses to “Descending – Tango

  1. maelinat

    This is wonderful. I’d like so much to attend tango classes. Shall we follow men in life as into that dance..?

    Thank you.

    Hi Mae,

    Thank you for commenting.

  2. Beautiful written!
    This totally reminded me of an aunt I had, she used to say: “La vida es un tango…y hay que saberlo bailar”.

  3. Wonderful that you are doing these exciting and challenging things. There is nothing like being in your body in the moment is there? I liked that you, “coaxed my brain into believing that breathing under water was natural.” Lifegiving. Good for you. Bravo! Enjoyed this post.

    Thanks so much. You are an inspiration!

  4. Chelsea

    Your blog is beautiful. Thanks so much for passing on the website to me. I’ve really enjoyed reading it so far.

    I keep meaning to tell you this in class, but now that I’ve adjusted to Porteño time, 9 AM is just way too early to remember anything.

    Thank you! I can barely speak English, left alone Spanish, at 9 AM.😉

  5. Mom

    You are truly a poet!! Such emotion, when are you going to publish something for pay??


    Aww, thanks mom. Poets aren’t usually paid for publication.

  6. Jorely

    I loved this post. You’re mom is right, you need to write a book!

    Thanks, Jor!🙂

  7. Lourdes

    I stumbled upon your site today and you couldn’t have described it any better! I even posted your link on my FB page with this note….

    “know that for myself my Tango moments has not been during performances, but during those quiet practice sessions when I closed my eyes, handed myself over to the moment (disassociated myself) and allowed another to take the lead.

    I agree wtih the author that every time I danced Argentine Tango it was like learning a new language, disappearing into the dance. ”

    Your post makes me want to go to the Tango bar this Saturday night and enjoy a Milonga. Thanks!

    Thank you very much for your comment.

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