My Year in Tango: Dénouement

Some final reflections before the next Milonga!

I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it?

I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it?

It is our last chapter together. I am wondering if you are inspired to try tango, or exhausted from the sheer thought of it? Or wondering how on earth people engage in such odd behaviors…and for what?! Have these weeks of a confessional tango evolution prompted you to let tango whisk you away? I feel obligated to offer you something more. As if the story were not enough, you might feel you deserve a moral, or a summation of my psychological state? A finishing comment, perhaps, where I fillet my feelings, laying it all on the line: the reward for reaching the end, a gift to you of resonance and moment. What will that be?

My story was a mixture of real time, contemplations, confessions. And here we are, squarely at the end. In a somewhat subdued mood, I think back over the last months. This has been a journey of reflection, relation, and response, but most of all, of many connections but not necessarily to the actual human being who held me close.

It started with an interest in a cultural history far south of my present geographic location, moved on to the simplicity of appreciating a surface underneath my feet; progressed to relishing the stability of a close embrace and the possibility of a leader’s interpretation. A feeling of exquisiteness saturated me when I discovered the connection to the music. I exhaled with relief when I realized I didn’t have to like, or even want to know, my leader: he simply needed to smell good, and tolerably good can have many permutations. And then, becoming more familiar with the tango camaraderie, I retracted from just dancing with anyone: a leader had to have a captivating musicality and be able to bring that to me. But to find this, I needed to remain open to possibility.

Editor’s Note: Want to start at the beginning? It’s easy. We have an intro , a Part One, a Part Two, a Part Three, a Part Four, a Part Five, a Part Six, a Part Seven, and a Part Eight, all just a click away!

Travelling through all of this, there emerged one aspect unifying all: the thread of culture that has consistently and colorfully connected my tango experience. While I have investigated what I am capable of, asked what reluctances can I overcome, and wondered “do I dare disturb the universe” (mine or anyone else’s?), tango has presented to me a history of music, imagination, immigration, and shown me what beauty and passion people can be capable of even when faced with hardship and poverty and a sense of nothingness. The desire to create and innovate under less than ideal circumstances has birthed and formed tango, and that is, to me, remarkable.

I will also point out that, sure, tango, done right, as a dance looks sexy and sensual, and I am not advising you to ignore that. But I ask you to look beyond the hedonism and realize there is a cultural and psychological depth here you should not miss. Tango is a dance of pride and self-confidence, a dance of blended cultures and the borrowing of movement. Tango, perhaps most exceptionally, is something you can do regardless of wealth or possession, regardless of shape or size or age. It is something splendid even when in less-than-perfect surroundings.


To realize the illusion of tango happiness and to be able to trust your leader. . . .

To realize the illusion of tango happiness and to be able to trust your leader…

I have learned that acquiring a repertoire of tango abilities is a little like facing the unknown: one resists the unknown, the novel, the unexpected, the places where humiliation is suffered, and rejection and failure are greatest. In its simplest form, you need to learn to take and try all partners, because you never know when one will be incredible: looks can be deceiving, but do trust your nose. If you find you just can’t tolerate his smell, move on, politely.

To realize the illusion of tango happiness and to be able to trust your leader, you first have to understand and be comfortable with the process, and that takes time and failure, as you learn to contend with and accept the journey (missteps, poor following, lack of grace and finesse). But if it never happens, if you never find perfection, as many of us won’t, there is no loss. If learning tango takes a lifetime or takes a thousand years, the voyage is exquisite, a most intriguing provocation.

This is a journey that never need stop. I am still striving to gather the essentials. At my most recent lesson, my instructor stopped us mid-dance. He approached, got down on his knees and ever so gently grasped my ankle. I was in a back-cross step, a strong yet delicate criss-cross at the ankle as both feet temporarily change places, insteps exposed to the left and right.

“I am going to be picky,” he says. He grazes ever so slightly the angled part of my ankle, “Straight and strong right here, the instep brushes the floor,” he says. “That,” he announces, “is perfect.”

I couldn’t help grinning. These little, barely decipherable corrections, to me, are tango compliments. I feel like a tango Eliza Doolittle, imagining my instructor walking back to the sidelines muttering proudly to himself, “By jove, she’s got it. I think she’s got it!” And that minor success in the form of a correction also propels me.

For me, tango is both challenge and enjoyment; even the discipline and correction is affirming. I am having so much difficult fun trying to become a tanguera that if I never find that magical tango moment of heavenly engulfment and connection to whatever I am supposed to be intoxicated by, so be it. And for this tango-neophyte that seems to be my “treasure.”

Dare I remind you to “Get out there on the floor and dance! You don’t have forever.”**

** From poet Dana Gioia

 “Get out there on the floor and dance! You don't have forever." — poet Dana Gioia

“Get out there on the floor and dance! You don’t have forever.” –poet Dana Gioia


This series, My Year in Tango was powered by a whole lotta dancing, and made possible, in part, by the existence of Artswatch and my editor-par-excellence, the one-and-only, Barry Johnson. I am further indebted to the kindness and guidance of Mike Eblen, Andrew Oliver, and Alex Krebs, and to all the tangueros who have informed my journey along the way providing enlightenment and positive support. Without them, tango would still be a complete mystery; with them, it is an irresistible and enchanting enigma.

My Favorite Milonga is Saturdays at the Tango Berretin.

Alex Krebs,Instructor
Dance with Joy Studios
Mike Eblen, Instructor
Norse Hall, a great place for the Milonga
Alex Krebs Tango Quartet 
Andrew Oliver

Resources I use:
Portland Tango on Facebook

Places to get shoes,

comme il faut
Portland Tango Shoes
the leotard
Hannah Poston

Calendar of Portland events

Videos I like:

The Trash Can Tango

Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida

Alex Krebs and Hanna Poston

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