TANGO CHANGED MY LIFE
Yesterday I heard from a young Australian woman who lives in Britain, who is so smart she is already an esteemed scholar at a hallowed University. She is petite with almond eyes in a heart shaped face, dark curly hair which falls past her shoulders, her breasts and lips are full, she has a Latin look about her. I have known her since she was fifteen, we met nearly twenty years ago when I led a group of teenagers to Lombok for two months on a leadership program. She is beautiful, inside and out, her confidence and passion have grown over the years. She once worked with me to organise ten day marathon bike ride to raise funds for disadvantaged children, and our friendship is a precious thing to us both. She has been married and divorced, written books, won international scientific awards, and travelled the world.
She is currently in Buenos Aires for a month of writing and dancing, which she tells me via email, is ‘delightful’. She loves it there, and mostly for the nightly tango dancing. “People dance beautifully here!” she writes, “Both young and old. The other day I danced with a man who must have been over ninety! It was past midnight and the tango was just starting; he held me close to him and led me effortlessly around the room for a full ‘tanda’ of three songs, uttering a simple “Lovely, Lovely” at the end of each song. He must have been dancing tango for nearly 80 years!”
Her story literally brought tears to my eyes. I could see the picture of an aged and proud gentleman who loves to dance, and a beautiful young woman, willing to be ‘danced’ and taught and directed. I wonder how many women of her age would have said ‘yes’ to such an invitation – and had they not done so, what an experience they would have missed out on. I love it that she gave herself to the dance, that she acknowledges his skill and mastery, that she hears his delight in the music, the dance, and no doubt, her. I love that fire in the belly, both his and hers, the confidence and grace and dignity of dance.
I remember that feeling of dancing with someone who absolutely knows what they are doing. I love men who love to dance! Men who have a quiet, strong, masculine presence, men who are aware of their bodies, who guide you effortlessly around the floor, who can make you look like a dancing queen. My father could do that. I remember when I was 17 and hitchhiking through Europe for six months, penniless and hungry. One evening in Spain, walking in a cobbled street, I heard music and stamping feet and castanets that literally made my heart pound. I hurried to a small courtyard and discovered a vibrant scene of swirling skirts and song and guitars and passion and attitude and arrogance and heartbeat, and I KNEW I had been there before, I KNEW I was Spanish in another life! A while later, an elegant man in his fifties asked me to dance, and guided my unwashed hitchhiking body in my unwashed hitchhiking jeans around the floor. He reminded me of my father and made me feel like a million dollars. I became The Dancer. I danced in this strangers arms and discovered something about myself and life that I had been often told, but never fully realised. That I was respected and graceful and beautiful, I discovered that dance can connect us in a way nothing else can, and that people are generous the world over.
I thank that man for that.
I asked my friend if I could write this blog, using her words, and she responded immediately with passionate ‘yes!’ Here is what she said:
“I relate to so much of what you say, especially about discovering things about yourself through dancing. That has absolutely been my experience. It has changed me. I danced jazz ballet through my teens and dabbled in salsa in my twenties, but it is tango that has changed me. I can't imagine life without it! It feels so comforting to see women dancing beautifully into their seventies and knowing that I too can have this for life. Why not? It was when I came out of a painful breakup that I dove into tango, and I know I would never have done that if we were together - I thought I needed a partner to take me dancing. Finally, for the first time in my life, I can be complete and happy on my own. Now I just get out there and dance with anyone and everyone. I pack my shoes wherever I'm travelling to and just turn up at the local tango club! I have had the most beautiful and warm connections with complete strangers, moments of genuine intimacy that are just created by two bodies connecting through exquisite music. And just like you say, it makes you feel beautiful and graceful, and that feeling lingers on long after the music has stopped playing.”
That feeling lingers on long after the music has stopped playing ........
Today I am going to dance.