Tango New Year: now I'm REALLY on my axis

Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas delivered a kick-ass weekend of workshops for Eugene, OR. Every time I study with them, I am again both inspired to work hard, and amazed at how far I still have to reach for perfection. Wow! A new year of tango has started for me, and with it, New Year's resolutions.

The power of positive thinking

When I told them that I couldn't believe how bad my dancing was before, Georgina said, "Ya se fue, no exista ahora" (that's gone already, it doesn't exist now). "Don't think of the past and mistakes: focus on how good it is now, and how good it's going to be in the near future!" Oscar added. That will be my goal for this year, letting go of old stuff and moving on to great, new, fabulous things in life and tango.

The power of new shoes

One new part of my tango is: my Comme Il Faut, bumble-bee black and yellow, stiletto heeled tango shoes. I had put off buying new shoes for a while (say, oh, seven or eight years?!). Each time I thought about buying shoes, I'd say to myself, OK, the next time I go to Bs As, I'll get more shoes. Well, a few years of working a job with no vacation, then a child, then the move to Portland . . . and suddenly, all my shoes look shabby. Unable to buy NeoTangos in Portland, I caved in and bought Comme Il Faut shoes.

I love these shoes. My feet look sexy, flashy, NEW. They only go with some of my outfits, but who cares? I am now on a shoe-buying frenzy, with two more pair on the way from NeoTango.

I am not someone who spends money easily, so why all the new shoes? Because, after going to the milonga one evening, Oscar and Georgina looked at each other, nodded, and said, "OK, Ely, you must throw out all your old shoes. Your technique is so much better in your new shoes that you look like a different person. Your old shoes are worn down, and are pulling you off your axis.  They MUST go in the trash. Do NOT wear them."

As usual, Oscar and Georgina are correct. Suddenly, I have to be on my axis. With stiletto heels, there is no margin of error: either I'm on axis, or falling over. With these tiny little heels, all the information about relaxing my hips, stretching my solar plexus up, pushing off the floor, really ARRIVING on each step--all this instantly makes more sense. For the first time in my life, the initial wear on my heels slopes in a bit, allowing my ankles to collect, rather than rolling out into my old flat-footed stance. All my old shoes reflect ten years of my dancing. I've gotten better, but they are still fighting me to return to my old ways. Out they go into the trash.

The power of repetition

I am doing my tango exercises daily. Oscar and Georgina gave me exercises to work on. They come back in a month to teach in Portland (yay!), so I have a short-term goal of being able to improve my walks forward and back, lateral steps, pivots (lateral, pivot, forward; lateral, pivot, back) and shoulder blade placement. It's nice to be in a space in tango where I am happy to just make my walk perfect; I know I'll work on the other stuff later. I no longer have to do the "hard" stuff or prove my level. What is important is that I feel all the details in my body in order to help my students understand these elements.

Each time Oscar and Georgina come back (this will be visit #4 in two years), I can feel how my understanding of the dance has deepened. The repetition feels good, and each new level is built upon a strong base, always improving, always becoming more elegant, always becoming more enjoyable for me, with ANY partner. So I will repeat my exercises and get used to my new, improved shoes and my new, improved balance.

The power of community

This year, I am going to collect about me people who are good, positive, lovely folks, and share tango with them. The energy I see and feel in tango seems to be lacking in big chunks of the tango community. I look around, and many people seem to have forgotten that tango is FUN. I see frowns, blank stares, slouchy postures, walled-off energy. Let's get rid of all of that!

I am starting to teach group classes in Eugene again sometime this year. We've got an exciting plan to boost the tango energy and the level of dancing there. I am teaching group classes in Portland, and I'm going to start a milonga or practica this year, somewhere fun (I'm looking at a cool cafe right now): somewhere to come have a cup of coffee, dance, talk to people, build community. I've got some plans for another town or two nearby: a little chain of tango satellites to Portland, connecting communities, creating dancing spaces and people to make even more tango happen in this area.

Community to me means house parties and potlucks. It means coffee outings and going salsa dancing with tangueros. It means going tango dancing with swing dancers. It means telling my neighbors and the people at the playground about tango, and encouraging new dancers to try a turn around the floor. The tango community needs to reach out to not-yet-dancers (I don't believe there are actually non-dancers in the world, just folks who haven't had the opportunity to learn yet). Imagine: the whole city dancing!

The power of beginning another cycle

New classes:


Beginners: 7 PM Wednesdays, starting this week! $80/10 weeks, @ 4315 NE Garfield Ave.
Intermediates: 8 PM Wednesdays, starting this week! $80/10 wks, @ 4315 NE Garfield Ave.


Beginners: 6:30 PM Tuesdays, starting this week! $65/6 wks, @ The IKE Box, Cottage & Chemeketa
Intermediates: 7:30 PM Tuesdays, starting this week! $65/6 wks., @ the IKE Box, Cottage & Chemeketa

Private lessons: Every third Tuesday, Eugene; every Tuesday evening, Salem; M, W, Th, F, Portland.

Coming soon: classes in Eugene (Mondays) and Vancouver (probably Fridays).
Coming soon: advanced class in Portland, (probably Thursdays)

New attitude, new shoes, new technique, new classes, new focus. Now I'm REALLY on my axis!