The Gala

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

The Tango Gala

A brief post before I fly to San Francisco to join the Experts Academy.  The Tango Gala on Saturday was amazing.  I had no idea how many talented tango dancers there are in Vancouver.  They came dressed in glitter and glamour and in all shapes and sizes . All were extraordinary and impressive with their own personalities in their dance. Like the little Asian man who was always 5 inches shorter than any partner, yet his passion for the dance was tireless. He was living his dreams.  The demo from Guillermo Salvant and Silvia Grynt from Argentina brought by Gabriela Rojo was fun and of course, impressive. I caught some still photos from my video here.  I downloaded the video of one demo (they did three) to youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXjtBr97XfM . In addition, we saw on the dance floor Salsa, Milonga (a tango at double time), Merengue and Tango waltzes. We also saw a terrific Bellydance demonstration.  But the best was seeing Gabriela herself doing her Gaucha Bolero dance. I also downloaded a vid of that at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgTJgTIH848 .

Jim and I dance about 6 dances together and I managed to do a few things passably but we both felt way out of our league.  Jim even threw in a few swing dance moves to a few of his surprised dance partners. We are so much more competent at that dance.  Do what you know, they say but it takes time to learn anything, takes time to know anything. One day, I hope to be comfortable doing the tango. I wonder how may human beings on the planet at this time have tried to master a dance? Perhaps many more with Dancing with the Stars (must be very good business for dance schools these days).  Ah, but trying is one thing, gaining competence is another. Many people give up. Jim says, persistence + work = joy & ego strokes. And for some of us, it is delightful to move the body and express ourselves in whatever God gave us.

Don’t Think Just Live

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango Lesson number 7. 

Rodin's ThinkerI thought I did much better tonight in my tango lesson, and I attribute it to one critical thing. Don’t think. Just go with the lead, go with the flow.  Another example of how my tango lessons can be transferred to life lessons. Especially as women, we do tend to  over analyze everything. Perhaps that is why it is a man’s world.  Men can run it without thinking. Okay that was a little sexist joke… or not.  Perhaps the tango allows me to embrace irreverence.  The tango may not be irreverent, but neither is it at all conventional. It is about sex,desire, seduction and the dance between lovers.  It gives me an irreverent feeling because with my North American upbringing it is fun to be blatantly going for the sex appeal.  In the Argentine tango, this is all in the feet.

All my life I have been told “don’t drag your feet!”  Now I spend hours doing nothing but dragging my feet and it looks good, real good. Gabriella teaches us all the tricks, like how a slightly cocked ankle during a pause can look drippingly sexy. Subtle but sensuous.  Argentine Tango is not like ballroom tango that goes for showy effects and double take flipping of the head at every turn.  The true Argentine tango is like the new found couple in the corner of a noisy wedding reception, leaning into one another, oblivious to the others yet making subtle come-ons in their moves. What is going on there is far more sexy than the brash groom and bride, making a big production of the kiss and dip with the clinking of glasses.  That is the difference between the Argentine and the ballroom tango.

When I danced tonight with another woman who was trying to be the lead for our practice, she tells me what a great leader/dancer Jim is. Jim, my partner, is in the next level up.  I have to confess to her that we have danced very little tango together at this point. I am told that Gabriela, our teacher, with her magnificent, outrageous Argentinian personality, apparently put on a little demonstration using Jim to lead her. Jim performed it so flawlessly that at the end of it Gabriela yelled out, “Jim, take me now!”  Everyone laughed and Jim blushed to his toes, but was flattered. 

Tonight, at the end of the class, and because it is my birthday, she makes me do a demo for the class with her.  Nerves!  I started thinking, and then just decided to stop. Results? I didn’t do too badly and Gabriela is heavy on Spanish praise “Eso!” “Muya Bien!” Thankfully, there was no sexual references.  Not bad for an old girl of…never mind. But while I am here , I live.  Stop thinking people, start living.  As they say, if you are not living, you are dying.

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/

Tango Lesson 4 – Stop looking at your feet

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango Lesson 4.

E and I are still the pet students because we are picking it up fast, which is both bad and good.  It means that Gabriela wants to teach us new things every lesson.  This really appeals to the side of me that likes to learn and desires variety, but may not be so good for mastery of basics. I am wondering when and if my head will explode, but it doesn’t. This time, Gabriela does teach us something that is basic to everything in dance, but which she says many long time dancers never fully get.  That is listening to and understanding the music, and how to move with it.  For the women, as followers, it is all about listening for the lead too. You then have to hope that he has a sense of the music himself.  If he doesn’t, it can be a long and boring dance.  Since Jim got me into swing dancing some years ago, I better understood that old expression “keeping me on my toes.”  A skilled lead, with a soulful sense of the music, will have you starting, stopping and doing things you never thought you could do, all in time to the music.

We learn a new fancy step, that is a double step that looks great when couples do it together smoothly.  To the outside observer you may wonder how they work so fluidly in sync, but she has to listen to his small cues with his hand on her back.  When we goof up Gabriela helps us with a new vocal cue, last week it was “ch, ch, ch!” and this week it is: “ee, ee, eee!” This is all about listening, which quite frankly I find I suck at in real life. Okay, maybe not suck at, but could be better at. 

The only thing I really want to get better at is to keep my head up and stop having the temptation to look at my feet.  If I use dance as the metaphor for a soulful life, where in life do we always have the temptation to look at our feet and therefore miss the gracefulness of life?   Maybe it’s watching TV?  We watch others while we never pay attention to what is going on around us and where we are moving? Or we watch others do what we want, like “Dancing with the Stars.” It makes me happy that I can say I am learning tango instead of watching on the sidelines.  We are our own stars. File under undigested food for thought.

I was worried that E was going to give up the Tango lessons because she is so busy, but she too is getting hooked, and I ‘m glad because she looks great doing it.  She is starting to wonder if her boyfriend may be open to taking lessons too.  We talk a little about relationships and how nice it is to be in a committed one where you don’t have to worry about anyone becoming attracted to you, or you to them.  We are just here to enjoy the dance. Phew!  A relief. More fun, less complicated.

Speaking of relationships, Jim and the more advanced students start coming in the studio. There is a big poster on the table of Gabriela’s big tango gala weekend in October where she brings in  the best of the best from Argentina (Guillermo Salvat & Silvia Grynt), to teach workshops and then the big gala dance.  Jim wants to go to the dance. I am nervous and practically beg his current dance partner to sub in for me, as I am sure I will not be ready.  She seems as reticent as I am.  The thing about dances for dancers, unlike a bar, it is considered a no-no to refuse a dance with anyone.  If they ask you, you go. We are all nervous. I convince her that we will all go together and support each other.  I’m not sure she goes for it, but I would like to see her there dancing with Jim, especially since I know E won’t be there.  Funny how we used to sit around in gyms hoping the boys would ask us to dance, now here we are practically hoping they won’t, or at least, that we will be able to keep up when they do.  Life is a circle in so many ways.  Gotta laugh, gotta love it. 

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/

Tango Lesson 3 – Getting the Cross – I am a Horse

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival documents her first Tango lessons inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 -Hour Workweek.

Tango Lesson 3

Last night was lesson number three and amazingly E and I are still being told we are Tango naturals. My LSE self (low self esteem self) has a sense of doom and tells me this cannot last, and at some point we are in for a great crash. Being one of those people who in gym class was always picked near last by team captains, I still have it in my head that I am uncoordinated. I face the fear of being found out every time I go to a dance class. My HSE self (figure it out) however, says, enjoy it, and enjoy the dance itself.  So I try to focus on that.

But the truth is, I attribute much of our progress to our teacher, Gabriela Rojo, who says,

“I’m not lying, you both pick up very fast.” She shouts across the room to the beyond beginners filing in, “Look at what they do after three lessons!”

I’m blushing. Please don’t build us up so much, Gabriela. We are getting semi private lessons which progresses a person much faster.

When I dance with Gabriela (all dance teachers must be able to lead and follow) she is a fabulous leader, but when I go to one of the men helping us I am less confident. Everyone has a different style of leading and the physical cues are not always the same or as clear. You must surrender to your partner’s style. Mental note: try to include this skill in my relationship with Jim. It also reminds me of horseback riding. No one can see the subtle cues that the rider gives to the horse to make it spring into a canter. In this case, I am the horse, and it is not the cue for a canter but the cue for a “cross.”

The “cross” belongs to the women and looks so classy and clever that it makes any woman into an instant goddess. It really makes the tango the tango. But the man must lead the cross. Gabriela shows me that when she is directly in front of me I will be lead into a cross, but slightly to the side and I cannot cross. However, with other partners I find it less obvious of when I cross and when I am just supposed to walk.  I get it right at least 75% of the time. When I misstep Gabriela makes a sound, “chh,chh,chh” that tells me I am not crossing when I should. It again reminds me of the clucking or verbal sounds a rider does to help their mount get their cues when they are less competent.

This also reminds me of another horse/human parallel. Dressage horses, the dancers of the equine world, reach their peak at 10, 11 or 12 years of age after intense training, and live to a ripe old age of 24 to 30.  Race horses, however, have finished their careers in year four and are often dead by the age of 12.  Likewise, they say that couples who do partner dancing are far, far, less likely to develop dementia as they age or Alzheimer’s. They also live longer, and are generally healthier.  Alzheimer’s runs in the female side of my family, and I’m terribly afraid of developing it; another reason for me to continue facing the fear every week.

Gabriela tells me that E does even better at getting the cross and is “very coordinated.” I agree.  With her Spanish-like dark looks, and long lean body, she looks stunning as she dances.

Tonight E and I were lead through an entire piece of tango music from basic steps, walks, crosses, both forward and backwards ochos, and another move which I don’t yet have the spelling for.  We are truly dancing. For the joy of that, I am happy.

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: http://www.survivaltothrival.com/