The Upcoming Big Gala

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 #8 – three big lessons for everyone.

Once again Gabriela has pushed me to learn intermediate steps and pieces of choreography beyond what is normal for beginners, but Jim and I have finally figured out why she is doing this. I am not quite the Tango protegé she and my ego wants to believe. We figured that she is trying to get me to catch up to Jim.  Why? So we can dance together in the big Tango Gala next weekend. OMG this sounds like the plot of a schlocky Hollywood film!  No, it is not a competition just a dance, and also a demo of some of the  world’s best tango artists.

So we learned a classic slinky tango sequence that draws all the focus to the woman and her gams. Now, a word about this. I like my body.  And it has taken me years to feel that way about it, but I still envy women with nice legs.  Even when I pare down to my skinniest I have stocky legs – they are not horrible – but they are far from classic dancer’s legs.  My mother used to say, “Just be thankful you don’t have a set of toothpicks and some knobby knees.”  And I am thankful for that. I like what I have. But, what is a girl to do when coming up to the big Gala?

In another chapter in my life E got me into taking bellydancing. She had been taking it for awhile and I was a beginner. We were practicing one afternoon and I was trying hard to get it right and finally she said, “Just fake it, ’til you make it.”

“Really?” I said.

“Just think of everything you thought bellydancing was when you were a girl, and would play at it. Whatever you thought of it then, exotic mystery, harems, the Dance of the Seven Veils, Barbara Eden and I Dream of Jeannie, you should still use.”

In essence, just play it as if you are it, not as if you are learning it.  So, I let myself go to that place, and had fun swinging my hips more and using my arms and hands more fluidly.  Is it surprising that my dancing got much better?  So, the same thing goes for tango. Be as sensual and mysterious as you like.  Pretend you are a double agent flirting with another secret agent.  Whatever it takes.

Two lessons to get out of this one… no three. First,’ fake it ’til you make it,’ is a terrific practice when you are learning. Second, don’t let go of your fantasy about things because it keeps whatever it is beautiful and alluring. Even as you are adding the reality, keep the fantasy. Third, you can’t dance well if you worry about what you or your gams look like, so just love them and make everyone else love them, not by how they look but by how you move them.

These are all lessons you can transfer to just about everything in life, even the last lesson. If you worry too much what others think you are not moving as fluidly as you can in life.  Whenever you realize you are doing this to excess, pause and do a rethink. Check in and see if you might be creating something that is no longer worth creating.

Kathrin Lake, author of From Survival to Thrival See retreats to Mexico on sale now.

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:

Bucket Lists, Tango #5, Eat Pray Love

I loved the book Eat Pray Love, and it is with anticipation that I will be seeing the movie this Friday night.  But, what is it about this experience of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s that has all of us so intrigued?  What are we thirsty for?  Not all of us identify ourselves as spiritual seekers, but many of us are seeking a way to “be” in this life with grace and happiness. Let me ponder this and try to connect some dots.

The term bucket list is not new, but has found a new trend of popularity of late .  One could say my taking tango lessons is a bucket list kind of adventure, or maybe it won’t qualify until I am dancing in Buenos Aires with people who really know the tango.  One could also call it a pastime.  An interesting word pastime.  Essentially, pastimes can be anything we do in life, voluntarily, to chew up time.  Living with Jim, I discovered a critical difference in our thinking.  When we are on vacation, or just when thinking of our own mortality, we come from two different places.  When I have limited time, I say, “I have limited time so I want to fill it with as many things to experience as possible.”  Jim says, “I have limited time so I want to do as little as possible so time slows down [or feels like it does].” Jim has a point; perception is reality.  So we both come from different points of view and we do take a little from each others philosophies. Sometimes we must be strongly “encouraged” to, but we do enrich each others lives this way.  Neither is wrong, neither is right. 

Even Gilbert, who had a profound inner journey of beingness, was also travelling to three different countries experiencing all the people and differences in culture while this was happening.  Another new and perhaps appropriate mantra for our busy world is that we are human beings, not human doings.  It is a good reminder, yet I would also argue that part of human nature is to do.  It seems we want to balance these inner and outer worlds of being and doing.  And when it is really balanced we choose only quality ways of doing, as grand or as humble as they may be, and only quality ways of being, as quiet or as interconnected as they may be.  But what are those quality ways?  Aye, there’s the rub. But, perhaps we are doing more of those quality ways than we want to perceive, simply because of the grass is always greener phenomenon.  Listen to this story that Jim and I enjoy. 

A businessman was visiting a small village by the sea in Mexico and watching the fisherman. The businessman complimented one fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while. The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked him how he lived. The Mexican fisherman said, “I fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, drink wine and play guitar with my amigos.”

The businessman said, “But my friend you are missing a great opportunity here, I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. If you spend more time fishing, with the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would be running an expanded enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.”

And the fisherman asked, “What would it get me at the end of that time?”

“Oh, that’s the best part,” the businessman smiled with glee,”you will be able to go fishing, spend more time with your wife and kids and do fun things with your friends!”

Ah yes, the old keep it simple idea. Elektra and I were not together for our tango lesson #5 this week because she couldn’t make it, and darn I missed her. So there is doing, being and then sharing. But what I experience every time I return from Mexico is marvelling at how much “stuff” I own for no reason.  I seem to be addicted to this stuff which is not even “being” or “doing,”or “sharing,” it is “acquiring.” and “having.” Our pursuit, my friends, is not the pursuit of stuff, it is the pursuit of happiness and that is what I call thrival. It is why I write, why I teach, learn and coach. Because I love to do it.  Maximize the quality doings (tango to traveling), take an attitude that is healthy towards just being in life (sleeping, eating, working and loving), take care of your health (work-outs and fun-outs), and the big topper, share good company (love and be loved by your friends and lovers).

If you want to balance being, doing and sharing, why not plan to come with me and Jim to Mexico for my Writing Retreats in Winter – go to my site: to find out how.

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:

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:

Second Tango Lesson

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 2

Before my BF, “E” and I went for our second Tango lesson with Gabriela I watch Jim at his beyond beginner’s class.  I jot things down as I watch and the music of the tango seeps into my pen.  The tango couples seem more eloquent than I can live up to with mere words.  I am amazed at Jim’s progress and delighted (not jealous). I want to keep watching him dance with his dance partner. I just like being on the sidelines watching two pairs of legs in tandem. I did foolishly think that he may not be able to learn tango, but watching now I see that this is always his passion. Also, the music is part of the essential equation that I forgot to factor in.  It makes all things possible.  Even if you don’t love tango music you cannot help but be drawn into it. The dancers play a chess game. If I move like this, you move like that, but if I move like this, what possibilities will you give me? It’s a taunting, tantalizing bid to outdazzle each other and see who will crack first under the intensity, but neither ever do, or if one does they both lose, so they must not, for this is not a win-lose game, this is a dance and oh what a dance!tango

Gabriela corrects Jim in what I thought was a fluid motion.  He is bouncing in his quick step apparently. Though from the sidelines tango appears elegant and romantic, like our domestic life can be all maintenance, and both take practice and communication to perfect.  But when it works, it far transcends even the most blissful parts of our domestic lives.  It is that old saying of dance being a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Doubly so for tango. When I first met Jim he had an expression he readily shared, “if you can’t dance, there is no chance for romance.”

When E and I get started with Gabriela we start as all classes start, with the walking. Dramatic dragging of feet is intentionally alluring not lazy. Gabriela shouts to us,

“Your feet must make love to the floor.  That is the tango.”

She is impressed with our progress through the basic steps and decides to show us the Ocho.  “If you do not have your Ocho, you have learned nothing,” she says. In Spanish I know that Ocho means “eight” and indeed Ochos are figure eight like moves.  E and I pick up fast Gabriela says and we are finally given our first male dance partners to test our ability to follow a lead and practice.  This is always the fascinating challenge of couples dancing.  It is especially terrific practice for strong, independent women to learn to listen (with the body) and to not take charge. It is a great metaphor for communication that we don’t really always practice at home, but the principal outcome is the same, if you listen everything goes smoothly. But Ochos allow the woman to speak the language of seduction.  Gabriela is very impressed and my male partner who I have just met tonight asks me how long I have been dancing. When I tell him this is my second tango lesson he says, “Wow.”  My ego soars with this one syllable compliment. E and I sail out of our class thinking we are tango prodigies, but I also know better having taken other lessons.  There will be struggles. I also later realize that the thing that I found so soothing and suited to me about the tango was the slow, alluring pace.  So much less frantic than swing music. The music stays with me for hours after. I think I’m hooked.

Find out more about what Kathrin does to live a full life at: