Inspired by Julia and Julia
It has been a pleasure getting going this morning. A lengthy pleasure. My morning ritual, when I can get to it all, includes enjoying waking up, stretching, meditating, showering or bathing, and then a trip to the Pilates machines downstairs. At that point if I have any time left before “work”, by which I mean the responsibilities of my day, I contemplate being here, that is at my creative writing projects. Most of the time I never make it. But today is different. And i think I know why.
I have been less than reliable over the years because there is just so much to download. It is now 23 years since my first visit to Buenos Aires. I know that Tango is a big part of what I have to download, but it is best put in perspective by understanding how well I was fatefully prepared for what i would learn about tango, because it is deceptive to think about tango as only a music and a dance, is is a culture, and a community of music and dance. I was prepared in part by a career of ten years in Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, and Improvisational dance that preceded my experience of tango in Argentina. And in part by my experience of growing up in American alternative communities, from summer camp as a kid, to communes, and alternative dance community as an adult.
Then, a few nights ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron’s biopic of Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, and Julie Powell, of whom I did not know, played by Amy Adams… leaving aside my review of this film; i liked it!… what blew me away was that I finally believe I understand the “blog”, in a way I hadn’t before. And i think it is going to help me with this project, help those of you crazy enough to want to follow it, learning about me and about my experience of dance, dance community, and tango, all woven together in ways that are both helpful and probably, confusing.
That is as true for me as it is for you. And that is why a project such as this can be so useful. I get to do the sorting out in less than a vacuum, and you will be able to help me with feedback and comments. (Comments which i am not receiving yet, because my webmaster has not given me access to that functionality yet. Saying: “You’ll be glad I let you get started first.” And which i believe was very insightful of him, as I have been so daunted by the idea of this “project”. But hold your fire, 😉 , I’ll be available soon.)
But I also have been, from the sidelines mostly, watching tango’s growth this last decade with a mixture of conflicting sentiments.
On the one hand pride; It was not so long ago, perhaps 1991, that I was a young voice among elder Argentines, pleading with them to believe that Tango was possible, that it was exactly the kind of “community” building skill needed out there in the world, and that teaching us, a bunch of abysmal young tango dancers, Argentine and not, would work, even if they might never live to dance well enough to please their exacting, and sometimes incomprehensible, standards.
On the other hand, from my now experienced perch of 20 plus years dancing tango, I am appalled at how many mistakes of my “younger generation” at the beginning of tango’s revival, are being repeated by the now new “younger generation” of tango’s now flourishing, and worldwide, revival.
How can “teachers” be so terribly unprepared, and so undeserving of the title, one usually earned over years of training and apprenticeship? When I ask myself this, I must then chuckle, because I started teaching in 1988, with little experience, and almost no reference or orientation beyond “this is something that social dancers, and community builders need to know about”.
The Milongueros, a term they hated but accepted from us, to be explained in a future post, were to me, as I must now be for a younger generation.
My closest relationship with a teacher was the one I formed with Juan Bruno, El Pibe de Ciudadela ((The Kid from Ciudadela (his neighborhood)). I will be writing much about Juan in these pages, and of his wisdom about so many things tango and beyond tango. He died in 2007 at 74 years of age.
I am also going to publish some video footage of Juan, both lessons, and interviews, as part of the first generation of digital products available here on this site. I am working on them now, as i learn the ins and outs of digital archiving, editing, and producing, a task i have been avoiding for years, but which is necessary now before i lose all this imagery which will not last much longer in its analog form.
But for today I want to close with this feeling of the possible, inspired by Julie Powell, and her love of cooking, a love which caused her to download, with passion, and obsession, on her blog. Here’s hoping that I can manage something similar, leaving to future tango lovers (albeit with minimal geek skills) a record of the rather vast accumulation of mundane and profound experiences which have brought me to here.