My olla podrida

After carrying a cup of tea a través de la casa to my wife I said, “This is good practice for my tango walk.”

Gym with Sam's Club mat topping

The gym originally had a soft foam matting so that if I dropped a kettlebell it would have a soft landing.

Recently tango practice has been on my mind – and To Do list – as I seek to convert thought to action to results. And this website, Tangolio.com, will become my olla podrida of Argentine tango, en la mayor parte made up of my notes, thoughts, and ideas on learning and practicing the dance, y tal vez spiced occasionally with other observations.

I had my first serious engagement with Argentine tango in August 2011 at Esquina Tango in Austin, Texas. I’d taken a workshop at Fandango de Tango many years earlier, but it didn’t “take”. That introduction had left me with no understanding or appreciation for what the dance was about. When I mostly retired from a life of computer technology businesses and programming I had some notion that I wanted to explore the tango to see what I might have missed.

Spending the next year at my new “job”, it was dancing at least a couple of hours most every night or day of the week: Argentine tango several times, West Coast Swing, Blues, Salsa, various ballroom styles, and what have you. Balboa anyone? Then I mostly narrowed that down to tango, swing, and salsa; then tango and swing; then mostly tango. (But I’ll have more to say about what we can learn about tango from swing and other dances, in future articles.)

So what’s that got to do with starting a blog? Well when I get involved in a subject I like to learn everything I can in every way I can, so that I can excel. The thing I loved about working with computers is how they always offer opportunities to learn something new. I think I’ve found the same thing in Argentine tango, in an activity, a discipline, one might even say an art form, that involves all the senses, both halves of the brain, and a lot of the heart.

Yet it has been exceedingly frustrating at times, with wild highs and deep lows — the most difficult of the many dances I’ve pursued over parts of the past thirty years. I’ve reached a point where I “know” so much from all the groups classes, private lessons, workshops, books, and DVDs that I’ve studied, yet I don’t feel that my dancing really shows the benefit of all that investment of time and money.

Horse stall mats on the gym floor

Horse stall mats further protected the floor from kettlebells.

So I have determined to take my dancing to a new level through rigorous practice. For months I’ve been asking around for a practice partner but struck out. My wife will dance with me when the opportunity is appealing enough and I appeal hard enough, but mostly she has other priorities. We live a ways out of town, and I haven’t found anyone with the regular interest, the time match, or the location.

When my friend, Peter, suggested a “if you build it they will come” approach, I decided to take up that challenge, AND, I’ve come to realize that there are many, many things that I can be working on solo, on my own.

New dance plus gym room

Sala de baile con gimnasio.
New dance floor with cork over Whisperwool blanket. The domino dots in the floor mark practice spots for molinetes. Now I’ll simply have to not drop the kettlebells!

So that’s what this is about. I’ve converted our spare room, a 12′ x 16′ space, from a gym into a sala de baile-cum-gym. I have 30 or so DVDs, lots of books, innumerable “didactic demos”, and notebooks full of notes. I am going to work on practicing, making some organized sense of all the material I have, organizing my practice and reporting on it, and providing a practice space for anyone who wants to join me in a true practice, learning, rehearsing, improving mode.

molinete side left

Water bowl exercise. Beginning molinete side left.

molinete forward cross

molinete forward cross

molinete side open

molinete side open

molinete back cross

molinete back cross

I don’t expect future articles to be so long, and I don’t want to leave this one without something to practice. Luciano Brigante and Alejandro Orozco suggested this one to me. Hold a bowl of water in both hands, arms circled in front of you. The bowl represents your partner. Now walk, pivot, and molinete while keeping the water as still as possible.

This illustrates several principles of mindful practice. The shorts I’m wearing let me see more clearly if I am neatly collecting my bowed legs. Mirrors let me check that and other factors, and a video recording gives me a “third person” view of myself to more objectively evaluate.

Felices caminar!
–David

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