Bondage, burritos and balance.

So it seems I don’t actually have two left feet.   I have two glorious dancing feet. Who knew?    Ok the last man I danced with probably wouldn’t call me glorious as I think I took out three of his toes, but last week, leaning tango in Buenos Aires, taught me again that I can do something I never thought I could – which is my new mid-aged mantra.

It’s said that the dance of tango is a metaphor for life. That when you learn to dance it properly, you learn to live properly.  I have to say I was sceptical. But, like the steps seduced me, I am converted to believing that if I incorporate what I learned about the tango into my life, then my life will be a better song to dance to.   There is a beautiful moment – I actually just keep wanting to use the word exquisite – at the very beginning of the dance, whereby you have committed to the embrace, and you sway together, barely perceptively, as your weight shifts onto each foot until both dancers are in synch.  Only when balance is found, can the dance begin. This slow rocking together is called the cunita – the cradle – called such because it feels like a mother’s safe embrace.   Every so often during the dance, you pause, still embracing and connected, and sway until your balance is found again. If that ain’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

As I am struggling to learn, you cannot dance the tango with your mind. You can only dance it with your senses.   For a control-freak like myself, this is a major head-fuck. And so it should be. Learning to live life with other parts of me is an important lesson.  Sometimes I need my brain to be in full throttle (menopausal mental pauses notwithstanding) but sometimes, you need to live on the seat of your flaming pants. 

I learned my mid-aged cliches keep coming, like errant hairs on my chin, this time fancying my 20 something tango instructor.  Not sure that’s a metaphor for anything other than giddiness.   But that’s allowed too.

But that aside, this really was a week of learning. And all it took was a few lessons, a bit of bondage and some me time.

Tango is so linked to healing that there is a specific branch of psychotherapy that uses tango to provide therapy.  Hence I ended up in bondage.

So it wasn’t real bondage. Obviously. But dancing blindfolded teaches you to dance by feel, not sight. I had to learn to sense when and where my partner was going to move.   It’s very nerve wracking… and very liberating.  To dance with only the music to give me a vague idea of speed, and only the minute shifts in his body weight and positioning to commit and move so that we danced as though every move had been pre-choreographed is an incredible experience and one I am only beginning to grasp.   When you watch a couple dance the tango it is like one person is dancing with four legs.   Well, it’s supposed to.. mine still looks a bit like two bodies and eight legs.

IMG_8372This all sounds very intimate, and it is. I danced with lots of partners over the course of the week, at lessons, practicas and milongas, and each time I had to learn to commit to the embrace, and find our balance and trust myself to listen and read his body.

Like when I began training for the marathon a few years ago, even though I never really believed I would finish it, I embarked on this experience not really believing I’d be able to dance. (And when I talk about dancing here I just mean being able to move around the dance floor without injuring someone, not the exquisite moves that professional tango-istas can do.)

But from my first lesson I discovered that while I am not rhythmically blessed, I can learn to overcome that.  But I need to make my damn mind be quiet. I need to embrace the moment of finding balance, and trust myself and what I am feeling.

I am home again now, my tan glowing and my feet itching to move. Thankfully I am unwrapping my tango shoes tonight for a new lesson. I know I am only at the beginning of this tango dance, I’m still fumbling and bumbling my way around, trying to shut down my mind and listen to my instincts.  But I know I am in the right dance, and that all I need to do is commit to the embrace and let go. Just like life after all.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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