Recently, I have been stressing out over Tango. I know, so silly right? To feel pressured by the thing I plunged head-first into because of love, the art I told myself I want to master because of its fluidity, philosophy and beauty. I reckon it is the perfectionist in me talking but the desire to do it well created expectations to learn faster than I could.
That being said, I know I am improving day after day. I have learnt to feel the flow of energy, have mustered enough courage to close my eyes while dancing, and trusting both my partner and my instinct to lead me to my next step. I have learnt about transference of weight, the technicalities of the moves, the various terms and names. I have a lot more to master but I know I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge.
I have been faithfully going for tango classes almost every night. A minimum 2 hours of dancing per night, checked. There’s a mental checklist in my mind, that attending classes, regardless good or bad, is a duty I have to fulfill as a form of validation for my commitment.
Perhaps, my conscientiousness has paid off to some extent. Instead of being labelled as “just another tourist here to learn tango”, I think some teachers have begun recognising this Chinita bouncing in and out of classes at different venues on different days. They started talking to me and paying a little more attention to my moves, giving me the corrections that I crave. I am grateful, really grateful. I just need to be more proficient in my Spanish so that I can finally start asking the questions darting in my mind.
Part of the process in learning Tango is also going for milongas – an open space where everyone goes to dance Tango. It’s a free-for-all social event of sorts, true to the Argentine spirit. Milongas usually take place after the classes. However, I often boot myself out before the really good dancers come. Even if I do stay, I intentionally avoid eye contact with anyone so that I don’t get invited for a dance; the self-doubt and insecurity of not being a good enough dancer are the balls and chains to my feet.
A few nights back, one of my favourite teachers, Marite Lujan, asked if I was staying for the milonga that night. To begin with, I really like Marite. She is authentic, strong, candid and to me, is in a league of her own. She is a feminist at heart, but delivers this traditional, chauvinistic dance with style, affirmation and grace. She has the beautiful balance between holding her space and allowing herself to be lead. To me, that is how a woman truly should be – be her own self, be sure of her own space, yet allow herself to be brought to places by her man. She inspires me and I respect a lot of what she tells me.
I replied her sheepishly, “ahora no tengo confianza, estoy miedo”. Instead of rolling her eyes and blasting the coward out of me (which is usually her default style in class), she gave me a gentle, empathetic and encouraging look, and told me it is okay to feel scared. However, she said, “Everyone has to start somewhere. It is not enough to come for classes. You have to practise.” In short, I have to put myself out there and dance.
I remembered walking home that night, my heart palpitating so loudly I could hear it pounding in my eardrums. They were the same fears I was facing all over again – the fear of being vulnerable, of letting the safety rope go, of looking stupid, of being judged.
It was a monumental moment for me, because it got me thinking how many times these considerations, or obstacles, have been sabotaging me in what I truly want in life.
Many times, we always pretend that we are in the game. That we are devoted to the journey. I, for one, seemed to be a tanguera in the making. I’ve declared to everyone how much I love this dance, I go for classes, I have acquired 2 pairs of tango heels within 4 months of dancing, I go for milongas to observe and learn.
Truth be told, I feel that I am just sitting on the bleachers, watching the game. Maybe I am the occasional reserve player, but I am not playing the game.
I am just pretending to be playing the game, because I don’t allow myself to be wholeheartedly in it.
My body is present at every milonga, but my intention is never to open up and dance with random strangers, especially with dancers that I know are better than I am. I am hampered by my belief that I am not good enough. I am petrified by the idea of being vulnerable on the dancefloor. And of course, the universe will always give us what we wish for. I would leave the milongas night after night, satisfied that I had done my part to be there, but unfortunate that no one had asked me to dance. I was secretly relieved.
I am such a cowardly cat. I am just a flippant fish, drifting along with the currents.
I wonder how many other instances I have been pretending to play.
Have I been playing the game of attaining my dreams? Have I given myself wholeheartedly, without fear of what’s next, to attaining the life that I have been envisioning all the time? I have given up work, come all the way halfway across the world, and the last thing I need is to wuss out. Or am I just giving lip-service to the masses, to make myself feel good by fishing a few more compliments from others?
Have I been playing the game of love? Time and again, I tell myself that I am what I am, and I will be loved for who I am. But am I truly open to connections, or am I selective of what I am comfortable with? Have I allowed myself to be truly vulnerable, to risk getting hurt or seemingly lose the “upper hand”? Have I allowed myself to fall in love again or am I just guarding my heart all the time? Do I truly believe that I am deserving of the love I desire? Have I been practising letting my guard down and letting my true self show?
I wonder how often we do that, pretend to play the game. It’s amazing how masterful we have gotten at doing this, pretending to be devoted to a cause.
We are all such great actors in life, but our wisdoms within us always know better.
Will I regret years down the road and realise that I haven’t been authentic to myself in this journey of life that I have been gifted with, because I was too busy keeping up with appearances and as a result, missed the point altogether?
Being authentic is one thing. Being brave is another. And gawd, I need so much more courage than this. The pride is stubbornly in the way all the time and I wonder how it is serving me here. It is really silly to use my own alter ego to fight against my own desires. But as silly as we know it is, we do it all the time. They often say we are our own biggest enemy, and I can’t agree more.
I want to play, truly play. I remember I mentioned in “The Painted Ladies” documentary that “forgiveness is an everyday choice”. I’ve realised that it’s not just forgiveness that is an everyday choice. Living life to our heart’s desire is an everyday choice.
It doesn’t stay just because we have decided on it today. It is a continuous, conscious effort.
So crazy scary, but I remind myself, my desires are greater than my fears. And I know that’s all the motivation I need.