Categories
Humor

A tango for you

(The original appeared in the CharlestonMercury Newsletter).

Even the heat of a Lowcountry summer seems a bit brisk compared to the sultry Argentine tango. Image in public domain. (Ed)


Having been asked by the Mercury to write a little bit about my experiences in the mysterious world of the tango, I thought it appropriate to address the most common questions I receive. Such questions are perfectly legitimate and I’m always happy to answer them.

The decorous expectations of the “salmon sheets” restrict me from writing some of my more colorful thoughts … but there is a good-humored difference between what I think and what I say. So here goes the Q&A … if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me through the Mercury.

Q: “Wow! Eleven years! You must be an expert?”

A: “No, but I’m average,” is what I say.

What I’m thinking: “You play golf? Wow, 11 years! You must be as good as Tiger Woods!”

Q: “Oh, I’d love to do that, but I can’t dance.”

A: “We have weekly lessons. Tango is a walking dance — if you can walk, you can tango.”

What I’m thinking: “Yep, I was born with the “Gene Kelly gene” and one day, when I was four years old, I pulled away from my mother, snatched a hot blonde out of a convertible and recreated the dance number from Singin in the Rain on King Street in front of the old Kerrison’s Department store. Dude, you’re looking at a short, obese middle-aged guy who was always picked last for any sport from first grade through ninth grade gym. That’s why you take lessons. And practice”

Q: “Is it hard?”

A: “If you can walk, you can tango!”

What I’m thinking: “While you’re taught some steps, Argentine tango is a completely improvised social dance using all non-verbal communication in which the leader must maintain their own axis and balance, know at all times what foot the follower is on, communicate direction, distance and speed with energetic communication and musicality all the while dancing to the ability and heart of the follower. The follower is reading these subtle and energetic forms of communication so as to move, almost in any direction, at any time, without anticipation or expectation, backwards, in high heels almost always on one foot. Yep — it’s a breeze.”

Q: “Do you have to have a partner?”

A: “No, some couples do come regularly and some dance mostly with each other, but most people dance with everybody.”

What I’m thinking: A delicate analogy works better here than anything else but, alas, my filter has kicked in again. A good tango friend summed it up this way. “If you’re in a relationship and only one of you dances tango, that’s a problem. If you’re in a relationship and you both dance tango, that’s also a problem.”

Q: “How did you hear about it?”

A: True story. I attended a meetup event in a group that I had been attending for quite a while. A new woman walked in and sat down, so later I walked over to make her feel welcome. As we were going through the usual “what do you do/where are you from/what brings you here, blah, blah, blahs, I became obsessed with the four packs of breath mints next to her purse.

“Ok, I can’t help it,” I say, “What’s the deal with the breath mints!?!? Is there something we need to know about your breath? Or were you expecting a problem with our breath?”

She burst out laughing. “No,” she said, “I dance Argentine tango and when you’re that close to people, breath mints are a must. Maybe not four packs.”

My head turned to the side like a German shepherd who hears a high-pitched sound no one else can hear but he doesn’t recognize.

“What the hell is Argentine tango?”

There’s a free class every Tuesday at MUSC and the rest is history. And I always carry breath mints.

[That free class is now five dollars and still is every Tuesday … except during global pandemics because tango, if you think about the whole cheek-to-cheek thing, is mildly out of accord with social distancing rules. Anyway, you can find us as the Charleston Argentine Tango Society (C.A.T.S) on Facebook. Before attending, I recommend you visit YouTube and search “Argentine tango” and at least take a peek down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. ]

Last Q: “Why do you do it?”

A: “We all crave connection. When you get on the dance floor with a perfect stranger, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, heart to heart and the music starts and your breathing synchronizes and you move in perfect harmony, with the music, with the beat, in what tango calls ‘two bodies, four legs, one heart’ and you lose all sense of time and space till, at the end, the music stops and you stay in the embrace a moment or two longer … that’s why.”

Lawrence Laddaga is partner at Laddaga and Garrett, a leading local provider of legal services for the health care industry. And his breath is minty, minty fresh. (Ed)


Categories
Argentine Tango Dance Fitness Humor Inspiration Weight Loss

Left Brain-Right Brain: The “Filter” vs “Smart Assery”

You may be familiar with various theories of the effects that the two hemispheres of our brain have on a variety of things from behavior, to psychology to biology, including the most popular that our left brain is where rational, logical processes reside and the right, creativity.  This is all, of course probably not true. If you’re remotely interested in any of this, here is a Wikipedia article with 80 citations to current professional journal articles in neurology, physchology, and other medical, scientific and Behavorial science publications.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function
 Let me save you some time, however, and suggest that our knowledge of the brain is not much more advanced than our medieval theories that the Black Plague was caused by an imbalance in the four humours (not comedy humours but blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile)

This allows me to pretty freely postulate that the left brain is where our “filter” resides, as a constant balance to the “smart Assery” right side of our brain.  By “filter”, I mean that part of our brains that stops us from offering the police office, who just stopped us, the box of donuts from the passenger seat, or when our significant other asks, “do these jeans make my ass look fat”; scrolling through the responses of “everything makes your ass look fat” or “your ass IS FAT”, or “do you mean ‘semi trailer fat’, or ‘Beyoncé booty fat’, or ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue fat” and instead opt for “of course not- your ass is perfection defined”. 

I find it difficult to predict when my filter will or won’t work, or when the switch is on or off.  I first noticed this as a 17 year old in AP calculus class.  The teacher said, “and what should I do with this Parabola”, and before I knew it I said “you don’t REALLY want us to tell you what to do with that Parabola, do you”, whereupon with equal speed an eraser was whizzing by my left ear.  I immediately began to put as much value on my filter as her bad aim. As the things which then began to get thrown at my head increased in both frequency and weight, I began to think maybe my filter could be exercised to be made more effective. I’m not sure at my age if it’s better or worse.  Here’s just a few examples.

At a function this week hosted by a female friend, I met her husband for the first time. Part of the conversation went like this.  “…-and he does Argentine tango, she said”.   “Wow,” he said, what a beautiful dance.  We so enjoyed watching tango on our trip to Buenos Aires.  But you don’t seem to have the body type of a tango dancer?”.   Possible replies submitted to my filter:  “Yes, well I got a 6 week scholarship to the Sumo Wrestlers School of Argentine Tango in Kyoto in 2009”. “Yes, but I applied for and was granted a weight waiver from the International Tango Police in Buenos Aires”.  “Yes, but I’m also short and I get to dance with REALLY tall women”.

image

 Yes, but I’m not allowed to dance with women over (or under) a certain weight”. “Yes, I have to weigh in monthly and if I go over 240, I’m suspended”. “Yes, but we have weight classes in Tango, like boxing” to what actually passed my filter which was “hahahahahaha, Yes!”  (Yay filter!!!)

My filter seems particularly challenged by stupidity.  At a tango class years ago, a conversation with a medical school professor somehow turned to my struggles to lose weight despite a ridiculous amount of exercise, clean eating and food deprivation.    “It’s easy he said, don’t eat anything white”.   Uh oh, here we go with a furious assault on my filter.   “This is going to be shocking news to my black and Asian friends”.  “OMG- in 48 years of dieting, I’ve never seen or read this theory or been told this by any of the 36 physicians I’ve seen in all these years”.  While my filter is processing some other options which are not printable, he adds “you know like white rice, white bread, or white flour”.  Immediately after my filter rejects “so the outside of Oreo’s is ok, but not the middle” and “You’re a fucking idiot”, and it allows, “yes, I should work harder on this, thank you”.  

I was encouraging a fellow zumberanian this morning by remarking she looks like she lost a significant amount of weight lately and is more tone.  Anytime I see someone I know, who looks like they’ve lost weight lately, I tell them. Who doesn’t want to hear they’ve lost weight lately, even if they haven’t (Nigerian marathon runners and eating disorder patients excluded). We had the usual banter of “yes, I really want to get rid of this belly” (whereupon I put my arm around her and showed her it’s still smaller than mine), how long it takes to make progress, etc. etc. whereupon the other person in this conversation said, “your genes have a lot to do with it”.   Apparently my filter was recovering from my Friday night because I blurted out, “so, I should stop wearing wranglers and get designer jeans instead?”, all the while thinking I should warn my former beauty pageant friend to immediately burn those baby phat jeans I bought her years ago.  After all, she might ask me, “Baby, do these baby phat’s make my ass look fat?”.

Categories
Argentine Tango Humor

Some Musings on a Night of Argentine Tango

Some musings on a night of Argentine Tango. Dear Paula: since we started our Tango journey a month apart 4 years ago, I’ve enjoyed our unique friendship/tango connection, but after hours of research on the following arcane bit of argentine tango etiquette, and not finding any guidance anywhere on the internet, may I suggest that when I said, ” wow, that was the first time in four years I’ve been kicked in the balls doing a gancho.”; the proper response is not, “it’s all your fault, you didn’t open your legs wide enough”. Wow, really? But, I should digress.

(Please allow me just a moment of solemnity, as I would be remiss not to recognize Nina and Marie for their hundreds of hours of volunteer hard work to organize this wonderful weekend of tango Milongas and workshops with housing for all the beautiful tangueros from around the southeast and dale Ellison for hosting the milonga and as my tango and Zumba instructor putting up with my BS)
Allow me to briefly set the scene- Arthur Murray dance studio west Ashley, where the above floor Lego constructed wooden dance floor creaks like the bed in the next door neighbors hotel room where you swear to God Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are in there having sex with each other as if she really gave birth to those 9 kids. Ok, maybe having sex like she ADOPTED those 9 kids and the 7000 watt high intensity bulbs on the relatively short 10 foot ceiling, all trained on the 1975 John Travolta disco ball, are putting off enough heat that within 10 minutes we’re all sweating like 8th graders at their first school dance in a large concrete South Georgia gym in June with no windows where the air conditioner hasn’t worked in 3 months.

So, Paula and I were dancing a tanda (a series of 3 songs of the same style separated by a cortina where, in one song I led a gancho. As my wordsmithing abilities are not sufficient to describe what this looks,like, I have attached a brief instructional video at the end of this post, you can see the move in question @ 1 min 29 sec, you might want to take a look now, just so you can say, in your own mind, as I did, in mine, “OMG, how did that turn into a kick in the balls?”

I led the gancho, the testicular tap ensued, the comments above followed, and I briefly found my previously surgically removed tonsils temporarily replaced thanks to the back of Paula’s heel. (But very nice shoes they were). And I found myself feeling like a sexual assault victim who had “asked for it”. Now while I’m sure my lead was at least partially to blame, I more focused on a more appropriate reply, primarily as a guide for less experienced tangueros who may find themselves as either a testicular kicker or kickee. Despite the 29,472 instructional videos on Argentine tango and the 125,742 pages of floorcraft, terminology, etiquette, and technique; no one has tackled this problem.

My suggestions: “Are you ok?” Would be my top choice. “I’m sorry that happened”. Is another good one. Here’s some others you might want to avoid besides “your legs were too close together”. “Your too short and your balls are clearly too close to the ground”; “tee hee”; “it felt like I only kicked one, sorry”

Grand Milonga tonight at 8 pm. I’m wearing a cup.

“We all live in a yellow submarine”.

Copyright 2013 lawrence a laddaga