How Tango Got Me In Touch With My Fire Element and Solar Plexus Chakra

Photo by Tasleem Laila taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When I was younger, I had what some people might have described as a ‘favourite’ response to most questions. It was, “I don’t know.”

Whether the question was “Where do you want to go?” or “What do you want to do?” or What do you want to eat?”, I’d give the same answer, “I don’t know.” On occasion, if I were asked what I wanted to wear, I might have been a little pickier . But even then, it didn’t seem to take much to dissuade me from my initial choice.

There was this air of unsureness that oozed from me. I just really thought I ‘didn’t know’, especially compared to the more confident, opinionated, loud, outspoken personalities that were often around me. Or maybe my timid nature made them appear that way. Regardless, everyone seemed so sure about what they wanted except for me, so I left it up to them to make the decisions.

The thing I couldn’t see is that the more I practised this “I don’t know-ing”, the more I made it part of my identity. I just started thinking that’s who I was. And other people got used to choosing for me. Eventually, I subconsciously started believing my opinion didn’t really matter, that I didn’t have something important to say. And if a little hint of a possible preference would rise up in me, I would wonder what difference it would make anyway, so kept it in. I became accustomed to living life according to everyone else’s preferences. I didn’t think it bothered me because I thought, hey, at least it was one less opinion they had to consider. I thought I was making things easier for everyone else.

But, there were a LOT of opinions going around- family members’, friends’, that of the culture around me which included Indian, African, older generations, and the younger generation of the Canadian culture I also grew up in. Opinions of peers, classmates, teachers, religion, and those I just absorbed from what I read or saw on TV, not to mention those of society as a whole.

Continue reading

Interview With Rod McRae- Nothing Can Stop This Man From Dancing

Rod McRae and Melissa “Birdie Bird” Patterson- Hallowe’en Party

How long have you been dancing?

My first reaction is to be a little circumspect regarding my age. However, one look in the mirror decided my answer: 70 years on and off.

Wow! That’s amazing. I hope I get to say taht one day! I say flaunt it, rather than hide it.

You started dancing at an early age in public school, right? How did that come about?

Well, I am from Saskatchewan. And physical exercise in a Saskatchewan winter wasn’t easily done. Plus, the little three-room school I attended did not have any such thing as a gymnasium. So, a few desks were pushed back and our teacher, Miss Broadfoot, began teaching us the basic dances of the time: Foxtrot, Two-step, Polka, Waltz, Schottische, and some Square Dance.

I am so jealous! Maybe I would have actually liked P.E in school if I had had that kind of class and teacher.  

Well, the community where I was in Saskatchewan was so small it didn’t qualify as a town or village, but as a hamlet. And the community dances drew from the farms in the district.

That’s such a great reminder- how the community we are around influences the kinds of cultural and artistic activities we are exposed to.  

I’m curious if there was any stigma around dancing as a boy at that time.

Well, when these dances occurred, mostly during warmer weather, my ability to do a bit of dancing stood me in good stead, as many of the men usually visited together outside having a drink, leaving their wives/daughters/girlfriends in the townhall for me to dance with.

Haha. They had no idea what they were missing. And how perfect for you!

Continue reading

Tango Taught Me Not To Cheat My Steps, In Dance, Love and in Life!

Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

When I turned to tango, I thought it was an escape, from the embarrassment and hurt I felt over being betrayed in a relationship in the salsa scene. I thought that everyone knew what was going on for those couple of years except for me. And when I found out about it, I just wanted to run away from the salsa regulars- those faces that I imagined were either pitying me for being so gullible, or maybe even laughing thinking. “He’s a salsa instructor, for God’s sake! What did you expect?”

I knew I still wanted to dance, but everytime I would go to those same venues, he would be there, eyeing down his next prey. I was disgusted because now I could totally see him for what he really was, and how I had been so blind to it. As much as I tried to ignore it, and put it behind me, I could feel him around. And I knew he was very aware of exactly where I was.

I couldn’t shake the bad energy from it. My body would actually literally be shaking with anger whenever I would go out on the dance floor. It hadn’t forgotten about the mess, eventhough I was trying to will my mind to. How ironic that the muscle memory for salsa dancing had finally been ingrained into my system. But unfortunately, along with that were now these negative associations with the venues where that learning had happened. The spaces that brought me so much joy felt tainted with the lies that were uncovered, so I couldn’t get myself to enjoy dancing in those surroundings.

Where could I still dance and actually have fun with it again?

That’s when Tango came to me- literally. At the time, I thought I chose it. I thought I came up with the idea of trying another dance. But it would take me some time to realize tango had actually chosen me. It had lessons to teach me that I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and at exactly the time when I was ready to learn them.

Continue reading

The Milonga Mystery

(I do not claim to own this picture. Photographer and source unknown).

I was watching the movie I Feel Pretty the other night. And the main character Renee, played by the hilarious Amy Shumer, was complaining to her girlfriends about online dating. She was emphasizing how the guys only look at the pictures, and so if you’re not pretty in the guys’ eyes, they skip right past you.

She was so passionate in her monologue at that point. Her friends laughed, but you could also feel the hurt she had been holding in for so long, needing to get out. And it was how she ended it that rung inside me over and over: “And you didn’t even want to go out with this guy in the first place. But he’s rejecting you and it’s not fair. I’m sick of it.”

I know that feeling, I thought. But not because of online dating. Because of tango, and not because of the dance itself, but because of my experience of going out to some of the Vancouver milongas in particular.

Okay, I can’t believe I said that out loud, or wrote it out loud, but I am kind of relieved, because like Amy Shumer’s character, I’ve been keeping this inside for way too long. Maybe some of you tangueros out there will be shocked or disagree with my thoughts. But maybe, or I’m thinking most likely, there are people out there who can relate to this. More than they care to admit. So I am admitting it for all of us.

Continue reading

Kizom-what? – Part 2

Kizom-what?– Part 2 –Interview with Eddy Vents- discussing Kizomba Dancing (continued) To view Part 1, click here

Tasleem: At the end of Part 1 of this interview, you talked about the importance of the connection in this dance.  Because it IS more about that connection and energy, it’s really hard to describe kizomba to someone else.  Often, I hear it being described in terms of other dances. The description “Afrieddy vents2can tango” has come up a few times, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Eddy: I think people describe kizomba that way because they need to refer to the dance with something that is more familiar.  If I explained kizomba to you by talking about the other dances it’s connected to or came out of, you probably won’t know what I’m talking about, because you’ve never seen those dances.  So ‘African tango’ makes it easy for people on this side of the world, who have not experienced those African dances, to imagine the dance using something they already know.

Continue reading

Kizom-what?- An interview with Eddy Vents- Part 1

Kizomba. What is it, and why are more people talking about it?  The word itself seems to stir up a whole range of reactions from those who have never danced it.  Some of my favorites are:

“Oh, is it related to Zumba?” 

“You’re referring to that NEW dance, right?” 

“Yeah, I think I’ve seen it and it reminds me of high school dancing. Not much to it.” 

“Oh, I can’t do THAT, being glued to a partner that way?”

“It looks so simple.”

I laugh, not just at the reactions, but at how I can relate to them because, before I started learning kizomba myself, I’m sure some of those thoughts ran through my head as well.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize that there is so much more to the dance than what it appears to be from the outside.   In fact, all of those perceptions above disintegrate when the magic of the true kizomba takes a hold of you. 

Continue reading

Photo Feature #2- Nicole Chan, Carlos Molina, and Elina Sumichan

It is my pleasure to share a special photo feature this month involving three fellow dancers and friends from our very own Vancouver dance community!  

Carlos Molina and Nicole Chan are captured here in a beautiful moment of dance by photographer and dancer Elina Sumichan.  The photo was taken at a recent event in Vancouver called Kizomba Temptation.  Thank you Elina for hosting and organizing such a magical night, and special thanks to Nelda Sumichan for providing us with such an elegant, intimate venue in which to get our Kizomba dance on!  It definitely proved to be a great night of mingling, music, and fun memories.   I am thrilled to be able to share one of those moments here as Elina’s shot of Carlos and Nicole will be our new header photo for this season. 

Continue reading

Tango … it will be waiting…

Quote

“But it’s true that [tango], it’s like a drug.  Once you understand it, you will never leave it.  You will never quit. You will take some distance.  Sometimes you will get tired, you will get fed up, but then it’s going to be there.  And tango will wait for you, because tango is expression.  It’s going to be there, always.  Even if you go away, it will be waiting.”- Caesar Coelho

Interview With Cesar Coelho- “Tango is more than a dance…”

It was a pleasure to be able to talk to Cesar Coelho after his tango workshops. Despite having given an intense set of classes during the day, and needing to rest for a photo shoot early the next morning, Cesar gave up his time to share his insights and thoughts. The passion and openness with which he spoke was much appreciated. Cesar has an extensive background in tango, ballet and jazz. He is well known for his precision and energy on stage particularly as the lead in the Broadway show “Forever Tango”. Cesar proves to be a talented dance teacher at such a young age, driving his students to understand more than just the steps to the dance. “He is amazing,” commented one of his students, “I take his classes every time he is in town, and each time I work with him, my dancing progresses so much further.” Continue reading

The Healing Touch of Tango

In a previous article, I described the impact salsa dancing has had on my health. Since then, I have been touched by the number of people who opened up to me about their own stories around dancing.
In particular, Peter Ferreira’s account of how he became a tango dancer is proof of the truly transformative power of dance.

Peter, formerly in the contracting business, worked independently for five years. His friends described him as focused, perseverant, vivacious and amusing. He worked hard and was goal oriented, and from the sounds of it, Peter didn’t let anything get in the way of his goals.

But in January of 2002, Peter was involved in a serious car accident that changed his plans and his life. Approaching Nordel Hill, in Vancouver, he was hit by an oncoming driver. Although Peter was in his own lane, going in the opposite direction, the driver heading towards him lost control of his car, and crossed the center line. Peter attempted to dodge the car but couldn’t. Witnesses say that the car that collided with the driver’s side of Peter’s van was travelling at the speed of about one hundred kilometers per hour.

Fortunately, Peter survived, but the impact of the crash left him with a body that needed much repair. Two of the major bones in his leg were shattered – his femur and tibia. Rods were placed along the length of these bones, along with anchoring screws, to help the bones redevelop. Though the hardware was implanted to aid Peter in his recovery, the screws were too long for the bones, and this caused him extreme discomfort and pain. Yet he had to endure having the equipment in his body for three years.

There were also many other repercussions Peter had to face because of the accident. One of the most severe was damage to his left frontal lobe. The result was a blood clot in his brain. This had a huge effect on his memory. “I went to bed on a Saturday and the next thing I knew, I woke up on a Wednesday in the hospital,” he explained. Peter couldn’t remember any details of the accident. In fact, there is a six month period of his life, around the time of the crash, of which he has no recollection.

Peter’s loss of memory did not just revolve around moments in time. He also struggled to retain information that had been built up over years of experience. He lost most of his contracting skills and was struggling to remember how to use the tools with which he had been familiar for over twenty years.

Peter underwent rehabilitation treatment for two years. He worked with physical therapists and was put through a series of cognitive tests. After some time, he tried working out – using weights and a treadmill- and also tried swimming to strengthen himself. But he was not seeing the results that he desired. He had trouble focusing, and the activities suggested to him were very solitary.

Understandably, Peter experienced much frustration and anger. The accident had a considerable impact on his daily routines. He was having trouble sleeping, he was in pain, and he didn’t know if he could ever return to his previous job.

Yet, despite all the setbacks, Peter still managed to retain his determination and perseverance.

“Resilience is a good word for Peter,” said Geraldine Goyer, “He had it when I first met him, and he still has it now.”

Two years after the accident, at a friend’s birthday party, Peter met Geraldine. She was a dancer and had been performing and teaching tango for over twenty years. Geraldine was moved by the story of Peter’s accident and encouraged him to try tango. She gave him her card, and Peter called her two weeks later.

Though Peter had not had any previous dance training, his attitude, teamed with Geraldine’s patience and teaching expertise, allowed Peter to excel quickly. Geraldine also knew something that Peter was yet to discover – that dancing had the power to heal, “I could tell he really needed the lessons, and there was no way I was going to let him walk out the door without seeing where the dancing went, and what it could do for him,” said Geraldine.   Continue reading