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Sunday, December 7, 2008

All or Nothing/Starting Small

Words of wisdom: As you advance in age, falling asleep on the sofa is not a good thing for your back.

It is either very early in the morning or very late at night as I write this. If I was dancing tango, it would be very late at night. As things stand now, it's just very early in the morning.

A year ago today I wrote this post.

I still have that dress, that perfume, that bracelet and those shoes. I still can conjure up the feelings I had that evening just by reading my words again and listening to the music in the clip. The tango is still in me; it's like riding a bike or having sex. Even if you don't do it for a while, at your core you still know how to. For the scant remaining tango dancers that might still read my blog once in a while, you know exactly what I mean. For you new readers that came later and have never danced tango, you can use your imagination about that feeling and you'd probably be right.

I often think about why I haven't danced in months. I could say it is my personal finances that prevent it, or I could paint sweeping generalizations about the drama of participating in tango society or I could point fingers at specific people disguised in anonymity. Part of the reason is that tango, for some, requires a kind of immersion that is not copacetic with "real" life. To experience tango, for some, it's an all-or-nothing scene. Compromise is hard.

And I tend to be an all-or-nothing person.

Some people come to tango and it's like enjoying an apertif: they drink their cocktail, enjoy it, and then move on to dinner. And then there's the other people: they start with one drink and then stay until the bar closes. For them, tango cannot be practiced in moderation.

I think about going back to dance, but in the limited way I could manage, that would put me in the perceived lower echelon of random occasional dancer and that doesn't seem to be worth the effort. The retirement home of Tango.

So now I'm in this space where not dancing is like coming out of a bad romance: I don't want that guy in my life anymore, but I still think about him. Perhaps if I was younger, I would have made the sacrifice.


Speaking of being younger, last night I went to see something that was pretty awesome. In the inspiring, look what kids are doing today kind of way.

About five blocks away from my house is a circus school. I kid you not. The whole works: acrobatics, juggling, contortion, aerial silk and ropes. Of course they have adult classes, but I wonder how many adults could stick with such an education, even if they had comprehensive health coverage.

But those bendy and talented kids--they put on quite a show for us, a crowd of friends, family and a few random neighbors like me. It was a cross between an Andy Hardy movie (hey kids, let's put on a show in the barn!) and a seedling class of Cirque de Soleil future talent.

As much as I was enthused by the young performers and how capable they are (and slightly cringing at times in a protective reflex that someone was going to get hurt), I mostly felt so glad that these kids had the opportunity to discover something they loved from a very young age, practice it so they were advanced and talented enough to perform, and still have many years ahead to make their talents deepen. The little Julie inside me was more than slightly jealous of them having that chance. The older Julie knows not having found that creative niche as a kid has driven me to explore many kinds of outlets, tango included, but that creates the bedrock of my personal dilettantism, too.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too old to be good at anything at the deepest level. And the other part of me thinks I just haven't found that thing yet. And a tiny voice says that all of these thoughts surface in the wee hours because I should be sleeping right now.

But you'll be relieved to know for my own personal safety that I did not sign up for circus school.

Yet. They have an open house where you can try the flying trapeze and more on December 20. Hmmm.

Image: Tight-Rope Walker by Jean-Louis Forain, 1885.


vicki archer December 7, 2008 at 5:38 AM  

All or nothing I understand but if I could dance the tango like it sounds you can then tangoing I would be. Lovely blog and great post, thank you, xv.

Kath December 7, 2008 at 7:19 AM  

oh do go to the open house ... please .... it will be so much fun to read about because alas, I am neither young nor bendy and need you to do it for me!

Bill Stankus December 7, 2008 at 8:13 AM  

I've lived the all or nothing and, yes, it probably is akin to walking a tightrope. But, once on that tightrope, love and passion seem better, certainly more intense. I couldn't live with the opposite.

Vanessa December 7, 2008 at 8:19 AM  

How awesome - a circus school down the road from your house. That sort of fascinating, artsy thing doesn't happen to me.

I hope that you return to your passions, and I believe you will, when you are ready.

Anonymous December 7, 2008 at 9:00 AM  

TB, as a deeply passionate all-or-nothing tanguera myself (closing down every milonga of the week, back in the day), there came a time where I had to make a relationship-based decision regarding Tango.

Though it is frustrating at times, I have my tango time every week. And then someone I love to come home to. It has worked out very well, and made me appreciate Tango even more.

dutchbaby December 7, 2008 at 9:40 AM  

So that's who's occupying the Poly High gym! I never knew there was a circus school in San Francisco, let alone in my mother's neighborhood. I can't wait to tell her!

As for your dancing, get some rest and the answer will come to you soon enough. For me, things are always much more frightening and confusing at 3 a.m.

Lovely post.

ModernTanguera December 7, 2008 at 11:06 AM  

Oh! I know an acrobat in New York who traveled to San Francisco to train at that school! Her favorite apparatus is trapeze. It's so neat!

If you really do miss tango, maybe you have to ask yourself why you feel the need to take an all-or-nothing approach with it. I mean, I pretty much have the same approach, but I have the time and obsession right now to do it. But maybe if you find a way to let go, to permit yourself to keep it around as something to do from time to time, you can enjoy it that way, too.

Of course, I would be just as delighted to read on your blog about new adventures in flying trapeze. ;)

namastenancy December 7, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

Fret not, Dear TangoBaby. Leonardo Da VInci did a multitude of things and we think of him still as a universal genius. You can write, take beautiful photographs and make books of them, appreciate The Boy and your friends and all in all, make your corner of the world a better place to be in. That's a lot of things to be good in. Who says, anyway, that one can only be good in one thing? Some of us contain multitudes.

julochka December 7, 2008 at 12:55 PM  

so weird that you wrote about this because i was just thinking of asking you about the tango bit of tangobaby (since i'm one of those who apparently came PT (post-tango))...i think if the tango is still in your heart, it's ok. :-) me, i'm too uncoordinated to tango. but i like the music.

Christina December 7, 2008 at 1:01 PM  

This is almost too close to home, for me to comment on. : ) Wink.

I want to tell you to think it through once you have had some rest. But I have come to realize after all these years, it's these middle of the night, early morning thoughts that are the bravest parts of us. Seems, we never have these, brave and beautiful thoughts tug at us, during the hours of 9-5.


robinbird December 8, 2008 at 1:36 AM  

hmmm.. funny i should be stopping by here to see you at...what time? middle-of-the-night-i-can't-sleep-at-all time. i know these kinds of thoughts you are describing. these kinds of questions you are asking yourself. they are real, and honest and yet a little more tender perhaps for the lateness of the hour. so many roads to travel, so many choices... but once selected others drop away. i don't think either of us would make good circus students right now... not bendy enough:) we do however make for good student photographers. but alas i know in my heart that photo school practiced like circus school would have offered up an entirely different sort of being good at picture taking. all or nothing, starting small. no circus type school experience for me neither. it wasn't my time i guess. my mom wanted me to play the accordion and drums when i was little. do you think that was my circus school option and maybe i passed it by? god i hated both of them ;)

now see! i am not such a good cheer-you-up person in my comment since i am captured in the web of wee-hours-of-the-morning-time when even good things can seem bleak.

"that {not having an early creative niche} creates the bedrock of my personal dilettantism." you are much more than a dilettante in so many areas. you are a witty and smart, (brilliant even!) writer, a blooming photographer, a passionate humanitarian. and a very good friend :) you are like a sponge for knowledge and nearly encyclopedic in your knowledge of films And so much more!

it is time for me to try again to sleep. when i do this, get up and be a night owl rather than lay in the dark with my thoughts, i inevitably wander aimlessly, have no real interest in anything and wish that i were asleep. tonight i am just happy i came here to see you.

A Cuban In London December 8, 2008 at 1:58 AM  

All or nothing, that's the Scorpio's curse, or blessing.

Greetings from London.

rochambeau December 8, 2008 at 7:01 AM  

If I can't sleep I know where I can Tango~Baby!
The things you write about not having a child resonates with me!
The older I get, the more I realize why it was never meant to be.
Hope you are having a great day friend!!
Happy Monday!

My Castle in Spain December 8, 2008 at 8:15 AM  

I love you Julie...honestly your post nearly makes me cry of tenderness. Sorry to be so emotional! I totally understand this all or nothing statement. I hope you will soon, very soon, put on your tango shoes again...
on the other hand, you do a lot of things and cumulate many talents : photographer, make-up artist, writer and this is so wonderful!
but i understand...tango has a place in your life and this passion has to be kept alive.

Hope you slept well and wish you a cool and happy monday!

Red Shoes December 8, 2008 at 9:38 AM  

Oh my, yes. It's very difficult to be in-between with tango. In my five-times-a-week days (oh, what a long time ago) it was fortunate that I had, really, nothing better to do at night. These days I have more options, starting with my marriage, and sometimes the tango loses for weeks and months at a time. And combined with some of the "scene" difficulties we've discussed, well--

Sigh. It's not that I don't want it. It's that I can't make the commitment to it, given all the intervening circumstances.

It's still in here, though. Deep, deep in here.

Tina December 8, 2008 at 5:11 PM  

I only dance tango once a week and I enjoy it SOOOO much more than when I danced nearly every night.

Does only once a week mean not giving it your all? Nope. It's still "all" for me. Just on Saturdays.

I agree that it's wise to ask yourself why it has to be "all or nothing". And to ask what your definition of what "all" is and what "nothing" is. :-)

Elizabeth December 8, 2008 at 5:27 PM  

TB, When you talk about going back to tango "in a limited way" that you could manage, you say that this would put you "..in the perceived lower echelon of the ramdom occaisional dancer.."
it makes me think of some very elite dancers here who just happen to have real lives, careers, family, relationships, that have caused them to show up less often, and to very carefully selected events, and to often stay for a shorter time than those of us who are currently closing down the late shift at the milonga. They sure aren't seen as lesser dancers, and there is a real buzz in the room when they are there. I think the milongas very special for them....and they do practice in moderation this beloved dance which is an integral part of their lives. Just saying.

Yoli December 10, 2008 at 11:29 AM  

All or nothing. Such a true Scorpio. I feel the same way about Fencing that you do about Tango. It is like I was born with a sword in my hand, few understand.

sonorossa December 11, 2008 at 9:33 PM  

I walk past this circus school once a week and I always want to get my trapeze on. You should do it! Trapeze work is so much fun! You will pull so many muscles, and you will love every minute of it!

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