The Teacher

DOT is a great teacher.

I danced with him first in Oakland, just over a year ago.  Was nearly run over.  I had been on a lookout for a tango teacher.  Right there, in one tanda, he challenged me so clearly and to the point that I asked him to take me as a student next time I saw him.

During my first lesson, we danced a little bit; he had me do solo work. Walk and ochos weren’t terrible.  Boleos were, not surprisingly.  We started working on standing my ground.  On the side step first, the right side easier than the left.  He gave me homework.

My dancing began improving immediately.  Over the next few weeks, we worked on: committing to the base leg, having un-compromised specific axis, moving from the hip joint.  We would spend nearly half a lesson on a seemingly simple topic, until I began to get it.  He got me to change my entire posture one evening.  That was so profound once I got it, I broke into tears.  Turns out, upright is not taking as little space as possible.  Upright is upright.

But then there was more than that.

He challenged me to stand my ground: “Let me come to you!”   To be slow and deliberate.  To be disciplined: “Feet together!” …”But I am decorating, because the music…”  “None of that!  Focus on the base leg.  Feet together.”

He challenged me to be present: “Be the queen! Королева!  Be the goddess! (How do you say that in Russian?)”  The not quite there yet goddess retorts: “It’s ‘богиня’, but I understand your English just fine, thank you.”  Makes faces.  Resorts to being a goddess or something, as the only option available under the circumstances.

He challenged me to move myself: axis, butt, everything.  He had me lead a little bit and then maintain the leader’s poise and presence as a follower. Maintaining was ridiculously difficult.  “It’s all in your head!”  We switched back and forth over and over, until I began remaining a leader as a follower.

Off the floor, he found a way to help me pronounce simple silly words that used to be bewilderingly impossible to pronounce.  He challenged my mumbling by listening to all my excuses for it, and then describing exactly how it affects the interaction: it feels like I am not there, when I mumble.

One evening, a month or two into our lessons, I was his last student for the day and we ran over by a lot.  I didn’t want to take advantage, got nervous, stopped, apologized.  “Oh, don’t worry,” he said, “I do this for myself.”  And then we ended up sitting there in the studio, he on the chair, I on the floor, talking for nearly another hour.  We talked a bit about how he got to where he was.  He mentioned events that got him in touch with his anger.  Months later he helped me connect with mine, much the same way as everything else, by pointing it out directly and standing calmly by until I began to see it.  What I saw underneath that was how much I was rejecting myself; his open and direct rejection helped.

I danced with him again a couple of weeks ago.  I had the axis, poise, posture.  I moved my butt.  Deliberately.  He had to come to me, and, mind you, work to get there.  Off the floor, I stand up straighter, speak clearer, hide less.

One day, I’ll ask him to take me back as a student.  Perhaps.

Meanwhile, here is a video from much earlier: dot is dancing with Mariana; Mariana is still on this side of the Oceans; I am still on the other side of the continent etc. etc.


Note: this is a Blogging 101 assignment, written on a deadline. May evolve in the future

Later edit: embedded a video to get closer to fulfilling a specific assignment.  Not exactly new-to-me, because I’ve embedded videos before, but this time I read about embedding videos, so there 🙂

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