It takes two
Every week in Glenwood Springs, men and woman who sometimes are total strangers come together in intimate embraces, so close they could whisper a secret in each other’s ear.They’re sharing the secret that is tango. If you haven’t tried it, you just can’t know its magic.But it’s not as if advocates of the passionate Argentine dance aren’t doing their best to spread the word about it.Participants in tango classes every Monday night at the Masonic Temple in downtown Glenwood Springs, and at the once-a-month dances there, are happy to expound on the wonders of the dance form to anyone who will listen.”It’s the most exquisite dance I’ve ever seen,” said Cheryl Guay, of Glenwood, organizer of the local classes.If you happen to be a single guy, it gets even better than that. It truly does take two to tango. And men are too few in number at Glenwood’s tango functions.”We need more men. You can put that in the newspaper. It’s a great way to meet women,” Guay said.Glenwood resident David Chiarello has found that to be true, although he wasn’t in such great demand among female dancers when he first took up tango. That’s because of something he said is called “tango misery.” If a man can’t lead a woman well, he doesn’t get many dances, Chiarello said.It took him about 10 months, but he got past that phase, he said. That became clear when he had to cut an interview short to oblige a woman who hovered nearby, waiting to be escorted out onto the floor.Tango: from page A1
“I think I’d better go,” he said, excusing himself.What women want”All girls want to tango,” said Tom Stermitz, a Front Range resident who gave up a computer career to teach tango and recently gave lessons at the Masonic Temple.”Guys don’t realize it. They spend all their time at the gym pumping iron for themselves but the women want them to waltz them around the room.”Marilyn Shettel, a mental health counselor and lover of tango, long has told clients of dance’s matchmaking abilities.”When guys are lonely, looking for a partner, I tell them to take dance classes. It’s a surefire cure,” she said as she pulled on her dancing shoes.David Jones and Natalia Kozlova are proof of Shettel’s point.”We met dancing and then discovered tango,” Jones said.Now married, they have moved from Glenwood Springs to Fort Collins. They came back recently to ski, visit friends, and dance the tango in Glenwood, at one point giving a demonstration to fellow tango aficionados.Most any dance might be a good way to meet future dates, but few offer as much chance to become quickly yet intimately acquainted with someone as the tango does. Guay said dancers change partners frequently, as men hone their leading skills and women learn how to follow them.”What’s fun about this dance is you dance with this guy and you don’t know what he’s going to do,” she said.
For single people, it may be better than speed dating as a way to sample the field.For married couples, it might require some trust as spouses let others go off arm in arm with their loved ones.”It depends how secure you are in your relationship,” Stermitz said with a smile.The point of trading off partners is that everyone learns from each other. The payoff for spouses is that they dance better together, he said.Still, there is that matter of getting used to watching your spouse moving in close contact with some stranger on the dance floor.In fact, tango styles include both an open embrace and a closed, chest-to-chest one. The woman decides which one to use, said Lesly Adams, who was leading a recent Monday night class. Both styles have their place in tango, she said. But it remains hard for many Americans, especially women, to get used to the idea of someone else standing so close to them, she said.’Dance of the heart’But for people like Guay, that’s what goes literally to the heart of tango – two hearts so close together.”It’s called the dance of the heart. It’s the connection – always in front of the heart,” she said.Said Adams, “That’s where the magic happens. It doesn’t happen in the feet.”Shettel said she loves tango in part because of “the intensity of the connection between two people. … You have to be totally with that connection or you can’t do it.”
Learning to sacrifice some personal space isn’t the only mental adjustment some people have to make to tango. For some women, not to mention men sensitive to today’s ways of thinking, another challenge is getting used to the idea of the man being in charge.”Put her on her left,” Adams instructed her male students at one point.”Transfer her weight,” she said at another.Welcome to the machismo Argentinian world that gave birth to tango. Stermitz said the dance offers women who may run their own businesses or are capable of taking on the world the experience of being led by a man for a night.”We get to play with our older archetypes of masculinity and femininity,” he said.Stermitz said women tango dancers have a feminine presence but not a timid one. Quite the opposite, in tango they have a diva-like nature, he said.Said Guay, “The guy’s part is to make the woman look beautiful.”Jones showed how to do that with his wife, a former ballet dancer who displayed an experienced dancer’s perfect posture, her head arched upward toward her husband’s face, her legs bending at the hips as Lesly would later advise her students to do in her class.There is little in the way of fancy dips and twirls and other adornments in tango.”We don’t dance for show,” Guay said. “We dance with our partners, for our partners. We don’t dance for the audience.”Couples step this way and that, the women pivoting in their high heels as they take cues from their partners, often operating by their sense of feeling, with their eyes closed.
‘Like floating’Tango is a simple walking dance – the man taking the woman on a sensual stroll. But as the phrase “tango misery” suggests, getting to lead may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Shettel said men are advised to listen to a lot of tango music to help them improvise – to think quickly on their feet.But if there’s tango misery, there also is tango ecstasy. Shettel said it can be a zen-like experience when a woman is being led by a talented tango dancer.”If he’s doing his job right, I can just zone out. I don’t have to think,” Shettel said. “It feels like floating, dancing, with those people.”That may explain why people like Guay travel to Argentina, to more fully soak up the tango experience. She’s been there four times.Short of that, once a month she and other tango lovers decorate tables at the Masonic Temple with flowers, dim the lights and pretend they’re in Buenos Aires at a milonga, or tango dance. Music, centered around the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, ushers from speakers, with Spanish lyrics that celebrate romance and bemoan lost love.Stermitz said hundreds of people attend tango festivals on the Front Range. In Glenwood, more and more people also are discovering this dance of the heart.Said Shettel, “I think it’s the most beautiful, sensual, just the most beautiful dance I’ve ever seen.”Then she turned her eyes back to the floor, and soon she was being whisked away there by the hand, and led to that secret, intimately connected place that only two tango partners can share.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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