March 11, 2019
Portrait of a dancer:
In which I wax poetic about the addictive rabbit hole of tango.
(TL;DR Tango is not the glitz and glam and cheese you think it is. So I set out to capture tango dancers in raw portraits, done in 3 minutes per subject. Every imperfection in tact, no detail lost. See the whole gallery here.)
Here’s my tango world – three minute songs in the arms of friends, completely lost and surrendered to the music. Every emotion, every stress, every joy, and creativity poured into each step.
Imagine: after a long day of work, the after school bustle of activities, dinner, and impossibly long bedtime (‘But Mom, I’m HUNGRY!’ ‘I need a glass of water.’ ‘Just one more thing…’), a long exhale. You fight the urge to melt into the couch or bed, and instead walk over to your closet, overflowing with dresses. A closet full of LBDs, sequins, silks, dresses that fit you -just so- and still flow behind when you take a long step. You choose one and slip into it. Then the shoes, with their own accoutrement for dancing. Some patent leather, some gold, some black, and all on an elegant 3 inch heel. You pack at least two pairs, lovingly placed into a bag for each.
A touch of lipstick, and a quick updo, a goodbye to the babysitter, and out the door into the evening. An evening of Argentine Tango.
If you haven’t realized by now, I am a tanguera (an Argentine Tango dancer). I stumbled across this world by complete chance, and after the first lesson my life changed. There were more lessons, private lessons, group lessons, lessons with the top maestros (teachers) from Buenos Aires and around the world, and countless evenings of dancing. To say I was hooked wouldn’t do it justice.
I know what images are flashing through your mind right now – some fishnet tights, a rose in the teeth, and a stiff walk across the stage, some legs in the air during a trick, and a cheesy sexual tension plastered across the dancers’ faces. This is not tango. Not Argentine tango. The best way I have is to describe it like this: Tango is a social dance. The lead sets the frame work for the dance by proposing the step, and the follow feels that physical message from his body, through the embrace, and interprets it. Every step, every movement, every breath is improvised as the song plays and the dance progresses. I found that the only way to follow was to let every thought, every feeling, every anxiety, melt away and force myself to be completely present in the moment. Imagine the kind of peace and calmness you find after a long yoga class, or an hour of meditation, that same peace washes over you in a three minute song. It’s absolutely intoxicating. And with no physical intoxication.
Here’s my tango world – three minute songs in the arms of friends, completely lost and surrendered to the music. Every emotion, every stress, every joy, and creativity poured into each step. It’s not the glitz and glam that you see on tv, or the image most people summon when they thing of tango. I set out to capture that side of tango, the real tango, the people of tango, and this is what came of it. During a tango festival, I photographed 3 minute portraits of each subject. No retouching, no hiding the imperfections, just each person, unfiltered, untouched. And here’s a small sample of what came of it. You can see the whole gallery here.