Disgusted with American Nazis and white supremacists Mira decided to take refuge in Berlin to attend a workshop with a tango teacher she discovered online who spoke her language, the language of muscles, joints, of movement of parts connecting with another - tango biomechanics.
She was smitten and concocted a plan to celebrate the eclipse with her brother and sister-in-law on the way to the world's second tango capital to dance and learn from this tango diva.
Good fortune provided a couple days overlap with a dear friend who oriented her to important necessities like avoiding being run over by ubiquitous aggressive cyclists, where to buy milk and bus tickets, and other useful cultural information.
Together they attended the Contemporary Tango Festival at the Hauptbahnhof central train station with live music and big crowds traversing marble floors of the public space.
There her tango teacher along with students manifested an edgy street tango performance that lifted the energy of the crowd out of their Argentine somnolence.
Mira moved over to Mitte to stay in the tango studio cum hostel with other dancers. Exciting at first she quickly felt older, invisible, in a sea of young beautiful followers at Milongas.
It was exquisitely painful to hear the dance leaders complaining of aching feet after an evening of dancing while her feet ached and swelled from standing and waiting.
Like most tango scenes, outsiders are lower priority and then youth and beauty are the visible attractants. They can't know your dancing skills unless you actually get to dance.
Mira experienced pain at a level not anticipated and on many fronts. The physical pain and exhaustion of over exerting in the athletic dance classes with too early morning arising left her in spasms all over.
There was the emotional pain of feeling rejected, without being tested and the shadow of history that she read about and felt in her wanderings.
On the good nights when there was much dancing, she found the exertion of dancing too much to be completely bearable, uplifting even.
She also felt the shadow of asking why she was doing this thing, pursuing this seeming compulsion, when the evidence around her was that this was a narcissistic, self indulgent pursuit and that travel to a center of the tango world exposed her to the ugly realities of that notion. The strutting is almost comical.
Tango is a dance of tradition and even though she prefers the alternative music and more creative expression, the old rules prevail, with leaders asking followers to dance, and regardless of gender this is how it rolls. Though she is learning to lead, that goal is a ways off as she is not yet ready for the milonga floor though she did have fun with it in Berlin with classmates.
Because of the gender disparity, older not so attractive men have plenty of choice on what age and attractiveness of flesh they choose to press, leaving plenty of women learning the grace of patience in the face of other desires.
One thing she loves is the unpredictability of the packaging of fine dancers. The stocky man in the white t-shirt in the banner photo above was the most sensitive dancer she's danced with, exquisite. And when she met him walking into the dance he was not kind, not attractive, not inviting in any way .... and then they danced. She's learning to appreciate surprise.
There were many more same sex dance partners in Berlin than she had seen in California and she enjoys the different creative dance interpretations encompassed by this one dance.
Hopefully learning to lead will broaden her horizons. She particularly loves it when partners change roles seamlessly during a dance.
Surprisingly Mira underwent her heart opening moments of connection not on the dance floor but with her sister dancers and some people on the streets. Tears flowed readily as she felt the love of the moment as it was, nothing special, yet whole and complete.
This was the antidote to the invisibility of her dance experience where she was seen and felt in wholeness in loving shared moments. These heart cracking experiences surprised her in their unpredictable tender presence.
Her tango home was on the east side of the former Berlin Wall, just a couple of blocks from the wrenching Wall Memorial. When will we learn that walls are not good for people and other creatures she contemplates.
A sample of Vio's dancing at the Hauptbahnhof
In tango the roles are very clear - the lead choreographs the steps and the follower listens and responds, with both having opportunities for personal expression and interpretation while maintaining a felt connection.
Her teacher, Vio, has renamed the roles as Mark for leader, the one who marks the steps, conceives and creates the dance, and Revel, the one who reveals the creation, and enjoys the doing of it. There is a return of pleasure to the Mark whose creativity is shown back to him. Vio’s teaching opens playful possibilities for both dancers by revealing the pleasure and reason for each tiny segment of each move, liberating the maximum experience in each movement. Revels don’t back lead but they are free to interpret and answer in a free flowing embodied improvised conversation. She doesn't teach sequences, she teaches biomechanics and improvisation. Viva Vio!
Many people don't seem to fall into the tango aura superficially but get caught in the spokes of an addictive process which Vio writes about on her Tangoforge blog.
Early in this journey Mira thought that coming to Berlin may have been the cure. She wasn't sure she saw a tango future on her return, but coming back, settling, she has resumed the excitement of sharing what she's learned with friends.
Another wise dancer suggested that maybe the addiction has been cured but the dance goes on. Mira finds this insight a blessing and a hope.
Mira engaged in conversations regarding intimacy in tango and in life with other students, and the topic stays with her. The opinions, edges, and experiences around the subject were diverse and strongly held, including hers which continues to solidify in dark jet laggy hours.
For her, intimacy occurs when she is most empty of self, story, distraction, expectation, is vulnerable and available to what is present as other, experience, sensation, perception. It is the way she most wants to be in the world and the only barrier is her own fear and sense of entitlement. In this frame she does not worry about being missed.
This is what she felt strolling around Leipzig one day, imagining J.S. Bach himself humming and wandering on those streets.
There was darkness in the journey as there is in each day such as the history of this place in its monuments (the view from her window above) and story that is felt in fleeting moments even in the midst of laughter and light on the streets.
And there was exposure to a dark side of tango she hadn’t previously experienced first hand. Somehow the larger milongas, the community discussion, the range of participants and their desires presented undeniable aspects of the culture she is neither comfortable with nor interested in engaging.
Yet she returns invigorated, hoping to find like minded dance mates in her own community who might want to try this playful, embodied, intelligent, and challenging approach.