My head in the clouds
I have always been more of a thinker than a physical person. As a child I never seemed to be able to catch a ball thrown at me during games; I therefore decided I did not like sports. Neither did I like discos, clubs or dancing; people showing off their physique in codes I never quite managed to understand. On top of that I have no sense of direction and find it challenging to stay ‘grounded’.
So it was kind of a miracle that I fell in love with salsa and merengue when I lived in the Caribbean for a few years in my early 30s. Since I never had dance classes, I did not know the ‘official’ moves, but I learned to compensate by using one of my strengths from other life areas: improvising. I loved this challenge of learning something new and apparently difficult. My dance partners complimented me for being able to dance without any training. I enjoyed being led by a man. Dancing was the only time that I did not have to think and be the ‘strong, independent woman’ I normally was. Dancing forced me to be in the moment. Not thinking, just feeling. Knowing the next move before my dance partner even initiated it. The flow that was thus created, felt like magic…
For years I danced my own weird salsa and merengue whenever I could; mostly on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and also while traveling in South America. But then I returned to Europe. Occasionally I would go to a salsa club, but found the atmosphere there much more competitive. Everybody seemed to be watching and judging everybody else. My daily, rational self loves competition and can face any challenge head on. But my other, more vulnerable side, the one that I apparently use while I am dancing, did not like it; did not understand this atmosphere.
Wasn’t dancing supposed to be enjoyed? I got more and more insecure and was afraid to ‘let go’. The more I was thinking, the worse my dancing got. I stopped going to dance clubs and before long, I stopped dancing at all. I convinced myself that I did not need this dancing thing. That I did not even miss dancing and the exhilarating feeling it used to give me… Work also made me happy. I am very good at what I do and it also gets me into a sort of flow, so I decided to focus on that.
Almost ten years passed. I got into in a car accident, resulting in a whiplash that limited my physical and mental capacities. Before long I had worked myself into a kind of burnout, leading me to reconsider my life’s choices. I had focused too much on my rational, male side and given too little room to my emotional and female side. I tried to open up; I was convinced that would lead to a more balanced me. But I attempted to do so in the only way I knew: in a rational, serious modus. I went to see a coach, took food supplements, ‘forced’ myself to do meditation, attacked this ‘thing’ with a vigor. Unknown to me at that time, I applied more of what had caused my problems in the first place. But I did not know any other way. Apart from some yoga, there was not much I did to give space to /enable my feminine, emotional side.
Just as I started to recover a bit from my physical burnout, I had organized a cruise to Brazil with a group of entrepreneurs. For the other passengers the cruise was one big party; but not for me. I was focused on my group, my workshops, my responsibility to make sure everybody was happy. As soon as we ‘landed’ in Brazil, a weight lifted from my shoulders. Now it was just ME. I decided to relax and have some fun. I did it in the only way I knew: a combination of working and after work fun with some other workaholics. My last night in Rio de Janeiro, I ended up in a restaurant with traditional Forro music. I did not know the dance at all, but it sounded so happy. Should I? Some others were dancing, but I was watching the unknown moves and felt too scared to try. At midnight I decided I probably would not enjoy it anyway, and I was tired by the way, so I would go home. At that moment somebody dragged me onto the dance floor. I had to focus all my attention on trying to find the right moves.
My body remembered before my mind could catch up, so I stopped thinking. Two hours later the place closed and the music stopped. My cheeks were flushed, I had a big smile on my face, I wasn’t tired at all. I could have continued all night. Now I remembered that dancing made me so happy. Why had I not danced for so long?
My personal tango journey
The next day I landed in Buenos Aires. I Googled ‘tango teacher’ and sent a message to the first website that came up. Then I went to see the tango show in San Telmo. I was very impressed. At that time I thought this was tango: