Friday, March 4, 2011

Argentine Tango : Awesome X-training

It was during my 250km/150mile Extreme Marathon while I was somewhere in the middle of the Kalahari Desert that I decided that upon return to Hawaii that I was absolutely and without any uncertainty going to learn how to dance the Argentine Tango. This was going to be my reward to myself for running accross a desert in 114 degree F heat, without a bath or shower for 7 days and sharing an open sided gazebo with 30 men and 6 women, getting blisters on my feet and chapped lips....I was not going to use any excuses for not doing it, like the fact that I would have to commute 2 hours to get to Honolulu and back for lessons and that I would be attending the lessons without knowing anyone there. It was set then and there in the pink rose quartz stone that I was going to dance tango....

Somewhere in the Kalahari
I'm 3 months into learning the beautiful, awesome, addictive and challenging art of Argentine Tango. Friends of mine who are familiar with this art have given me the following descriptions : " Argentine Tango does not lie down for anyone"; "Argentine tango is a magificant obsession"; and "you'll do well at Argentine Tango because you're up for a challenge". This might give the reader some idea of what I've got myself into : firstly the learning curve is extremely steep and Argentine tango is not lying down for me.Secondly it is magnificant and has become somewhat of an obsession and thirdly I am loving it because YES, I am up for a challenge!
I think that being an ultra runner and a trail runner, doing the tango has completed the circle of my Yin and Yang and brought my activities in life to a beautiful balance. This can be proven by the following set of photographs:

Fancy footwear required for my yin yang passions:
"Comme il faut" tango shoes from Buenos Aires, Argentina and Inov8 trail running shoes with "dirty girl" gaiters

Next up, both activities require specialized clothing if you want to  go all the way:

Black and red dress : essential Argentine tango colours
Desert racing essentials

Hours and hours of training:
Both of these activities require complete dedication and many hours of practice. Subsequently one picks up friends along the way. There is a difference, I have spent many, many hours running solo whilst training for events. This has always been a time of introspection and meditation for me and at times the ultimate example of living in the moment. I have also shared many runs with running buddies and met interesting and wonderful people from all over the world. Sometimes I have spent just a few minutes with a complete stanger who has helped me through an extremely difficult patch during a race who then goes on to become a friend for life and other times I've spent hours with a friend or group of people on or during an event. With Argentine Tango it takes 2 to tango, so you are never completely alone but every tango is an incredible experience of being completely in the moment, absorbed by the emotion and passion of the music for the 3 minutes or so that it lasts for, and then it's "thank you very much" and then another 3 minutes with another dancer. I feel that I have been extrememly fortunate to have started ultra running and Argentine tango in Hawaii because both communities of people are extremely kind, non-judgemental and exude the spirit of aloha, espescially to newbies like myself. The only reason that I have progressed in tango dancing over these 3 months is that I decided that I was just going to "GO FOR IT" no matter what. I didn't care that I might appear to be a complete idiot on the first day and after only a 1 hour lesson I stayed for the 2 hour Practica and "danced' continuously not really knowing what I was doing and week after week I have been doing this and have already attended an intensive Tango festival which could have been rather intimidating if the tango community had been different, but they ROCK!...and now I have learned a whole lot and am still up for the challenge of learning more and getting better.
Some of my running buddies: there are many more and everyone has played a huge role in me achieving my goals.
Heather and Julie
Heather, Julie, Jan
Paul Hopwood
Mike Muench
Chanleigh and Heather

Some of my friends and instructors in Argentine Tango:


Noriko and George: instructors

Yoko, Bruce, Murat and Michelle: instructors

Then there's the excercise:
While running speaks for itself, I must mention that I never do speed training (which is not a good thing...I need to work on that one), so I'm always going along at a fairly comfortable pace and hence enjoying it.
Since I've started Argentine tango I have discovered leg muscles that I don't normally use. I've also discovered that if you don't use your core muscles, your posture sucks and that does not look good on the dance floor, maintaining the arms in the embrace requires the use of arm muscles that one doesn't normally use. Although the arms should be relaxed, they are still 'held' perfect cross training all round right there and because I'm dancing for 3 hours continuously at any given practica or milonga (or more at workshops and festivals) I get a pretty good workout .

All I can say at this point is "viva Argentine Tango"! What a great epiphany to have had on my 7 days on foot in the desert...