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One Year Later

By Bethany Mary

Image by Heewon Suh

The follow-up. Last year, I wrote a post about my initial experience with tango (An Epiphanic Moment). After some recent exposure and renewed attention, I decided to read the piece again and see what I have observed since then to write a follow-up piece.


At the time of writing my first piece, I had only been dancing about 6 months. Now, a year and a half later, I can say the piece still applies, however I have more to add. As far as allowing myself to be more emotional off the floor, well I still struggle very much with that part. Sharing emotions freely is still very challenging to me, and it often feels as if I’m reinforced by life to lock those emotions up. However, I do believe I have grown in this area, just not as much as I had hoped when writing my last piece.


The first time writing this piece, the content was nearly 4 full pages long and focused on a few struggles that I have faced in the last year. However, after a weekend at a festival meeting some amazing women, I’ve trashed most of the original content and started over.


Reflection and evaluation. I can still start with what had been weighing down on me over the last few months. Slowly eating away at my tango soul and stealing my freedom on the floor were three comments:


1.She only gets dances because she’s young.

2.Look at how she dances with him; something more must be happening between them.

3.Did you hear what happened with her and John/Jane Doe? I don’t think I’ll dance with her anymore.


It was slightly heartbreaking to hear about each of these comments. I immediately became insecure about my dance and hurt by what it stole from me. Of course, I kept most of it to myself, save sharing with one or two confidantes. Later, I expressed all my thoughts, but in a collected, analytical breakdown of what was happening and what it all meant; the logical route. I shared my writings with the same confidantes and a few extra friends. They were all compassionate and encouraging, as well as cautioning towards posting it. No matter how many times I read it and revised it, I was never satisfied with the message or feeling it brought out. However, a trip to Chicago changed everything.


The Experience. Another weekend, another festival, another expensive hotel, and another hunt for a roommate to cut costs. I was lucky enough to find a stranger willing to share a room and we made some small talk before the event to get to know each other a little bit. Upon arriving, we were both excited enough about the festival that we said our hellos and moved to the floor. Naturally we shared breakfast together, literally discussing how expensive eggs and toast could be, and began connecting in deeper conversations.


A few other women joined us and we all talked about family, work, and life, and pretty much about how we all tried to squeeze tango in anywhere possible. We laughed about how most people think we are crazy and just don’t get it. Naturally, we talked about tango and its role in our life and shared the journey we’ve be on thus far. As the weekend progressed and over a few more meals, we began sharing some of our insecurities and frustrations, as well as our joys and successes in tango. We listened to each other, not just sitting there waiting for our turn to speak, but truly listening, caught up on every word. One woman described her recent struggles and hardships, and how this was really her first time out in awhile. There was encouragement and compassion when needed, and also advice when sought. It was beautiful being part of such sincerity and openness.


At one meal, as I sat there and listened to the conversations, I began to hear the listed comments above echoing in my mind. I had wondered at the beginning of the weekend if these women would have the same thoughts at some point. They had noticed and commented on my dances, dresses, and style early on. However, the remarks they did make were different; there was positive energy behind them. One of the women spoke about seeing all of us dance and she loved the good energy we brought to the dance floor. She described how important it was and encouraged us to always be mindful of our energy and that of others; she cautioned to stay away from negative energies in the room. I could feel the troubling comments having less power and feel them slipping to the background of my mind. Dinner came to a close and we parted to rest and get ready for the evening.


Returning to the room with my roommate, I began to ruminate again on the conversations and even more on some of my hidden insecurities. These women had been so wonderful so far, and everything sincere and helpful. Because of them, I could feel the power shrinking away and being replaced by love and positive energy. As I got ready, my roommate made an offer I couldn’t believe. She pulled out various expensive tango dresses and told me I should wear one (if I wanted). They were all beautiful as I looked over the different patterns and designs. She shared how she knew it would look great on me and would love to see me wearing one.


That night I felt like a star in her beautiful dress. I received many compliments and I proudly shared that it belonged to my roommate. I danced around and saw the woman who mentioned enjoying our good energies. Seeing her with a warm and gentle smile as she watched me and others dance gave me a wave of positive energy. I saw the woman who was finally venturing out after hardship and saw a smile of freedom. I saw my roommate with her and could see them enjoying the music and people around them. I was smiling all night because of everything these women shared with me. It was a breath of fresh air, and our conversations lingered in my mind. They filled my head and left no room for the negative weight of the other comments that had been lingering.


The results. There was a reason I could never be satisfied with my original piece, it wasn’t meant to be posted. I needed to feel all the emotions, put them down, so I could truly value the experience these women gave me. I know they had no idea about the struggles and insecurities I was carrying with me from the comments. And they had no idea how much they were truly impacting me over the weekend and when we parted ways. They helped remind me that the one or two bad apples, or even a few bad comments do not reflect the position of many. Nor should I allow those moments to steal my freedom on the floor to be who I am.


I am grateful for what they have given me, and I hope to pay that forward to other dancers when the time comes. I hope everyone can continue to grow and work to bring positive energy to the floor, whichever floor it is. I hope people can come to the floor with the attitude I read in a recent post, “what can I give in this dance,” instead of what can I do. That’s what makes tango great and addicting. I look forward to my next event with this restored energy and attitude. See you on the floor soon!

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