Sometimes its difficult to tell when a journey truly begins. Not sure whether its at the point of conception or the moment of action. In the case of my own personal Tango journey, perhaps it began while watching classic black & white Hindi movies and listening to Indian melodies while growing up in the 1970s, in what was once the beautiful, tranquil, ‘garden city’ of Bangalore (Southern India). Or perhaps it was even earlier, from sensing the musical vibrations while in the womb of my mother, who always sang with very a sweet girlish voice. Of course I don’t have any conscious recollection of what I felt in my mother’s womb, however, what I do clearly recall is the warm, moving and yet thrilling sensation which made me feel like I was home again whenever I listened to a beautiful Tango melody. It made my heart soar and yet made me feel like I was melting simultaneously. And that as they say was that – I was well and truly hooked.
It wasn’t until the age of 39, while living in London, the city where I was born and returned to at the age of 10, that I finally had my first flavour of Argentine Tango. At the time I was dating a jazz composer, who suggested we try a Tango lesson and subsequently found a lovely couple called Nati Rodriguez & Bruno Vandenabeele, two very elegant dancers who run the Tanguito Argentine Tango Academy in London. A private lesson was arranged at Nati & Bruno’s fabulous apartment , which is unusually situated in the grounds of what was once the Arsenal football team’s stadium. While it was a fantastic introduction to Tango, unfortunately, it turned out that the lovely lady in question wasn’t meant to become my life or my Tango partner , however, what I didn’t realise was that this event was to be the beginning of a new love affair and in time was destined to bring about some incredible changes in my life as it opened up a whole new world , one that I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams.
A few years later, following a move to Oxfordshire I took up as a lodger in an impressive house of an equally impressive woman, who I affectionately nicknamed Mrs G. By sheer coincidence or perhaps it was fate, I discovered that Mrs G was also a Tango lover who previously took classes taught by a well known personality called Leroy Tango cat. So one dark Thursday night, off we drove in Mrs G’s brand new silver, sporty little car to Jericho in Oxford . This is where I met the crew at The Oxford Tango Aurora Group, who in time would become my new Tango family.
Our teacher, the charismatic Mr Leroy Tango cat, comes up all the way from Brixton in London at least twice a week by coach (a 6 hour return journey) and patiently tries to teach our group with his individually unique, flamboyant and humorous teaching style, which involves breaking things into simple chunks and then building on them slowly , and this is how I learnt about the art and mechanics of dancing , about musicality, posture, floorcraft, choreography, balance, how to use my untrained senses to feel the connection between my partner as well as the music, along with a million other things I never remember to do.
Through this class I’ve come across some truly wonderful and interesting characters, made some great friends, as well as met some beautiful Tango lovers both on and off the dance floor, who made me appreciate not only how pleasurable and exhilarating Tango dancing can be, but how it can inspire you in other areas of your life. This is also where I met the two Madame Bs – short for Brown & Beechey – two lovely English Senoras who do the hosting and ‘care taking’ bits to make sure everything runs smoothly and have been very kind to me and nurtured me, especially through the tough times and frustrations while I’ve been learning to dance (and stepping all over their toes). Then there’s my dear friend the talented dancer Mr C, who cannot eat most things on any menu (for health reasons) but still manages to have bags of energy to put into his dance and always makes it look so easy. Mr C also teaches classes on Sunday at The Reindeer pub in Banbury, in the historically famous Globe Room, where Oliver Cromwell once set up court. No matter which class you attend you will always hear Mr C famously repeat those five words, “Its all about the technique”, which is definitely his specialty.
During this chapter of my life, whilst my evenings were spent Tangoing, by day I was a professional Social Worker, which has been my vocation for approximately 15 years. I worked alongside people with physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities , which I found both challenging and rewarding, however, earlier this year I reached a point when I could no longer cope with my work life and the amount of stress which was affecting my physical and emotional health, and so I decided to take a break and resigned from my role before I became one of those ‘burnt out’ Social workers you hear about in the news. They say the average shelf life of a Social Worker is around 7 years but in these difficult times, given the cuts in many public services combined with the increase in volume of work, not to mention the emotional turmoil Social workers currently face, I suspect this may not be an accurate figure.
Given my passion for Tango as well as travelling, a plan began to form in my mind. In the world of Tango, for the first 5 years you are considered a beginner and so I am but a mere fledgling. As a student of this magnificent, sensual dance, as my confidence grew I decided I would take this opportunity of a career break to spread my wings a little by going on an adventure to explore the world of Tango by travelling to Buenos Aires (often referred to as BsAs), home to infamous musicians like Gardel, D’Arienzo, Pugliese, Piazolla, Maroni and countless others , who created exquisite sounds with their instruments and poetry, and eventually went on to become gods in the Tango world.
Whereas most people would just book a hotel and hop on a plane, however, as you may have gathered by now dear friends I have never taken the easy path in life. I had slightly different ideas and imagined the possibility of turning this into a real adventure by Tangoing my way over to Argentina . The first part of the journey would be over land via Europe and then the rest would be by sea on a cargo ship to South America, a voyage which many of the Porteños – immigrants from Europe who settled in Argentina and danced Tango on the streets – would have embarked upon at the beginning of this century. Interestingly, it turns out that my own paternal grandfather, embarked on a similar sea voyage from a Port in Kutch in Gujarat (Western India) when he immigrated to Uganda as a young man.
Initially my plan was simply to visit friends and dance at various Milongas (Tango Social dances) as I weaved my way through Europe. Then I began to wonder whether it was possible to use this opportunity to do some fund-raising by doing a sponsored ‘Tangothon’ to raise money for Parkinson’s UK, and this was how the idea of ‘Tangoing to Argentina in 80 days’ was born. I also considered using my car as advertising space in exchange for donations , but at this stage I’m not sure whether its cost effective or if I can pull it off. You see when all is said and done, I’m not a professional businessman, author, dancer or photographer, I’m just a Social worker still trying to counteract social injustice and to make a difference in some small way in these difficult austere times, just like most of you. The only difference is that I’m trying to dance my way through them 😉
So, this is where a new chapter of my journey begins and I’ve started this blog as some of you suggested, so that I can post my photos and stories so that you can share the journey with me if you wish. I have to confess that at the moment my feelings are a mixed bag of excitement and fear at the same time, however, having watched the sun rise this morning I feel Inspired by the words of the famous author Paulo Coelho, who states “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” (The Alchemist) , and so I shall be leaving the comfort of my lovely friends and family and taking a risk to travel to a far and distant land with a totally different culture and language, which as it strikes me is not too dis-similar to the 10 year old me on my first solo flight to London…but that’s a whole different story…
If you like my idea, please feel free to share this with your family and friends and sponsor me by clicking on this link: JustGiving -Tangoing2Argentinain80days and if you have any contacts or suggestions please do let me know.
Thank you for your support and for reading my blog. I appreciate your time is very precious.
I will keep you posted as soon as I have the final launch and press release dates.
Have a fantastic week and look forward to seeing some of you at the Bonfire party on Saturday .
If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, please remember that the purpose of this journey is to raise funds for people with Parkinson’s. So please don’t forget to donate. Every little helps and its easy as all you need to do, is click on the link below. Debit/ Credit cards of all countries/major currencies are accepted 🙂