Berlin interlude

A spontaneous decision to go and visit my daughter takes me to Berlin for a week while Frank stays in Passopomo. It feels strange, separating from each other, and that in itself is still a strange feeling. I used to be someone who welcomed space to herself after being together non-stop for a few days with someone, no matter how much I loved them. But with Frank it is different. I just never tire of his company, his warmth in body and soul, and the sun we both light in each others’ hearts. Everything we do together is doubly precious and intensive, deeper, wider, happier, crazier. When our relationship started, it was a wonder how easily we joined two completely independent lives with properties 200km part and completely separate sets of friends and family. Love overrode all logistic obstacles. Having just come out of a long distance relationship, it was clear to me that I didn’t want more of the on-off nature that living separately gives to a relationship. But neither did we want to give up either of our homes. So we started living in both places, always travelling together from one to the other; a pattern developed that could be described as a long distance relationship with our houses instead of each other. We have found a deep love and companionship in each other and it still feels so amazing to wake up each morning and feel blessed to have such a precious person right next to me.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Berlin. It is really good timing to be here, as I have finally received the go-ahead from the Rudolf Steiner School, the venue for the Tango Mango, so now I have a few day’s work to do until I can open the booking lines, which would have been difficult in Passopomo where there is no access to the internet.

After a solid slot of 8 hours on the computer, I decide it is time to close the thing and go dancing. Mala Junta offers Sunday afternoon dancing, so I wrap myself up (it’s about 15 degrees colder here than in Sicily) and brave the icy pavements to throw myself into the arms of the Berlin Tango community.

I meet some good friends and have some lovely dances with them, but once they are gone, I don’t receive any cabeceos (invites to dance, per eye contact). I don’t mind at all, it’s a joy to just sit and watch the high level of dancing, close embrace, musical, a small and intimate style, and it gives me time to reflect on Tango. What a contrast to the Tango I’ve been to in Catania where the dance floor is a mirror of the Sicilian roads, with everyone racing and cutting across each other with scant regard for the other’s trajectory. In Catania, the men use too much force in their arms and consequently the women don’t know where their axis is, and neither of them are listening to the music it seems. Of course there are exceptions, and you can spot them straight away – they are like islands of calm in a stormy sea.

After a while though, watching the dancing at Café Dominguez in Berlin, I come to notice that this is not the only contrast. In Catania, despite the size of the community (on a Saturday night, there are about 200 people at the event), a newcomer is instantly noticed, welcomed and invited to dance. The dance may lack technical finesse, but the enthusiasm oozes out of everyone. Today in Berlin, I seem to be invisible as a newcomer, unless I go and verbally ask for a dance, which I don’t really like to do. I love the cabeceo too much. From my settee, I watch people going on with the business of dancing and wonder if they even enjoy themselves. They look so serious, or possibly bored. I don’t see anyone leaving the dance floor with that special glow of just having had a wonderful time. And although their dancing is very nice, it’s also a bit much of the same  – tango can be so different from one person to the next, but tonight it’s quite unified and somehow turned in on itself. I wonder which I prefer – a technically good dance but lacking the inner emotion, or a dance where I have to fight for my axis or my space on the dance floor but feel the other person is thoroughly enjoying themselves and the dance, where we’re making a heart to heart connection. Ideally, I’d like to have my cake and eat it, but if I have to choose…

Which one would you choose?

Posted in Uncategorizedwith 8 comments.


  • Vera Lees says:

    Dear Ruth,

    your perfect merging with Frank is indeed a joy to hear about. It is rare enough to remain intensely touching. Here I am sticking to my week-end relationship with Graham and it could not be any more than that. But it is a hell of a lot more than nothing.

    I loved the welcome of people in Tango, the inclusiveness and warmth. Berlin was equally non-inclusive in my experience. But so was Holland. I think we here in England are trying to make it more into a group experience where nobody gets shunned.
    I value the efforts to include beginners.

    In other words, it is a varied package of ingredients that make for different joys of the dance .

    Love, Vera xx

  • ruthandfrank says:

    I don’t want to create the wrong impression : I loved dancing in Catania, but my joy didn’t result from having fantastically balanced, blissfully musical dances….
    What was outstanding was the friendliness of the people I met, the easy acceptance of the women to me as a leader ( despite me being the only woman leading in all the events I attended), and above all an evening with FANTASTIC live music by a local band called Mariposa. They had a young woman on the bandoneon, Marisa Mercadé who was liquid fire! A Tango scene that can sustain a local band of this calibre is doing something right, for sure.
    The same counts for the local teaching. While I am not convinced by what I see on the dance floor in terms of musicality, line of dance and embrace, I cannot deny the fact that there are many, many people dancing, and they are having a fab time. Beginners taster classes typically have 60+ participants, and courses are oversubscribed. So again, they must be doing something right, and I highly respect them for that. I’m definitely going back, not just to rejoin my lovely man and continue our life in Passopomo, but also to dance some more in Catania. I’m also going back for more dancing in Berlin. I’m just a Tango glutton :-)

  • Felicia says:

    It’s a joy to hear how happy you are with Frank – long may that be.

    I’ve also been to Berlin milongas and experienced the same exclusion though I’ve also been lots of times (my son lives there) and had lovely dances too. Re your Sicilian experience, I’ve watched dancers dance like that and held back from accepting dances from such leaders as I don’t like feeling overwhelmed and out of control of my body. However there have been times when I’ve found myself with such a leader and have let myself go and thoroughly enjoyed the experience provided no-one is bashed into or hurt. We’re talking about extremes to discuss and illustrate a point. Which do I prefer? Well I enjoy a controlled dance within which I experience a deep connection with my partner which leaves me smiling inside as it ends. I suppose that’s having my cake and eating it!?

  • William Addictedtotango says:

    My thoughts on Catania are the same as yours. The Catania tango event in August was I was told by several friends was high level. So me and my partner’s expectations were high, but over the period of the event at different venues in Catania, I have to say only 5 followers gave me pleasure with their expertise and the floor craft is awful, even from teachers who’s Egos were totally out of control! I spend time effort and money to attend events all over Europe and I have decided never to go back to Sicily for Tango. I am also wondering about the friends who recommended Catania, ;-(

  • ruthandfrank says:

    Yes, I agree.

  • ruthandfrank says:

    Dear Irene,
    don’t feel sad – I actually enjoyed it! It’s rare that I get the feeling of being invisible :-)
    Besides, I’ve had to take a three month break from Tango recently, due to a knee injury, so I’m allowing myself to come back to the dance floor gently.
    you were a special presence at the last Mango and I hope you will join us for next summer!

    Love, Ruth

  • Donald Sinclair says:

    A partner who shows joy in the dance can make it fun to fight for my axis.

  • Irene says:

    Lovely to hear of your emotional journey with Frank,, though sad to hear your expression of how you feel as a newcomer in Berlin, and being invisible, particularly as you are so experienced. I understand your dilemma . Im thrilled that Tango Mango will go ahead again. It was my first experience of a Tango festival., and it was an amazing experience !! though an emotional roller coaster for me.