Archives for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Iona May Italia

Iona May Italia:

Sex, tango and respect: part 1
At the milonga
(There will be a part 2 about teaching and practice situations tomorrow).

I’ve been musing lately on the scandal involving young comedian Aziz
Ansari. People have characterised his behaviour as everything from
innocent cluelessness to sexual assault and his date’s account of events
as everything from courageous victim testimony to revenge porn. I’m not
going to pass judgement on that case here. And I don’t want to
trivialise actual assault by comparing it with the kinds of behaviours
prevalent in the tango scene which I’m going to talk about below.

But I do think it’s a good time to initiate a conversation about how we
treat each other in this dance in which we are so physically close to
each other, spend so much time in embrace and in which it’s common,
especially in teaching and practice situations, to touch and manipulate
the other person’s body in ways far more intimate than those of everyday

As tango dancers, we are used to much more physical
closeness, even with strangers, than most other groups of people.
off the floor, my tango friends (especially Westerners) hold me in long
hugs at meeting and parting: giant, exuberant, swaying and squeezing and
taking-little-stompy-steps-together hugs; stroky, soft, nuzzly hugs;
hugs of substance. That’s a beautiful thing.

And, when sexual
attractions are involved, as they so often are, that’s also an innocent
As a beginner in Buenos Aires, I spent a lot of time at the older
people’s milongas, where, despite the fact that I was stiff and awkward
to dance with, old guys in meticulously-buttoned polyester jackets and
pungent, musky, old-school colognes would invite me out onto the floor:
often, I’m sure, just for the pleasure of having a younger woman in
their arms. It would therefore be hypocritical of me to lament the fact
that so many male professional dancers only dance with the beautiful
25-year-old blondes and slender, delicate-featured young Japanese and
Korean women who abound in Buenos Aires.

Men are more likely than
women to prioritise physical attractiveness over dance skills; much
more willing to invite the gangly beginner tripping over her own feet
like a new-born colt but who is glossy of hair and lithe of limb and
bright of eye. Much less likely to invite even one of the most highly
skilled dancers in the world if she is older than them (I’ve witnessed
this *often*). Women are much more prone to put good dance skills first.
But everyone – men and women – likes to be close to an attractive
person of their preferred sex. And by close I mean literally in
immediate physical proximity. Men are more enslaved to this than women
(on average). But we’re all vulnerable to it. We have to be. It’s the
source of life for our species.

Whatever you are feeling in your
own heart and imagination is your business alone. But what you
communicate matters. And there the boundaries are blurry. There are no
chalk-white rangoli, carefully sifted through stencils, to mark the
threshold. Sometimes it’s clear, of course, when someone is inching
their fingers round towards a boob or patting a bottom. But sometimes
you can’t tell.
Is that guy breathing so heavily into your ear trying to
create a soft-porn soundtrack to the dance or does he just have asthma
and a bad habit of twisting his neck? Is he stroking my upper back in a
creepy way, or just readjusting his hand? When she places a hand on the
leader’s neck and rakes her fingers up into his hair, is that an
encroachment into uninvited possessive intimacy or just an attempt to
copy the look of stage dancers (who often use this gesture)?

can’t always tell but these are my two rules of thumb for touch at the
milonga. First: you’re not in a court of law; you don’t have to prove
anything beyond reasonable doubt.
If *you* feel uncomfortable or creeped
out, don’t dance with that person. Break tanda if necessary, if you
feel icky. You might be wrong; their intentions might be good. But
respect your own feelings.

Secondly: let the dance have every
last gramme of sensuality intrinsic to it. Don’t be afraid of anything
that is expressed organically through the tenderness of the embrace,
through the intricacy of the movements, through the lovely facial
expressions of concentration and bliss that the dance itself conjures
But don’t add a picrogramme more. Sensuality and even eroticism are
emergent properties of our dance. They can’t be tacked on top, like a
veneer; they are woven in, not block printed. They are part of the grain
of the wood, an accretion of layers, growing ring by ring from the
inside out. Anything added is liable to seem creepy, corny or cheap.

We embrace each other because we want to dance. And we dance with each
other because we want to embrace. Those two things are often
inseparable. And it’s at that point – when it’s impossible to
what is pleasure in your partner and what is pleasure in the
dance itself – that tango, for me, is at its own most moving and most


那一個夜,她跟情人在中環的邊陲吃過最愛的意大利薄餅,那一間餐廳她一直想去而沒有機會,而他無意中便拉著她的手走進去。 那還是一個奇妙地乾燥的春晚,相擁之間感到彼此的衣裳薄了,走往地鐵站的每一步都是告別的微笑和吻。 她記得,她心情無比愉快,比戀愛更輕更高的心情--是跟決定了「不戀愛」有關嗎? 那些一般對戀愛的定義和期望,或許有益,但這一次,她決定盡力跟它們保持距離。 她想如此沒有了這個男人就沒有了,他叫她再快樂,也不是她世界的全部。 冷靜下來,心水清時大家都知道,其實世上沒有一個人可以完全滿足自己的想像和期望,戀人不能,如父母不能,如子女也不能。 滿足,是自我尋求的功課,是一己之安身,一己之立命。 從人世諸等關係中找到終極唯一的滿足,對別人來說是幸福。 在她紛雜低微而平凡的小天地,卻是妄想是R爆頭的執著。 唯獨你是不可取替只是修辭吧? 如今叫她最快樂的是她健康靈活的身體,真是人生裡最根本呵。 因此而得到眼耳鼻舌身意的享受,年輕、強大、激烈而新鮮,一一叫她心花怒放。 可是這個身體也會老化,也會病倒,到時她一樣要去接受,去看開,相信希望和喜悅仍在生活各處。 她也想起父母。 在她孩童時也被待為掌上明珠,但印象中父母也有他們自己的生活,除了她,他們在生活中有各自的別的喜悅。 輕盈的感覺也來自如此的家庭氣氛吧? 從沒有愛到發燒。 這份輕盈給她幸福而甜美的感覺,如一客飯後的Tiramisu,如海邊自由的一個深呼吸。 假如她父母給她一個甜品一樣的家庭,她喃喃自語:無理由我只能給別人和自己一舊飯的關係吧? 哈,那麼要有更多幽默感和想像力咯,呵呵呵。


「 你想喝什麼?」 獨居的她每次回到父母的家,爸爸總是第一時間問。 這個夜裡,她回到自己的家,坐在梳化,忽然想起這句話,「 你想喝什麼?」 她怔怔地看著白色的牆,啊,原來回到家裡,父母仍待她客人一樣。 不是客套的客,反而是不假設對方都不需要被慰問,不假設對方不需要被關懷,不假設自己不能為剛步進家門的一個人做一點什麼。 她了解到最大的親,縱容,倚賴,默契等等,也只是其中一部份。 還有那永遠不去假設對方如昨日的對方的時間。不去假設對方會開口說出自己想要的時間。不假設任何事情的時間。 這大概跟很多人想有一頭家的動機很不一樣。 大家就是想可以假設,我們在一起之後,很多事情都不用再說,可以省掉,可以鬆一口氣,可以不常常如站在腳尖挽鞋不知什麼時候掉了一隻。 很大部份是對的,但對她來說,卻是那一種不假設的態度叫她歸屬。 她以為那是因為她是那種無可藥救的不羈。 但其實她眷戀的是那種委婉和溫柔。 叫對方知道自己被關注和重視而不苦苦痴纏諸多追問和個人意見。 她了解並感覺到,委婉和溫柔,縱是自然,縱是由衷,縱是不造作,裡面是有一份清醒的自控。 這般如此的自控,不是一番對白,不是習慣。 她仍然學著,做這個女人。


跳舞裡最困難的是改掉壞姿態。 姿勢就好像一個人的態度和氣質吧。 即使你出發點如何,態度不佳,氣質低落,善意都未免打了節扣。 但這有多難呢。 是完全靠意志完成的事情。 不改,不會痛不會癢,肚子不會餓,沒有人會因為你不改而少了一忽肉。 為什麼要改呢。 或者,為什麼要懂得言語呢? 為什麼要學識待人接物? 為什麼需要徵笑? 為什麼需要流淚? 這些事情不懂不善長,影響我們跟別人跟世界的關係,可是我們仍能吃能喝能跑能工作一百小時。 抱著目標花時間花力氣花錢去改也不是容易的事,可以想像沒有改變意識的話,改變大概是一個奇跡,是幸運。 我會改變,想改變的原因是我還打算活下去,而原來活下去是不可能只有自已的不可能獨立存在,即使多麼獨家村多麼不喜歡人群。 長大,接受現實,學怎樣與別人在一起﹣﹣不能靠奇跡和幸運吧?


年幼看亦舒,她說若任何人問及如何活得好一定要答:純屬幸運。 她說沒有人願意聽你說中間艱辛。 至今才明白。 我的感覺是,其實不至於人情淡薄如此。 可是除了八卦那伙,有多少人真是聽完別人的經歷而回想自我,甚至改變呢? 聽完,多數時間是--哦,那是你的人生,與我無關,不能比較,你的故事你的路不是我的故事我的路。 在自己的邏輯裡運作真是世上最舒服的事情。 有時候我想說,沒有邏輯是永恆的呢。 你的肉身也不過百年,為何你的邏輯如此無堅不摧呢。 可是如此不被動搖了又不見你沒有憂愁沒有苦惱。 那是何苦呢。 何苦那麼孤獨只咬著人家的生命跟我無關這個怨念不放。 你行善再多,你就是不給自己半點慈悲,你就是要將世間的冷漠和殘酷都披在身上成為自己對抗這個冷漠和殘酷的世界的保護衣。 那是何苦呢。 所有的生命都跟我們有關。 即使待你不好的人,也要祝福他早日get a life,成為一個快樂的人,不再以別人的情感或尊嚴為他虛弱的自尊和無聊的心靈墊底。 昨日的自己不會是唯一生存下去的方法,也不是面對世界唯一的回應。 當然即使努力我們沒有一個會成功,但也不用自插大脾三刀陶醉於未打先輸的失敗。


在這個blog,我說的話是我想說的話。 沒有特定的對象,總之是表達自己。 可是tango是對話。跳tango的時候,那些話是只對對方說的話。 不,不是我想說什麼,而是我想你聽到我說什麼,和你想我聽到什麼。 花了七年時間,重新學一種語言,就是為了在一刻裡,徹底地了解和明白一個人對我說什麼。 有些話,再美麗動人,他畢竟不是對我而說的。 那是在某個時空裡,恰巧他想說那些話,而我恰巧聽見。 一些美麗的巧合。 但有時候有些再笨拙的話,但那些話只是對我而說的,就不是巧合。 有些人很滿足於巧合。我不敢在巧合裡找滿足。 雖然如此,有時候還是會問自己,為什麼繞了那麼遠的路,不過是為了做到了解和明白。 了解和明白一個可能只在生命裡一起十多分鐘的一個陌生人。 我們去了解和明白對方的動機不是因為他是我的誰,而是因為,他是一個人。 在這個過程裡,人與人之間的距離和時間是壓縮的,也是拉闊的。 世界上的人,在我們兩個人之外,如不復存在。 卻是這個「不存在」的感覺不停更新及喚醒我對世界上的人的感覺--不,他們不會永遠在那裡,他們也不會永遠不在那裡,生命的脆弱和變幻。 我沒法忘記,他們都是一個活生生的人,需要被了解和明白。 萬水千山,是為了這些關於人的時刻。

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