For anyone who craves touch, Argentine tango is the ultimate dance. Tango teaches us how to hold another person in a close embrace and then move together in unison.
But now tango and touch are off limits, in Buenos Aires, where tango was born.
Worldwide billions of us are sequestered in our homes, unable to reach out to others in the physical world, even with a simple handshake. Zooming together is great. We’re all learning new technology tools that we might not have tried otherwise, but it’s awfully hard to hug someone from six feet away. Or through a screen. No amount of technology can substitute for physical human contact.
What are we going to do about our need for touch?
As tango lovers, we both prize touch and have organized our lives around it.
We both found that tango was an antidote to what ailed us. If hugs are essential medicine, we simply needed a higher dose.
Argentina today is entering its fourth week of a strict national quarantine. People are only allowed to go out for groceries and other essential items. Police and military, transport workers, those supplying food) are allowed to go to work. We have all been ordered to stay at home except when we shop for food or medicine. No mate. No besos (kisses). No abrazos (hugs).
And, certainly, no tango.
Tango, tragically, is the perfect way to spread coronavirus: dancers from around the world hold each other heart-to-heart, maximizing body contact. Tango dancers are always chasing the next, unknown embrace, holding each other as if it were the last time they would ever hold anyone again.
Clearly tango and social distancing do not mix.
To truly feel the dance of tango, you must feel the embrace, or the abrazo, as they call it in Argentina. Even though tango is usually associated with erotic love, the embrace is much more than that. Sometimes compared to a mother’s cradling of a baby, the tango embrace is a way that two strangers, friends, or relatives, can hold each other with delicacy and affection.
Tango ruled our social lives in Argentina. We danced many nights a week in milongas, the sacred gathering place to dance tango. To connect. To escape the worries of everyday life and feel the bliss of a tangasm, that moment of connection while dancing with another person as the rest of the world drops away.
We have no idea when tango will come back.
Tango may shine a light on what we are giving up and what we must strive to keep alive even as we keep distance.
So what can tango teach us to survive the coronavirus pandemic and all the loss, uncertainty, and isolation that we are going through?
Even though we can’t dance tango, we still like to write about tango. Here’s what we discovered tango can teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have more ideas please tell us in the comments.
Use Words to Show Affection
Tango teaches us the power of a hug, but we can’t throw our arms around just anyone right now.
But that energy is still within us and we need to channel it and get it out to those who need it. In the absence of touch, we can still send meaningful if imaginary hugs with tender words.
Before coronavirus, Argentines (even men) began every encounter with a hug or a kiss. There’s another round of kisses when they part. Even phone conversations or whatsapp messages end with the sending of hugs or kisses — or both.As Americans living in Buenos Aires, we noticed our ways of communicating changed over the years. We have become more affectionate.
So if we can’t hug each other right now, we can be more affectionate in our emails or texts. Even in professional communication we might be feeling emotional and go all the way with an XOXOXOXOXO. Or an abrazo elbow-bump! Those virtual, verbal hugs feel good right now.
If you can’t reach out and touch someone else, you can give yourself a hug. Put your hands on your heart and your belly when feeling anxious to self-soothe and breathe.
Improvise + become more shock-resilient
Tango is an improvised dance. There are no memorized steps but rather a language of movement that allows two dancers to reinvent endlessly.
In Argentina people know things always change. Governments collapse sometimes in rapid succession. Electricity gets cut off for a few days. The currency gets devalued by a third yet again. Here people are so used to sudden change they shrug it off. Many Argentines have more than one job and will try something new to survive.
In the US, we are not used to big shocks to our system.
When things fall apart, people improvise. Just as we are all doing now.
Tango teaches us to listen to our partner when we dance. We must read our partner’s body in order to execute the dance. Thousands of subtle cues are passed back and forth in tango, as two people connect.
We are all reacting to this crisis differently. Some people are treating this as a quiet time for retreat or a chance to deepen into creative work. For others, getting out of bed is an accomplishment already.
Everyone is coping the best they can.
If someone you know is hurting, listen without distractions. Put aside the phone. The gift of your pure attention will probably help more than advice. Usually all we most want and need is to be heard.
Make eye contact
Tango dancers invite each other to dance with their eyes. They don’t use words. (It’s against the codes of the traditional milonga.)
Direct eye contact creates a connection between two people, so we can use our eyes to connect while we socially distance (or date digitally). Making eye contact while chatting on an online video platform can be tricky because we can’t both look at the camera and the other person’s eyes at the same time, but it’s the intention to connect that matters.
Eye contact in person works too. Eyes can say a lot. Your eyes can even transmit a hug if you soften your gaze with affection when you look at someone.
Lose your balance, find it again
In tango, your axis, or that central line of balance in your body, is that magic point in the embrace where you are standing on your own but also meeting your partner. You do not burden your partner, but nor do you hold back.
The more that we can find our own center the better we can relate to and support others.
It’s inevitable that we will lose balance.
Tango teaches us that we will lose balance and that we can find it again. It’s going to be a wild, uncertain ride for a while, so prepare to lose balance and find it again many times.
Find joy in spite of loss
Tango lyrics are often about loss — of love, of innocence, of a beloved neighborhood that’s gone. As they say, if it has a happy ending, it’s not a tango. (That is why we hold each other so tight.)
In the Argentine national psyche, the good times were always in the past and whatever plans you make for the future will likely be dashed. Welcome to our new world where everyone is living a different life than they imagined even a few weeks ago. In the US people generally believe that things will always get better. In many other cultures people know that loss is inevitable.
Accepting loss makes Argentines pessimistic but they are also always up for a party.
Plans are expected to change, and things don’t always work out, which brings us back to learning to improvise.
Remember the essential
Argentines value relationships more than business. They know that the only things that last are friendship, family, and love. If there is one lesson that will get us through the trying times ahead, it is remembering our connections in many forms are among the most important things we have.
A decade ago the United Nations recognized tango by honoring it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They may have been thinking of the dance or unforgettable songs by Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla, but we think that the greatest contribution of tango to humanity is the countless embraces generated in its name over the past 130 years.
Tango knew in its origins and it knows now that the purpose of life is to hold each other in the broadest sense, but also in the narrow sense of throwing our arms around each other.
When we come through this dark time to the other side, we will all appreciate the gift of being in front of another human being again.
And we will all need a really good hug.
Sasha and Kevin …in one our beloved milonga Nuevo Chique
Explore general life coaching with Sasha to work on confidence, reconnecting with your sensuality, and everything that is most important for you to prepare for your Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. Learn more about life coaching with Sasha HERE.
Having lived abroad for five years, switching realities often between the US and Argentina, I’ve noticed that my soul often takes a little while to catch up with my physical body. My body travels thousands of miles on jets and goes through customs but my spirit sticks behind with the same people and routines. There’s a soul delay. That’s where I am now. In-between two worlds.
Physically I am in drizzly gray Rhode Island, just before spring, checking out sublet ads on craigslist at my mother’s house because that seems easier than furnishing a place during a pandemic, but my soul is still back in Argentina watching what’s unfolding in my other home.
I left Argentina to come back to the United States as the coronavirus crisis progressed and borders shut down, but I didn’t know if I was making the right call. It’s still hard to know.
While I was still in Argentina, I sat on the couch of my apartment watching the new Argentine president Alberto Fernandez take proactive, decisive national measures to protect the health of the Argentine people against the spread of the coronavirus. He said many times in many ways that the health of the people was his priority.
“We must slow the economy to slow the spread of the virus,” he said.
I still remember that feeling of calm settle into my body as I watched the Argentine president talk about reasonable and caring steps to protect the whole of society. That feeling was so unfamiliar to me: feeling calm watching a political leader. The whole idea that you could have a responsible, caring, rational president: wow.
This was all rather ironic given that Argentines often say their country is disorganized compared to the US. The contrast in how the Argentine government is handling the coronavirus crisis couldn’t be clearer compared to the US’ response.
Oh, how I wish more countries took decisive action based on the advice of scientific experts rather than their gut instincts. And on a desire to save lives.
I planned to fly back to the US on April 16, but on March 12, I posted on Facebook “I am dazed.” That was the day the president of Argentina announced the country was blocking flights between Argentina, and countries considered high-risk at that time: China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, US and all of Europe. That ban wiped out my original flight because American Airlines cancelled all travel to Buenos Aires until May or June. American Airlines would only take calls from people who had flights in the next three days, so information was impossible.
The morning after I recovered from the shock of that announcement I realized here were still ways of getting home through Panama, Brazil, or Chile. So the decision had not been taken out of my hands then. (Somehow life is easier when we don’t have to make decisions!)
But then one by one more countries’ borders started to close.
I didn’t know what to do.
My friend Chris thought I should go quickly if I was going to come to avoid getting trapped in Panama or Brazil. (Brazil might be the worst place to be after the US, as Bolsonaro, their president, is out-Trumping Trump still shaking hands with people at rallies in the middle of a pandemic.)
Jenny thought it was safer to stay put.
Both friends live in dense, large U.S. cities and were grappling with their own stay-or-go decisions. Tough choices are everywhere.
I thought it was safer to stay put too. I felt safe in that little apartment in Buenos Aires, and as a writer, I treasure having my own space. I had bought plenty of food for the cuarantena that had just been announced: lots of meat, vegetables, coconut oil, the food for the keto diet I had just started. I had gotten myself into a routine of yoga and a calming meditation in the morning, then writing most of the day when I wasn’t doing coaching calls. I have a memoir to finish so the solitude didn’t seem terrible: it would be an enforced writing retreat with no distractions. I had Netflix to watch from a comfy couch. I had my computer and a printer. I had more interaction on screens than I needed. I kind of liked all that alone time.
Meanwhile in Buenos Aires people started daily cheers at 9 pm for healthcare workers.
But of course I didn’t know if day after day, week after week of alone time would feel so good. I was afraid of being unable to get home if my parents got sick. I was also afraid of infecting my mother if I got the virus on the plane rides. And I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea to run home to quarantine for an indefinite amount of time with my mother. (Just because you love your mother doesn’t mean it is a good idea to live together in quarantine.)
When I was in the middle of trying to decide, I walked into the bathroom, not because I had to go to the bathroom but just to go somewhere. I looked at the toilet with its modern flush button installed in the wall above the toilet. There was no reason to think the toilet would break but you know, Murphy’s Law.
I stared at the toilet flusher button. What if that toilet broke while I was in strict quarantine and there was no other bathroom to use? That question terrified me. In a flash I imagined the ocean in Rhode Island and thought of how much I wanted to plunge in the sea. Like many I was dreaming of the beach. If I didn’t go then I might not be able to go for many months. What about my family?
Decisions can be so excruciating. I’ve made a lot of scary decisions in my life, like the original decision to come to Buenos Aires on my own. As a life coach I encourage clients to make decisions based on desire and not fear. But with the coronavirus, there seemed to be no good decisions, only less bad options.
I walked into the bathroom and saw that toilet button again. The fear of a broken toilet in quarantine struck at my most primitive fears.
I walked back to the couch, sat down, clicked buy on the new ticket, and cancelled the other one. It was Friday. I needed to travel immediately to avoid the risk of being stuck in Panama indefinitely because Panama’s borders closed that Sunday night at midnight.
In a matter of seven hours I packed everything—two suitcases to take with me, and two to leave my with my taxi driver friend Gustavo for whenever I could return to Argentina—to rush back to the United States through Panama.
There were so many things to figure out. How to get the keys to the apartment owners. How to get to the airport. Argentina was in its second day of total national quarantine with cops patrolling the streets for offenders. The normally bustling, creative, chaotic streets of Buenos Aires were totally empty. I couldn’t tell if taxis were allowed to drive on the streets. I left a comment on the US Embassy Facebook page. They said taxis could circulate with a valid reason. (For the record, the US Embassy was not as helpful as they should have been.)
I messaged Gustavo, my taxi-driver friend. We arranged for him to come to my apartment at 11 pm for a 1:39 am flight.
My friend Tan wanted me to come over to say goodbye on the way to the airport but I couldn’t because then I would burst into tears. All I could do was go, go, go.
Just before leaving the apartment at 10:30 I seriously considered not going. I didn’t know how I would manage not touching my face to wipe away sweat while wheeling fat suitcases. Not touching one’s face takes incredible concentration. I was already so exhausted.
I called my friend Jenny, cried, and she listened. Sometimes all I need is for someone to be in my presence when I’m crying.
I kept packing the last things, leaving behind toiletries and all that precious coconut oil.
We drove to the airport in deserted streets, me in the backseat with the windows open. Windows open was the rule for cabs in Buenos Aires in the last days before the national quarantine was called. I still wasn’t sure I had made the right decision but there is a moment when there is no turning back. That moment came about ten blocks into the drive.
When he dropped me off, Gustavo and I hugged each other with the soft look in our eyes. We said later we had given each other a socially distanced hug through our eyes. This is something I treasure about Argentina: the affection. Gustavo is part of my tango business team, he’s a friend. He comes to my birthday.
Gustavo also took the airbnb key to give to the owner, the two big bags I could not manage, and some cash to pay my Tango Adventure assistant.
At the airport a man in full-body light blue protective gown took my temperature by putting the thermometer on my forehead. I also needed to show a plane ticket to enter. Argentina’s airport was he most strictly controlled of any that day. In so many ways Argentina took the pandemic seriously before other countries in North or South America did.
After checking in, I walked to security past dozens of people sacked out on the ground. The airport looked like it had been converted into a homeless encampment of people sleeping on the floor or camping mats. The airport was otherwise empty and quiet.
So began an odyssey that would take about 24 hours from Buenos Aires to Panama to Miami to Boston. Buenos Aires’ airport was quiet by then but Panama’s was bustling and so was Miami’s. Outside of Argentina the airports were business as usual. All the flights were full. None of the airlines instructed us to follow social distancing.
On the first flight—the longest one overnight from Buenos Aires to Panama—I sat in a window seat (researchers say window seats are the safest) with a masked couple sitting next to me. During the flight the woman in the couple leaned on my shoulder as she slept.
Should I gently shove her to the right? Honey, dear, why don’t you lean on your husband’s shoulder?
When we entered customs in Miami we used the touch-screen devices just like normal, without any wipes or anyone to wipe them down.
I could understand why the flights from Buenos Aires to Panama and Panama to Miami were full because people were trying to beat deadlines as borders closed.
But it was hard to understand why the American Airlines flight from Miami to Boston was full. Running crowded flights with cheap seats at this point (March 21) seemed immoral.
I spent the first week after my 24-hour dash through Panama up to Miami worried I had contracted the virus: nauseous one day, cold symptoms another, body aches initially. It’s hard to separate symptoms that come from extreme emotion and stress and those that come from the dreaded virus.
Nine days later I am doing fine. My mother is doing fine too, thank Goddess.
In the end, I don’t think I had coronavirus. All the obsessive hand-washing and use of hand sanitizers, not to mention wiping down the trays and seats in the airplanes, protected me, or I just got lucky. (Or I’m aysmptomatic! I hope not–I don’t want to be a carrier.) In a world without testing you just never know. When are we going to get those tests?!???! Today in Rhode Island the state is ramping up to test 1,000 a day. I’m lucky to be from the state currently rated second most aggressive in its response to coronavirus by wallethub.com. Our governor Gina Raimondo clearly has the same fierce commitment to saving lives as the president of Argentina, but she could go even further with measures if she followed his lead.
A Buenos Aires friend told me over Skype it would take me three weeks for my body to settle. I think he was right. I’m practicing patience. I’m sleeping again. It’s been twelve days since that 24-hour period of travel. I’m almost through my 14-day quarantine. So far, so good.
Now that I am home, I wonder, did I make the right choice? I suppose I did because even though none of this is easy, none of this is easy for anyone, and it’s better to be close to family just in case. I am sad because I won’t be able to go back to Argentina for a long time–maybe not for a year or longer. I am sad I didn’t say goodbye to any of my friends other than Gustavo. Foreigners are banned at the moment, and even Argentines can’t leave. I don’t think Argentina will open up their borders until there is a vaccine, a treatment, or at least widespread testing. My transformative tango program the Tango Adventure of course is on pause for a long time too.
I am enraged by the political situation in the US. I fantasize about having a president like Argentina’s who would actually take care of our country.
This US is poised to have the the most deaths in the world as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It twists my stomach to write that sentence.
The Argentines in my life never quite understood how fucked-up the US has become because the image of the US, like the image of Trump, is so Teflon–nothing bad sticks. My Turkish friend totally got it because Turkey is living the same nightmare, only they are ahead of us in the dictatorial timeline. Ojala (I hope!) we get off that timeline in November.
The pandemic has laid that “organized” image bare and will show the rest of the world how brutal American society is with our lack of accessible, affordable healthcare and leaders who clearly do not care about our welfare. Trump wasted two months he could have used preparing us calling this nothing more than a flu. More sickening, prominent Republicans have suggested it would be OK for millions of people to die to sacrifice for the sake of the economy (aka the stock market). Why not do what European countries are doing and pay businesses to continue paying their workers?
But I am here in my native country that outrages me so, and with all these doubts shared, I am glad. I will choose to be glad here because this is what I have chosen. I couldn’t say that before because I was too jostled after suddenly swapping one life for another. With time my soul is arriving to meet my body.
Decisions are hard, but once you make a decision, you’re on a path. The more time you live with a decision, the less you regret it. Because you start living it, feeling into what’s good about that path.That’s how I felt walking through this park in Providence yesterday. Spring is on the way finally in New England, and if nothing else, there are beautiful walks. There will be more good things too. I just don’t know what they are yet. The magic will come. It always does.
Walking the path of life in Providence, Rhode Island, early spring, the green of life will come soon
Before I left I posted on Facebook about people in Buenos Aires clapping and shouting, “Vamos!” (“let’s go!”) out their windows nightly at 9 pm in support of health care workers. A friend in San Francisco, commented questioning if anyone in the US would engage in that kind of solidarity cheer.
The movement finally arrived here a couple weeks later. Rituals of support to express our gratitude (and amplify our life force energy) are starting to happen in the US under the hashtag #clapbecausewecare. The idea is to clap to support health care workers—and grocery workers, truck drivers, gas pumpers, food delivery people, and everyone else who is putting their lives on the line so we can stay home to stay safe.
From what I gather, the clapping happens at 7 or 8 pm in the US communities compared to 9 pm in Buenos Aires, which makes me chuckle. Everything starts later in Argentina. People in Buenos Aires are clapping nightly. Vamos norteamericanos. Let’s go!
Note: I sent this out to my newsletter list a few days ago and also wanted to share here. If you want to receive emails from me with the best I can offer as comfort during this time be sure to sign up for the newsletter.
Hey there dear quirky one,
Oh these are interesting times we are living. Breathe in, breath out.
Like many of you I am taking in the information about coronavirus and making decisions about how to stay safe and help prevent further spread of the virus.
I was supposed to fly from Buenos Aires to Boston on April 16 but it looks like that route is cancelled until May or June, and the airline is only taking calls from people who fly immediately in the next three days.
So I am practicing calm and living in the present moment to make the best decisions for myself, my family, and society as a whole. Usually I spend a lot of time dancing tango but that activity had to go during this time (tango would be the ideal way to spread coronavirus!) so I’ve made a list of books to read and meditation practices to try. I also have a list of creative projects to work on, and online course ideas I will be cooking up for you since I have been working on my manuscript intensively for the last months and it’s time to give that a little break to see the writing fresh. After a week or so I will go back to my working on my book.
A friend of mine who is a hypnotherapist sent me this link for an immunity-boosting guided meditation from a hypnotherapist she says is famous (there are so many micro-communities these days where you can be famous).
I’ve listened to Freddy’s audio a few times. I can tell you that the guided audio put me in a state of deep relaxation at the least. It’s so important to stay calm and not let ourselves be overwhelmed by fear and/or stress–since stress makes us sick too. We have to take care of our inner state as well as our external.
There are many other excellent meditations out there.
I recommend you create sacred rituals for yourself during this time. We will all need those to stay sane and healthy. I have really enjoyed working with my coaching clients on their sacred rituals since this pandemic started. I am innovating my own: yoga and meditation in the morning, then coffee, then free writing. I’m also incorporating daily walks.
It’s also important to laugh. I’ve gotten some laughs from watching the brilliant “Great News!” on Netflix. A client subscribed to STARZ so she can watch the latest seasons of “Outlander.” Yes!
What’s distracting you or making you laugh?
I’m conscious of the fact that most of my newsletter readers are quirkyalone or quirkytogether, and many of you may live alone.
Doing this social isolation thing as a single person can be welcome time. For some people it might feel totally natural and easy. My friend Dave wrote me this message, “Yes, as an introvert it’s hilarious to me that people are wondering what to do at home and like making lists of how to stay sane (“make sure you spend time in different rooms…get some exercise…read a book…”). It’s basically me every weekend! I don’t do much, didn’t have plans interrupted, I don’t use public transportation, my office isn’t in a dense area. Still going for my lake walks daily. And I have enough weed to last for a bit – I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.”
Ha. Dave is great.
On the other hand for those who work in offices and now have to work at home, or for those who are parenting, or for the ambiverts and extroverts, sometimes the aloneness can get to be too much. The screen time can get to be too much too.
Let me know how you are enjoying or coping with the blessed or excessive solitude, depending on how you experience it.
P.S. If anyone is looking for something meaningful to do to fill your time, I am going to be looking for two more beta readers for Wet shortly. This means you would read the current draft and give feedback according to some questions I would provide you. So if you want to find out more about that then write me a message with the subject: beta reader Wet.
P.P.S. Once I get my own life settled I would like to do a free group community call with my readers about how we are navigating this time as a way of creating support, uplift and community. I’ll update you on the newsletter about this, so if you haven’t signed up for that, sign up here. If you have any particular requests or ideas for a group call/videoconference then let me know with a message.
I clicked on his link and there it was–my baby “quirkyalone” on dictionary.com!
I had no idea!
My immediate thought: Whoah, I’m done! My life’s work is complete! I put a word on dictionary.com! I don’t know if this is as official as getting into Merriam-Webster but I will revel it in anyway.
The folks at dictionary.com actually did a great job telling the history of the coining in the original essay in my magazine To-Do List, and spread of quirkyalone after my book Quirkyalone came out in 2004. Be sure to scroll down below the definition on dictionary.com to read the etymology along with popular usage in tweets. Remember: it’s “quirkyalone”–all one word.
Quirkyalone making it into dictionary.com (we have truly arrived folks!) is the best news for the leadup to the 17th annual International Quirkyalone Day on February 14. Quirkyalone Day is an alternative holiday that celebrates all forms of love, including self-love, and it’s been going strong since 2003 with celebrations around the globe. If you are looking for another way to celebrate on February 14 that honors everyone and every kind of love, this is your holiday.
Three folks have gotten in touch wanting to share their Quirkyalone Day Events.
In the Bay Area, we have a Valentine’s Day Concert coming up with the Conspiracy of Venus women’s chorus, Friday, Feb 14 at 9 pm, which a shoutout to quirkyalones from the choral director of Old Firsts Concerts Matt Wolka. Conspiracy of Venus is “a powerful 25-woman vocal ensemble interprets the songs of greats like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Björk, Joni Mitchell, Pixies, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, and many more.” For more info on the concert check here! On a side note, my best friend the unforgettable most radiant Annie Millar Desmond who passed away last year from cancer (and helped me proofread Quirkyalone–she was so invested in this concept) sang in Conspiracy of Venus for years. This is an incredible group of women who lifted Annie up in her last months. Annie loved being part of the group.
DJ Rubberband Girl takes to the airwaves for her awesome annual Quirkyalone Day show. On Friday, February 14 at 6 pm to 9 pm PST, DJ Rubberband Girl and special guest-host DJ Medium Good will be celebrating the spirit of the quirkyalone on KALX through a thoughtful mix of music (and musings) reflecting on solitude, single-hood, independence, individuality and above all self-acceptance. Whether coupled or not, there will be valuable ideas to reflect upon and takeaways for all. Stream online at kalx.berkeley.edu or through the KALX iPhone app! DJ Rubberband Girl has a Facebook event where you can RSVP too.
It’s interesting how all the Quirkyalone Day 2020 events listed here so far have to do with music!
You can also watch this video for an introduction to Quirkyalone Day.
Quirkyalone Day has been celebrated globally outside of the U.S. too.
If you have an events to share please feel free to add it in the comments.
[During Sue’s Tango Adventure, I did an interview with Sue on what drew her from northern Alaska grizzly bear country to the wilds of tango here with us in Buenos Aires. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you get word when the video is edited. It’s a chance to discover a totally different side of Sue Aikens, a most fascinating woman.]
So guess what everybody! We had the amazing, unfathomable Susan Aikens, star of the show National Geographic documentary series “Life Below Zero” with us here in Buenos Aires for a Tango Adventure! Sue is an outdoorswoman, adventurer, survivor, hunter, angler, businesswoman, loner, and now… a new tango dancer.
Sue is a rare female star who gives women across the world an example of a woman who lives life on her own terms, way off the beaten path of modern life, with humor and a spark for life outside the comfort zone. Her native intelligence shines through on her show as Sue constructs everything she needs in the extremely remote location she lives in up in Northern Alaska. But Sue is also very sociable and curious about the world and people. You can see the hilarious parts of Sue here:
You can see the tough parts of Sue on display here:
So what’s the scoop? If you are like me, and never watched “Life Below Zero,” Sue lives in isolation 500 miles from Fairbanks and just a few miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at Kavik River Camp, an exploration camp she has created to enable people to explore nature in the area. You have to take a plane to get to Kavik. Sue built her own runway! (And many other things.) The show depicts the daily battles to survive in a harsh climate. Sue has become one of the favorites on the show (check out the passion of her fans’ reviews on this page) with many women and men fans who revere an independent woman. Fans of the show have followed Sue’s challenges with recovering from a bear attack (the bear had her head in its mouth but she escaped) and a snowmobiling accident.
Sue told Men’s Journal, “I had to sew my own head together, and my arm, and before my hips popped out, I went across the river, found the bear, shot him, called the trooper, and there I lay for 10 days.” According to the story, she was “finally taken to Fairbanks for treatment, and later to the Lower 48 for hip and spinal surgery.”
Clearly Sue is fierce. A survivor with a verve for life. But she is more than just an Alaskan survivalist. She also loves exploring cultures. She wanted to explore following in close-embrace tango and her own unique feminine side. Sue came to Buenos Aires with our Tango Adventure team to explore Argentine tango. She was very clear she did not want ballroom tango. She wanted the original: the energetic connection that is uniquely created in the tango embrace. For a woman who lives in isolation battling to survive in the most remote parts of Alaska, the choice to explore the culture of tango in Buenos Aires is….well, in a word…remarkable! All we do is hug people all day long. There are no words for this! Sue often talks about living outside the comfort zone. I love this quote she gave in an interview, “You’re never more alive than when you’re on the edge.”
What I’ve discovered about Sue is that she is very funny, caring and thoughtful–she is quite the woman. The more I get to know her, the more blown away I am. She shows us the possibility of transformation, for sure, and the many experiences we can live in one lifetime, as you can see in the photos below.
Many online say Sue has more balls than a man, but I would say she has ovaries. Why is courage associated with balls? Come on, let’s find some more body parts to associate with bravery, ladies!
Here are some snaps and one video clip of Sue dancing from Sue’s Tango Adventure with us . . .what’s truly remarkable is that Sue came to us a total beginner. After a two-week Tango Adventure she was dancing fluidly with our shining star taxi dancer Roberto. The amazing tango development was a credit to her innate capacity to learn and find balance in her body (she sure does take on physical challenges) and to the awesomeness of our Tango Adventure team, clearly!
Out dancing with Nico, one of our favorite taxi dancers, and TFG (Tango Fairygodmother) Wanda, both key member of our Tango Adventure team
Dancing with Gustavo, another key member of our Tango Adventure team, at Plaza Dorrego, one of the friendly milongas we take you to.
Testing out the new tango dress while shopping for tango shoes
Having merienda (afternoon snack) with Sasha, the head honcho 😉 and soul of the Tango Adventure and Solo Chica Tango Adventure Coordinator Julia who makes the magic happen
Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the interview with Sue on why she felt drawn to Argentine tango. We talked about lots of great stuff, like living outside the comfort zone and drawing boundaries without being an asshole. Sue’s capacity to be direct and assertive while also being really nice kind of blew me away. Role model alert.
(This video was filmed on Day 12 of the Challenge)
It’s the first day of 2020. I decided to start this year with a bang of new year’s energy.
I am beginning a new Challenge: 31 Days of Asking Men to Dance. A new decade merits a new experiment!
In truth, my idea was a recycle of an idea from last year, but reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
In January 2019 I decided to do a research project after another conversation with a fellow tanguera about my frustration with going out to dance, and often spending much of the night or afternoon waiting for a cabeceo (the nod of the head a man uses when he asks a woman to dance).
My plan was to go out dancing tango 31 nights in a row with the express intention of asking men to dance.
My rule for myself was: if you go to a milonga or practica, you must ask at least one man to dance with a mirada (the look of desire used by a woman in her eyes to show she wants to dance), a cabeceo (a head nod usually used by men to invite) or verbally (which would be OK to do in more casual milongas but not so much in formal, elegant milongas).
No matter how I needed to challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone to be the initiator of the dance. (In the end, I challenged myself by asking verbally because that was more direct than using the mirada [the look of desire].)
Now what’s the big deal with asking men to dance? We do live in the 21st century. I’m in my forties, not in seventh grade going to a junior high school dance! Wouldn’t I be over all these insecurities by now? Ummm, not totally.
Well, we teach what we need to learn. I have often struggled with the confidence to ask a man to dance–thus the Challenge.
Deep down for me, and I suspect for many of us women, we feel more attractive if we are chosen. It’s the same old Cinderella complex, waiting for a man to come, wake us from a passive slumber to validate us as worthy. But that’s the old way, or is it? Some men seem to like the idea of women asking them to dance to take the constant pressure of initiation off them. But I’ve also heard from men say they didn’t want women to ask them to dance because that would be taking away the last clear domain of power that men had.
I would have shared last year’s results with you but I lost the phone, so I lost the data recorded in audio messages each time I left the milonga.
So my dears, if at first you do not succeed then try try again. This year we start fresh. I’m going to attempt to do 31 whole nights.
That’s an intense goal since I am also working to complete my memoir but I’m thinking all this dancing will be good for my writing because I need a balance of mental and physical activity to inspire my creativity.
So I am going to try the experiment this year and live-blog it as I go along on this post, adding a new entry with data and emotional observations each night after I go out.
Here we go…
Day 1: January 1, 2020
Milonga: La Glorieta, an outdoor gazebo in Belgrano where people gather to dance nightly.
Results: 7 asks, 7 yesses
January 1, 2020: Night One of the Experiment at La Glorieta. Photo: fellow tanguera Geneviève Allard
The first night of the campaign was spectacular. Often new campaigns (like a diet) start on a high and the Asking Men to Dance campaign was no different. I asked 7 men to dance, verbally each time. All seven said yes. At least one was someone who I have danced with once before years ago, but I’m sure he thinks he is much higher level than me. Because he was standing alone looking rather glum I asked him anyway.
Me and one of my targets! He said yes. 😉
How did I ask the men to dance? My language of choice for all the men was “Bailas?” (“Do you dance?”), “Quer bailar?” (“Do you want to dance?” or “Bailamos” (“Let’s dance.”) I used “Bailamos” only with someone I know socially. Using a verbal invitation works at La Glorieta and other more casual milongas. I don’t know if inviting verbally would work well at a formal milonga like Canning. I may have to lean more on a heavy mirada or cabeceo. We’ll see over the next 31 days.
My mood was much better because I was asking the men and choosing who I wanted to dance with rather than standing around hoping someone I wanted to dance with would ask me. I felt like a bubblier version of myself than the passive me who stands around waiting to be chosen.
I asked one man to dance whom I have often danced with. He seemed a bit taken aback that I asked him. He was used to inviting me, not the other way around. I had flipped the gender roles, but he got over it. We danced a lovely tanda (in tango we dance four songs [a tanda]).
All of the other guys seemed quite fine with invitation. “Dale,” or “Dale si” was the usual response.
Overall this experiment started off winning.
Day 2: January 2, 2020
I was planning to go to De Querusa but I was too tired. I’ll make up for it tomorrow by asking EXTRA men to dance.
The Friday afternoon practica Cheek to Cheek is not a traditional milonga where men and women sit on opposite sides of the dance floor but it’s definitely more of an elite milonga than La Glorieta so I was feeling nervous about taking my “31 Days of Asking Men to Dance” Challenge to Cheek to Cheek.
La Glorieta is a “friendly milonga”–Cheek to Cheek not so much.
The last time I went to Cheek to Cheek a few months ago there was poca gente (very few people) and they were all ridiculously high-level. I danced with the organizer, which I feared was a pity tanda because I had been sitting for over an hour. I was plancharing. Planchar is the Argentine verb meaning “to iron.” In tango language, to planchar means sitting for hours, not dancing.
So how did it go? I saw a familiar face, a sweet dancer Max from La Plata. La Plata is about an hour south of Buenos Aires. I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek which is probably not what I would have done if it were not for the Challenge. Asking men to dance is making me more outgoing and less timido in general. After I changed my shoes he invited me with a cabeceo, but I really believe that my being friendlier with the kiss paved the way for the invitation.
My first dance. I didn’t ask him but I may have made it happen by being friendly.
Then my friend Jorge showed up. Jorge is part of my Solo Chica Tango Adventure team. If you come to Buenos Aires as part of our program you might dance with him too. I asked Jorge “Bailas?” just as he said “Bailamos.” It seems like “Bailamos” (“Let’s dance”) is a much more normal thing to say to a friend. “Bailas?” (“Do you dance?”) makes more sense to say to someone new. I’m still working out this verbal invitation language since I have spent most of my tango career following the rules of showing my interest with a mirada (look of desire).
Jorge one of our taxi dancers for the Solo Chica Tango Adventure–and moi! It’s always nice to run into a friend at the milonga.
After I am happy to say I invited two men! They both said yes. One was a Polish man living in Italy who seemed to be a beginnerish dancer. Very sweet. He seemed happy I invited him.
The other was a wonderful dancer that I went on a date with once. It can be kind of awkward to see someone that you don’t wind up dating at the milonga. This time because I had my Challenge fueling me I forced myself to creep up behind him and tap him lightly on the shoulder. He turned his head around and said, “Quer bailar?” with a friendly smile. We danced a magical tanda. I missed dancing with him. We dance together so well.
I am getting more and better tandas than I would have been dancing otherwise. Going to the milonga with the intention of asking at least one man to dance is definitely working. I’m feeling more present, less passive. No rejections so far, but I’m sure that will change when I ask more people.
I am quite pleased with the experiment so far.
Day 4: January 4, 2020
Practica: La Maria, an afternoon practica
Results: 7 asks, 4 yesses, 3 nos
La Maria is an afternoon practica on Saturdays.
On day four I received my first nos at La Maria. Three nos to be exact.
I was glad about the first “no” because I didn’t want men to be saying yes to me out of obligation or pity. His no proved that a man could say no. The Challenge is now real. Of course I had gotten “no” many times in the past! I wasn’t surprised because this guy seemed to be one of the high-level dancers who barely danced at all–he only dances with a chosen few.
The second “no” came from a guy who appeared to be a foreigner. I was surprised he said no, because usually foreigners, who don’t have automatic dance partners, are happy to be asked.
At first I felt energized and happy with the “nos,” because I knew this project really hadn’t gotten started until I got a “no.” The “nos” felt good because I survived them, and then went on to ask other men to dance who said yes. This Challenge is for sure about building resilience, just as men have to suffer nos, why shouldn’t I? Doesn’t that make me a stronger, less delicate flower?
I danced a milonga tanda with a Brazilian who ran a tango school in Porto Alegre, and a German man who had been dancing tango in Buenos Aires since the 80s. That’s really something. Tango was coming out of obscurity after the dictatorships in the 80s.
I’m dancing better because I am dancing more. On average I have been dancing 7-10 tandas since I started this Challenge, compared to the 2-3 tandas per milonga I was dancing before. Going out with the intention of asking men to dance has definitely generated far more tandas. It’s also made me feel more in control of my afternoon or night. I identify men I want to dance with and scheme about how I will ask them rather than sitting in a chair, eyeing men, fruitfully or not.
I must admit after two “nos” I felt tired. Three “nos” may be the limit of what my ego can take.
Happily though I had four yesses, plus the three men who invited me without any work on my part.
I call Day Four a continued success.
Here’s a spontaneous little video I recorded sitting on a stoop on the street after leaving La Maria.
Day 5: Another rest day!
Wow, this asking men to dance thing is intense! I’m taking another rest day.
Day 6: Tango in Tigre
I wasn’t able to go to a milonga because I went to to this Tango in Tigre Day Trip to check it out as an option for Solo Chicas who come on our Tango Adventures. The day was marvellous: maravilloso! Beautiful people, home-made food by Hugo Satorre, a world-known bandoneonist, yoga, swimming, kayak, and a bit of tango to live music on the pier before we took the boat back to Tigre. Tigre is a small city with a river community just outside Buenos Aires. It’s the easiest place to get a nature fix on a day trip.
On the way back Sole Viladrich, another woman who had come on the day trip, and I discovered that we had massive amounts in common. Sole just released her documentary “Esto No Es El Tango: El Abrazo Dissidente” all about women, queer people, trans people, and other rule-breakers challenging rigid notions of tango.
We talked about the distinct challenge of asking men to dance in traditional milongas such as Cachirulo, which are run by a kind of ten commandments of tango. You can read more about the ultra-traditional Cachirulo in this New York Times piece “A Caricature of the Patriarchy: Argentine Feminists Remake Tango”. Sole said that she had seen a woman denunciado (denounced) in Cachirulo for asking men to dance. Wow. It will be a dare on a whole other level to break the codes in a traditional milonga.
Day 7: January 7, 2020
Oh my god, what was I thinking? 31 days in a row? Over the last couple of years I usually only go out twice a week! It was a night of rest to prepare for Day 8.
Day 8: January 8, 2020
Milonga: Maldita Milonga with Orchestra Affronte, an afternoon practica 4-8
Results: 1 ask, 1 yes
A night out with Sue Aikens and Wanda Abramor, Tango Fairygodmother in the Tango Adventure buenos airs
I asked one man to dance, a total stranger, and he said yes. No drama whatsoever.
Day 9: January 9, 2020
Milonga: De Querusa
Results: 2 asks, 2 nos
Officially both of my verbal invitations were refused by foreign dancers. That would be two nos.
However, from the moment I arrived I interacted in friendly, easy ways with men I have been dancing with recently, which resulted in three rather magical rapid-fire tandas that left me feeling like a dancing queen.
I’m starting to feel verbally asking men to dance is not hard. The sting of the no is not bothering me as much. However, it still holds true that I can only tolerate two nos. Any more than two nos starts to feel like a downer.
I’m also reaping the benefits of going out more often. It’s definitely true that it’s easier to get dances when you are going out to dance regularly in the tango scene. Frequency is rewarded.
Day 24: De Querusa and Canning
Results: 4 asks, 4 yesses (3 at De Querusa, 1 at Canning)
Well, we can see there is a large gap here between Days 9 and 24.
I really must laugh at my ambition Day 1 of going out every night. What delusional New Year’s energy!
Actually I have gone out to dance six times in the last two weeks but I didn’t focus on asking men to dance. We had clients with us for Tango Adventures, so when I went out to meet them, my attention was more on supporting those women than on asking men to dance.
That said, at at least one time in one of those milongas I did invite a man to dance verbally. He said yes.
The other nights quite frankly I was tired. Since this is not a normal behavior for me, and I’m breaking gender codes, let’s face it: Asking men to dance requires a lot of energy. First, I have to pick out a man to invite, then I need to screw up my courage to break gender codes and face the risk of rejection–well, it’s a lot. I’ve learned that my energy needs to be good to ask men to dance! I expect and accept there will be plenty of milongas when I simply don’t feel the strength. I’m trying to not beat myself up when my shy nights happen. When I have energy, I invite!
Last night I went back to De Querusa, a moderately friendly milonga where I have some nice regular partners.
I invited two men heavy miradas with a slight dash of an head nod (slightly cabeceo-like toward two men, somewhat regular partners, or at least men I had danced with before). Both resulted in dances.
I made one verbal invitation to a French beginner. I asked him “Bailas?” and he didn’t know what that meant, which resulted in an awkward exchange in English, and then a lovely dance.
Then at Canning, I used a delicate tap on the back and a head nod toward the floor with a man where I know for sure we enjoy dancing with each other–our musical sensitivities and embrace are compatible.
The Challenge helped me to initiate the dance quickly because I knew I wanted to go to bed by 2 am. Tapping him on the back was much better than sitting there passively waiting for him to invite me. We might not have danced because I turn into a pumpkin before many other tangueros.
Day 25: January 25, 2020
Milongas: La Maria and La Carretta
Results: 4 asks, 3 yesses, 1 no
At the afternoon practica La Maria I asked two men to dance. Both said yes.
The second man was someone that I danced with many times in the past but we have not danced in about 9 months.
Well, I was sitting there bored, not dancing, and neither was he, so I decided to ask him to dance because of the Challenge. I had already been acting friendlier to him and kissed him on the cheek when I arrived. I sidled up to him at the bar and asked “Queres bailar?” He either didn’t understand me or possibly he needed to be the one to ask “Queres bailar?” Again, sometimes I get the feeling that the men need to feel they are the inviter, even if I already invited them. Or maybe I mumble?
Did he want to dance with me or was he saying yes out of obligation? A number of women have asked me this question since I started the Challenge. Many women fear dancing with someone who doesn’t really want to dance with them–as if that would be unpleasant or even humiliating. I say most men I invite are happy to dance with me when I ask.
With this particular guy… I’m not so sure. I didn’t feel him inject his full heart and soul in the dance, but I don’t think he’s my ideal dance parter anyway. He’s a little machista, at least in tango classes. I like the more sensitive, open-minded, kind and egalitarian men. But that’s OK. We can do a tanda together when I don’t have anyone else to dance with. Ha! See how I flipped that around? It’s about what I prefer, not him.
I went on to a late-night milonga La Carreta after dinner with a new tango friend.
I asked two men who were sitting next to me on the couch. A man of Asian origin dressed in elegant wide-legged dark pants and a white shirt seemed disoriented that I invited him. He said, “No,” and looked away confused.
The second was an Argentine sitting to my left, also elegantly dressed–a serious tanguero. I asked on the third song of the tanda. He said “dale.” (OK.) We danced a lovely two songs.
I left happy to go to bed at 1:15 am.
TOTALS from the 31-Day of Asking Men to Dance Challenge, Buenos Aires Tango, January 2020
Total Asks: 29. I asked 29 men to dance in a month!!!!
Total Nos: 6 men said NO!
Total Yesses 23 said YES!!!
Pretty good ratio, right? Over 79% said yes!
The data says it pays to ask men to dance.
Postscript: This Challenge was an experiment in new-habit-formation as well as building courage and resilience. During this month, the new habit of inviting men to dance becomes integrated and less dramatic to practice. Did it stick in February? Sort of. I would say inviting men to dance in February met with less resistance in me than December but it wasn’t as easy as in January when I was in full swing. I think this Challenge may become an annual thing.
Want to come away to Buenos Aires and learn how to invite men to dance, or to attract invitations to dance? Come away with Sasha’s Tango Adventure program for a 7-Day community-based, transformative dance immersion vacation in Buenos Aires and you will learn that and way more. Solo Chica means this program is designed to make it easy for you to come as a woman alone. Solo Chico Adventures for men are available.
Just in time for the holidays…which in the U.S. are quite the kid-focused months, let’s talk about motherhood (or parenthood) ambivalence. Do you want to have children? Are you thinking about having kids? These questions can take on a massive life of their own in our thirties.
This topic of motherhood ambivalence is close to my heart because I spent so many years in deep consideration about whether I wanted to be a mother enough to make it happen if I didn’t meet a partner in time to be a “biological mother.” In my work with my mostly women coaching clients since 2013, the question of motherhood has come up a number of times. I have so much compassion for women who are wondering, “What’s going to happen? Is this going to happen?” between the ages of 35 and 40 when the pressure to find a partner before the fertility clock runs out seriously rears its head. I often think of this period of time as a passageway of the soul in a woman’s life.
That’s why I was delighted to be invited as a guest on Sarah Dobson’s podcast Maybe Someday. Maybe Someday is about ambivalence: specifically ambivalence about the question of motherhood. Sarah is right when she says we have few spaces in our culture to delve into the murky mix of feelings that many of us feel about being parents. Or relationship for that matter. I love that she has created this space and invited me to be part of it with her.
We don’t often hear that our ambivalence can be a gift, and that’s one thing I am glad we talk about in the podcast. If we are not living on automatic pilot to cross off the societally mandated checklist of “settling down” (marriage, home ownership, kids) we get the opportunity to sort through our feelings to discover what matters most to us. For example, as I share in the podcast, buying a home was never really a major priority for me. Maybe I will want to buy a home in the future, but it wasn’t something that I had to do in my thirties. If we can find the courage to sort through our mess of feelings, we can take steps toward the things our soul really wants.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
–how I dealt with the pressure of the biological clock–and how that tied into being quirkyalone (and not wanting to settle)
–that fear that you won’t know the true meaning of love if you don’t become a mother, or that being a mother is the pinnacle of womanhood, etc. All that stuff!
–the wistfulness of looking at friends’ family photos on Instagram
–how confronting our fertility expiration dates affects our experience of dating
–the restlessness that may come up for women at 35 if they haven’t fulfilled the societal mandates of getting married and having children–the feeling that something has to change
–how climate change put the nail in the coffin of my ambivalence about motherhood
–on a personal note, the awkward conversations that come up on a first date when you’re the queen of quirkyalones (ha, yes, it can be awkward)
If you are in the midst of living this question, I highly recommend you give this one a listen. Thanks to Sarah for the opportunity to share, and here’s to honoring our ambivalences and talking through the nuances.
Yesterday my inbox (all the inboxes, email and social media) exploded with messages with people sending me this CNN story about Emma Watson’s interview in Voguewhere she says she prefers “self-partnered” to “single.” The interview will be published November 8 as she approaches her 30th birthday with all the pressures that milestone brings on.
All the messages said the interview reminded them of my work!
Is actress and activist Emma Watson a quirkyalone? She certainly sounds like one. I think we can very safely add her to the list. I’ll be doing an updated Quirkyalone soon so we’ll include Emma in the new celebrity directory.
Being self-partnered calls to mind the value of becoming a true partner to yourself when you marry yourself too so the language works with both concepts. In a self-marriage ceremony you write vows to yourself about how you will love and accept yourself, and have your own back.
Taking it a step further with Emma’s twist on the language, after you marry yourself you can declare yourself self-partnered. Really, doesn’t this make sense? Who would not want to be a partner to yourself? Even if you have a wonderful life partner wouldn’t it be nice to partner with yourself too?
If you’re not self-partnered doesn’t it sound like you are at war with yourself? As I think of it more, when I coach people I am helping them become self-partnered: for yourself rather than against yourself. That’s the bottom line.
Being quirkyalone certainly doesn’t mean that you only want to be alone, or don’t need love and companionship. It means you have standards and you prefer to be alone rather than settle. I don’t think self-partnered means that either. None of us can really go it alone in life, and many of us quirkyalone types want a deep intimate partnership as well as closer friendships and family relationships.
Being quirkyalone is about living your life fully with a partner or not. Not shying away from opportunities because you don’t have a significant other to share them with, and knowing that you are worthy and complete in a relationship or not. I imagine being self-partnered would be just the same. You’d be better prepared to partner with others without hanging on them for needs they can’t ultimately fulfill for you, and that only you can do for yourself. You’ll be better able to date and connect with others in a healthy way — with love!
Of course this is an ideal. We quirkyalones are human too, and we also screw ourselves up with self-doubt, get terribly lonely at times, and sometimes aren’t sure at all what to make of the insane dating jungle out there, but we just can’t fake it. We always want to come back to these kinds of ideals even if it’s not easy.
Self-partnered, or quirkyalone, or quirkytogether. Welcome Emma, we think you are part of our tribe.
Have you ever dreamed of getting away from everyone you know and going on an adventure where you get to try on new sides of yourself and learn something new? The magic happens outside of the comfort zone. First you may need some support to step out of your comfort zone.
Solo Chica is designed to help you do just that–get on a plane, go somewhere new, and learn something new in a safe, contained way because you have our curated Itinerary and supportive program to guide you. You won’t be figuring this all out on your own.
We are super excited to officially launching the Solo Chica Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires with the stories of three women (American and British) who are soon to embark on an international growth adventure with our team.
We chose Kelly as our Grand Prize winner because she wants to help us show that tango can be for every body type, and racial/ethnic background. We think that message is so important.
We chose Cathy because she told us she wants to reimagine womanhood with a partner or not, and to heal regrets about not being a mother. And she is a priest! We needed to have her on board.
We chose Justyn because she is a two-time cancer survivor who uses all her life experiences and learnings to inspire others to use their own powers to heal themselves through the Brave Souls Project.
Two are total beginners. One is an advanced beginner. All three women are taking a leap outside their comfort zones to learn a dance in a city where they know no one–until now. Here are some of the people they are about to meet.
So who are these brave Solo Chicas?
Here are their stories.
Kelly Macias, Washington, DC, Grand Prize Winner of a coaching session with Sasha and a Tango Goddess Photo Shoot (value $500)
In Kelly’s words: “I’m a writer and a consultant and my consulting practice is focused on supporting organizations to increase their racial and gender equity so that they can do social justice work in the world. I would describe myself as a dreamer—I’m much more interested in possibilities, creating and building new things and developing what could be than by feeling limited by what actually is.”
Kelly’s Tango: “I would say that I’m an advanced beginner. I’ve been having a love affair with tango since 2004 but it is currently an unrequited love because I’ve been inconsistent. I’ve taken group lessons, privates, workshops over the last 15 years but sporadically. I enjoy salsa, bachata, merengue and hip hop. If money were not an issue, I’d have given up my work long ago and moved to Buenos Aires to pursue my dream of being a tango star!”
Why should we choose you for the launch contest to receive this extra free coaching support? “I’ve spent the last few years feeling very disconnected from my sexuality, sensuality and feminine energy, as a whole. I would the opportunity to get support in exploring it.
I would be an enthusiastic ambassador for the program and could imagine partnering with Sola Chica in some way to promote diversity (racial/ethnic, body type, career, etc). within the program. I’m already sold on what a great and transformative experience this could be and I’d want to spread the word so that folks know that tango really is for everybody and every body type!“
What would it mean for you to rediscover the Tango Goddess in you through the photo shoot? “Like many working women in their forties, I’ve been busy focusing on my career for the last several years. The stress of trying to be successful in a hectic society centered around class and patriarchy and white supremacy has taken its toll. I’m no longer as carefree or vulnerable as I used to be.
Add technology and social media to the mix, and it has meant that I spend most of my time in front of a computer screen than tending to my intimate relationships. I want to connect back to my vulnerability and sensuality and joy and think that the Tango Goddess photo shoot is a way to liberate myself from all that has been weighing me down.”
What else would you like to discover through this experience? “I want to have multiple tangasms and discover pleasure, intimacy, and connection through my lived experiences!”
Cathy Mark, London UK, winner of a coaching session with Sasha
Tell us more about you; “I am a menopausal priest on a journey of healing and rediscovery as I work towards accepting that I may never find ‘the one’ to settle down with and I will now never have biological children of my own. I want to rediscover love, light and laughter in a self-affirming way.”
Describe your tango experience: “Total beginner.”
What else would you like to discover through this experience: “Learn to love myself again. Learn to forgive myself. Learn to laugh again.”
Cathy will be coming from the UK. She loves traveling and her favorite destination to date is Sri Lanka. She also recently visited Finland and Morocco.
Cathy is coming in 2020. As we develop the Solo Chica program, we may develop an email list that lets people connect with other Solo Chicas who want to adventure together. We are excited to welcome Cathy and see how her adventure unfolds!
Justyn Livingston, Bend, Oregon, Winner of a coaching session with Sasha
Tell us about you: “I am an artist, painter, former professional ice-skater, and meditation teacher/coach. I am thriving after two cancer diagnoses, and have been doing deep inner work with Dr Joe Dispenza. It is time for me to ‘take it off the mat’ and live it. Tango in Paradise and Solo Chica seem like a great place to start. ;-)”
If you are chosen as a winner in the Launch Contest and you receive a free 1-hour coaching session with Sasha, what would you like to focus on? “Furthering my ‘feminine mojo’ (we need a new word! verve?). I have been single for a long time, and would like to shift my energy and draw a fitting partner in dance and in life. I want to integrate what many beautiful European women have and exude, which is a confident sensuality and style in all ages.”
“Our culture considers women my age to be invisible. It’s time to change that. Surgeries and cancer treatments have been difficult gifts and I intend to live beyond those perceived limitations.”
Why tango?: “I spent a few years in Eugene and Corvallis dancing Cuban Salsa with a little bit of DanzSon, and loved it. In my earlier years I studied ballet, flamenco, modern dance and jazz. I’ve taken one tango workshop and found it compelling on many levels. Specifically, the energetic lead that occurs when two people are tuned in to each other and in the present moment.”
Helping others: Justyn’s experiences on cancer’s healing path led her to create The Brave Souls Project, where she supports others on their healing journeys. BSP helps people transform their health by rewiring their responses to thoughts and emotions from fear and anxiety into healing and opportunity. She helps others in group and one-on-one sessions, using the power of guided meditation, epigenetics and neuroscience to help people shift their outlook.
Through her experience in Solo Chica, Justyn wants to “inspire other women to claim their lives, whole-heartedly. If not now, then when?”
PS Everyone who comes on a Solo Chica Tango Adventure gets a Tango Fairygodmother or father to accompany them in the milongas to dance, meet people, and discover the three transformational elements in the Solo Chica Tango program: the look, the embrace, and the walk. Justyn is so excited about meeting her Tango Fairygodfather Kevin she shouted it out on Instagram.
Have you thought about traveling alone for your next vacation, but you are afraid that solo travel could be a bit lonely? Not with Solo Chica! Today I am excited to announce our exciting new thing–designed to make it easy for you to get on a plane for an adventure on your own. Easy. Done. Itinerary in hand.
Solo Chica is all about helping women 35+ travel alone with carefully curated Itineraries for transformative learning experiences. With Solo Chica, you can travel to off-the-beaten-path worlds in a local culture without having to figure this all out alone. You’ll be immediately connected with local people when you land who will guide you on a course of personal transformation–through a dance, a photo shoot, or who knows what…Solo Chica-style!
Women who are under 35 can be Solo Chicas too–so can men! We designed Solo Chica for 35+ solo travelers in mind because we want to support women to travel alone. Younger women and men have more built-in support for traveling alone through hostels.
Doesn’t it seem more “normal” for younger people to travel solo? After a certain age, the message gets drummed into us that we are support to travel with a partner, family, or friends. At Solo Chica, we support you to travel solo or with whoever you want. There is something sublime about solo travel. Solo travel stretches you, showing you new parts of yourself as you meet more people and take risks in a place where no one knows you.
Give us your week of vacation. Solo Chica will turn your trip into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What’s a Solo Chica™ Adventure?
Solo Chica is a new kind of solo travel adventure designed by Quirkyalone author and life coach Sasha Cagen (moi!) to make it easy for you to get on the plane for a curated 7-day transformative vacation. Easy. Done. Itinerary in hand.
Solo Chica is designed for busy women who want adventure. With every Solo Chica Adventure, you get an Itinerary that has been created by local insiders to give you a travel experience that’s fulfilling, easy, authentic, and safe.
Every Solo Chica Itinerary includes contacts for the people to guide you on a transformative experience.
Because Solo Chica not a group tour, you will have the freedom to come when you want and to move according to your own choices and desires. You’ll be open for serendipity when you travel while also having structure and support. (Goodbye annoying prepackaged tours that schedule every moment tiring you out.)
The future is Solo Chica
Interest in female solo travel is skyrocketing. Not only aremore people single today than ever more married and partnered women want to go on soul-fulfilling trips on their own. My coaching clients want to talk about how to travel solo without feeling lonely. I’ve also heard from married women, I want to go on a Solo Chica Adventure! You can!
Hostelworld, an online hostel-booking platform released a 2018 study showing that bookings by solo female travelers increased by 45 percent from 2015 to 2017, compared with a 40 percent increase for men.
However, there are still a lot of questions and frustrations for older solo female travelers:
Where to stay if you want to meet people but don’t want to stay at a twentysomething party hostel?
How do you handle going out alone at night?
Where to go so you are not surrounded by couples and families, talking to no one, and feeling terribly lonely? (Been there, done that!)
What to do if you are concerned about safety or loneliness but you are not a group tour person?
Solo Chica was created as one answer to these questions.
You want to get off the tourist bus and deep into the culture wherever you go.
You like to travel with purpose and meet new people.
You want to get back in your body and reconnect with the parts of you that are fun, sensual and exude joie de vivre.
But you work a lot … You don’t have time to plan.
We have something for you!
Why are we focused on the chicas?
We call it Solo Chica because our focus is empowering women to travel alone for transformative learning experiences.
We are open to the cool, self-aware men too!
Solo Chica fits in with the overall mission here at sashacagen.com. Much of my work with Quirkyalone, my life coaching work, and online courses have been about helping you to reduce your fear being single so that you can hold out for the kind of relationship you really want. When you aren’t afraid of being alone, you won’t settle.
Traveling alone is part of this equation. You want to feel free to live your dreams whether you are single or in partnership.
If not now, when?
Don’ t waste your life hiding in comfort zones. Come on a Solo Chica Adventure!
Our First Solo Chica Itinerary is the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. Watch this video to see the Adventure that awaits Solo Chicas in Buenos Aires…
Every Solo Chica Itinerary will get you out of your head and back into your body.
Why the body focus? Because the tech industry got us good. We are all hopelessly addicted to our screens and thinking way too much! We need to reconnect with our flesh.
In the social media era, tango is the perfect first Solo Chica Adventure. Tango allows us to be in the present moment with another person we can see, touch, feel, and enjoy connecting with. Tango also helps us to reconnect with our masculinity, femininity, sensuality and confidence.
Solo Chica is not only a vacation. It’s a personal growth adventure designed to help you:
Reconnect to your sensuality.Rediscover parts of you that you that have been lost or suppressed when you reconnect your sensual self through tango.
Become more physically confident in ways you can draw on for dating, flirting, and work/leadership whether you are a woman or a man. For women, hello pussywalking!
Discover what tango has to teach you about yourself, life, and relationships…with a high probability of tangasms! Every person on our carefully curated Solo Chica Buenos Aires team was chosen for their warmth, excellence, and their ability to show you the tangasmic path of tango.
As we were developing Solo Chica, we ran a contest earlier this year asking the women and men who told us they wanted to come on a Tango Adventure why we should give them extra support in a free coaching session and with a free Tango Goddess Photo Shoot (one of the amazing things you can do as part of your Solo Chica Adventure as insider pricing.)
Later this week we will announce the winners of the Solo Chica Launch Contest. They are all brave, inspiring women who will soon arrive in Buenos Aires for their curated Solo Chica Adventures.
I'm a life coach working with thoughtful, quirky types and the author of the cult hit book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (HarperSF) and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster).
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.