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.
(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.
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 hereby invite you to join me for an for an intimate immersion experience into tango, quirkyalone, and quirkytogether in Buenos Aires this May. The Quirky Sexy Tango Adventure is a unique opportunity to travel to gorgeous Buenos Aires and learn tango at its source. You also get to learn about tango as a metaphor for personal growth as a quirkyalone and quirkytogether.
I love bringing together my love for tango with the lessons that tango has to teach us for our personal growth and relationships, and I’m thrilled to do that with you in this 6-day adventure in late May!
This is for you if:
* you love the idea of going on an international adventure with fellow quirky lovers of life
* you love the idea of learning tango at the source, where you can FEEL the essence of tango, which is the embrace (tango is essentially a dance of hugging and walking)
The QuirkySexy Tango retreat will include:
* Tango instruction (you can be a total beginner)
* Workshops on quirkytogether and tango (how tango can help you to connect to yourself and another in a relationship)
* Outings to traditional, elegant milongas, and young, alternative milongas (milongas are where people dance tango)
The details are here, and registration will open very soon.
If you want in, put this on your calendar and sign up for this special mailing list. Space will be extremely limited and I’ll offer spaces first to the people on the special list.
P.S. I got the energy and inspiration to manifest this dream by using the tools that I teach in GetQuirky where I listen to the things that really call to me and give me the most energy in life. If you want to get in touch with *your* spark for 2014, and get support and a structure for accountability for making your dreams happen, then join us for the GetQuirky New Year’s Edition class starting next Monday January 13. It’s an online class so you can take it from anywhere.
For some extra fun, I’m adding a little contest. There will be a raffle and if you are part of this special New Year’s class, you get the chance win a FREE 1-hour coaching session with me. I will be drawing one lucky winner during the class kickoff Monday January 13. Click here to get the details and sign up.
For the second installment of my IdeaChat series, I spoke with Helen LaVikinga, an accomplished Icelandic tango dancer who lives and teaches tango in Buenos Aires. Helen leads and follows (check out her performance in San Francisco this month) and she designs comfortable and elegant shoes. Helen is straight and she was one of the first to organize Queer Tango milongas in Buenos Aires. It’s more common for women to lead and men to follow in San Francisco and Northern Europe than in Buenos Aires where tradition and a sometimes-annoying and sometimes-delicious machismo holds sway. We talked about the growing popularity of Queer Tango worldwide, which could equally be called open-roles tango since it’s not so much about sexuality as it is about openness toward mixing up the roles. We spoke at the San Francisco International Queer Tango Festival, 2011. Helen has an extra-sexy voice because she was recovering from a cold.
Among the highlights:
–advice every foreign woman should bear in mind when she comes to Buenos Aires with hopes of tango bliss
–why women dancers should say no to dance offers from men more often (the men would be forced to learn more, for one)
–why more women are taking up leading worldwide and getting into open-roles tango
–why tango is both cruel and wonderful
Tango is theater, and we must play a role if we want to dance–glowing with confidence. This is how the maestro Graciela Gonzalez began a women’s technique workshop that I attended in Buenos Aires.
Sometimes we women in tango feel like goddesses, she said, and sometimes we feel invisible. Often Gonzalez said we are responsible for our own invisibility, emanating negative energy when we are not feeling confident, not comfortable. The men can sense it. They don’t ask slouchy women to dance. And so it goes. Tango is always a reflection of how you are feeling; people will want to dance cheek to cheek with people who are glowing.
Mostly, tango brings me bliss, if not bafflement at how I could be so obsessed with a dance. Lately, I have been absolutely addicted in a way that I have never been addicted to any other activity. Since coming back to San Francisco I have gone to a class or milonga almost every day, and for my two months in Buenos Aires, I lived and breathed tango in such an obsessive and ultimately beautiful way. The journey has been something of utter beauty: finding new connections to myself, my partners, the floor, and to passion itself.
Tango is setting a new standard in my life for excellence. I was never quite so into anything else–not writing or yoga. Writing is more complicated, more solitary, perhaps more necessary, but not as pleasurable. Tango makes me happier. It must be all the endorphins. So many older female tango dancers look so young. If I can lose myself in anything else, like singing, or cooking, half as much as I lose myself in tango, I will live out the rest of my days a happy person. It’s not just me, this is what tango does to people. My friend Griet wants to do a photo essay of the blissful expressions on people’s faces while they are dancing in Buenos Aires milongas. They are delicious.
But there is always a flip side, isn’t there? And that’s part of what makes tango so interesting. How people are willing to suffer for it. Learning tango is notoriously painful. I look back at videos of my first weeks learning when I was in Cali, and launch. I look like I am walking as if I am a Frankenstein dressed up for Halloween. Tango asks us to relearn how to walk; experienced dancers in Buenos Aires told me it takes five years to learn the tango walk. It’s that subtle.
In the beginning you can imagine the heavy plodding, the doubtful, hesitating way we try to reinvent walking. I remember in one class I forgot to tango-walk and just started walking normally and the teacher said, Yes, do that!!! My normal walk was so much closer to tango than my weird first-weeks-of-tango walk. Especially for leaders, the first two years require discipline and endurance.
I danced with a lovely man in his late 40s in Buenos Aires who told me he didn’t start to enjoy the dance until he had danced two years. The level of deliberation and sheer anxiety was too much, but then at two years, the bliss kicked in, and he was hooked. He got an invitation to go to the south of Brazil for 10 days, but he couldn’t go. Why? There would be no tango. He didn’t want to go more than three days without tango. Another Scottish couple planned two weeks of travel in Argentina during their six weeks in Buenos Aires, but cut it short after a week. Again, there was no tango.
My tortured-until-two-years in friend and I had that conversation at Gricel, a warm candyland of a milonga with a beautiful pin flourescent sign warmly illuminating the dance floor. But the otherwise friendly scene at Gricel sent me outside to cry once early in my time in Buenos Aires. I was in my first three weeks in Buenos Aires and another dancer who was good but not great had given me five points of “feedback” during a dance. That’s not appropriate at a milonga. I considered cutting off the tanda, but didn’t. I hate that feeling of continuing to share myself with someone I don’t trust.
I went back to my table of Norwegian and Swiss dancers unable to hide feeling overwhelmed by his “feedback.” They immediately understood. All women feel it, and as I learned later from talking to male friends, men get it from women too. Women can be just as “helpful” as men. Too much feedback at a milonga. Any is inappropriate in a social setting.
So that sent us outside for a teary heartfelt discussion about what we suffer for tango. Solveigh, a beautiful and hip Norwegian woman who is 64 for looks 50, told me she started tango at 60. When she started learning in Bergen, all her dance partners were much younger. She felt out of place and insecure. She drove hours for milongas and then drove home feeling demoralized. But it was all worth it for the moments of high bliss. She told me, “Don`t ever give it up, if you have a heart for the dance and the music it will give you so much pleasure in the future.” Life as a tango dancer is a tangonovela.
Later in Buenos Aires my friend Griet and I had a fascinating conversation with three Romanians who had come to dance. They were just as obsessed as we are, if not more, and had been dancing for two and five years, respectively. We went around the table and talked about what had drawn us to tango, and what kept us. I talked about the floating feeling that I get from some dances, the feeling of floating above reality, and that blissful sensation keeps me from coming back. And the fact that tango is sensual without being sexual, a chance to enjoy the body without have sex.
Simona recast my reason as “forgetting” and said that it’s basically the same for her. Dancing tango is a way of leaving behind reality and existing in another world. The music is so powerful at times I get tingles and can barely even dance. (There have been some hilarious moments when I felt like I was too excited to dance and couldn’t dance well as a result. That is more likely to happen when there is a live orchestra.)
Another Romanian guy told us about how salsa—and then tango–helped him to climb out of a limitless hole of depression. His friend wants to be excellent at tango and is motivated to be an above-average dancer. She loves traveling to tango festivals, and the drive to be better keeps her going.
Griet talked about tango being a chance to give and receive love. That idea came into closer focus for us during the last week of our time in Buenos Aires. When a dance wasn’t going well or we were not excited about dancing with someone, we just focused on giving love. Somehow the choice to love your partner can make a not-great dance a little better. One of our first teachers in Colombia talked about the issue of love in tango a lot. Buenos Aires teachers didn’t talk about love quite as much. They were more focused on technique.
Love is essential, that’s the missing piece. I may have a technically beautiful dance but without a heart connection it feels a little empty. It’s really about the connection, which is definitely what first captivated me when I saw a couple dancing tango for the first time in Cali, Colombia. I thought, this is something else. This is mindfulness, two people attuned to each other on a level that I had never seen in salsa or in any other dance. Tango demands complete awareness to feed that connection and keep it alive. That is what keeps me coming back.
Tango feels like the passion I have been looking for a long time. It makes me happy. I don’t even need to be dancing. Watching others dance can be equally blissful. It’s the transportingly beautiful music, and most of all, the utter concentration and mindfulness that tango requires. If I am dancing, and my mind wanders just for a minute, my dance falters in a way that it is much more obvious than if my mind wanders while dancing salsa. I love the way that tango captures all of my attention. Even when I am watching others, I find myself completely focused watching them.
I have to admit that sometimes in my pre-tango life (funny how I could already say that, the pre-tango life. . . ) I felt a certain kind of despair. I would look at other people who have passions like ceramics or snow-shoeing that they really love. They get lost in the moment doing them, they know that they are going to enjoy a day if they spend it doing ceramics or snow-shoeing. I just couldn’t think of any one passion in my life where I would fairly reliably find joy.
How many Saturday afternoons did I spend shopping with a friend? Buying a new shirt might be sort of fun but it’s an expensive (and also cheap) form of joy. I’m not sure finding a great dress on sale qualifies as joy, more a thrill. Yoga, not really. I enjoy it for its emotional and physical benefits. Tennis is occasionally fun, but I can’t say that I care enough to work on my serve. Languages, yes, I love learning languages and that comes relatively easy for me. Writing is a need and it makes my life, mind and spirit infinitely richer. But I can’t say that writing consistently brings me joy. It also has brought me angst. So where is the joy in my life? That zone in my life where I lose track of time and become one with whatever I am doing, that gives me energy and uplift? I felt really sad when I didn’t know.
I was on the search for something that would give me joy at home this year while traveling. Traveling, I would say, is a joy. I get to be the amateur (for the love of it) sociologist that I naturally am, observing other cultures. But for most of this year, I felt like I was trying out a lot of things that I didn’t love enough to commit to, like scuba diving and surfing. I did a week of surfing lessons in Jericoacoara, Brazil. I enjoyed understanding the velocity of a wave and how one might try to ride it, but I wasn’t a natural and I thought, I just don’t care enough to spend a month of my life battling waves. I enjoyed watching surfers, especially the women, but just couldn’t imagine getting there myself. Ditto with capoeira: I like it, but would I ever get that good at it? I wondered, when am I ever going to find anything that I love enough to commit to it?
Patience. I think I finally found it. There were times when I really thought I was going to quit tango and give up, because the basics of the dance like the walk and the posture weren’t coming to me. But I stuck with it and found the right teachers and over time I gradually improved. There were also “big bang” improvements when suddenly the dance clicked. I am at the beginning of a lifelong learning curve, but over time I am loving tango more and more. The music. The dance. The blissful mindfulness of dancing and watching other people dance. And the people I have met through tango. I have learned some really important things by sticking with tango, even for just two months in Cali.
Now that I have finally found something that I actually love enough to commit to, I can see that it makes a big different to find the right fit. Maybe this is how people feel when they finally meet a lifelong mate. They realize that they were just trying too hard with all those others who weren’t the right fit. Now I can see that tango is a fit for me in a way that a lot of other things—most things, in fact—are just not.
For example, kitesurfing. While I was traveling I met tons of women who brimmed with energy and enthusiasm when they talked about kitesurfing, They talked about the adrenaline and I love adrenaline rushes, so I thought, I’m going to try this! Well, I did. I just couldn’t quite see it. It’s possible that I quit my lessons after one day because the water was way too cold at Lago Calima near Cali. But I kept thinking, for the cost of one hour of kitesurfing lessons I could do four hours of tango lessons!
Tango is a way better fit for me than kitessurfing. Tango is about connection and I enjoy feeling connection with others because I am such an interior person. Kitesurfing is totally solo and feels a little lonely to me. I am already lost in my own thoughts. Tango is a language, a communication between two people, and I enjoy languages. Tango has an endless depth to it in terms of styles and moves, and the depth of emotion expressed, both light and dark, and I like depth. Kitesurfing must have a lot of depth too but I just don’t care to learn it. Kitesurfing involves a lot of equipment and I hate dealing with equipment, it would be a chore to me to set up and take apart the kite every time. All you need for tango are proper dancing shoes and music. I love that.
Tango has really shown me that I have to find a lot of joy and bliss in an activity in order to want to pursue it. And that I feel a degree of passion for tango that I never felt for yoga, tennis, capoeira, or improv theater. (Though I am thinking improv theater might fall in the category of “if I had stuck with it longer, I might love it more, so I am going to try it again once I am settled somewhere.)
It brings me a feeling of peace to realize that there is at least one thing out there that I love enough to really commit to and learn deeply. In some way, understanding the qualities that bring my joy in tango helps me to understand how to bring more joy into my life with other things too. I’ve realized that my joy really comes through collective forms of music and dance–singing and dancing with other people. I am very much at the beginning with tango. It’s even possible this will be a passing fancy, though I hope not. Tango can be a lifelong love, and people usually get better as they get older. That is an exciting thought.
Tango has become one of those subjects where I have way too much to say. Tango consumed the last six weeks of my life in Cali. I have been so fully engaged with learning tango, and thinking through its various resonances and pleasures, that I wasn¬¨¬•t able to stop and write about it because the story of my tango learning experience kept evolving.
Now I have left Cali (sniff, sniff) and I am hanging out in Bogota for a few days before flying to Boston, so I will at the very least post this video. And soon will come the flood of writing, along with photos and videos documenting the steep learning curve of learning tango! (I am still at the beginning of that curve, I would say.) Tango is going to be a lifelong love.
Below is a short show that I did with one of my teachers, Oscar, to show off everything I learned in six weeks. Actually I only worked with Oscar for my last ten days. He was the showy teacher, the one who taught me lots of wild, sensual moves. He is a pure performer. My other teachers were more focused on technique or on feeling. Our show included two improvised dances: a traditional tango, and a Tango Nuevo (new tango, which relaxes the rules to allow the dancers to let loose with a lot more performative moves).
A viejoteca plays old salsa classics, and may or may not attract an older crowd.
Traveling is not necessarily that relaxing. Being on the move all the time, unpacking and repacking every two or three days, getting up for early buses, meeting new people every day. The rest comes when you find a place where you want to stay for a while.
I have always been fascinated by travelers who unpredictably wound up staying in a place. One Swiss woman told me her story of going to Honduras’ Bay Islands for cheap diving. She fell in love with a German diver and became a dive master herself, working for the diving school. She wound up staying for two months and loved both things—the diving and the guy. I wanted to fall in love unpredictably (with a place). Cali and Caleno-style salsa and tango have been those unpredicted loves for me. Call has lulled me into a dream world of constant dancing.
Cali is not a very pretty city. In the end, a beautiful environment doesn’t matter so much as a beautiful activity. I never realized how much I absolutely love dancing. I don’t call myself a dancer because that sounds like professional dancer; but being in Cali and consistently studying salsa and tango has made me realize that I am capable of dancing faster and learning much more technique than I believed possible. It just takes sustained practice. And I never felt such dancing highs before as I have felt here. I wouldn’t say every night has been that way, there have also been real downers. But there have been some truly magical spells, spins on the dance floor when I thought, wow, I didn’t know dancing could be so much fun.
Dancing at La Matraca, a favorite nostalgic mostly tango (with some salsa) club. Pre-lessons. I would never look at the floor now! (Right.)
Cali is a party city but it’s a party city based around an artful activity. I’ve visited party towns like Praia de Pipa in Brazil where it seemed all that people did was stay up all night, drink, do drugs, and start dancing to electronic music at 3 am and it all seemed pointless to me. Boring. Cali has this huge nightlife but it’s built around a real passion. Going out is a lot more interesting when there’s something do beyond just getting a beer and talking.
I’ve gotten a little obsessed with figuring out how long I have been in Cali. The fact that I didn’t even know how long I have been in Cali disturbs me. I have the sensation that I have lost control of my life. In the end I will have spent about six weeks here if I can execute on my plan of actually leaving. Funny how dramatic that sounds but when you are traveling and get comfortable in a place it takes a lot of emotional energy to catapult yourself into the traveling mode again.
The words unbeautifully seductive run through my mind when I think about Cali. I only planned to spend a few days here. That was five weeks ago. I always say, just one more week. That’s a common story in Cali: it’s not just me.
Mauricio, a national Tango Champion, and one of our tango teachers, performing with partner at La Matraca
Cali is a city driven by a singular passion: to dance salsa (and bolero, cha-cha, bachata, doble paso, fox, and tango). On more than a few occasions, we go out and someone points out a Salsa World Champion on the dance floor. Or a Tango World Champion. (Sometimes you start to wonder how could there be so many?) The recent salsa festival showcased the talent of Cali’s kids and adults, and my, can they dance. People tell you stories of learning to dance from their parents and grandparents and I feel jealous that the U.S. doesn’t have this strong tradition of partner dance. We have lindy hop, swing, Charleston, but I can’t think of any parents who taught their kids these dances.
Cali calls itself the worldwide salsa capital. For a long time, I didn’t really believe it.
Caleno style salsa isn’t widely recognized in the way that Cuban salsa or Linea (LA-style) salsa are. If the rest of the world doesn’t know what Caleno salsa is, how could it be the capital? The recent Mundial (Worldwide) Salsa Festival in Cali featured almost exclusively couples and gropus from Colombia, if not Cali. I discussed this with a guy who runs a salsa video show from London, and he said it’s because the Calenos absolutely live salsa in a way that no other city does, and they incorporate styles and music from all over the world. The audience for salsa is greater here than in any other city because the passion is so pervasive. I walked into a grocery store the other day practicing some salsa steps and a man in his mid-50s or so smiled at me and said, Yo bailo tambien–I dance too. And he showed me his steps.
Caleno style is so diverse and varied that the dance, when danced well, is never boring, and finely attuned to the music. Almost every cab or grocery store is playing salsa music, and it’s about the music just as much as it’s about the dance. I rarely hear Top 40. Once in a chi-chi club in the chic neighborhood Granada, but I had the feeling, how boring and soulless.
A gentleman celebrating his birthday at La Matraca, and his dance partner of the moment
There are dozens of dance schools to choose from and more salsatecas than I will visit. Some of the clubs are reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever, with florescent lights lining the floor and the ceiling, others are nostalgic and like a club in Havana or Buenos Aires. I am a fan of the viejotecas that play older music and attract a more mature crowd. I love watching people in ther 50s, 60s, and 70s rule the dance floor.
Sometimes it seems like dancing is too important in Cali. My favorite dancing nights have been at Tin Tin Deo where there are a mix of Colombians and foreigners, great dancers with a variety of styles and no pressure. Sometimes at other places a dance can feel stiff as if the men are humorless and seem ego-driven. They really want to teach you and look good, and if you mess up, you can’t laugh about it. For me, messing up is often the best part. It’s a chance to laugh together.
Dancing plays a central role in dating. A Colombian friend Angelique tells me Caleno women will go out with guys they don’t like that much because they are good dancers.
During the daytime I sometimes wonder what I am doing here. Rio was a city where I loved the luxury of taking a cab–the city was beautiful if sometimes overly stimulating to watch go by. In Cali, taking a cab is much cheaper but the view is boring. The streets all kind of look the same, blocky, cinderyblocky new buildings. And unless I am in a dance class, or enjoying the friendships I have made here, I get confused, What am I doing here?
But at night (or in almost any dance class) the appeal of Cali becomes more clear. The wheatpasted posters for Viejotecas (salsatecas playing old salsa classics) and other salsa nights give hint to the pulse of the city, and to why so many people stay here much longer than they expect to when they come to visit for a few days. Cali is one of Latin America’s cities with the greatest African influence (other big ones are Havana, Salvador, Rio). The African influence shows up in the city’s obsession with dance.
Now that I am actually getting more skilled and confident in my salsa I am enjoying dancing more and more. It’s getting to be a true high. Before coming to Cali I always felt kind of bipolar with salsa: sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it. It all depended on the night and my dance partners. If I had partners that I loved, being spun around and connecting with someone could be a total joy. But if I got asked to dance by men who were rude or threw me around like a doll, I felt manhandled, and wondered why I had put myself in that situation on a Saturday night.
But I never actually took classes. I never trained the way I am training now, practicing steps over and over again, as an individual and in partner work.
Now that I am taking so many classes, practicing the steps so much, I have developed a much stronger sense of rhythm. You can always keep your rhythym is what people have told me here, and now, in week three, I’m happy to say that’s actually true. I don’t quite feel quite as much at the effect of every partner.
My Belgian friend Wooter who is a bit of a fact boy (one of those guys who always has a study to cite) tells me that dancing all the time makes you happy. I still want to see the study and understand the science, but it’s not hard to believe.
Hi! I’m Sasha
Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to pursue their truest desires in the bedroom and the world.
Author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (HarperCollins) + To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster).
At work on a memoir called Wet, about adventures in healing through sensuality.
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.