If I’m going to be reincarnated, coming back as Antonio Banderas would be entirely acceptable. As Roger Ebert says at the end of his “Take the Lead” review, Banderas oozes cool and charisma, just like he does in all of his movies that I’ve seen.
“Desperado” remains one of my peak cinematic experiences, notwithstanding Ebert’s tepid review. However, I have to admit that my memories are as much of Salma Hayek as of my man Antonio.
Last night Laurel and I finished watching “Take the Lead,” a predictable yet inspiring story of how ballroom dance changes the lives of inner city kids. Banderas is a dance instructor who brings the tango, waltz, and fox trot into a basement high school detention hall.
By the time he’s done (gosh, what a surprise!), the once-resistant students have become ardent dance aficionados, able to go head to head with snooty white kids at a fancy competition. They meld their street hip hop moves with traditional styles, loosening up even the staid judges.
Banderas is as much an etiquette teacher as a dance instructor. Waiting in the high school office to talk to the principal, he stands up whenever a woman walks by and opens the door for her, thereby melting the hearts of female office staff.
This reminded me of the time I was in the Portland condo of a sixty-ish couple who I had worked with before but didn’t know very well socially. I was sitting in the living room with the husband, waiting for his wife to get dressed. We were chatting away, then he suddenly stopped talking and leaped to his feet.
At first I had no idea what was going on. Then, I did. Good god, I realized, he actually rises whenever his wife walks into the room. At least when company is around. I felt like an etiquette clod. For a while after that I made a point of opening car doors and such for Laurel. But I blow hot and cold when it comes to traditional courtesies.
Maybe “Take the Lead” will re-inspire me. I liked how Banderas explained why men have to learn how to take the lead in dance, and why women have to learn how to trust them. As in dance, so in life. Respect between the sexes on the hardwood floor transfers over into respect on the street. And the living room.
Yesterday I got an email message from Chan Park, the author of “Tango Zen” (who presents a koan on his web site, how can you dance tango without legs?). I ordered the book directly from Chan a while back, and he’d asked how I liked it.
I told him about my glimpse of Tango Zen. I’d welcome a more expansive view. Hopefully I’ll be able to attend one of Chan’s workshops someday. In one of his emails, Chan shared his philosophy.
TangoZen is about learning to appreciate traditional tango through disciplines of Zen, which is synonymous to simplicity and clarity of body and mind. For decades dancers have discovered that learning to enjoy dancing requires not only physical but also mental disciplines.
TangoZen is to advocate and promote the traditional tango with aid of the Zen, which teaches us to devote 100% of our physical and mental attention to what we are doing Here Now.
…Goal of the TangoZen courses is to help the students appreciate the tradition tango by experiencing total concentration on dancing while dancing Tango. To accomplish the goal, the students in the TangoZen courses are guided to practice a number of exercises, which are fundamental and closely linked to tango dance movements.
The exercises are adopted from martial arts such as Tai Chi and Chi Kung, and meditation techniques such as yoga.
Sounds good. Right up my alley.
Laurel and I hope to continue learning Tango through a five-week class being offered by the RJ Dance Studio in Salem next month. Only a few couples have signed up so far, so I want to plug the class in the hopes that some other locals will get the Tango bug.
Watch “Take the Lead” and you’ll see some hot Tango that might infect you. When I phoned the RJ Dance Studio today to put our names down I mentioned the movie. “That’s basically American Tango,” I was told, “not Argentine Tango. We teach American in our class.”
Legless, of course.