Storytelling at Work
February 12, 2020
TANGO: Language with No Words


What follows is a story by one of my friends, the very lovely and talented Deborah Ramsden. She read me the story today and I was very touched by it. Maybe you will be, too...

I've danced tango in New York, Portland, London, Italy, and Maui. I've tangoed with short balding tangueros in Buenos Aires dance halls until 3:00 in the morning. I've listened and danced to tango music for hours and years, until it lived in my bones and muscles and heart and skin.

Tango has become a part of me. My feet have gotten used to 3-inch heels and have learned to slide backwards on the floor behind me, carving out the space with just the inside of the ball of my foot, leading with my big toe, while leaning ever so slightly towards my partner.

Learning to wait was the hardest thing the first year, not to anticipate, to slow the breath, to calm my impatience and simply stand in my center, grounded on my axis, and yet be completely alert and ready to move at a moment's notice.

I am not the initiator, or the choreographer, so humbling at first, then frustrating as hell, and finally liberating, as I get to close my eyes, if I want, and be swept into the unseen space behind me.


And then there's the embrace, "abrazo" in Spanish, a close embrace dance we call it -- hands firm and light, heart to heart, connecting right through the center, arms encircling ribs and torso, cheeks touching, legs and feet sweeping, crossing, intertwined, sometimes kicking, and ultimately always walking in intricate patterns on the floor.

When it's good. I melt, I fly, completely lost in the presence of movement, breath and sounds that connect two human beings who may have never met before, gladly losing my boundaries in delicious oneness.

When it's not good, I try to breathe and find my ground, try to forgive my partner for his inexperience, awkwardness, or arrogance -- for not listening to the music or me, for forcing steps with no connection.

Five years ago, on the night of my brother's memorial service in London, I decided I had to tango even though it was after 11 pm. So I took the Tube to Covent Garden and walked the silent streets, wet with rain, with an address clutched in my hand, and my tango shoe bag over my shoulder.

As I entered the narrow, barely lit street, I could begin to make out the lilt of one of my favorite tango songs. Was it Canaro, Poema, or maybe Di Sarli? And then, with great gratitude I knew, at least for the moment, I had come home.

Watercolors: Deborah Ramsden
More tango

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at February 12, 2020 12:47 AM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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