Monday, March 29, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Hold Me Tight and Tango Me Home

The idea that dancing can change your life has become a bit of a cliche. How many times have you heard a celebrity on Dancing with the Stars talk about how dancing has made a difference in their lives? Well, it's  cliche because it's true. And Maria Finn's book is a great example of that.

Maria Finn started taking tango lessons after throwing her husband out when she discovered that he'd cheated on her. It turns out that Maria learned that tango had a lot to teach her about understanding love and loss. Focusing on tango gave her a reason to get up in the morning. And she discovered like most people who sign up to take dance lessons that it can become highly addictive. She compares the endorphins that are released in dancing to those that are released when people take drugs. Dancing is like a drug although without the bad skin, tooth decay and robbing your family to pay for your habit. Although the cost of 3 lessons a week in New York costs about has much as having a minor drug habit.

As she slowly starts to heal, her life begins to revolve around the new friendships that she makes in clss and the milongs (dance socials) that she attends.  I was fascinated by the history of tango that she reveals as she becomes more and more immersed in the dance. After waching DIRTY DANCING with her father who is visibly moved by the movie, she learns that he once had to dance with the female guests at resort where he once worked. There's a wonderful scene in Buenos Aires where she goes to try on tango shoes, the lovely stilettos that are designed to be aerodynamically suited to the dance. She goes to Argentina and Uruguay for a wedding and experiences tango in it's birthplace, taking lessons and going to milongas. She even goes to a gay milonga for an article that she writes on tango for a travel magazine. Along the way, she meets a new guy Josh, who she likes, but when they dance tango together they don't fit. Each chapter is named after a  new step that she learns, the embrace, hook, the sweep, the throw, as her heart heals and she returns to the world of dating, and deciding exactly what it is that she wants to do with her life. The book doesn't end with Finn being swept up in some new romance, instead she realizes that she enjoys landscape gardening, and starts a new business.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Having taking tango lessons, I felt her frustration as she struggled to learn to give up control to her partner, the embarassment at standing at the practice sessions waiting for someone to ask you to dance, and the way that some men blame their partner for their missteps. Finn writes about how men don't ask her to dance a second time because she wasn't at their level, and how at her first milonga, she had to explain that she was just a beginner. Reading this, I felt like I was reading about myself. Although I've taken tango for several months, I have yet to work up the courage to go a milonga. I'm intimidated by the people that I've seen who are just tango gods. But now after reading this book, I'm not going to be as timid as I'd once been. If Maria can have the courage, so can I.

I highly recommend this book, even if you are not a dancer, or have never taken a dance class in your life.

Verdict:  4 Apples

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