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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tbilisi Tango Therapy

I won’t write about Shevardnadze’s death.
I won’t write about Mayor’s elections.
This week I will write about something enticing.
Have you ever considered many films and books telling a story about a hero outsider? That archetype of a born-outside-of-the-realm saver, the one who comes to a foreign world and helps natives find strength in their own resources? Like Paul Muad’dib in Frank Herbet’s “Dune”, like that soldier guy from the “Avatar”? Fremen’s term for Paul is Lisan al-Gaib (sci fi haters, bear with me): the voice of the outer world.  Yes, on one hand, it has a colonial, white-men-will-save-the-world aftertaste – because why can’t natives just save themselves- but on the other hand, when you’re stuck in the same shit daily, the voice of the outer world is what gets you out!
 Got me out, in any case.
Tbilisi has a little tango society. All you have to do is look them up on FB. Simple, right? No. Because why would I suspect it in Tbilisi? Thus, just like in a classical sci-fi adventure, a voice of the outer world, my Latvian therapist, who visits Georgia once in a blue moon (O.K. every other month), looked for the tango-dancing folks and joined them. And of course, despite his multiple stories about them, I still refused to believe that they exist. Tbilisi tango. A little cognitive dissonance. Beautiful magical unicorn.
But my best friend got interested and practically forced me to accompany our therapist to his tango lesson.
You get out of a smelly taxi.
Walk by the oft-visited TBC bank.
Glimpse towards road that leads to the despised Ministry of Education.
Walk into Eldorado café.
Chandeliers light up.
Girls in pretty dresses and high heels are perched on the wooden Vienna stools.
Pair of strangers dance.
Chocolate flows in the right corner.
And as time passes by, slim, well-posed boys walk to the group of girls, silently exchange looks, smiles, gestures, stand oppose each other, hold hands, press faces together and start dancing…
Couples multiply. It gets harder to focus on a particular pair. They are part of a bigger entity, they all do the same thing, they all do the different thing. Some dance shy. Some dance strong. Some dance close. Some dance apart.
 A confection of white lace and silk floats by and all I can think of is Rafaello dessert (I know, consumerism has maimed me for life). The girl has such reserved, tender passion, she keeps her eyes closed, she keeps her body away, save the temple area on the face, the hands around the back and sometimes, only sometimes, a high-heeled leg shoots up in the air, and sometimes it brushes against partner’s calves. Sometimes she wants to step away, but her partner blocks her with his feet. Smiling, with eyes closed, she dances in the free space that he lets her have, because, he is the one that cannot close his eyes, he is the one that has to watch out for other couples, choose direction, guess her wishes.
I squirm uncomfortably upon this realization. “But what if a girl does not want to sit around and wait to be picked? What if girls wants to lead?”, I ask. I live in a world where girls are not allowed to choose and lead. “They often learn the other part and partner up with each other”, casually answers my therapist and I really, really want to see that. He is back at the table, with his sickeningly good camera zoom, taking pics of the dancers. Then he walks up to a covey of Georgian girls, looks lingeringly, until one of them accepts his invitation, presses her face  against his and they join the dancing current.
We leave after 3 hours.
We walk through old streets with old wooden balconies.
I still can’t connect what I’ve seen with my city.
As I go on living in it, as I keep on walking in its streets, as things get mundane and tiresome, as I come up with all-night dancing and 100 happy days projects (more on that later), trying to fight this desperation, trying to cover up the emptiness, as I keep sacrificing sleep, healthy eating, rest, self-esteem, I forget that good things, truly good things exist in Tbilisi. I forget that I don’t always need to forge my own happiness, that sometimes happiness just sits there, waiting to be discovered.

I am plotting the next tango meeting.

P.S. the pic: this pic is horrible. My camera phone sucks at capturing motion and I didn't want to post close-ups, since I haven't asked for permission to post these pics. But, this is the proof that the unicorn is real :-)


  1. Nicely written, thank you! I am wondering what would your impression be of the tango in Uzbekistan, or, even more extreme, in Afghanistan? These are the places where I, before joining the Tbilisi tango group, started my tango journey, believed to be life-long... :)

  2. wow!!!
    I am glad that I was mistaken about tango and that life proves my stupid pre-conceptions wrong.
    Thank you for proving me wrong.
    I wish you all the best on your journey!!!