by Marguerite Brodie
I am often asked how I started Argentine Tango in Malaysia. If I had ever followed my logical mind, nothing would have happened. I would have been completely overwhelmed.
As it was, the Dance of the Heart, as I love to call Argentine Tango, stole my heart. That was the beginning and the end of logic for me. I followed the dictates of my heart and just lived one day at a time.
My first brush with tango was a show in November 1999 – Tango 2000 – at the Sunway Lagoon Resort Ballroom. I was blown away by the music and elegant sensuality of the dance. It was almost 2 years later that I had my first lesson in Argentine Tango. I was visiting my daughter in Los Angeles. She knew how much I loved dancing and booked me 6 lessons. Instinctively, I knew I had to dance as much as possible. I attended all the milongas within driving distance and danced with anyone and everyone available.
After 2 weeks, I was back in Kuala Lumpur and again, no tango at all. After “pining” over the situation for another 6 months, I decided that I would teach the little that I knew to my contemporaries, so that we could start a little community. This way, if an instructor came through, there would be a group to support workshops.
Now, how does one teach when you know almost nothing about the dance. I bought a teaching video, studied it carefully and convinced myself that it shouldn’t be too difficult. Of course, “Ignorance is bliss”, “Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread” – all perfect descriptions of my efforts. However, I persevered and did get better.
In January & February of 2004, I studied in Boulder, Colorado. As soon as I had settled myself in to the course, I investigated the tango scene in Boulder. There was a vibrant and active community who were extremely warm and welcoming. The women took it upon themselves to introduce me to the better dancers, they drove me to the different milongas and back. I booked myself in for 4 lessons a week and participated in all the weekend workshops. Denver is a 45 minute drive away from Boulder and some weekends, we would go to Denver for the bigger milongas. There was a noticeable improvement in my dance after the 2 months in Boulder. October, 2004, I attended the Portland Tangofest – the single biggest tango festival in the US.
Another big breakthrough came about in 2005. In April & May, I spent 2 months in Buenos Aires. In that time, it was just tango, tango, tango and even more tango. Group and private lessons and dancing at milongas every day – averaging 6 – 7 hours of dancing daily. I was in heaven!
However, when I came back to Kuala Lumpur, I could not teach as before – which was a sequence of steps straight out of the teaching video. Again, my learning curve as a teacher dipped as I struggled with the new techniques. Many of the previous students were unhappy with the new method of instruction. I struggled with myself – looking for that fine balance of teaching good basic techniques and giving enough “dance candy” in the form of fancy steps, to keep students energized and interested.
2006 – again spent 1 month in Buenos Aires – lessons and just dancing at milongas. Also soaked in the atmosphere of the city – enjoying the coffee and media lunas in the morning, the wonderful dinners with great Argentinean wine. Buenos Aires has its own unique rhythm and the people seem to know how to enjoy themselves.
From 2003, I was organizing workshops for traveling instructors, drumming up interest and trying to get the other dance instructors of the different dance schools to learn, so that they could teach Argentine Tango. They were not interested. I persevered on my own, doing my best.
2007, another breakthrough – Andreas Lerhke, a German dance instructor with extensive experience in Argentine Tango came to Kuala Lumpur. We joined forces and taught together for almost 2 years. That was a very enjoyable and satisfying time for me, as we practised seriously twice weekly. In that time, we organized the first Kuala Lumpur Tango Festival in 2008, which was a great success.
Sadly for me, Andreas could not take the tropical heat and decided to return to Germany in October, 2009. However, he does come back annually to help with the festival.
And so tango grows in Kuala Lumpur, at her own pace. The more I am associated with tango, the more I realize she is her own creature. We think we have chosen tango, but no, she has chosen you. We do our best, but she grows at her own pace, and as she thinks fit. Whatever, I am her willing slave.