Return to site

No Place Like Home

“My heart needs a home,” she said.

“It already has one. Inside you,” I said.

We build our hearts' homes inside ourselves. Like other homes, they're an accumulation of accidental moments, love stories, trials, and times of peace. But the makeup of these internal homes evolves over time and one day we can wake up and look inside and find that we've moved house without even knowing it. Where is home, and how does dancing change how we define this?

Here's a scenario: Adam works a desk job fifty hours a week. He sits in a cubicle at a computer all day interacting with a screen. He eats lunch at his desk. He works out on an exercise machine with headphones in his ears, watching television. He commutes an hour each way, in his car, alone. In other words, Adam spends most of his productive hours alone. But he's a mildly extroverted kind of guy who doesn't like being by himself. Then he comes “home” to his house, and his wife, dog, and two and a half children are waiting for him. He is happy. His very small community of emotional support (and, dare I say it, love) all wait for him at his house. His private sphere. For Adam, his house and his private sphere are his “home,” but not because of the vinyl clapboard and the Kentucky bluegrass out front. Because of the lost teeth and the fetched newspapers and the anniversary dinners.

Now let's take Eve. Someone once said to me of people like Eve, “you don't want to ever become like these people. Most of these people leave here and have to go home alone to an empty house.” I say, is that necessarily a tragedy? —Eve does something for money during the day. But then she too goes home: she goes to a milonga. There she sees her friends. Maybe a few ex-lovers whom no one needs to know about. Mentors. New people with whom she knows she's going to have the most important things in common. Eve spends her evenings with people who have her back, and people who know the real her, in all her unapologetic glory. And she spends her evenings doing the same movements over and over again and they're different every time, hearing the same music over and over again and it's different every time, treading the same floor boards over and over again and they're different every time too. Eve's “home” is her public sphere because that's where what she loves lives. But Eve is mildly introverted and needs solitude to recharge. So when she's had enough, she goes back to her flat that is peaceful and quiet and gives her the space she needs to process life. And that's where she sleeps.

Is that a different kind of home? Do we need multiple homes?

All of us have felt “home” in someone's familiar but exciting embrace. We've felt the relief of buckling our dance shoe on a thousandth time, and that's home too. By practicing the same dance vocabulary over and over until we're dreaming ochos, we teach our muscles that home, what is familiar and therefore comforting, is tango. Home is the dance studio where we have our most intimate revelations and crises. Home is where we look into ourselves, the fingerprinted mirror in which we fix our posture. Home is the patch of dining room floor where we get it wrong so many times we want to scream, and where we think with elation that we've finally gotten it right until someone comes along and points out that it's still wrong. Home is revealing ourselves in a new way to our community and their acceptance of this new way, it's wearing a new dress and entering a milonga from stairs above. Home is where we keep our past, our present, and our future selves.

Welcome home.