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The Magician's Assistant

Every once in a while it's nice to see one's self through Muggle eyes.

Usually I do not look in mirrors when dancing or practicing. I look inside, not outside. But in accidental glimpses, I see a few things I like and a lot of things that make my ears burn. I certainly do not see a Big Girl, any more than I did when I was eight years old, staring into the bathroom mirror, sucking in my cheeks, and arching my eyebrows so I would look like Ava Gardner. All I saw then was a little girl with braids and scraped-up knees, who was born with the right genes to become a glamourous grown-up lady one day. All I see today is someone who doesn't practice enough, hasn't been sufficiently conscientious about eliminating bad habits, and doesn't make enough of an effort to hablar castellano. Who has the promise of turning, only better.

But Rafael asked me to demonstrate with him for a couple of students, so I did. In dojos, when the sensei asks such a thing of you, you do it, unhesitatingly, without shrinking into a nervous ball, without indulging in personal neuroses of insufficiency, and without a scene. —But it's one thing to show off a kata and another to show off a tango! Hello, little white belts, I am...another little white belt.

I countered my jittery electricity by forcing myself to dance slower, more deliberately, and less showily than usual. We did simple things. But in the students' eyes, we had magical powers.

I saw me, dancing a familiar, mid-morning dance with a harmless ex-lover, in a plain practice skirt and my only pair of shoes (with all the gold worn off the inside sides). Wiggling my shoulders and failing to walk in a straight line, stepping outside of my axis, losing energy into a bent knee, not projecting enough, ruining my ochos, slumping, not dancing from my core enough, not moving en el compás, and not grounding my energy clearly. For starters.

They saw a flagrantly erotic display of overt sensuality, flowing all over the floor. They stared. They gaped. They saw my notorious rear end scoogelling around under clingy fabric. They saw Big Girl spike stiletto heels with ankle straps, just like a real tango dancer's. They saw not “me” but “us,” fluidly wrapping our bodies around the music and the moment and each other, twisting and untwisting, tricking and teasing.

They had no idea about anything. They wouldn't know a barrida if it came up and bit them in the culo. In their eyes, I was this amazing beautiful real tango dancer with magical powers. I was elegant. I was shocking.  I was meditative. I was dead sexy. To them. So what if you and I know better?

Is truth not in the eye of the beholder?