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Three Tangasms, or, I’ll Have What She’s Having

Virginia Vasconi and her regular dance partner

Virginia Vasconi and her regular dance partner

If you follow my writing, you know that I am interested in the power of pleasure including and beyond sex. One of my favorite -asms is the “tangasm,” an experience of all-over-the-body pleasure that I first discovered when I was a beginner in tango in my very first month of dancing.

To understand the tangasm experience better and share with you, I have asked three of my dear dancer friends, Virginia Vasconi, a professional tango dancer and teacher at DNI Tango, Nele Reial, my co-guide in the Quirky Heart Tango Adventure, and Juan-Pablo Genovese, an incredible soul that I met at ETI (Encuentro de Tangueros del Interior) (a tanguero rave for tango dancers outside Buenos Aires in Argentina) to share their most memorable tangasm with me–and you. When I shared these tangasm stories with my friend Laurence, she posted the stories on Facebook saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Exactly.

If you have an asm-to share of any kind, any experience of pleasure or ethereal connection that took you out of the everyday and to another planet, whatever this inspires you, then let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what unexpected connection sent you to another world. And if you come to Buenos Aires with me I will do my best to prepare you for your first tangasm.

Virginia Vasconi’s Tangasm
“This Tangasm was not my first but was an important one that marked a decisive point in my tango career. I was at the Chicago Tango Festival two years ago teaching and performing. By the way, I’m a professional tango teacher and dancer. [A great teacher and dancer!–ed. note Sasha]

In general, when you dance tango to make a living, many things are lost. When I rehearse with my regular partner, I’m focused on technique, foot-work, steps, creating and coordinating moves, following the music, looking elegant, beautiful, connected, etc. The connection, which is the essence of tango, turns out to be a well-known ordinary feeling, even when you struggle to make it better. This is as difficult as it is to work out a long-term marriage, when routine predominates and feelings are put aside for second place.

How do you recover the essence and feeling of passion, how can you stimulate that inner sensation?

Coming back to the festival on the last night I felt happy about my performance but I was missing something. I wondered: Why am I doing this? Where is my voice as a woman? Why am I feeling incomplete? What part of me is not pleased?

I will never forget that night in the Chicago Festival. One the most experienced teachers (a real gentleman and sweet person) invited me to dance.

Here is the moment I have no more words to describe. All of a sudden all the questions were answered, all my technique and theories were forgotten, all my judgments were vanished to give room to my tangasm! I felt like the luckiest woman on earth. I lost completely the notion of time and space. I felt that I was not even on this planet (or maybe I wished it). I remember the heartbeats, the temperature on my body, the feeling of not wanting to separate from the embrace between each song (I think we barely did). We were attached to each other as if velcro was between our chests.

Just this moment, this instant, I felt so alive! The same feeling I had when I had my first orgasm with an experienced man! I can still remember the effort to open my eyes and come back to reality. It is so hard to describe in words: the most valuable tango treasure: the magical and mysterious connection, the melting in a wonderful embrace that makes you travel to another galaxy! I wish you can all have it at least once!”

Nele Reial’s Tangasm

Nele, my co-guide in the adventure shares her tangasm. Nele is from Estonia and her first tangasm was in Italy. Here she dances the lead.

Nele, my co-guide in the adventure shares her tangasm. Nele is from Estonia and her first tangasm was in Italy. Here she dances the lead.

“It was my last night of one year living in Italy. My friend Giu, a beginner and my first teacher (!), invited me for our last dance. We had been going through a bad but passionate marriage learning tango: arguing, getting frustrated and blaming the other when we didn’t function and yet making it through the night, leaving the milonga with tired but satisfied faces.

This time our intention was different: spending time with a friend rather than trying to perfect our dance or teach each other. We demanding two relaxed. We started to dance. I felt comfortable, safe. I guess he felt especially good too, because this time it was different. We started to understand each other in a profound way on the dance floor. We got into “flow.”

I synchronized with him, the music, and the surroundings to such an extent that suddenly I didn’t feel his body neither mine, I didn’t feel the floor! My body didn’t have limits. I was him and I was even more. I felt the space expanding: the walls, the floor and the ceiling vanishing into the universe. There we were, two of us embracing and breathing and flowing around the space. Somehow I remember it like dancing on a pink cloud. I was meditating on the dance floor! The all-round harmony was so deep!

We had to be radiating our happiness because after we stopped I was quickly asked by another man to dance. I, who had been dancing tango only couple of times, was not a very popular pick. The inviter was a “real” tango teacher!

Five years later I teach tango. I have had amazing dances, made out of true connection, understanding, creation, love and passion, but there is nothing like my first tangasm. There is no correlation between a tangasm and how professional or advanced a dancer you are nor if your dance partner happens to be your lover or your father.”

Juan-Pablo Genovese’s Tangasm

Juan Pablo, Natalia, and their tangasm

Juan Pablo, Natalia, and their tangasm

“There are some key moments in the life of a tango dancer when you finally understand what is all about. One of those moments is when you have your first tangasm.

A combination of amazing music, an unbelievable embrace, musicality, dance chops and a deep connection that makes a whole lot of hormones rush through your body. The tangasm makes you forget about everything and everyone, and focus only on the sensations. Your mind disappears and you let the dance and the embrace take place. It is so powerful that you will crave it, you will look for it in any dancer you will dance with. Kind of addictive, if you ask me.

I have had two tangasms I remember well.

The first one was in the ETI (Encuentro Tanguero del Interior), a tango encounter that happens every four months in Argentina. About 500 to 900 crazy dancers gather together for three days of pure dancing. It’s the closest thing to a tanguero rave. You have to live it, believe me.

I was outside and there was a very light shower. I was catching my breath. A girl came and we started talking. After five minutes, I asked her to dance. She said yes. After that tanda, I had only that out of this world sensation that was her embrace, her presence, and her name. I looked for her and danced again. My first tangasm. A turning point.

The second tangasm was when I visited Tucumán, a city in the Argentine north. I was there for work, and I attended one little practica (an informal place to dance tango) Mateango. I met the teacher and organizer of the practica, and she danced with me. I really liked her. Next day, a Wednesday, September 18, 2013 (I DO remember it well, see?), we met again at another practica.

I asked this beautiful, sexy lady to dance. When she embraced me it was like heaven opened and a choir of angels sang. My goodness, it was un-be-lie-va-ble. The connection, the embrace, her dance, all of it, in one package. It was too much. And yes, I had my second tangasm. Before the practica ended, she asked me for a second tanda. Of course, I said yes. Enough said, she is my girlfriend now, my partner in dance and in life, and we are madly in love with each other. Each time I dance with her is the same. I crave her embrace. A tangasm each time we dance. Can anyone ask for more?

Your tangasm
What will your first tangasm be like? As you can see, there are many kinds. We are gathering for the next Quirky Heart Tango Adventures February 21-28 and March 21-28 for 7 days of tangasmic exploration. Join us in Buenos Aires and let’s find out!

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Posted in Argentina, Sex and Relationships, Tango, Travel, Traveling Alone, Travels

Five Reasons to Travel Alone

img_5687 During 2010, as I traveled alone through France, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina, I regularly encountered people who find it courageous to travel alone. I remember a hairstylist in Bogota. As she blow-dryed my hair, she told me she couldn’t picture it. I asked her why. She couldn’t really say. So it goes. For most people, traveling alone is unimaginable.

Traveling alone still gives me a thrill, but it’s not scary anymore, I’ve done it so much. Traveling alone can be occasionally lonely, yes. I have felt pangs of loneliness at times. Scary, in South America or Europe, rarely. It’s easy to meet people when you travel alone if you stay at hostels and hook up with couchsurfing, a global network of travelers who support each other through hosting and advice. People think that couchsurfing is only for finding a place to stay, but it’s also for making friends. Go to the “groups” section and find the city you’re visiting, find out what people in the couchsurfing community are planning. Post a message saying that you are coming to town, does anyone have advice or want to have coffee? Couchsurfing members are astonishingly friendly and helpful.

Here are five reasons to travel alone, some classic, some idiosyncratic. There are also reasons to travel with a romantic partner or with friends. Each experience is unique, but traveling alone is undoubtedly rich. Add yours in the comments.

1. Learn how to make decisions.
For me, traveling alone was one crash course in making decisions–just keep on rolling the dice and see what comes up. Stop the research. Stop the analysis paralysis. Just keep choosing and living. In travel, everything is as it is, and there’s always another day to change course and choose again. A lot more happens in life when you stop worrying about what to do and just go. That problem dogged me in the year before I made the decision to travel. I was so freaked out by the idea of putting my life in storage and jumping off the known career path that I pondered the decision to death. I planned to travel only four months and wound up going for over a year. Once I got started I didn’t want to stop.

dsc03710 2. Openness to the world. The sense of risk and heightened reward is what draws me to traveling alone. Traveling with a friend can be an adventure too, but the adventure quotient is usually higher when you are alone. You’re more vulnerable in the sense that you have to seek out company and help. There is a lucky charm in traveling alone. My friend Mark lived in Rio for three years right by the beach in Ipanema. On a solo trip to Rio I stayed with him and he jokingly told me he could always spot the solo travelers by the red streaks on their backs: the spot they couldn’t reach themselves with sunscreen. Apt observation and probably true for some solo travelers but not all. But hey, just because I’m traveling alone doesn’t mean I can’t ask a hunky Carioca volleyball player to put sunscreen on the hard-to-reach places. That’s the advantage of traveling alone, isn’t it? Openness to adventure. :)

3. The grace of trusting in strangers. Traveling alone also teaches you to trust your fellow men and women. They are the ones who help you out when you are in need. I will never forget the man who stopped a long-distance bus for me in Colombia so he could go buy me Coke and toilet paper (I confessed to him that I had “digestive” issues right before we got on the bus). Then he invited me to his family’s home for lunch, and I still get emails from the family saying they will never forget me. I have had similar experiences all over Brazil and Colombia. The kindness and welcoming spirit is unbelievable.

4. Star in your own movie. When you travel alone, the trip is completely yours. You are the star of your own movie. All the mistakes are yours to make, the serendipitous discoveries to enjoy, and the insights to savor. The recollection of the trip is entirely personal and private. Even though I have blogged extensively about my travels, there is no one who was along the whole journey with me who can say what it was all about. Some people prefer to share memories and make meaning from the trip together. That is beautiful as well, but there is also a soul-searching power in doing an odyssey on your own.

When we set out on an extended travel by ourselves, we may not know why we are going when we begin, and it may only be clear when we come back. When you finally understand the narrative of your solo trip, it’s your secret.

Me and my Belgian BFF

Me and my Belgian BFF

5. A new best friend (or love) 4-eva. In a whole year of travel, I made a new best friend who I know will be a friend for life. We will be at each other’s weddings if we get married, we coach each other through our post-(or newly)-travel lives, and we hope to meet up for other adventures in Africa, Asia, and to dance tango in Buenos Aires. We spent close to two months together in Cali, and we met up again in Buenos Aires for two more months. Our friendship is pure gold and we have both helped each other grow in innumerable ways. That openness to a new friend might not have been there if I had already been traveling with someone else. And who knows? You might meet the love of your life. Thataforementioned friend did actually . . . .

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Posted in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Travel, Traveling Alone, Travels

Deciding to Enjoy Life

The dreamy streets of Barichara

On my final afternoon in Barichara, a tiny, beautiful, impossibly tranquil Colombian mountain town I have now decided is heaven, I dropped in to a sweet bakery and coffee shop for a rainy-day cappuccino. A Colombian woman, around 50, asked if she could park her bags and herself at my table. Of course. For me, meeting locals is really the whole point of traveling.

My new friend Shoya is a painter and also rents rooms to tourists. She would like to organize artistic tours of Barichara to show visitors the artistic side of the city: sculptors’ studios and the beautiful interiors of Barichara homes. My Brazilian friends Roma and Iracema and I stayed in a couple’s home, sort of an informal bed and breakfast worthy of being written up in Conde Nast Traveler, that only cost $17 a night. The interiors are indeed stunning. The ceilings are about twenty feet high and have exposed driftwood beams, the floors are large cobblestones, and every windowsill and bookshelf was adorned with a piece of unexpected art. My shower consisted of water that shoots over a piece of rock, creating the sensation of taking a shower out in nature.

A hammock in my home away from home in Barichara

Shoya and I talked about writing, sculpture and painting, and how to avoid suffering during the creative process, when the answer to a problem is not yet clear. It sounded like she had spent enough time in solitude painting. While she loves painting, the solitude is not always fun or easy. So she wants to spice up her life doing other things she enjoys.

Somehow conversation turned to San Francisco’s cable cars and the enjoyment of life. She asked me about the cable cars, and I said, yes, they are great but they are for tourists. Why, she said. I explained they don’t help me get where I need to go. And that in twelve years of living in San Francisco I never even took a cable car.

In my thirteenth year, I decided that I wanted to take a cable car. I wanted to enjoy life and somehow taking a cable car–doing a touristy thing in my own town–became symbolic of enjoying life. I told her I wanted to “disfrutar la vida,.” I finally took a cable car ride with my best friends Jenny, Liz, Sonya, and Adam, and Jenny and Adam’s son Kai as part of a scavenger hunt we organized for Jenny’s birthday. None of us had ever gone on a cable car before. The ride was magic.

My new Colombian sculptor friend immediately latched on to this phrase, “disfrutar la vida,” and become quite animated.
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Posted in Colombia, Personal Growth, Travel, Traveling Alone

Why I Always Celebrate My Birthday—And You Should Too (Yours, I¬¨‚ĆMean)

One of my stylish dance partners at the tango club, La Matraca, on my birthday eve

I just celebrated my birthday in Cali, Colombia with more than 24 hours of celebration.

Many people around my age prefer to de-emphasize or ignore their birthdays rather than call attention to getting older. It is easy to be filled with anxiety about a new chronological age. I won’t even get into the reasons why: We all know them.

As Bette Davis famously said, getting older is not for sissies. As I get older, I feel like it’s even more important to make a big deal out of the day that I was born to counteract all the negativity around age. I’m a believer in the extended birthday celebration. Why only one day? My friends Sonya and Liz, twins, and I share the same birthday. One year, when they turned 30, we celebrated for a whole week with four separate celebrations, including a piano concert at 7:30 am at a Turkish cafe on our actual birthday before work.

As I get older, I am more and more committed to being happy on my birthday and creating a great experience. I remember turning 29 in Hawaii. I was on a weeklong vacation with my dear friend Ali, who is six years younger than me. I moped about turning 29, how I hadn’t published a book yet, found the love of my life, whatever. Ali was very annoyed with me. I can’t believe that I wasted that birthday in Hawaii whining about nothingness when I could have been appreciating the moment, or created an experience that I would have loved. In this respect, I am starting to believe that people really do get happier as they get older. You learn how to live.

I’m really committed to never lying about my age, and instead being proud of all my experience. I think of my friend Ira in Rio for inspiration here. We celebrated her 40th birthday together with her toting around childlike candles for 4-0 the whole weekend, and she kept saying how happy she was to have made it to age 40. She was so joyful in her gratitude. She didn’t always believe she would survive (and we’re not talking about someone with a fatal disease) til age 40. I never heard an American woman talk about being grateful for making it to 40.

A Colombian friend Yeimmi gave me a great idea for how to answer the frequent question, How old are you? Her aunt Olga (her role model in life, who runs a cleaning business in Florida and sounds like a very feisty, smart woman) taught her how to joke and answer with a smile, “20 with x years of experience.” That way you get to be forever young with layers of sexy wisdom and maturity.

For the last five years I have been celebrating with Liz and Sonya. Part of me would have loved to have been in San Francisco to celebrate with them. But I also wanted this birthday to reflect the spirit of this year’s adventure. Even if it absolutely sucked and I was totally alone in some random shitty hotel, I wanted the chance to see what would happen. I wanted that sense of risk. The feeling of being suspended in air for my birthday in keeping with the rest of 2010. Life is more memorable when you change things up.

So I decided to stay in Cali, though, which has become home over the last three weeks anyway. This hostel is the coziest places where I have stayed and I have become close with several people here. I am having one of the times of my life losing (and finding) myself in Cali’s dance culture, learning Caleno-style salsa and tango. (More to come on these in future blog posts.)

My birthday eve was Sunday night at La Matraca, a magically nostalgic tango (and salsa) club in a dodgy neighborhood that my Belgian friend Griet and I discovered three weeks ago. We have become regulars, fancying ourself “Las Reinas de La Matraca” (The Queens of La Matraca). There are many other Reinas — graceful tango dancers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who are an absorbing joy to watch.

My birthday eve at La Matraca included four fantastic things:

An out-of-this-world performance by a 74-year-old woman who might be a lunatic but is also a singing and dancing genius. Watch this:

Dancing in a circle with a group of women and men in their 60s and 70s. In my opinion, exuberant dancing in a circle holding hands is one version of heaven.

My first tango in public. Doing tango in public had the barrier-breaking quality of hanggliding or bungee jumping. Survival! I just stared at my tango dancer’s upper left chest the whole time, which is where the woman is supposed to look.

Thanks to my Colombian friend William, I got to live my dream of a birthday dance. In my travels in Brazil, I noticed this tradition at a capoeira class and at a weekly afternoon “baile” dance at the Carioca Cultura Center. A circle forms and the focus is totally on the birthday girl or boy for her or his spin on the dance floor with one partner after another. It’s a euphoric thing to watch, the happiness of the person moving from one partner to the next. I always thought that was a great fusion of birthdays and the dance culture in South America, and I was thrilled to live that moment myself. I really have no idea what this dance is. It’s not paso doble or fox or . . . ? But I played along. Here’s my birthday dance. Unfortunately YouTube doesn’t have a rotate feature so it’s sideways: rotate your head.

Oscar and Griet leaping into an icy cold natural pool below a waterfall on the birthday hike

On my actual birthday, a new friend and ecology student Oscar led me and my Belgian friends Wouter and Griet on a slippery hike along a river to a spectacular and icy cold waterfall with a natural pool below it. Back at the hostel, Griet and two others at he hostel cooked a tall stack of crepes for a communal birthday dinner. I felt so touched that people whom I met just three weeks ago took the time to create a birthday dinner. And finally in the 24-hour birthday marathon, we went salsa dancing at Las Brisas, where we danced with our salsa teacher and saw salsa world champions from the school Swing Latino perform their superhumanly fast footwork.

Not bad for 28 hours in a country where I knew no one before arriving six weeks ago. This was really a magical birthday and I’m grateful that I took the risk of celebrating while traveling. Now I am resting. Whew! I really have no idea what the next year will bring. But after all, I’m only 20 (with 17 years of experience). I’m not supposed to know yet.

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Posted in Colombia, Traveling Alone


Sasha Cagen Back in 2000 I started the quirkyalone movement helping women and men celebrate their lives whether they are single or in a relationship. Here's my story and how I help you.

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