Umbrella Tango in Times Square
Favorite place to write/dance.
For the first five years I lived in New Orleans, I wrote almost exclusively at a coffee shop by my house, which closed on New Year’s Eve almost two years ago. We jokingly called this place Cheers and it was a lot like Central Perk on Friends, very central to my life. Several people asked me if I was going to move when it closed (it took me more than a year, but I did move). I have a tendency to get rooted in one place. So these days, I’ve embraced the rootlessness of not having a steady writing home. It makes me more flexible and more focused on what I bring to the table each day, rather than where I write.
The same is true of my dance venues. There are aspects I appreciate about all of them, but I’ve yet to find a spot that is a perfect combination of elements – floor personality, space, temperature, music, crowd, etc. But I enjoy them all and I try to focus on my dance, rather than the limitations or advantages of the particular space.
Favorite writing tool/tango heel.
I’m ambidextrous in my writing tools. Sometimes I write by hand, very often I type. My iPhone is a tool and so are physical journals. Shoes are similar. My first pair of tango shoes were a pair of suede Comme il Fauts, which many consider the top of the line, with steel-reinforced heels. I call these my “old faithfuls” now cause they’re so worn in. My main pair currently are silver and black Darcos heels that are very sexy and go with everything.
Favorite writer/tango dancer.
I appreciate so many writers and dancers for the things they do particularly well, or what they have to say about craft. And, in both writing and dancing, my favorites have changed as I’ve matured and learned more about myself.
My favorites in my dance community are often people I’ve danced with many, many times and we’ve developed a style, almost a language, together. One of my favorite dancers might be a man I danced with only once, when we were both visitors at a Chicago dance event, and who I’ve never seen again. Or maybe that’s just one of my favorite dances.
I’ve been lucky enough to learn from world-class professional dancers who visit New Orleans, couples like Homer and Cristina Ladas, one of the first visiting couples whose workshops I took. They’re coming back to New Orleans in December for a mini tango festival, together with Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt, and we’re incredibly lucky to have those two couples visit our community.
As for writers, I’m forming my “memoir tribe” now, with fierce writers like Cheryl Strayed, Melissa Febos and Claire Dederer. I just finished reading Rob Sheffield’s Turn Around Bright Eyes, and I’d definitely put him in my tribe. Dean Koontz and Alice Hoffman are both long-standing favorites who I’ve read since I was a teenager aching to be a writer and they have really formed me in immeasurable ways.
At present, you are working on your memoir, Tango Face: How I Became a Dancer and Became Myself, and you also have a novel-in-progress, The Winter Circus, in the wings. What are your dreams—in terms writing time, space, and subject—for the future?
I’d like to get these two books out into the world, of course. The novel’s been in my life since 2004 and now I’ve been working on the memoir for almost two years. There are more projects in the queue that I’d like to get to, including two t.v. shows and a feature script I co-wrote earlier this year. And as much as I love New Orleans, I miss traveling and I’d like to make it a bigger part of my life. A friend and I are discussing taking a road trip to all the major U.S. tango cities next year, maybe even turning it into a blog or film as we go. We’re looking into crowd-funding, so we’ve been working out the budget and which cities we’d visit. It’s starting to feel like a very real possibility.