A perspective- KOKI

Koki Ojima, Dancing tango for 10 years

“I started to tango because I was fed up with salsa. I was dancing salsa for almost ten years before starting tango. And then I ended up going to some milonga which was right next to a salsa event and I was fascinated with how they looked like dancing, you know closing their eyes walking. I was like what the hell is this? I want to do this! By the way this was in Spain. I was in Madrid, and right after that I didn’t really start taking lessons because I couldn’t find any good tango teachers in Madrid in 2001 or 2. And uh, I still kept doing salsa because I thought I loved it. I did then. And then I went to a salsa/tango event in Michigan after I moved to the States. I couldn’t even do a cross. I remember I couldn’t even do a cross, in my first lesson. You have to think about the coordination of an angle, and well directions basically, and I didn’t get that sensation. It took me a couple weeks to get the cross. And then after that I started to go to milongas weekly, it wasn’t as big as New York City. So if I went to a milonga there were always beginners, trying to do ochos. And then I tried to do ocho cortado. That’s when I saw possibilities of playfulness of tango, and timing and speed. I was still doing salsa, tango back and forth. Then started taking Adam and Çiko’s courses for one year and I still wasn’t quite sure where it was going. This was the question mark moment in my tango journey. I was very frustrated by not even having you know, the confidence to go to milongas. It wasn’t really fun because I wasn’t there mentally. There was no way I was going to initiate a cabacaeo with someone I didn’t know. So I started to doubt everything I learned and went back to salsa for about one year. Then I started to learn with Ivan and Sarah. They have a month long course to analyze stuff. Like a boleo. What is a boleo? That was my breakthrough moment to put the pieces of the puzzle together so it makes sense. I did that for maybe two years, and by the time I completed these courses I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I still felt like I didn’t know how to apply this socially. At this point I still felt like I wasn’t confident, so I didn’t have a great time. So I went back to salsa again. A few months later I decided to try tango again. Tango has a deeper connection that I didn’t have in salsa, on the floor off the floor people are so down to earth in tango. I feel like in Salsa sometimes people think about how they look like, and forget about how they feel. Tango people care about connection and how we feel first then go from there. At this point I was not drinking. So I was not really comfortable going to social dancing even after taking classes for four years. Then I wen to a class with Ana and Diego at Stepping Out [Studios]. It was a musicality class, and I ended up dancing with Ana. I don’t know what she saw in me, but she told me I have good potential and that I should go to Maria Jose. and then I remember the first class when I walked in it was so f*ing different. She was doing basic exercises, and it was completely new style to me personally, because no one taught me how to social dance in my previous years of dance. The first class was really confusing because I never heard of things before. I was questioning myself if I should continue to do it and decided I should give it a chance. For the next few months I was sticking to classes and then something started to change. I was like, comfortable actually, thinking about going to milongas myself. I think the way she teaches she challenges her students in a good way. And then I started to feel comfortable, and hang out. I started to go to marathons. I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW SOBER I WAS. I think my third tango marathon was Puerto Rico in 2015. And then for some reason I felt, sort of zen. All of the elements were sinking in. Water, Puerto Rican food. Breezy air, rum. I started to feel great. And that’s you know, my story.”

Thats it? That’s the end?

“Well… that was the beginning of me feeling great. Its all about relaxing and adjusting to your partners needs. Different people have different preferences. Some women want to be syncing to the music, others want to do complicated patterns, some want simplicity. So I want to end with thanking Maria Jose because she really changed my tango journey.”


Koki’s booze list

“I know a few folks saw me dancing and drink a few in the milongas. I’m just having amazing times without dancing Tango, watching the folks dancing or socializing occasionally. Here is the list of the accessible alcohol I recommend to those who need some excuses to hit the bars right next to the milongas to chillax before you cabeceo someone you always wanted to dance with for the first time!!”

– Glenfiddich 12 and 15yrs

– The Balvenie 15yrs

– Highland park 15yrs

– Laphroaig 10yrs

– Nikka Whisky


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