But what began as a process of integration--of my various lives as dancer, performer, writer, director--became a tightrope walk. The high wire was held taut by the uneasy relationship between fact and fiction. I knew that this story could only be told from the inside out. I knew I had to live it. And despite never having desired to perform on film--being, like many directors, quite camera shy--I knew that I had to perform in this one because the impetus for the film came out of my own desire to dance. Without the driving force of that longing I would be lost and the impetus for the film itself would be lost. I knew that I needed to cast real tango dancers in the film, none of whom had acted on film before. I had to climb into the ring with them and be prepared to reveal myself as much, or more, than I was asking of them.
My life was beginning to look like the stuff of musicals--and the plot started to write itself. But instead of the storyline "boy meets girl and they decide to put on a show," it was "female film director meets male tango star and she decides to make a film. But I still had to write a script--to turn facts into coherent fiction.
Gradually, the lovely, visceral, pleasurable world of the tango itself became the "serious" work. And, as in the story, what started out as an exploration of the dance (literally, a tango lesson), became a series of life lessons. I learned a lot about men and women, relationships, possession, loss and jealousy. The traditional range of subject matter associated with the tango, in fact.
The intimacy of the dance and its love affair with the glorious music provided other, perhaps paradoxical, lessons. I learned that dance--the most physically active and demanding of the arts--is essentially about stillness. That music is, at its core, a way of describing silence. That performing is more about the invisible inside than the visible outside.
But, above all, I learned that pleasure--taken to its extremity--becomes work. And work--taken to its extremity--becomes love. This is why The Tango Lesson, which started as a desire to make a film about the joy of dance, became a story about the complexity of love.
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