... and I keep dancing

Welcome to my Argentine Tango blog! I began this blog about a year after starting to dance Argentine Tango. That year had been both wonderful and frustrating. I started recording my progress and feelings from that point on... and both wonder and frustration have continued, only even more intensely.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Of Tango and Life: lessons on adapting

Last year I was a Tango Salon contestant in the first Official USA Argentine Tango Competition. That experience had been both exciting and “challenging” in ways I was not expecting (see the April 2011 post), but, when the competition was announced again for this year, it didn’t take me long to decide that I would take again a chance at some emotional upheaval and participate again. Little did I know how much “upheaval” I was up for…

I had a new life/dance partner I felt reasonably comfortable dancing with. She had less Tango experience than I, but I thought we looked good together, and good enough to enter the salon competition without fear of embarrassment, whatever that might mean. So, I asked her if she would be willing and interested in participating. Her basic answer was a “let’s see what happens and I how I feel in a month or so”, so we started on a plan for practicing, with some added private lessons and workshops.

To my complete surprise, as we started dancing with a thought to the upcoming competition, I started feeling like I was dancing with an entirely different follower, and one that, frankly, I was no longer enjoying dancing with. The problem seemed to be that while I felt ready to dance in the competition “the next day”, she had become “obsessed” (my value judgment…) with not making any “mistakes” and with a need to understand exactly “which” figure I was leading, with no room for accepting that sometimes my lead might not be completely clear, or it might be for a figure she had forgotten about. From my point of view, ironically, she was following exactly what I was leading 95% of the time, with the other 5% creating what I considered “opportunities” for variations I actually enjoyed.  So, to me, what was happening would have been just fine, except for her continuous asking “what was that?”. “Was that a molinete?” became our inside joke. “Yes!” I would say with some exasperation, “you just did five of them… with no problem at all!”, but, unfortunately, in her mind she wasn’t sure whether she had put down her feet exactly in the correct position or in some horrible contorted way (I was confident that she hadn’t…).

Obviously the transition from simple, unpressured, social dancing to the possibility of competing and being “judged” was not one we had an easy time making. I started giving serious thought to asking someone else to be in the competition, at the risk of hurt feelings (although she actually had never said an unequivocal “yes” about participating). Then I had an epiphany: maybe… just maybe, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for me to clean up my own act… What did it mean that she often wasn’t sure what figure I was leading? Was it really her “fault”? Was it enough that she would end up following as I intended, even though she wasn’t confident that she had?

So we agreed on a new plan. I started painstakingly listing all the figures I might be leading, and we agreed that I would “package” each within some specific entry and exit steps, so that we would have some short choreographed patterns. The problem with the salon competition, is that you don’t pick the music, so you can’t really choreograph the whole dance as you can for the stage competition, but some small choreographed pieces strung together in different ways might be a workable compromise. I actually embraced this idea and enjoyed working in this more precise way. It was a challenge for me to “renounce” my cherished  (by me…) improvisational style, but I thought of it as a challenge that might compel me to rethink many aspects of how I dance and might well end up doing me a lot of good.

With this new attitude from me, and her willingness to accept more readily “some” improvisation, we started having fun dancing again. We still had a month to go and it seemed like we would be able to enter the competition, each with what we needed to feel good about it, no matter what the outcome would be.

Then life handed us a new surprise, and one that threw all our previous concerns and issues into complete irrelevance. My partner was diagnosed with breast cancer. Practicing tango became the last thing we were worried about. Surgery was recommended right away, and right before the competition. We had to withdraw. Fortunately her prognosis is good, but, again, and this time for far more serious reasons, we had to adapt, not to a new style of dancing, but to being spectators, and to meeting the new challenge of therapy and recovery.

It never rang so true: “life is what happens to you while you are making other plans”.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A 5 year self-assessment

I started dancing Argentine Tango about 5 years ago, after previous 4 years or so of ballroom (including "international" tango) and (with a 10+ years gap) previous training and some performing and choreographing in modern, jazz and contact improv. As I look back to my dancing "career" carved out of a demanding science and engineering profession, it has become abundantly clear to me that dancing has had a profound impact on my life, all the way from how I spend much of my free time, to the people I associate with, including my ex-wife (a pro-level modern dancer) and more recent close relationships.

So, how do I feel about my Tango? First of all I wish I had started it at the very beginning of my dancing, thirty-some years ago... I can't help but fantasizing how "good" and possibly even well known I might be by now. Still I feel that there is probably something unique that can come out of my prior experience, and I fully intend to bring it out. Something in me also continues to be convinced that I can become a very good Tango dancer. One point of attraction for me in the culture of Tango has been the realization that its subtlety and depth make the contribution of "older" dancers valuable and appreciated. I fully intend to take advantage of that. I am also a singer and musician, which really enhances my dancing musicality. In addition I have started building a repertoire of Tango songs to perform (eventually...).

All this being said, after 5 years (dancing at least 3 or 4 times a week), while part me wants to enter competitions, start teaching beginners and work on performing,  another, loud and more realistic, part of me feels like I am still a "beginner" and in dire need of continuous review of the "basics". I constantly waiver between strong positive opinions of some ways I am able to move, and awe for some of the professional tangueros I would like to model myself after. I wish I could just go to BA for at least a year and put myself in the hands of one of the great dancers... We are fortunate in the Bay Area, in having great teachers and a constant flow of phenomenal performers to inspire us. On the other hand it can also be a confusing hodge podge of directions and styles that cannot be easily sorted out.

In all, whether or not I will be able to fulfill my vision of constant improvement and contribution to the Tango community, I have been having the time of my life, have had the pleasure of dancing with great followers, have made great friends and I continue to be inspired by both the movement and the music of Tango.

It’s as good as it gets…

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The seven phases of losing...

I have always been ambivalent about the idea of artistic competitions, mainly because of the inherent subjectivity in the judgment of peers and even “experts” in any human activity that is not quantifiable either in terms of scores or times, as in competitive sports. Nevertheless I have participated in contests in photography and quite a few in public speaking and Karaoke singing, but never in dancing... until now. I confess that one of the attractive features of Argentine Tango when I started to drift away from Ballroom, was precisely the fact that there seemed to be less emphasis on competition, favoring instead connection and individual style, whereas Ballroom folks seemed to be always preparing for the “next” competition, and working on style and steps for that purpose. On the other hand I soon came to realize that Tango is very much about “competition” but not the “official” kind, instead the constant underlying competition for the acceptance of our respective followers and leaders. This wasn’t true of Karaoke, for instance, where everybody is always made to feel like they are Frank Sinatra reincarnate .. So, when this year the announcement was made of the very first upcoming USA Argentine Tango Competition, I jumped at the chance of finally “exposing” my dance to the critical eye of “experts”.

I thought I would be ready for any possible outcome. I was right, ultimately,... but not before some unexpected struggle.  This struggle reminded me of the classic book on “Death and Dying”, by Elisabeth Kuebler Ross, where she describes 5 phases people seem to go through when faced with the prospect of death. These were Denial (this isn't happening to me!), Anger (why is this happening to me?), Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...), Depression (I don't care anymore) and, finally, Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes).  In both singing and public speaking, I found it fairly easy to accept the eventual loss (in any fair contest most people end up “losing” at some point!), but my first loss in a Tango dance competition hit me much harder than I had envisioned and in ways that I found analogous to the stages of “Death and Dying”. I found 7 phases andI will examine them here.

1. Denial

After the final qualifier run, they announced “in no particular order” the couples that were advancing to the semifinals. These were the longest two minutes I ever experienced. “Couple # 5, Couple #10....  Couple #16 ...and, finally, Couple #22”.... Wait, this can’t be true. They are done? Where is our number? There must have been a mistake! We had coaching for this event. We were ready. Am I having a bad dream? At this point I actually performed my lucid dreaming “test” to see if I was dreaming or awake. I was awake. But we were told we looked really good! That there was a “special quality”  to our dance. We had received tons of great (and unsolicited) feedback from friends about how great our dancing and connection looked. How can it be that we are not even advancing to the semi-finals?

2. Anger

These judges are crazy!  What are they looking for? I can’t believe they picked Couple #....  over us!

3. Depression

Note that I skipped the “bargaining” step, that seems appropriate only in the contest of some possibility still being open and in some belief in a supreme power that can make things happen for us. But, man, depression hit both me and my partner like a ton of bricks. I set there stunned while the milonga got going. My partner ran off somewhere to cry in privacy. I was holding back my own tears and, after a perfunctory dance with a friend I had invited to come and enjoy the event with us, I went off to find my dance partner.

4. Drama

I’ll never set foot on a dance floor again. I’m tired of the Tango scene. I’m going back to Europe. I’m definitely not coming back tomorrow. I’m not going to be able to look at the contest from this point on. My partner is mad at me for not chasing after her (I actually do... a lot) and for not being more supportive (I feel I am). The friend I had invited to the event  wisely decides that we really are no fun to be around and leaves. Somebody is doing a documentary on the event, and my partner and I provide just the fodder they were hoping for... drama! They interview us. They love it. I feel like I am on reality TV.

5. Embarrassment

There is no such feeling in Kuebler Ross’s stages, but, man, it was strong here, at least for me. I had announced the contest on Facebook! And I had added that it was part of a celebration of my upcoming birthday. Got lots of support and wishes, and congratulations for participating. Many of my posts all these years have been about introspection on the quality of my dance, who accepts me and who doesn’t and why. Here was my chance to get an “objective” view, and the view I get is that I might as well have walked onto the dance floor from the street without ever having danced, and I would have gotten the same result! This is far worse than having been turned down by one of the followers I admire. Not only that... If one of them was present she would see her dismissal of me reinforced and confirmed by the “official” judges. Tango community... It’s now official ... Silvano can’t dance!
This, BTW is about me, not a reflection on my dance partner. I confided this feeling to her, and she got mad at me. I think she had  gotten stuck between the Anger and Depressions stages.

6. Rationalization

OK, so I needed to calm down and step back. First of all the “contest” we participated in was in “strict” Tango Salon. I.e.  ganchos, high boleos, leg wraps or any moves that take a foot off the floor more than a few inches were not allowed.  That put us in a situation we were not used to, and a leg being too high at any point could have cost us points. This is just the “game” we accepted being part of and how we were being judged depended only in part on how we “normally” dance Tango. Second, we, with other participants, had the courage to put ourselves out there in front of everybody and fight the butterflies in our stomach, and people will only remember the winners (who really did deserve to win!) and the fact that we took part. Whether we made it to the first or second round or whatever, is something that loomed gigantic ... only in our own minds... As a friend of mine aptly put it “nobody cares”, and nobody really should. We took our participation seriously, with extra lessons and some extra practice to adapt our dance to the requirements of the competition, but we didn’t go overboard with this, and we were fully ready concede that there would be many other couples that would do better than we.

7. Acceptance

I still went home determined not to return the next day. I knew I would be back to watch the finals, but I felt I needed at least a day away from the scene in order to “detox”.  My partner had apparently processed her feeling faster than I had and was already telling me that she wanted to go back. The next day we went for a short walk on the ocean-front in Pacifica, happy that I will be moving there soon. Staring at the ocean is always very good for me. At 6pm I called my partner: I was ready to go back. I was ready to be there to support and cheer on our friends who had moved up...  regardless of how we had felt the night before. We were all on the same team and we had put on a show together. Now somebody would go on to win and they deserved our friendship, support and rejoicing. “It’s all about spreading happiness” I had been saying prior to the contest. “Either we win and we’ll be happy, or somebody else will win and they will be happy, and we can be happy with them”. To my own surprise, at first I found this harder to do than I had expected, but I got there, and I hugged everybody and the new winners, and I danced the night away.


We were able to find out something about the scores. We had been very close to moving up to the semifinals. Also got some hints that the judges had fairly wide disagreements. We are trying to find out if this was the case for us. Somehow we’d rather know that some judges liked our dance and some didn’t. At least we can feel that we made a dance statement. Also, small things that people say can make a huge difference, when not obviously perfunctory - keep that in mind when your friends are in a "fragile" position. For instance, one of my teachers saw me the night of the finals, and, while saying hello, remarked "why weren't you up there?". I don't know if he even realized I had entered the contest and had been eliminated, but he didn't have to say that, and that remark made me feel better. In any case what's really  important is that we still feel good about how we dance, and we are ready to do this again. Maybe these 7 stages will move by faster next time...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In a box

During my first 2 or 3 years of tango I felt I was improving about as fast as anybody could. I am still taking classes and occasional workshops, and, slowly, new figures are added to my repertoire, although I worry most about musicality, connection and style. However, somehow I am feeling "boxed in".

I feel lucky that there are quite a few good dancers who always seem very happy to dance with me, but there are still some who don't and they trigger in me the simple question "what is it about my dancing that makes them avoid me"? I know that I shouldn't be asking that. They may simply be looking for specific people they want to dance with, or I have developed a style they simply don't like. I feel I can accept anything, but I would love to know what it is.

Ney Melo once said in a post that he was "grateful" for all the followers who turned him down while he was growing as a dancer, because that kept him wanting to improve. I have tried to adopt the same attitude, but I find it frustrating not to know in which direction to go.  By "boxed in" I mean that I feel I have been put in a box by some dancers. This is the box defined by what, in their eyes, is my level of dancing, and a box I am not allowed to escape. Luciana Valle, another teacher from Argentina who periodically shows up in SF to teach very popular workshops, once spoke about the followers' dreaded "plateau", where they have reached a good level, but they feel stuck and seemingly unable to progress. My feeling is somewhat similar, except that I do feel I am still improving, but with no discernible effect on my "official status" as dancer.

Luckily I can experience escaping from the box every time I travel to some other city. There I enter milongas as a complete unknown and I seem to quickly be accepted by the best dancers. Maybe it's the "San Francisco aura" but I am finding the dichotomy confusing. It's also frustrating for me to realize that I had the same basic questions a couple of years ago, when I first started feeling pretty good about my dancing. So, I am finding, even years of dancing don't seem to make much difference after the initial progress. Maybe the analogy is like heading out into the ocean on a boat. When you leave the shore, you see yourself quickly getting far from the beach, but after a while the shore is far away and you feel stuck in the middle of the ocean with no visible progress towards your destination. You need to have faith in the fact that you are still moving.

Maybe the box I am stuck in is moving, just like the boat, but I am not noticing it. Will I ever see the other shore? What will it look like when I see it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who is qualified to teach?

We are all on a continuum.  If you "know more" than someone else you "can" teach it, by definition. At the same you can (and should) continue learning. However knowing "more" is only one of the prerequisites for the "ability" to teach, and the questions remain: how much "more" is wise or safe, what is the essence of the "ability" to teach and how does one acquire it.

My experiences in teaching (NOT tango) have been many and varied, and ALL have been extremely worthwhile both for me and the students (that's the feedback I got anyhow). I  started by being a "reader" for a physics class in college. That meant that I corrected and graded physics homework. I had only "written contact" with the students, but I learned a tremendous amount, and the experience made me do real well in my entry exam for grad school.

In grad school I was a TA (teaching assistant). The professor taught the class and  led the "lab hour".  It turned out that the professor, who undoubtedly knew a lot "more" than I did, had a very strong foreign accent and the students had real problems understanding her and the concepts being taught. So I would spend most of the lab hour re-teaching what the professor had (supposedly) taught previously. I also developed a very dynamic and entertaining teaching style to drive home important points, like jumping on tables, and asking them to move in specific ways so that they would later remember the concepts. Nobody had "taught me" these techniques, but the students loved them and they did generally very well in the tests. Also I got official praise by the department.  Again, I learned a tremendous amount about the subject matter as well.

At NASA with a PhD in Biophysics I found myself having to work more and more in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. I could have (and some would argue "should have" gone back to school to get a degree in Computer Science). I chose instead to go to local universities (SF State, and UC Berkeley) and offer to teach classes in specific areas I was interested in and where I was starting to gain some expertise.
They gave me teaching slots where at first I was able to stay only 2 or 3 lectures "ahead" of the students... but, man did I learn fast! The motivation not to appear as a fool in front of the class and a genuine desire to explain the concepts made me really understand what I was talking about, and I did really well both as a teacher and back at NASA where my expertise became recognized even more. Was I originally "qualified" to teach? I am sure that one could have argued I was not.

Now back to tango. I recognize that in kinesthetic learning the teacher has to have the "concept" in his/her muscle memory, so one couldn't get away with learning it the night before to be able to teach it to a class, but how long is long enough to get a student started? 6 months? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? It depends on the movement to be taught, and it depends on the ability of the teacher to do it AND to actually teach it, as the two skills are different. Everybody can see the first, but the second is a lot harder to evaluate unless one takes the class. I have often learned more from less "renowned" teachers than from those who are known fort their performances. Sometimes the best performers have a hard time breaking down the move for beginners, but are very good at teaching other teachers or very advanced dancers.

So who is "qualified" to teach? Almost invariably, when someone "makes it official" that they will teach a class or a pre-milonga, many dancers who know them will groan and make sarcastic remarks about their readiness to do the job. I confess that I have had the same reaction in some cases, but I suspect that some of this stems for subtle envy for the courage these people have had to put themselves out there. "Courage or naivete?" some would say. Who cares?  I am glad that there is no "tango police" out there hauling away the bad performers, and "unqualified teachers". We are a dance marketplace where people have the chance and the right to sell their goods. Different people have different skills to offer, or none, as the case may be. Let the market decide. In this I am for extreme unregulated capitalism. Students will figure out who is good for them. Fortunately we don't do back flips in tango, so nobody gets hurt. Eventually one figures out that the 8 count basic taught by Johnny Newbeteach doesn't look quite the same as that taught by Gavito. So what? We can always go back and hone our style with new teachers of choice. But what about "bad habits"? ALL of dance is a continuous struggle to modify old habits... and ultimately somebody's "bad habit" becomes sombody else's "new stylistic decision".
That's how dance evolves.

There is a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, that says (paraphrased): "God, give me the power to change the things I can change, the patience to endure the ones I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference". For the tango student (i.e. everybody), it should be "give me the power to select the teacher who will be good for me, the foresight to avoid the one who will waste my money, and the wisdom to know the difference...".  Most of all let's not forget that it's all for fun... right?

Between solitude and commitment

I was asked to comment on a quote by Sonia Abadi translated from Spanish by Chelsea Eng:  "The human species, and most especially the race that frequents the milonga, waffles between two equally terrifying fears: the fear of solitude and the fear of commitment".

My immediate reaction to this quote is that it reflects more the woman's experience (in the customary non-initiating follower mode)  in tango than the man's. The reason is that the woman is faced with the choice of saying "no" and wondering if and when she'll be asked again (fear of solitude) and saying "yes" and being stuck in a long tanda with a less than desirable partner (fear of commitment). As a man I have the "advantage" of the choice, so less "fear of the commitment" part, and no particular fear of "solitude" as I can easily move on to another follower with a pretty good chance of acceptance.

How the quote resonates with me, however, is more in the often stated concept that "tango is a metaphor for life". In life, it is in fact more often than not the man who is afraid of commitment... certainly because life's "tandas" can last a life-time... in fact they are "expected" to do so. Of course there are plenty of exceptions to these stereotypical modes, but society has traditionally put more pressure on women to avoid "solitude".

I found two more ways in which the life metaphor is even deeper. One is the fear of judgment and rejection. In life we are judged and included or excluded by people for a number of complex reasons, but we learn to navigate this complex social web in ways that usually shield us from blatant and direct rejection. Rules of politeness and a certain amount of self-deception contribute to maintaining our mental sanity. In tango, the "rejection" is out there and plain for all to see. You either sit there the whole night with nobody asking, or you ask and get turned down, or you scan the room for a cabeceo, and nobody looks your way. There is nothing in between. As in life, we need to be able to accept, figure out if there is anything we can do, and, in any case, move on with our ego intact.

A second deep metaphor is the connection. In fact I even hesitate to call it a metaphor, as the connection, seemingly an obvious metaphor for a relationship, often seems to become the start, and the barometer of the real relationship itself. I have sometimes felt the flows and ebbs of a relationship reflected in my connection with my partner, and just like in real relationships there is disagreement about feelings and their mutuality so there is sometimes disagreement about how "good" the connection was.

The connection as both reality and metaphor brings me back to the starting quote and the realization that "fear motivated waffle" goes beyond rejecting, or committing to, a tanda, but it may be reflected in the embrace and connection itself.  I instantly feel it when the follower is committed to a connection and when she isn't. What I don't know is why, and it hadn't occurred to me until now that  it might go beyond her wondering whether she can trust me or not as a dancer. She may be wondering whether she is ready to tap into deeper feelings and commit to accepting them and their impact on her soul, even if for just a tanda, or let herself be simply led through ochos, boleos and figures without any lasting mark.

Yes, for committed tanguero/as both these extremes bring their own brand of special "terror".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tango in Milan and Modena

The main link for Milan's tango was this:

I managed to go to these venues:

Wed 6/2 Caffe' Caribe,  Very nice venue lounge style, but large floor with bar. Traditional tango. Good level.

Fri 6/4 Comuna Baires. "performance in the round" place  for theater events; separate eating area with large tables. Projection screen. Cool place, but crowded and "messy floorcraft".

Sat 6/5 Modena:  Circolo Gardel (via Ungheria 2). Nice industrial place. Dinner included outside the place after class. Made good people connections. Great place.

Sun 6/7 Sentimento Gaucho (back in Milan) - Gorgeous large classical hall.  Lots of room to dance and made good connections. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures while people were dancing.

Mon 6/8 Comuna Baires: this time "tango nuevo"  ... (see pics above).  Unfortunately the music was very mixed and disorganized.  I don't have problems dancing to non-traditional music, but in this case
it really came out "at random" fast, slow, completely different moods, no tandas of any kind. I found it hard to focus and dance at my best.

Thu 6/10 La Casa del Tango,  also in the nice "Navigli" area.  This was a restaurant with a nice dance and bar area upstairs. Somehow the dancing level seemed lower than in the other venues, or I was simply very unlucky.  My first three partners told me they were "beginners" ... and they were. Finally I recognized a lady from "Sentimento Gaucho" and had a good dance.  I am sure I could have had a good time with more time to know the dancers, but unfortunately I had to leave early.

Overall dancing in Milan (amd Modena) was just great. I can't wait for my next visit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Returning to the Cabeceo

 I have written in the past about pros and cons of the Cabeceo (see "The Dark Side of the Cabeseo"). In essence I don't like the fact that this "playing around" with, and control of, one's gaze gets in the way of simply making eye contact with friends, smiling at them etc. without regard of whether you intend to dance with them or not. I still don't like this aspect of this mainly Argentinian custom, but lately I have decided, at least for a while, as a test, to rely entirely on the cabeceo to find my dance partners.

The main reason for this decisions is that I have come to realize that many followers feel "compelled" to accept a direct invitation to dance (just like I do when a follower asks me),  and the result of this is that sometimes I get dances where my partner is uncommitted and "absent". When this happens, my own dancing suffers and I politely drag my way to the end of the tanda with no great fun, even when my partner is a good dancer.

With the cabeceo at least I have a better chance at a dance where my partner is committed, and fortunately there are enough of them around to make for fine evenings where I hardly have a chance to sit down.  But... I already see a problem looming at the horizon, and that is that most people end up stuck in their comfort zone of people they know and like to dance with. As a result they seldom let "someone new" in.  Ok, but for now I'll stick with my test.  Btw, motivated by a brief funny discussion on the Cabeceo that happened on Facebook a short time ago, Zeycan made this very funny and pointed video.... enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

(Satire) You know you are getting pretty good when...

1. People around the dance floor follow you with their eyes. Beginners smile, while advanced dancers remain very serious (when you are a beginner advanced dancers smile and beginners remain very serious). Advanced dancers remain serious because they wonder how long it took you to get where you are (maybe you learned faster than they did?) and whether they should start considering dancing with you...

2. Out of town visitors ask you if you are a teacher.

3. Dancing with some people becomes truly unbearable, but you still do it... because you begin to make a distinction between "bliss dances" and "friend dances".

4. Followers will stare you down or pop in front of you with a bright smile during cortinas. Leaders park themselves in front of your table waiting for you to end your conversation...  or pop in front of you with raised eyebrows as soon as you say "thank you" to the previous leader (they don't bother waiting for the music to start...).

5. A few followers will continue to say "no" just to prove to you that you still have a long way to go,  but they will dance with the guy who started three months ago... go figure. A few leaders will ignore you just to prove to you that you are not as good or as hot as you think.... but they will dance with the cutie who took her first class yesterday.  Ah the power trip...!

6. You see a performance and wonder what everybody is getting so excited about.

7. You see a performance and wonder why on earth you thought you could ever dance tango.

8. You prefer to stick with a partner during workshops... possibly because rotating reminds you of the awkwardness of beginner times? Or you hate surprises? Or you may end up dancing with someone you have been ignoring on the dance floor?

9. You stop attending pre-milonga classes... but the organizer still thinks you should.

10. Friends STOP telling  you that "you have been looking good on the dance floor"...

11. By some strange set of circumstances you end up actually performing tango ... in front of people who know nothing about tango.

12. You see Argentine Tango on "Dancing with the Stars" and you laugh your head off.  You hear the "critique"of the judges and wonder if they actually ever saw Argentine Tango, let alone dance it...

13. You are really embarrassed if you have not yet made the obligatory trip to Argentina.

14.  In some small milongas (outside SF)  you and your partner are actually the "star guests".

15.  You feel compelled to write about your tango experiences in blogs...

Monday, July 20, 2009

From bliss to anger ... and back

Or... why do we do this to ourselves?

For quite some time I have been trying to cope with a feeling I am not proud of, but, if there is one thing life has taught me, is how utterly "ordinary" I am... which means that there is a good chance that these same feelings are out there in lots of tangueros/as.

I am talking about plain old anger. I find that when I go to new milongas where I am unknown to all or most, I get a lot positive attention. Women ask me to dance (and I am not a young hunk..), I see people following me and my partner with their eyes, I get very good feedback from advanced dancers and I have even been asked if I teach. I infer from this that, even though, like most, I could easily move to BA for many more years of useful lessons... I cannot be all that bad at this point.

Yet, in my own dance community, there are still dancers who act as if I had stepped on the dance floor just yesterday. Maybe two years ago I made her trip on a bad sacada, or she didn't feel a good connection, so, in her mind I am still stuck at that level. No more chances ...no sirree.
OK, I understand. Tango is a meritocracy. We all work so hard at achieving that "state of bliss" that it's hard to give up the chance of being asked by the "very best" just for a "friendly" dance.
The prevailing attitude seems to be "why bother if it's not going to be great". Add to that the "fear" of being seen dancing with a mediocre partner... and perhaps give the idea that you have "lowered your standards"...

We are all trapped on both sides of this attitude. At times we feel "victims" of it when we are turned down, and feel angry, only to turn around to do it to others.

I don't presume to suggest a "solution" for all, and certainly not for those who are well beyond any such issues, but here is what I am going to do:
1. I'll get over it. I will still try to say "hi" to the dancers who try so hard to ignore me.
2. I will dance at least with a couple friends at each milonga even thought I haven't enjoyed dancing with them for a while. It won't kill me and it won't ruin my "reputation", and, just possibly, they'll surprise me!
3. I will seek out one new face. One who is sitting in the back of the room looking longingly at the dancers.

Maybe one way to be less angry is to realize that we all need to be less scared.

Or maybe it's just me...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tango in Berlin (and the embarrassing end..)

I just spent three nights dancing tango in Berlin. I was there for work, but was able to add the three nights to my stay, and of course I took advantage of them to check out the tango scene. I found the tango venues on the internet but had no real good idea of what I would find.

My first excursion was to NOU. The place was very small with a cafe' style area with tables and a bar, and a dance floor about the size of a large living room. There were only two or three couples dancing at any time. I was lucky in that I sat near one of the only two advanced dancers (as I soon realized), and, after striking up a conversation, we danced to a few good songs. They played no tandas and no cortinas. The approach to ending the dance seems to be that at some point one asks "one more dance?", which is a signal that the "thank you" will come after that. This seemed to be the approach in all the other milongas as well.

I clicked well with another dancer as well, who invited me to go with her to another late milonga. I gladly accepted, and I had the added thrill of experiencing her tiny Smart car buzzing adroitly through Berlin "la nuit". The next milonga was much larger, in a beautiful hall, and still going strong. Unfortunately I never caught the name of it, but I understand that it was new, and apparently many of "the teachers" were in attendance. My kind companion taught as well, and I enjoyed dancing with her. Unfortunately we didn't exchange email addresses, as I thought I would see her in one of the next milongas, but that didn't happen (so, Illiana, if you happen to read this ... Danke!).

Friday night I went to "Yeite", a loft space several stories up in an industrial building.
It felt odd to ask people to dance pretty much at random, but overall the level of dancing was good. Again, no tandas and no cortinas. Just the "one more?" system. They had a raffle at some point and, to my total surprise, I won a CD. The master of cerimonies had already met me at the NOU milonga, where he acted as cashier and bar tender, but he made no big deal of the fact that I was from San Francisco. I found that in general the milonga organizers were not particularly attentive to who you were, your name, where you were from, etc. That felt unfriendly compared to the milonga climate in San Francisco. This was confirmed especially on my last day, at the "Tango Loft" milonga.

So, here I am at the Tango Loft, Saturday night. My last night. Had a hard time locating it in a large industrial building. Fortunately I saw some people who seemed like tangueros emerge from a door, and I found that the milonga was happening, again at the top floor of the building.

It's already midnight as I walk in, but the milonga is scheduled until 4am and I am planning to stay until about three and go straight to the airport from there. I walk in, pay, and immediately I see a woman in a red dress pouring some champagne in glasses and distributing some slices of cake to people nearby. I am reminded of a typical birthday celebration at one of our San Francisco milongas, where all attendees would typically be invited to partake. Without giving it much thought I pour myself some bubbly and expect to start some friendly conversation. What I get is a stern look from the woman in the red dress and a question, in an unfriendly tone: "and who are you?". A bit surprised by her demeanor and the stares of other bystanders, I manage to say " ... I am a tourist... from San Francisco", expecting some kind of friendly welcome. Instead I notice that their faces remain quite serious, and I suddenly realize my "faux pas". "Is this private?" I ask. "Yes, it's private" she answers. I feel like I have just been caught shop-lifting, and my profuse apologies, followed by my attempted explanation (in broken German - of our San Francisco "Milonga Culture") don't seem to elicit any forgiving or friendlier attitude.

Still embarrassed, I excuse myself, note that there is a bar, go there to order a glass of champagne, return to the scene of the crime, and hand the glass to the Lady in Red, with my calling card, and one final apology.

After that I finally start dancing. I recognize the very first woman I danced with at my first night's milonga. It's good to dance with her and I try to forget my embarrassing moment. But rather than embarrassed I am now starting to feel upset for not having been given the benefit of the doubt. I think of how we would welcome a visitor from Germany at one of our milongas. I go back to the Lady in Red and ask her to dance. Maybe she'll give me a chance to explain again or at least to be accepted as a visiting dancer. She says "later..".

The good part is that nobody else turned me down that night, and at 3am I found my way to the airport after many wonderful dances I will gladly remember. I wish I had had more time both to see Berlin and to become better acquainted with the Tango scene. And next time I'll bring my own bottle of champagne.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Commenting on the women I dance with

I just re-read my intro at the top of the page, and I was struck by my statement about commenting on followers and using special names to maintain their privacy.

This idea still applies, but it is interesting that, in time (about two years after starting), I have been finding it less and less compelling to think and comment about particular followers. One reason is probably that I have become much more selective about the women I dance with, so I find very few issues and surprises at this point.

I mostly dance with women I know well, and for different reasons. Some are friends I feel "obligated" to dance with, at least once in while. Some I consider good dancers that allow me to express my style and who seem to really enjoy my dance, and some are still "challenging" in the sense that I am not quite sure where I stand with them.
None of the above includes my partner, of course, with whom dancing is now very special from all points of view.

The point is that a year ago I danced with just about everybody in sight, and everybody, in some way, was a new tango experience I felt compelled to consider. Now instead I know what to expect from everybody I dance with regularly, and "new experiences" are very rare.

So, I almost deleted the comment about using fake names, but then I figured that somebody might read the old blogs, and, who knows, some strange new experiences may still happen...

The wall

It's an odd feeling. I haven't written on this blog for about 4 months now, mostly because I am having a hard time verbalizing how I am feeling about tango right now. Some feelings are very good. Dancing with Zeycan has become very smooth and ever more "showy". We are often told "how good we look together". Our milonga, especially, is fun and complex, with lots of syncopation and traspie, and I keep finding new steps to do. We really get into it and we see people following us with their eyes and a smile on their face. The down side of this is that I find very few dancers who can follow me at that level right now, and Zeycan is equally bored with most leaders when it comes to milonga.

Regular tango is a slighly different story. It also has advanced considerably, but I still find dancers who will turn me down, and I am having a hard time accepting it. I am not sure whether they are watching me and determining that I am not yet at "their level", or they have pegged me at the level I was a year ago, and never give me further consideration. On the other hand I often ask very advanced dancers and teachers who seem reasonably happy with my dance. I assume it will all sort itself out in time, as I keep improving... as I am determined to do.

I also need to accept that I have been developing a definite style, which may not be to everybody's liking. For instance, some followers seem to like a very steady and predictable lead, one that I would consider, well... boring... I tend to get bored with my own lead and keep experimenting and throwing in "surprises". For instance, I will start a typical pattern, only to immediately reverse it and then, maybe, reverse it again.

Some followers tell me that they have a lot of fun dancing with me. Some even laugh often during the dance, seemingly enjoying all the little surprises. But I am sure some probably hate what I am doing. My problem is that I am not yet quite sure enough to know that what I do looks and feels stylish and "right". It's the next wall I need to break through.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The leaders I hate to watch

I am approaching this is in the spirit of fun satire, as many of these leaders are much better dancers than I am, but, hey, it's my blog and my taste. So what if some followers choose them over me!

The zombie

This guy has a frame that looks like welded steel. He ondulates left and right with his arms at a fixed angle and feet going in and out of cross system, and slightly back. I see advanced followers carried along with a look of bliss on their face, so this guy must be doing SOMETHING right. There must be a great deal of comfort in a solid frame. I should learn something from him... but it looks sooo boring to me. Still ... that look of bliss... go figure.

The broom back

Ok, this is really nasty, but the guy looks like he has a broom stuck ... well.. all the way up his... (I'd better stop). He's a bit like the zombie but the solid frame is up his back and slightly bent forward. Again, this position seems to have success with many advanced followers. He tends to move slowly, probably because that broom is very uncomfortable. The follower seems happier than he is. If she only knew...

The wrestler

This guy is the opposite of the above "super frame" leaders. His arms are constantly moving like he's trying to find a way to pin the follower down to the mat. He tends to be shunned by most followers, except for beginners, and women who have been getting really bored and figure that some flexing exercises might be good after all to keep in shape.

The lawn-mower pusher

I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I saw him. He kept his arm at about waist height and literally pushed the follower into a variety of open "embrace" (if you can call it that) figures that showed a good level of experience. Maybe it's tango "hypernuevo", who knows. The followers tend to keep their eyes focused on his belly button area, from where the movement seems to originate, and maintain a vague smile of disbelief throughout the dance...

The tea-pot

This is another seemingly "advanced" technique I can't figure out. This leader keeps his left hand at a funny angle, while holding his and the follower's hand close to the left side of his head. The VERY advanced tea-pot leader will actually touch his own head, and the circle of his arm, with the twisted hand, looks like a tea-pot ... The look is one of intense concentration. It makes me think of tantra exercises where idea is to circulate the "Chi" between the two partners. Hey, maybe that's what's happening! Amazingly the followers seem typically happy, but I wonder how their right wrist feel after the dance

Monday, July 14, 2008

The followers I love to hate

I have been much too serious in my posts lately... so I thought I'd have some fun with the comic side of tango... the followers I love to hate...! Here they are:

The wiggler (a.k.a. the pole dancer)

She simply will not stop moving! I lead a simple back ocho, and I STOP for a second to start a new figure in some dramatic music moment... and she keeps on going like the energizer rabbit (remember that ad?). 2 more back ochos, one front ocho and twirls around me in a molinete... all while I am just standing there with half a smile on my face waiting for her to stop... so I can go on dancing. She finally seems to become aware of my presence, slows down and looks at me, expectant eyes,... oh, there you are .. the "leader"! Didn't you love what I just did? So, what's next?

The refrigerator

She simply will NOT move! I swear it feels like pushing a refrigerator with no wheels across the floor. My back thighs and calf start hurting for the pushing, and my left arm struggles to stay in its socket. Here comes some fast tempo I'd like to play with.. quick quick, slow, quick quick quick... I get slooooow, slooooow... and the musical phrase is over... Oh well, the dance ends and I look for a massage therapist.

The feather

I remember being surprised when I first heard that followers were being instructed to provide some "resistance". Having mainly experienced the "refrigerator" types, I felt like NO resistance should be the ideal... but nooo, tango is so full of surprises. No resistance is bad too! The feather is hard to dance with because you are never sure where she is. If you feel no weight at all you cannot know where her weight is, and even the tiniest error in timing a turn can send her flying off balance. Dancing with the feather is not tiring, but disconcerting and seldom connected. In the end I feel like I have danced with myself ... and I am NOT a good follower!

The purebred

When I first started dancing tango I had a creepy feeling of deja vu, related to my brief experience with horseback riding. I remember how odd it felt that even though you were taught what to do with your legs and arms to get the horse to turn right or left, each horse behaved in a slightly different way. One would turn as expected, another horse would completely ignore your "command", and another one would take off to the right like you had attached a rocket to its side! Not that I would want to compare followers with horses (!), but I could never get over the fact of how similar that dynamics of movement "reading" and reaction really felt...

One of my most interesting experiences in horseback riding was in fact with such a horse. I was in an amateur rodeo where we were assigned horses at random and had to perform some figures like number 8 (ah, ochos!) in the arena. That required a continuous turn to the right, followed by a continuous turn to the left, and so on. Well, MY horse felt my intention to the "right" .... and right he would go, taking off like a bat out of hell all the way to end of the arena, where he would finally slow down, read my "left" intention from my now begging and shaking knees and do another 100 yard dash to the other side of the arena. Needless to say my 8's did not look very good...

So, what does this really have to do with Tango? Well, I find that sometimes I encounter a follower that reminds me of that horse. Mind you, in this case she is the "advanced" one and I am the one who doesn't know what he's doing, but my experience is one of starting a movement that gets read and immediately "amplified" beyond my original intention and which now needs to be dealt with the kind of skill and elegance I sadly still lack. So I struggle along feeling again like I am riding that horse across the arena unable to make the nice number 8...

I don't know what the horse was thinking... but SHE is probably thinking that I need a few more years under my belt to be able to appreciate what she can really do... and she's right. Sigh...

The absentee follower

She is there, but you sense immediately that she's really with her boyfriend walking on a beach, dancing with the other guy across the dance floor, at the table eating the cake or drinking whatever is left of the wine. She is in all kinds of places ... except in your arms. You wish you hadn't asked her to dance, but she's going through the motions, so you do too... and suffer until the end of the tanda.

The beginner

It's harder to have fun with this, as we've all been there, so I'll start with ME... I still remember one of my first milongas when at some point, early in the dance, my follower looked at me with a patient smile and asked: "are you trying to lead back ochos?". Indeed I was ... obviously with very little success! And another one who just froze in front of me and said "I have no idea what you want me to do...". I bless the patience of these and other followers who kept dancing with me and helped me improve. If they are around I still dance with them (and they are much happier now).

But now... just like I baffled followers with an unrecognizable lead, I am baffled by how very obvious steps and weight shifts produce the most unexpected results, and usually with a delay that makes me wonder whether my move was sent to her by mail, and she just opened the envelope... ah, yes ... move my foot to the left... but make sure to shift my weight back and forth a few times and end with both feet firmly on the floor... Then look at him with a smile and say "I am a beginner"... "No kidding! - I think, but I smile back and say - ... oh you are doing just fine" ... and I finish the tanda, unless it's a milonga. I cannot bear to go on for three milongas with a beginner. So I thank her and promise to come back for a tango set... and I do.

The clamper

She's typically an advanced intermediate dancer who has decided to dance with you ... but not really. She could be the "absentee dancer" but she has decided instead to prove to you that you shouldn't have asked her to dance , so she puts her left hand firmly on your biceps in an unmovable "clamp" that prevents you from being in a close embrace and limits your steps to what you can do in an open embrace and a "frozen frame" ... and she invariably turns out to be right... Your dance will be stiff and uninspired, while you are trying to decide whether her "clamp" is temporary, while she's warming up to you... , or whether you'll have to suffer that way through the tanda.

I usually decide not to take a chance and I quit, confirming that I shouldn't have asked her in the first place.

The crazy glue

I should say that the "crazy glue" is easier for me to deal with than most of the other "followers I love to hate", since I feel very comfortable in close embrace and she is typically a good intermediate dancer. The trouble with "crazy glue" is that you cannot pry her open! She is the exact opposite of "the clamper". There is no way to do any open figures, as she stays glued to you for dear life! Oh well.. worse things can happen in life...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tango and relationships

When I first started dancing tango, one of my first tanguera friends told me that at some point she had decided not to mix tango with dating interests. I found that hard to understand, as of course tango is the dance of seduction and connection. What better introduction could there be to possible dating partners?

I could relate to potential problems with jealousy. My very first experience with learning tango took place several years ago with my (now) ex wife. She simply could not bear to see me dance with other women ... so we stopped dancing. I started again only after re-acquiring single status.

Now I am realizing that it's much more complex than that. I met my present girlfriend at tango at I was confident that we could handle well the jealousy issue. In fact we do. We dance mostly with others and we have had no issues to date w/r to any particular dance partners, but other issues are cropping up and I think we need to adjust our thinking to continue being successful in both the dance and in our relationship. Here are what I consider examples of "dangerous thinking".

1. Ok to dance with others... but "our" dance needs to be "special".

Well... it IS special, but, for a number of reasons, it may not always "feel" special. Maybe the music is not inspiring, or one of us is tired, or some thought crosses our minds and we get momentarily distracted, or I suddenly feel like trying a new step. We agreed to practice at different specific times, but sometimes the brain gets a sudden idea that might never come up again at "practice time". So you go for it. If it works it's cool and wonderful, if not... "you were practicing instead of connecting with me".

It's like sex... sometimes you touch the stars and sometimes it's just good sex. If you always expect to touch the stars and get upset if you don't ... you pretty much guarantee bad sex from then on.

I think one simply needs to relax, enjoy the partner, enjoy the music, enjoy the dance and let the connection happen without evaluation and judgment. That's not a guarantee that it will be always "special" but not doing so is a guarantee that enough fear, apprehension, and distractions will be inserted to make the "special" ever more rare.

2. Are you asking me to dance because you really want to dance with me or because you saw that I haven't been dancing, or because you have just been turned down by someone else?

Trying to second guess the "reason" for asking is a guarantee start to a lousy dance. The point is that YOU, the love partner, are ALWAYS, a special treat to dance with. You need to trust that, no matter what has been happening on the dance floor... who has been dancing with whom and with how many partners. Not trusting that is a form of jealousy, not of a specific person, but of the whole tango scene.

Again, it's OK (and probably a good idea) to reserve some number of dances and, likely, the last tanda, but, beyond that, one needs to simply relax and enjoy being asked whenever it happens. Starting the dance with a bunch of questions, and possibly some suppressed resentment in one's head, is a guarantee to ruin any possibility for that special connection we want.

3. You are saying that you are tired and ready to go home whenever I am ... but we haven't had a good dance yet!

This is really saying: "The dance hasn't been "special" yet, and you don't seem to care!" (or... you don't love me anymore...). This is related to #1 and identifies Tango with a necessary vehicle for expressing love. I guess the problem for me is to be able to switch this feeling "off and on"... and keeping it mostly "off", as expected while dancing with everybody else. So having kept that switch off and feeling now tired, I sometimes "forget" that my partner is expecting me to turn it back on for her before the evening ends. I will usually reserve a last tanda for her, precisely for this reason, but it is possible that sometimes I feel simply ready to leave the scene. For whatever reason, tango, at that particular moment, doesn't seem like a good vehicle for expressing my love. Maybe I'm just tired of the focus that is needed, maybe I am disappointed in myself for a lousy dance, maybe I am tired of being turned down and I just want to go home. Maybe I just want to go out to the car, hold her hand and kiss her in private. Maybe I just want to go home and make love. Sometimes one just says "f**k tango" . .

Tango can certainly be a vehicle for expressing love, but it's OK if sometimes it was just and evening of good exercise. So we walked around the dance floor twenty time rotating here and there, doing ochos, volcadas, colgadas and sacadas... Now it's time to go home. One of my favorite statements about life is "The only way to take life seriously is not to take it too seriously" .... This is true of tango as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How do I pick followers?

Lately I have been asking myself why I pick certain followers to dance with. I have noted my evolution from dancing with "whomever would have me"... The height of that time was a list of about 50 women whose names I kept on a spreadsheet, so I could refer back to it and not forget the names. I would also add some special item, such as nationality, physical features etc. to help me remember them.

I stopped keeping the list about a year ago, and I find that I still dance with a third of them at most. This has happened slowly, as I have continued to feel comfortable with some, and have felt progressively more uncomfortable with others. It has been very interesting to note how some seem to keep "matching" my present style and ability, while others feel like followers I am dancing with for the first time, and with whom I have no connection. I try to think back at what made me enjoy dancing with them, but that memory seems to have faded away completely.

Still, I do dance with followers with whom I feel no strong connection or much dancing enjoyment. These are mostly women who I consider to have become "friends" and to whom I feel a sense of gratefulness for accepting me from the very start (also they seem eager and happy to be asked). I find I cannot really express my dance with them, but I focus on the best technique I can muster, and on making them "look good".

The second echelon of followers are the women who have been improving along with me, or were already much better... but always adapted to my dance and seem to always have a good connection with me. These are my "bread and butter" dancers who always guarantee an evening of fun.

The third echelon of followers are my present "challenge". They are the ones who I felt were out of my league either by their "attitude" or obvious experience (teachers, performers, etc.). With these I am having a range of experiences that I am sure I will be sorting out for a while. Some have seemed pleased with my dance, others may have just been polite. At this point I am just making sporadic foirees into this group...
but I am already finding it very interesting...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Just for kicks...

The background: Jenny (not her real name) is one of my favorite teachers - although I haven't taken a class with her for a while - and she is the only teacher who has so far refused to dance with me. A few nights ago my partner and I are dancing in a Milonga. I lead a pivoting turn for her where I take small steps backwards around her axis. My feet suddenly "meet" another pair of feet behind me. I stop and apologize as customary. Jenny and Ted (not his real name) are the dancers I collided with... Nobody seems to be hurt, but Jenny gives me the unmistakable glare of "blame". Later in the evening, as she dishes out pieces of birthday cake she mutters to me that I need to take small steps when I go backwards. I am a bit surprised by her remark in a social setting, but I ignore it, smile, and go off to eat my cake.

A few days later Jenny announces that she plans to start a new Practica on a week night when I know there are already two competing Milongas. I feel compelled to send her an email reminding her of these events and suggesting that perhaps a different night would be better.

Her answer to my email really floors me... She says she is "sorry" but this is the only night available (I can certainly accept that) and in any case it's a practica and (get this) there are dancers out there who go to Milongas "kicking people around" and who should be practicing instead...

This was my answer to her email:

No need to be "sorry" Jenny. I was not asking for a personal favor. I thought I was doing you a favor by letting you know what is going on (from a dancer's perspective). My desire is to support your teaching, your milongas and your practicas ... whenever you choose to have them.

(About your "kicking" remark) having recently "kicked" you (or Ted - I am not sure), I
cannot help thinking that this remark is meant to be personal. So I will need to say a few things.

1. I will grant you that I, as well as many other dancers, beginners and not... can use practice. I assure you that I take that to heart, by continuing to take classes and workshops whenever they fit my schedule. That continues to amount to dancing almost every night for the past two years.

2. I consider your teaching to me to have been very pivotal, and I know full well that you could continue to give me very useful pointers. I have a partner now, and we coordinate our classes, milongas, practicas etc. with our respective schedules. The fact that I have asked you to dance a couple of times, in NO way implies that I consider myself to be anywhere near your level (of course!). I simply wanted to experience what it would be like to actually "dance" with you and see if I might be able to make the dance pleasurable for you, even at my very modest level. The fact that you have obviously deemed it very unlikely is certainly your prerogative, and I respect it. It might be interesting for you to know that some dancers enjoy dancing with me more than dancing with Ted, but that's their prerogative as well (or lack of understanding). Perhaps I just had a hope for a smile and something like "... you improved a lot", but, don't worry, I won't ask you again for a very long time.

3. Speaking of Ted... have you noticed that he leads A LOT with his eyes closed? Watch him at your next opportunity. Dance etiquette (and I know I don't need to tell you this .. but) is that the leaders apologize with each other and each "assumes" the blame. So that's what I did, but I wasn't stepping back into the line of dance, and I was indeed taking very small steps. My partner was pivoting on one foot and I was rotating her around her axis counterclockwise. One cannot take big steps while doing that, and, as a couple, we had stopped our forward movement in the line of dance while she was pivoting. This was all quite ordinary... and Ted led you into me, probably because he had his eyes closed (again, watch him..)

If you want to tell me that you don't like how I dance and that I need a lot more classes, that would be entirely fair, but the "kicking" example is not a good one, I am sorry. Accidents happen, even among the most advanced dancers... and leaders do need to keep their eyes open, as it is their responsibility to keep enough distance from the couple in front.
Again, as I told you above, the intent of my email was only to help you make your
event more successful. Given the constraints you mention, I wish you the best of luck.

I hope we are still friends.

A tango hug,

I am still trying to figure out what is going on with Jenny and her reaction to me. I went to her usual Milonga since the email exchange. I toyed with the idea of wearing an orange safety vest while dancing... but decided instead to act as if nothing had happened. She did the same. No, I did not invite her to dance... and whenever she happened to be close by on the dance floor I made sure to put as much distance between us as possible...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2 more teachers... and 1 puzzle.

I've been keeping up the effort of "asking the teachers"... One didn't know me, as I had never been in her classes, so I asked as I would any other dancer. We danced a full tanda and I feel it worked out fine. She commented that "it had been a pleasure", but of course she could just have been polite.

The other teacher I was very familiar with, so I did the usual "one dance" routine as in "I know that you are a teacher and I shouldn't be asking you.... but I would really like to try and dance with you...". To my complete surprise it seemed very hard, almost like I was back to beginner status. She was kind enough to invite me to continue for another dance "unless it's too painful.." -she said- almost blaming herself for our bad connection. Of course I thankfully accepted, remarking that I hoped it wasn't too painful "for her"... and I feel we connected a bit better the second time. Still I was left wondering why it seemed to have worked out so much better with other teachers. I had thought that that magic "connection" becomes less important as people become more advanced and can rely more on technique, but perhaps not. Perhaps, as people develop their own "style" it actually becomes harder if the styles are not compatible.
I continue to ponder that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Asking for "one" dance

Have danced with three more teachers, one Argentinian guest teacher, and two local ones. Two of the three knew me from their classes and one (local) didn't know me at all.

In all cases the dance seemed to flow very well, but I kept it fairly simple to be on the "safe" side. The general feeling I get is that it's better to keep it simple, but stable and secure, than to try fancy moves that have the possibility of throwing me off my posture and them off their balance. I've also been specifically asking for "one dance". My thinking is that they would be more inclined to say "yes". In two cases they "asked me" for one more... and that felt good.

My partner commented that in line with my "owning the dance" I should just ask them to dance and let them "thank me" if they don't want to finish the tanda. At this point I feel it's really easier on myself to approach them from the point of view of an advanced student who would like to "experience" dancing with them ... than that of a tanguero who is offering them a dance they will enjoy... but that's not "owning the dance" is it? So, she's probably right. I'll get there.