Friday, June 18, 2010

Notes on a learning experience

Annoyingly, have been sick for the last, approximately, ever. (Okay, week; it just feels like forever. My whole body hurts from coughing, and I am fast using up those hard-earned sick days.) So no tango for a while.

Since I can't dance at the moment, I thought I'd write a little bit about what I've been trying to work on in my dancing for the last little while. The general theme is dancing outside my comfort zone.

I appear to have finally learned how to take a slow step, either side or back and forth. Generally, so far, my tendency has been to step where I'm being led quickly. Get there and get it done; isn't the point not the step (how you get there) but what you'll do from there? And tango is always more difficult when it's done slowly (you can't rush past a mistake). It's also connected to my longstanding trouble keeping my free leg relaxed at the hip--which remains a struggle.

Lately I'm finally starting to get the hang of savoring the step itself, a bit, when the music calls for it and the lead permits it. Let the process of simply taking a step be a thing of beauty; no need to rush. And it has led to some lovely little moments in my recent dancing.

Also, working on some showier moves. At a recent practica, I approached a trusted partner (the one with whom I successfully danced to non-tango music a little while ago) and actually asked him to work with me on volcadas, which, til now, I've had a big block about. I tend to step forward when I feel the leader's chest recede from me. I think it's been partly a misunderstanding of the movement, on my part, even though I was familiar with the concept of volcadas, and partly perhaps a bit of lack of trust of the leaders--not fully believing that they were going to/could support my weight when they took me off-balance. Or more fundamental, more visceral: not liking to let myself be off-balance.

But finally, I seem to have learned to reliably, if not always gracefully, follow a volcada. Another victory.

Then I simply asked this same partner to dance with me however he liked, pushing my boundaries. In our dances together, he usually respects my preference for miloguero style, but he does all kinds of nuevo things with other partners. I was pleased with how much I could follow when we danced this way. Not everything, at least not the first try, but a lot.

All of this stems from some frustration I've had lately, feeling a bit limited in my dancing. I don't necessarily want to be led this way all the time--indeed, many of the most wonderful dances I've ever experienced, in the US and certainly in Argentina, have not used any big "stagey" moves at all. I love best the intricacy of navigating in tight space on a crowded floor--it's like a puzzle: how will we work from this position, with only these options available? And when it's done with real attention to the follower's comfort and safety, and sensitivity to and knowledge of the music... There is really nothing like it.

But I'm tired of feeling like there are just some things I "can't" follow if a partner leads them, or very nice nuevo-leaning partners that I "can never" dance with. My pickiness in this regard has really limited my options at the local milongas. (I reserve the right to continue to be picky about the quality of the lead, the music, my mood for this, etc.)

Plus, I must admit, sometimes a girl just wants to show off a bit. Not on a crowded milonga floor, of course--but sometimes. One is only human.

And somehow, no matter how many times partners, observers, and teachers whose opinions I value tell me positive things about my dancing (my embrace, my musicality, my footwork...), I feel like I'm not as good a dancer as I could be if I don't even know what to do with myself when these things are led.

So, it will probably never be my preference, just as I will probably never prefer dancing to non-tango music (because to me, non-tango music and the movements of tango do not compliment each other), but I'm trying to increase my possibilities for enjoyment.

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