Monday, October 11, 2010

Well said

Things I have been meaning to note, so I can remember...

From a post by TangoCherie a little while ago, on the close embrace:

People from "English" cultures are not used to being that close to someone who is not their sweetheart or beloved relative;  sometimes their emotions get all confused after a tanda of moving together as one, hugged so dearly by a stranger.

--"Don't Fear It, Embrace It!"

(I had thought I was fairly immune to this, but it turns out, not really, as I've mentioned. Doing better again more recently, though.)


A cousin of mine recently stayed with me, over the weekend of another cousin's wedding. (I have a lot of cousins.) One evening while she was here, we were amusing ourselves on YouTube, exchanging our favorite dance videos. I showed her one of Silvina Vals and Oliver Kolker dancing milonga, from a festival a few years ago.

"I never know quite what to make of it," I mused to her. "Over time, I've come to admire it more and more--which surprises me. Usually when teachers give demos like this, I worry that--although they are amazing to watch--everyone will want to dance like that on the social floor afterward. That's a really impossible situation. And then, I don't really know how to classify their dancing..."

I went on for a bit about stage vs. social and how this doesn't seem completely either to me.

In the end, my cousin simply remarked, "So they're dancing their tango."



Sunday, October 10, 2010

El maestro viejo

He demonstrates something of the evolution of the embrace and way of dancing vals over the centuries since it was introduced to Buenos Aires, beginning with a very open, formal embrace and winding up with the close embrace that we are all familiar with. He remarks that his parents had met while dancing this way, before the war--that this was how he came to be--and warns, with a twinkle in his eyes, that you have to be careful when you dance.

He recalls how he began dancing as a child, leading his mother and his aunt at home, before he ever made his milonga debut at age fourteen. Now he is silver-haired, going on seventy-six years old but seems to have the vigor of a man a third of his age--although I notice how he rations his energy at the milonga, dancing only occasionally, and generally only one or two songs with any partner, so that he can dance with as many of the women as possible.

(We're lucky to have him again in my little town. I'm especially glad, as I was not able to attend his workshops in Nearby City, and thought, with disappointment, that I was going to miss him entirely. Happily, not so!)

Dancing with him is like solving a complex puzzle. His leading is highly musical and intricate--formed, I think, from so many years of creative improvising in the tiny space available in crowded Buenos Aires milongas; one of my favorite aspects of dancing with the milongueros there. Above all, he is clear, unhurried, easy to follow, and he can feel the way his partners' bodies move and adjust seamlessly if we have followed somehow imperfectly. Years and years of practice--there is nothing like it.

And yet I do not like to think too much about how old these men and women are getting. It makes me sad.

What can any of us do but dance as much as we can, while we can?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I shaved my legs for this?

I recognize that my limitations in tango are mainly self-imposed.

Because milonguero style is by far not the preferred style in My Hometown, but I love it and am generally just not very interested in dancing open-embrace/nuevo style, or dancing tango to non-tango music.

Because I'm picky about who I will dance with and when. If we have had Bad Dances before, and I do not observe improvement in your dancing with others, no, I will probably not dance with you. Even partners that I like to dance, say, tango with, I may not care to dance milonga or vals with, if I've had unsuccessful dances with them to this music before. New partners, I would prefer to start with a tango until I see whether they can handle more. All because, having been fortunate enough to have seen what really wonderful tango can be, I am not often willing to suffer through a Bad Dance if I can help it.

Maybe this attitude is uncharitable of me, and maybe it's the opposite of the lessons I should  be taking from the wonderful tango experiences I've had with, generally, apparently very generous-spirited partners. Maybe it shows an area where I should work on trying to grow. But it is the fact of where I am right now.

But Hometown is not Buenos Aires--it is not even Big Nearby City or Other, Less-Big Nearby City. These attitudes sometimes limit me considerably.

And so, with a scarcity of good close-embrace partners tonight, even more than usual, and the music not working in my favor, I sat out a lot. When the last tanda proved to be some non-tango junk, I knew that I was unlikely to get another dance, but still I waited til the opening chords of "La Cumparsita" before taking my shoes off and heading home; everyone who was left to dance with had stuck with their partners from the previous tanda.

In all, I had danced five times in three and a half hours. Three of those dances weren't even whole tandas. (Thank you so much, DJ, for turning a traditional milonga tanda into an alternative set halfway through.)

I mean, most of them were perfectly nice dances. One, especially, was even very nice. But five dances? Was that worth the hurt and frustration of feeling so invisible? I can manage that, with less effort, more physical comfort, and less emotional pain, at home in my pajamas with a movie and a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Or I could have spent the evening with friends.

My restrictions, as I said, are primarily self-imposed, and I realize this, but I reserve the right to feel frustrated anyway. In spite of my internal rules, it does not always work out so badly. The measures I take to try to ensure an enjoyable evening for myself often work exactly as intended, instead of backfiring. It is not always like this.

Maybe I should have turned right around before paying admission, when I saw that only one of my regular partners was there. But I'd had hopes of the visitors from out of town, and you never know--maybe other good partners might have shown up.

I began to wonder whether I was an optimist or a masochist, for staying so long. It gets very difficult to tell the difference, sometimes.

But I thought of my one very nice dance and knew that I'd risk it again next time.

And, yes, I would probably shave my legs.