Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tango crushes

And there is no doubt that an embrace that is too deceptively beautiful can be emotionally dangerous for an overly sensitive and boy-crazy girl like me who spends so much time crushing on someone unattainable or mourning a relationship which ended sadly. The tango embrace is only a simulacrum, the holodeck version of intimaccy.

--"Terpsichoral," the Tango Addict: "Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you."

Oh boy, can I relate.  So, I suspect, can many others, because, as she also points out,

If you find someone attractive anyway, how can you not crush on them, when you are holding them in your arms and gliding around the floor in a daze of tango happiness?

--Terpsichoral: "Dancing and crushing."

It is so reassuring to know I'm not the only one--that, in fact, it may be very natural in a dance like this. But there is something important to try to keep in mind:

What many dancers are searching for is that magical connection on the dance floor which is not a means to any kind of an end, but just a beautiful thing in itself.

--Terpsichoral: "Dancing and crushing."

I leave by myself. All that I have of him is the memory of our dances and the scent of his cologne that lingers on my dress.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The iconoclast

I'd come to think of him as a deliberate contrarian; the faster the music, the slower he dances, until creeping to a complete stop in the middle of the floor, in the middle of the song, holding some pose with his partner. I'd ruled out dancing milonga or vals with him, his languidness had come to irk me so; to me they are hardly worth dancing if they don't feel different from a tango. I was sure he could feel me pulling against his embrace, trying to urge our movements onto the strong beats.

And then with smooth, flowing orchestras like Canaro--"Poema," still my favorite of all--hopping up and down, or doing polka steps. To "Poema"! I recall it with chagrin. Other times, whipping his partner around into sudden, sharp boleos, while the music flowed gently along.

Fine, I told myself; he believes in experimentation, and sometimes that takes him beyond what I find appropriate to the dance. He could do that if he liked--but I began to be careful of the music that I would choose to dance with him. I figured that we stood the best chance of mutual compatibility with moderately rhythmic, mid-paced tangos. At the very least, only tango, not milonga or vals.

At the last milonga, he asked me to dance to a tanda of DiSarli tangos. At first, I thought I was going to have the same frustration I'd had before, his smooth, slow leading not fitting with my feeling for the rather strong rhythm of the music. But I surprised myself: I found that his long pauses gave me the chance to play with the rhythm with my feet.

At one point I was able to extend my free leg back as if to start a step, stronger than the little toe-taps I mostly sneak in, to match an interlude of particularly accented beats in the song. I enjoy it when a skilled leader who knows the music well can lead things like that--but this was unled, I'm pretty sure, though not contrary to his leading. He just gave me the time to figure it out for myself. It was all mine then, and it really seemed to fit the music and our dance.

I felt as though I'd made a breakthrough in learning how to follow him effectively--and enjoy myself with him. What had annoyed me could actually be an opportunity. Maybe his slowness didn't need to hold me down after all but could ... create a chance for play? Experimentation? Collaboration?

At the end of the tanda, he pressed my hand in both of his and bowed a little bit. "That was beautiful," he told me. (Praise from him still always surprises me.) And I wholeheartedly agreed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


The other day I was sitting in a local cafe, when a particular blues song (that I'd first heard as part of an alternative tanda) started playing, immediately followed by electrotango. I looked around to see whether DJ Oblivious was working behind the counter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If there was any question

Here is a hint, ladies of tango: When you kick over the vase of flowers on a table at the edge of the floor, your boleo is too damn high.

(Or, possibly equally, the leader is a pretty poor navigator.)

And a tip for everyone: When it happens twice in one evening, you're not at a very good milonga. But we also knew that from the hopping (!) couples, the floating tango à trois going on at various times throughout the evening, and the music that shifted nonsensically between alternative and traditional within the same tanda. (Even the DJ started to get the message when couples cleared the floor, thinking that his next song was actually a cortina. Looking embarrassed, he faded the music out and went into the next tanda.)

How I wish I were making any of this up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The pianist

I haven't had the time and energy to write much lately--nor the inspiration, because life events have been so busy and often tiring that I've hardly been able to really reflect on anything very much. This is just a quick note to breathe some life back into my poor neglected blog!

* * *

Today, tapping my fingers as I listened to tango music at work, I remembered--in that intense way that the body remembers physical sensations--dancing with a partner who is also a pianist with some tango in his musical repertoire. That night, I felt him tapping the fingers of his right hand where it rested on my back. Hoping not to make him self-conscious, I asked him about it between songs.

"I guess I was playing along with the music," he told me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The language of following II: Accompanying

Both Jan (here) and someone calling himself Bill in Oz (here) have recently mentioned an idea of the follower in tango accompanying the leader, as a way of resolving the problems of possible negative connotations of the term "follower." I've been giving this some thought...

At first I thought it seemed belittling as well, as though the man is a star musical performer and the woman is only the backup band.

But often, I think, it's actually the other way around: Sometimes the leader barely seems to move, but the follower gets to do some lovely step--and adorn it if we wish--that looks and feels wonderful. Then we look like the stars, while the leader certainly does his share of hard work, without necessarily a lot of flash. It must take a lot of practice for a leader to achieve a level of skill where he only needs to slightly shift his shoulders to lead his partner to a turn or a cross. Lord knows I couldn't do it, the few times I've tried to lead, in practices. But it's a feeling I enjoy very much as a follower.

Then I thought about the way that a skilled accompanist can be crucial to the sound of a piece of music. Even if you can't specifically hear a piano playing with a full orchestra, for instance, its sound is present in the texture of the music, and if you took it away, the overall effect would be poorer. With a vocal performance, a rehearsal accompanist can be very important to the learning process--and if the piece is accompanied in performance, the feel of the song can completely change from a capella  run-throughs in rehearsals. Suddenly things that had been difficult may become easier, and a piece that had seemed awkward and disjointed might start to make sense.

Finally I thought about the social sense of accompanying, in the most traditional context I could think of.

(I was trying to avoid using gendered language here, but it was getting way too clunky, so: patriarchal heteronormativity ahoy! But I know this is not the only way the scenario needs to go. Are we all okay? All right then.)

A man invites a woman to do him the honor of accompanying him to an event. Both probably get dressed up nicely and make sure that they are on their best behavior. The one who made the invitation has a special responsibility to help make sure that the other person is at ease and enjoying their time together. But, although we can imagine it happening some other way for some reason, no one would really want to spend that time with someone they actively disliked, right? So hopefully, as a matter of mutual consideration, each has an interest in the enjoyment of the other, regardless of who invited whom.

And I think that much of the time, this too gets reversed, so that, again regardless of who invited whom, the woman may be said to be accompanied by the man. Similar to the idea of lead-follow-follow?

In the end, maybe the idea of accompanying is really a pretty good way to think and talk about the follower's role in tango--as long as we don't get trapped in that knee-jerk reaction I first had, of thinking that accompanying is, by implication, less important than leading. Both are essential for a good dance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The language of following

This started out as a reply on Tango Therapist's recent post about the inadequacy, as he sees it, of the term "follower." Then it got too long to be a polite comment, and it always was rather tangential to the actual discussion in his blog, so I decided to bring it over here, so as to be able to rant freely about it.

The discussion on Tango Therapist's blog is about the reductive nature of calling a woman "a follower." I hadn't yet gotten around to fully considering the merits or demerits of "follower" (other than that its gender neutrality is helpful for dancers who do not fall into the man leads/woman follows model). In general, though, it has been something I've been vaguely uncomfortable with for a long time, as I've wrestled with the problem of how to reconcile my feminism with what I do in tango. The discussion in Mark's blog is interesting and useful, with many thoughtful points raised in the comments.

For myself, I mainly dislike being called "a follow." I don't like "follow" being used as a noun because (a) it's a verb, and I'm persnickety about language like that; I occasionally (used to be regularly) get paid to be. It seems lazy on the speaker's part, that he or she can't be bothered to tack on a single extra syllable to avoid poor usage.

But mostly, (b) because it is used as a noun, it becomes a statement about what I am, rather than what I do, and that comes across as belittling. I am not a follow, with all its implications of mindless lack of volition--and, indeed, lack of humanity. A follow, if it exists, is a thing, not a person. Rather, I follow; I am a person who chooses a particular role in this dance, in which both roles are required in order for it to function.

(It appears, Mark, as though you might say that both the man and the woman must follow the music, but that still depends on a notion of leading and following--albeit with a nonhuman leader and two followers--in order for the dance to be both functional and beautiful.)

Credit where it's due: La Planchadora, whose blog was one of the first I started reading regularly and whose snark writing I miss very much, did greatly influence my thinking on this, although she had a slightly different take on the matter.

So that's my pet peeve about the language used to describe the roles in the dance. Don't ever call me a follow. Also, don't talk about how you or any leader "drives me."*  I am not a car, and if you're dancing like I am, you've got bigger problems than just language.

* Yes, not too long ago I had a leader do both of these things at once, together with a spectacularly rude backhanded compliment. I was so angry I could barely speak. EPIC MANNERS FAIL.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It happens.

"That's one thing I especially like about dancing with you," he tells me, grinning. "We may screw up, but we'll screw up very precisely."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I read Jan's chronicles of the older milongueros and milongueras eagerly, hoping to recognize a face despite the short time I was there and the long and ever-growing time since then--and hoping that, if I do, the dash won't be followed by a recent death date. I don't think I've recognized anyone yet, other than a few who have (or had) wider reputations.

There is one who I know is gone. He was a cab driver and a friend of my teachers. They arranged for him to pick me up from the airport when I arrived, and he went far out of his way to help me overcome the difficulties of that first day. If there was a time when I knew I would need a cab somewhere, I called him. My teachers said his evening schedule was like this: He'd pick up fares until he wanted to stop and dance. Since he was, I believe, an independent driver, he could just stop into a milonga and dance until he wanted or needed to leave, maybe taking a fare from the milonga. It seemed like a very clever way to manage it.

Despite the language barrier, I learned a little about him and his family. His wife, his son--no grandchildren yet. I wanted to talk to him more--and listen more to him--but I didn't know how. At his prompting, I promised him that I would know more Spanish when I came back next time; he promised me that he would try to learn some more English.

I only ever knew his first name. 

When my teachers told me that he had died when an infection set in after heart surgery, I found another sort of language barrier: I did not know how to talk about him. 

How could I explain him to my friends? He was a tango dancer and a taxi driver and my Buenos Aires grandfather/knight in slightly battered but still shining armor. I didn't know his last name, and we could barely communicate. I knew him for two weeks--but the news of his death left a little hole in my heart, and in my thoughts of the city.

I wish I could have more eloquently expressed my gratitude for all his help. I wish I could offer my sympathies to his family. I wish I could tell them how happy I was to have known him, even so slightly and for so short a time. I wish most of all that he were going to be there whenever I next manage to go back.

All I can do is remember him. And even though I am sad, the memory makes me smile.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shades of gray

I think I need to stop trying to see things in such absolute terms and simply accept the fact that sometimes, in some places, with some partners, I enjoy things that, under other circumstances,* I do not like. I believe this is called being human?

(I feel sorry for anyone trying to guess what I might be open to on any given night, though.)

* That is, the vast majority of the time. In order to be happy trying nuevo/stagy dancing, I have to be in a particularly good, adventurous, confident mood; in a place where I will not be a danger or an annoyance to other couples, or generally clash with the atmosphere of the milonga; and only with certain very good leaders (otherwise I have no idea what I'm supposed to do). The stars do not align this way very often, and I'm mostly happiest with my usual discreet, classic, musical milonguero style.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

La Maestra

She modestly disparages her English-speaking abilities (unnecessarily; she communicates clearly and vividly), yet she is able to give some important pieces of advice that even rhyme:

"Tango is an invitation, not an obligation."

"Vals: More rotation, less transportation."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Por una cabeza

He is about a foot taller than me, and as we dance, his cheek rests nearly against the top of my head. He is embracing me in an unusual way tonight, with his free hand lightly cradling my neck. Suddenly he remarks, "I hope you won't think this is obscene..."

Uh-oh, I think.

"...but the scent of your hair is bringing back memories for me."

Oh, thank goodness! Um--maybe.

Aloud, I say, still warily, "Do you mind if I ask what kind of memories?"

At the time, I was using a shampoo with a distinctive herbal scent. Privately, I had wondered whether it smelled like I'd stuck my head into a vat of sage dressing--although I'd always hoped that between rinsing and the sweeter-smelling conditioner that I used, perhaps it wasn't actually as noticeable as I'd thought. I am fully prepared for him to say something like (possibly at best), My first Thanksgiving in America.

"The sea," he answers, to my surprise. "We used to holiday by the sea when I was a child."

As the song continues, I feel him occasionally lightly brushing his hand across my hair, like a harpist running his fingers over the strings, to stir up the scent. There are a number of liberties a man might take in the dance that I would object to, but tonight this is not one of them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pun-der appreciated?

My regular teachers usually hold class in the dance room of the local rec center, and they generally have leaders advance around around the circle of followers with each new song. When my latest tango crush arrived back at me, over by the ballet mirrors, after the first circuit of the room, I remarked, with a smile, "Haven't I seen you at this barre before?"

Sadly, my wit seemed lost on him at the time. (He seemed to be concentrating on the giro we were supposed to be working on. Whatever.) But at the previous milonga, I had cracked up a pair of fellow dancers with a rapid-fire string of puns on the other girl's area of studies, in the hopes of helping her relax about a major upcoming deadline, at least for the duration of the milonga. (It seemed to work.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DJ Oblivious

"I'd add that a thoughtful and trustworthy DJ can also make good dancers less risk-averse, and that makes them more willing to dance with inexperienced partners. Because they know the music will be there for them if it's difficult, or for another dance with someone else!"

--Ms. Hedgehog, commenting on El Zorro Gris' entry on breaking the vicious cycle of bad music

So. True.

This is exactly what I find frustrating so often at the Tango Bar, especially last time, and the other nuevo-hosted milongas around town. (Okay, one of the things.) I never know, if I don't care for a particular tanda, when the next time I'll be able to dance might be.

Last week at the Tango Bar, a guest DJ filled in for the regular one, who was out of town. The regular DJ--and bless him, he's been very kind to me, and I always enjoy dancing with him very much--is quite bad enough about catering to people who want to dance to non-tango (or non-danceable tango) music, because he doesn't want to lose those dancers. But he'll usually come back to danceable tango afterward; classic tango is actually his own preference, he's told me.

In the abbreviated time that I was at the Tango Bar last week, the guest DJ played, as I recall, a sequence of tandas that went along these lines: classic tango, then some rather obscure and difficult milongas, then alternative "tango," then blues, then electrotango, then what sounded like eastern European folk music--then "La Cumparsita."

And so after my first dances, to the classic tango and the milongas, I got up to dance ... I would call it one and a half times--an aborted attempt for the set that turned out to be electrotango and very difficult for my partner and me. (It had sounded like it was going to be traditional tango at first--deceptive.) So my partner and I had to sit down, and I didn't get a chance to dance again until "Cumparsita," when that same partner grabbed me again.

It was so frustrating. With every cortina, I'd look up hopefully, waiting to see what the tanda would be--and the DJ would play some more nonsense that I couldn't dance to. This particular DJ dances a wide range of other styles, such as blues and swing, so she was clearly having a wonderful time--but a growing collection of more advanced tango dancers were sitting out in increasing annoyance.

There are a few people in town with whom I will sometimes try dancing to alternative music. Sometimes it works, but I still like classic tango best; other music just doesn't usually feel like tango, in a way that I can't explain yet (but other people have tried, sometimes in quite technical terms). I remain picky about who I will dance milonga, vals, or tricky music such as Pugliese with, if it is played at a particular milonga--because when they're done well, they are so lovely, but when they are done poorly, they feel awful. But what Ms. Hedgehog said is absolutely right. If my partner is less than ideal, classic tango is easier for both of us to deal with. And if I know that I am likely to have the opportunity to make up for a bad dance, I'm much more likely to take a chance with an unknown dancer or unusual music.

Most of all, I go to tango evenings to dance tango, not to dance to Gypsy ballads or swing. I can't object too much to alternative tandas played sparingly--they play occasional chacarera, rock, or tropical tandas in Buenos Aires, for a change of pace (and it is worth noting that the dancers then dance in those styles to that music; they do not try to dance tango to it, like so many do here)--but tango is our primary reason for going to a milonga, isn't it? So I can't help believing that danceable tango ought to be the basis of any milonga that dancers aren't forewarned will be non-traditional. Play alternative stuff occasionally, as El Zorro Gris discusses in an earlier post, if you feel you must; I'm happy to listen and content enough to watch, even though I don't often want to participate. But then, please, come back to tango. It's why we're at the milonga and not at a salsa bar, a swing dance, or a hip-hop club.

Happening across Ms. Hedgehog's remarks has helped me sort out why I had such trouble with the guest DJ's wild music selections last week--even more than usual at the Tango Bar. I'm so glad that the regular DJ is back.

ETA (4/2)
Further proof: At the next milonga I danced with, I think, three new people--because I knew that I could make up for those tandas if they did not go well. Happily, two of them were very nice (and the third was better than I thought it might be).

Friday, March 25, 2011

On a bad day

Here is the ugly truth, if you want it: Sometimes I am jealous of every single other person you dance with.

Turn of phrase

We do not realize that we have misjudged how much time is left in the song. We step onto the floor and embrace for a few seconds; maybe we had the chance to change weight. And then the song ends.

We step apart in the brief silence between songs, and he makes a slight bow and remarks, grave-voiced but with a twinkle in his eyes, "Thank you; that was very ... pure."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don't try this at home

Managed a cabeceo with a partner several seats down the row from me, in the mirror of the room where the milonga was being held. We were awesome!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Note to self:

I have sought dances with men for stupider reasons than that I admired their chacarera, but it did not work out any better because of that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The sacrament of tango

I recently found myself at rather a loss for words--which, as you may imagine, doesn't happen to me all that often. I was talking about tango with a friend, specifically about the differences between close-embrace and open-embrace tango. I was trying to talk about the lack of intimacy that I feel in open embrace, without using the word "connection." And I couldn't do it.

Maybe others' experience is different; I can't presume to speak for anyone else. But I find that it is true that when I am not dancing heart-to-heart with my partner, I do not feel the same about the dance. It may be fun, in its way--I've had a few quite nice dances in open embrace--but I do not feel the connection that I feel when I am being truly and fully embraced.

A partner once asked why I don't like it when we're dancing in close embrace and he breaks it to do steps in open embrace; a dynamic or elastic embrace, I've heard it called. I'd rather start out and stay in open embrace, if I have to, than break a close embrace.

"It feels like your support goes away," I answered.

"But you shouldn't really be leaning on each other in close embrace," he pointed out (justly).

"I know," I said. "That's not really what I mean, because I won't fall over if you step away..."

It was not his physical support that I meant; it was the intimacy of the connection, the emotional closeness. When he breaks the physical connection, the emotional connection is abruptly cut off. It leaves me feeling suddenly cold--again, in more than a physical way--and lonely. The connection is real to me, and it is both physical and nonphysical--and it is mostly the nonphysical that I find the most compelling thing about tango milonguero. Something is missing, for me, without it.

As Cherie puts it, one is being literally held at arm's length in an open embrace. So the connection is both physical and mental, or emotional, or spiritual; it links mind and body. The inner and the outer seem to both reflect and affect each other.

It makes a peculiar example, probably, but I sometimes think of an episode of The Dog Whisperer--almost the only episode of that series I've ever seen. In it, a family had moved from a quiet little town to a busy, noisy city, and their dog became too paralyzed with fear and anxiety on the street to go for walks. It put its ears back and tucked its tail between its legs and flinched at every noise. Cesar Milan rigged a sort of second leash that clipped to the first one and attached with a little cuff to the dog's tail, pulling it out of the fearful posture with its tail tucked. The effect was almost magical. The dog seemed to think that, because it was no longer in a posture of fear, it must not be afraid. And it became perfectly happy to go for walks again.

Like I said, a rather peculiar example--but how different are people, really? I've been given the advice, when preparing for job interviews, to be sure to sit up straight, with my shoulders back, not folding my arms or fidgeting with a pen, and smile--because in projecting an appearance of confidence and relaxation, we're more likely to find ourselves actually feeling more confident and relaxed. And how often is it true that if you go into a new social situation with a smile, and behave in a friendly way, people usually respond with friendliness, and you probably end up having a good time and maybe making real new friends? It's like a positive feedback loop, or karma, where we get back what we put into the world--and the outward affects the inward, and the other way 'round.

There may even be something spiritual going on here, if you believe in a spiritual world. I'm Catholic, myself--though not a very good one, these days. I'm not going to say that I have no issues with the actions and official doctrines of the Church--just as I may not agree with the actions of the government of my country. Nonetheless, I can no more think of myself as not being Catholic than I can think of myself as not being American. I was born into it, and even if I lived the rest of my life in another country and sought citizenship there, I think I would always be this, at heart.

Among other things, this means that all my life I've been immersed in the belief that the spiritual world is represented and affected by the physical.* That is what a sacrament is: a mingling of physical and spiritual realities. The symbol becomes the thing that it represents. The bread and wine become the Body and Blood, and we take the Divine into our selves; that is why we kneel and bow our heads in awe and humility. And everywhere in life, our actions and words--the physical--whether positive or negative, have effects in the spiritual reality, and vice versa.

So it makes perfect sense to me that there seems to be a more-than-physical connection in the close embrace that is lacking (for me) in the open embrace. Of course there is; in one I'm being hugged close, and in the other, I'm being held at a distance. There is additional closeness there, at least while the dance lasts. The outward expresses the inward; the inward is affected by the outward.

To extend the religious metaphor, does this mean that tango could be a sacrament--a dancing communion with another person, and maybe even with the Divine? Maybe, in the same way that all of life could be seen as sacramental. In the same way that one can look for the Divine in every other person that we meet--and the beauty of the eternal dance that creates even while it destroys; that exists neither in the past nor in the future but only in the present.

... You know; if you believe in that kind of thing.**

* I think that's a key component of Latin American magical realist literature, too, and part of why I like it--but that's another line of thought, which I'm sure better scholars than I have investigated.

** It is easy to say this now, because the last few milongas I've been to were very good for me. You ask me again, after a bad night of being ignored and jostled, and I will deny everything and reject the idea that there could be anything holy about tango. I just want to establish this now, to preserve my right to gripe when I want to.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Duet

The beautiful caramel-skinned woman next to me brims with vibrancy and infectious good cheer. She and I have been chatting pleasantly all evening, whenever we are both sitting out. It is getting late, and the crowd at the milonga is thinning. This tanda, we both like the music for listening but not for dancing, so we wait it out.

She begins singing along with the music, although there are no words to the song. When I do a little accidental double-take, not certain what I'm hearing, she grins and leans closer to sing to me, with an exaggerated waggle of her eyebrows. I laugh and quietly join in. I don't think anyone hears us; we're not trying to be heard. We get adventurous and harmonize occasionally, both of us singing nonsense syllables, ba da da, dum dee da da da, until the final bum bum!

We giggle like children as the cortina begins.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The answer is always, Yes, dance!

With gratitude for the inspiration of SallyCat--again.

Summer 2009:

I have just finished dinner in the apartment in Buenos Aires. L, my friend, traveling companion, and all-around partner in crime, has left to return to the States, as scheduled, so I face the prospect of almost another week by myself before my own return.

I had not realized how much her cheerful company had made the trip more fun--nor how comforting it was, in this city we knew so little, to have someone around who was generally as lost and confused as I was.

I noticed it immediately, after seeing her safely into her taxi for the airport: the little apartment was so quiet with just me in it. I cried a little bit, out of loneliness, and turned on the TV for some noise. It is the first time I have turned on the TV since I had been there--up til then I had used the radio, on what seemed to be a 24-hour tango station, oh glorious!--and I left it on all afternoon, into the evening.

As I wash up after dinner, I consider whether I should go out to the milongas that night. Would I really have a good time dancing, as homesick as I was feeling? It would be the first night I'd stayed in since I'd arrived. I could call Sr. and Sra. and make my excuses. Surely no one could blame me if I just took a night off to adjust and get my mood in order...

Uh-uh, said a little voice in my head. You didn't come all the way to Argentina to sit in your room and watch American sitcom reruns on TV! Think how L would scold you for that! You came here to dance, and you're going to go out there and meet your friends who are expecting you, and you are going to dance!

So I got cleaned up, had a fortifying bite of chocolate, and headed out to the milonga. And it was the best thing I could have done.

New Year's Day, 2011:

I am embarrassed and upset over the bad night at the New Year's Eve milonga in Nearby City. I sleep late on my cousin's couch, and then I laze around, reading, as long as I can. I put on an Internet tango radio station for noise.

As the sun starts to set, I know that I need to make up my mind whether I am going out this evening or not. If I am, then I need to start getting ready to go to dinner with my cousin.

I could just stay in, I think. Maybe it would be better to give the milonga tonight a pass. Spend more time with my cousin. Finish my book. Yesterday had been a very rough night, and surely nobody could blame me if I wanted to skip it tonight. With the mood I was in, would I really have fun anyway?

Uh-uh, says that little voice in my head--which sounds a bit like a drill sergeant, sometimes. You didn't come all the way here just to sit around in your pajamas and read! You came here to dance, and you are going to clean yourself up for a nice dinner, and you're going to go to the milonga and see whether there are any friends there, and you are going to dance!

And so I did. And it was the best thing I could have done.

Monday, January 3, 2011

History repeating?

I think it was two years ago that I first went to Nearby City with tango friends to dance over New Year's.

(...Yes, I think it must have been, because last year I spent New Year's home with a disgusting cold, watching a marathon of The Thin Man movies on TV. At least someone in the house was terribly glamorous and witty and jet-setting, even if it was only the people on the screen!)

That year, the dancing on the Eve was not so good for me. It was a rowdy, mostly open-embrace group, and I didn't dance much. But I got to know my traveling companions better, I replaced my worn-out black winter coat with a beautiful red one (opening my mind to the idea that black was not the only choice for my winter outerwear), and the seeds of my eventual trip to Buenos Aires were planted with the encouragement of a friend--because the dancing at a different milonga, on New Year's Day, was marvelous. I had as many dances as I could handle with partners new and old, who remain some of my favorites in the area.

It was all strangely echoed this year. Again, the milonga on New Year's Eve was not a good one for me (for reasons beyond just the prevailing dance style, but let's skim over that). It was too viciously cold for my pretty red coat--had to wear the heavier long one (which, by the way, is also not black; yay, colors!)--but I wore my rather stunning red dress, so at least I looked quite fabulous, in spite of the difficult night.

(It has been said before by others, but apparently it always bears saying again... Gentlemen, when you are dancing with a lady at a social event--not at a class or a practica, where one is seeking to learn new things and practice the things that give one trouble--and she has difficulty with a particular step, it is good manners and considerate dancing not to keep repeating that step as though you are hoping she'll have a sudden breakthrough if you just do it again and again. She might, I suppose; she may be able to identify and correct the problem without help--if it really is a problem with her following ... But more likely she will find herself deeply embarrassed in public, when in fact she may be a very competent dancer, at an event where everyone's main concern should only be to enjoy themselves with lovely dances. 

(I may write more about this later, because this is, unfortunately, also something that appears to repeat itself, with different partners and who-can-predict which steps. Also, I have some thoughts on the felicitous organization of special events at a milonga. But anyway.)

I was daunted to the point of considering staying home the next night, but I'm pretty stubborn and generally a believer in getting back up on the horse (or, in this case, the milonga) that threw you--and, besides, I knew this one was under the charge of different organizers, the same pair who had run the one that had gone so well for me two years ago, so I hoped it would again be better.

And it was. Once again, I had almost as many dances as I could handle from a number of lovely partners who, once again, made me feel wonderfully welcome. By the time I left, I was limping on tired, happy feet.

To anyone who may read this, I wish you a warm and lovely new year--with lots of beautiful dances!