Friday, February 23, 2007

Posing in tango

This is really a reaction to the comment on my private ´tango nirvana´ theory... there is an important aspect of tango that I have omitted here, but which in my opinion is essential for understanding the tango dancers´ psychology; a sort of a strange dichotomy which probably exists in other dances as well, but is very pronounced in argentinian tango:
On the one hand, we dance tango strictly for ourselves and our partner, a good tango being a very intimate matter between the two dancing partners, an intense personal experience so to speak, which has nothing to do with a show, or a performance for others to look at. On the other hand, though, we also all dance to be seen - hence the shoe fetishism, the motley of different looks you will encounter at a milonga, the way of dancing itself - it is hard to imagine that any dancer, no matter how good they may be, would pay no attention to the image they project. There are always crowds of spectators at any milonga, and the dancers concentrate on themselves and their partner while being at the same time very conscious of being watched. Sounds pretty schizophrenic when put like this, but... Also, women will close their eyes and concentrate fully on the dance and the language of their partner´s body, but they will have carefully chosen their shoes and clothes so as to enhance the effect of their dancing moves. Not to speak of the various dance embellishments... And then of course there are those people who come to milongas ostentatiously NOT dressed-up (such attitude should be combined with high-level dancing skills though, in order to achieve the desired effect).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

As for tango addicts...

... I believe that the stage of addiction is absolutely necessary if one is to become a good tango dancer. And the longer it lasts, the better.. I suppose everyone emerges from it, eventually, because it IS rather exhausting in the long run; but it is something one simply has to go through, no matter how nutty it may seem from an outsider´s point of view. Or, as a friend of mine, a much more experienced tanguera, once put it: ´In tango, you have two kinds of people. There are those who take classes, but rarely go out dancing because it is too time-consuming / exhausting if one has to work the morning after, etc.. - these people go to advanced classes and know many figures, but they never become REALLY good dancers. And then you have those who become hooked and dance like crazy, hardly ever miss a milonga and stay out late although they have to work in the morning - and these eventually become very good dancers.´
Basically it just boils down to whether you adapt tango to your life or your life to tango. And in case someone finds that way-out, I would like to point out that there are tango dancers who simply cannot understand how someone can NOT dance.. It all depends on perspective.
Like I said, however, one is bound to sober up eventually and take dancing easy, ideally content with one´s technique and becoming
one of those cool, self-possessed and lofty dancers you sometimes see at milongas, who apparently no longer feel the urge to dance or will only do so for special occasions or partners. But I wouldn´t know, would I, being still a happy addict myself..
I have a private theory about the next and ultimate stage of dancing the tango, a sort of a dancer´s nirvana: the individuals who reach it no longer NEED to dance in order to experience the ecstasy of a perfect tango; the man and the woman simply look at each other and in the split second when their eyes meet, they KNOW what it would be like, they experience between the two of them a perfection beyond the imaginable and the feeling in itself is so intense that there is no need to go through the whole exercise physically; they just sigh contentedly and lean back to recover from it. I have not so far met any such individuals, but of course they would be very rare. Which is lucky, as an abundance of such illuminated tangueros would make milongas extremely dull for everyone else.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In the beginning...

In the beginning of this blog there was the tango argentino...
It has now been one year since I have embarked upon the path of tango. I´ve been through the stages well known to all other tangueros - at first the weekly lessons, the pleasure of learning and concentrating on my body (a ´I dance, therefore I am´ sort of a thing), then the first milonga where, to my horror, I realized I could hardly walk - yet it was there and then that I completely fell for tango - and then lots of work and dancing to improve, and then my first tango trance when I danced my eyes closed until my feet were sore, limping happily back to my place at half past two on a summer night, still more dancing, and finally becoming a real tango addict (I still remember that week, in Paris, when I went out to dance almost every night, to the practicas, milongas and, of course, les quais de la Seine - most romantic, but deadly for your feet). My feet would hurt non-stop, a night´s rest was no longer sufficient to make the pain go away and, as I walked to the metro station, I had the feeling of stepping, barefoot, on sharp blades.. Yet I do not think there´s any inherent masochism in tango, as a friend of mine (not a dancer, of course, so what would he know?) once suggested when presented with this recollection. Yes, I suppose one COULD dance in sneakers... but it just wouldn´t be the same! It´s not just the shoe fetishism which, I admit, is a part of the whole tango thing, even for someone like me, who had always scorned high heels before and thought Doc Marten´s were the hight of cool; it´s also the undeniable fact that the whole of tango aesthetics is based on high-heel shoes - both the figures and the walk. One simply cannot achieve the same result without that bloody heel.. :) Anyway, one learns to minimize the damage, eventually, and most of the time a good night´s rest will suffice (plus perhaps a massage, a foot-bath, and some exercises - all these do make quite a difference).
I have noticed some women will wear high heels throughout the day, to work or to walk around the town in (though how far they actually get, or if they ever manage to catch a bus, I would be very curious to know); but I have never been one of these women and I find it rather alarming to see what a girl - including myself - will do to her feet when she gets into a tango trance (except for the fortunate specimen mentioned above, who can indulge in high heels without any apparent self-mutilation). Though, on second thought, it may not be so surprising after all. I suppose we all know that fairy tale about the little mermaid - the one that fell in love with a human prince and, in order to become human herself and be able to walk the earth accepted the condition set by the witch who helped her in her predicament, i.e. that every step she would take would feel as if she were stepping on a sharp blade.. That´s where I got the idea, of course..