Monday, June 25, 2007

Beginners revisited

Ok, so, I went to the milonga, in spite of ankle and everything. I didn’t mean to; I take very seriously the advice I got from fellow bloggers and tangueros, don’t get me wrong. The thing is, I went for a drink with a friend, who also dances tango. He had arranged to meet up later that evening with some other people from his class on my favourite milonga, and we agreed to have a drink together before that. I wore fairly non-tango clothes and sneakers (very clever of me, eh? but I had danced in sneakers before and it’s not so bad... but anyway, just to point out I did take preventive measures). We had a very pleasant chat and when we got up, he said ‘You coming then?’ And of course I did. And frankly, it did me an awful amount of good.

For one thing, this is a milonga where I feel at home; I simply enjoy being there and seeing the familiar faces, kissing people to say hello on the way to the dancefloor... Also, much as I like to dance, it was fun being there not to dance, for once. We chose a strategic position on the sofa, watched others dance, had some wine – which was nice, because I normally never drink alcohol when I dance; I find it’s not good for one’s balance and I don’t very much like dancing with people who do, unless their balance is so impeccable that they can afford it, which is rare anyway. So we were sitting there, sipping the wine and having a good time, when the others arrived. They were two guys from a lower-level class, one of them with his partner who also brought a non-tango girlfriend.

Now, these two are not very experienced dancers and they hardly ever go to milongas. When they do, they bring their partners and dance with them. I guess it’s understandable, they just don’t feel up to navigating on a crowded floor and coping with an unknown partner, all at once; they think they still don’t know enough and are afraid to bore the woman or step on her feet, or both. But then, how will they ever learn like this?

However, I noticed a strange thing. They danced with their partner, the girl who came with them. But they also danced, and several times, too, with her friend, who had never danced tango in her life and had only come there to watch. They literally spent the evening dancing – either on the dancefloor or in an empty corner, teaching the steps – with someone who had nothing to do with tango! Because, apparently, with her they didn’t feel any pressure or fear of messing up; on the contrary, it must have made them feel, you know, experienced dancers. I was flabbergasted. And, looking at the floor, I saw this guy who never misses a milonga; he is a fairly advanced leader who makes up for his missing talent with diligence and, to be fair, the stuff he knows to do he does well. He is also a flagrant example of a dancer who uses his partners to boost his (apparently shaky) self-confidence. He always dances with total beginners and keeps on correcting them, to the point of being really obnoxious. I pointed him out to my friend and said ‘But what kick does he get out of that? I mean, wouldn’t he rather dance, for once, and have a good time with another advanced dancer?’ Don’t get me wrong, it is good to dance with beginners from time to time, even if you’re advanced yourself. They will learn, and you will have more good dancers to dance with in the future. Every decent advanced dancer ought to know that. But it is not what it’s all about, unless you intend to make your living that way, and, frankly, there are better ways to make a living.

Anyhow, my friend looked pensive. ‘Don’t get me wrong’ he said, ‘but it is actually nice to dance with beginners, there is much less pressure, and you don’t feel bad about botched moves. You know she can’t really judge you.’

‘Sure’ said I, remembering my beginner days, ‘and if it doesn’t work out, she’ll always think it’s her fault. Whereas, like I found out later, if it doesn’t work out, in about 80% of the cases it is the leader’s fault.’

My friend grinned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tango withdrawal symptoms

I cannot dance, says the doctor, for two or three weeks (then we'll see - meaning it could be even longer?)!!!

I am in a state of shock. It hadn't occured to me at all in the beginning - I thought, as soon as I can walk, I can dance - what could be more natural... Well, apparently not, I have to give my ankle some time to heal. But when will it be good enough to resist the tension of dance steps? Never mind the pain, but will it be as flexible and quick as before? I am constantly switching between panic and irritation..

And it is Wednesday, I should be going to my favourite milonga, but.. there I am, not knowing what to do; I feel totally lost. And, with horror, I realize the importance of tango in my life. Two weeks seem an eternity. I would go to the milonga, just to watch, but the idea of going there in my street shoes seems bizarre - I couldn't do that, it just feels totally wrong. And I would probably go crazy watching others dance when I know I can't be on the dancefloor myself.

I have been looking at an analysis of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and comparing them to mine, just out of curiosity:

Mild to moderate psychological symptoms
Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness - well, restlessness, yes; but it's only natural - not going to tango on a Wednesday night has broken a certain routine...
Feeling of shakiness -
not in particular - apparently the addiction is more mental rather than physical, thank God.
Anxiety - oh, definitely; will the ankle be all right? am I going to be able to dance like before? what will people think, not seeing me around for so long? and, WHEN will I be able to dance?
Irritability or easily excited - I am terribly irritable. I sit at a party, with very little sympathy for the people around who seem to be having fun, thinking 'Why do I have to be here? I should be at a milonga!'
Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes - hard to say since even under normal circumstances..
Depression -
yes, yes, yes!
Fatigue - I wish! like I said, coming back home at night with my feet not hurting at all, except the accursed ankle, just doesn't seem right... plus I have all this time to sleep now - I still can't get used to it.
Difficulty with thinking clearly - hmm, let's see... no.
Bad dreams - as a rule I never remember my dreams. So who knows.
Mild to moderate physical symptoms - mild, very mild.
Headache - general, pulsating - no, not on top of everything else!
Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face - as above..
Nausea - well, yes, I feel slightly nauseous when imagining what my dancing will be like after a couple of weeks abstinence; I am trying hard not to think about it though.
Vomiting - no; but what an awful thought!
Loss of appetite - on the contrary; or rather more time to eat now, whereas when I used to go dancing in the evening, I often simply didn't have the time to eat dinner, and forgot all about it once I started dancing.
Insomnia, sleeping difficulty - only it IS so unusual to have the whole night to sleep now..
Paleness - ???
Rapid heart rate (palpitations) - yes, at the thought of dancing again!
Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils) - haven't noticed, but who knows..
Abnormal movements - limping instead of dancing? definitely abnormal...
Severe symptoms
A state of confusion and hallucinations (visual) -- known as delirium tremens - now that I think of it - I am confused (disoriented, cf. above), my life seems to lack order; and I frequently hallucinate about tango steps, music, milongas...
Agitation -
yes; and the longer it takes my ankle to heal, the worse it gets.
Fever - not yet...
Convulsions - not yet...
"Black outs" -- when the person forgets what happened during the drinking episode - not applicable, seeing as I don't have any tango episodes to forget at the moment :-((

Saturday, June 09, 2007

âme soeur - corps soeur?

Cela fait 9 mois que j'ai écrit ceci, mais j'y crois toujours..
...Les milongas de Paris sont un rêve; ce n'est pas seulement le fait qu'il y en a plusieurs chaque jour de la semaine (d'ailleurs je commence à comprendre qu'il n'est pas possible de continuer à ce rythme effréné et aller danser tous les soirs - mes pieds en souffrent déjà), ni le nombre impressionant de danseurs et danseuses qui habitent dans cette ville ou qui sont de passage aux milongas parisiennes; ce qui ne cesse pas de m'étonner et de me ravir est le nombre de bons danseurs ici. Bien sûr, Paris est la capitale du tango en Europe, précédé au monde seulement par Buenos Aires; il y a d'ailleurs beaucoup d'Argentins qui vivent et dansent ici.
Mais ce n'est pas seulement une question du niveau technique. Dans la danse de couple il y a un phénomène étrange: si on danse bien, on peut danser avec, plus ou moins, tout le monde, et même y prendre plaisir; mais il y a certains partenaires, pas nombreux, avec lesquelles on s'entend parfaitement dès les premiers pas, une coordination des corps presque miraculeuse. Or, il n'arrive pas trop souvent qu'on rencontre son partenaire "idéal" - la probabilité est petite, mais elle existe. Elle augmente, naturellement, avec un plus grand nombre de danseurs disponibles; et alors là, Paris est l'endroit juste pour une telle recherche.
Hier soir, chez Luis et Pascale, c'était une soirée plutôt sympa, mais rien de spécial; j'ai rigolé avec Carlos après notre cours, puis j'ai dansé avec d'autres et finalment, onze heures passées, je suis allée aux toilettes, puis rentrée dans la salle mais restée appuyée sur le mur à côté de la porte. Je trouve que les choses, dans le tango, se passent souvent d'une façon étonnament romantique, presque kitsch; j'étais là, en regardant la piste de danse j'ai vu une ombre d'homme à ma gauche, lui aussi observant les danseurs. Il me voit, hésite, puis vient vers moi. Il est de taille moyenne, mince, sur la quarantaine peut-être, pas très beau, avec des traits un peu rudes. Il m'invite à danser, et je dis oui, pourquoi pas, il n'y a personne d'autre avec qui je voudrais danser. Et alors il me prend dans ses bras et là, c'est presqu'un choc - c'est parfait, il guide bien, il me tient fort mais pas trop serrée, on s'entend parfaitement. J'ai finalment l'impression de vraiment danser!
C'est bizarre; c'est comme si on était tous des pièces de puzzle et il fallait, sur la piste de danse, trouver ceux qui correspondent à notre forme..

Looking back

Still not dancing... decided to give it a break, so I can restore my ankle to its full use later - but I am not sure I will be able to stand it much longer. I keep on going over the moves in my head and not being able to actually do them is so frustrating.. It may sound like I am obsessing a bit - but please note tanguillo's comment saying that for us dancers it is sometimes hard to find balance in some things, besides the dance:) How very true.
Anyhow, seeing as my current tango life is quite uneventful, I am going to post something of an older date, on an eternal tango topic which we sometimes forget when concentrating too much on things like technique or etiquette; but isn't it, in reality all about finding your other dancing half? You know (I am sure you all know what I mean), the person(s) with whom dancing isn't a painful discussion but rather a smooth, effortless chat, even a harmony without words - a bit like when, with some people, one must constantly search for conversation topics while with others - even complete strangers - one can talk for hours without the slightest effort, almost reading their thoughts? That this may happen in a dance is a source of constant amazement and delight to me - only it happens so rarely..
The post is in French - it was originally written in that language and I couldn't bring myself to translate it. I hope that's ok.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A dancer with a sprained ankle?

Because that's what I am, at the moment. Not much, huh. Confined to my home for a couple of days, I can hardly walk - well, I sort of hop around, but it's not the same; and, being rather proud of the way I walk (normally), I so hate being reduced to this unsightly limp. But the worst thing about it is that I am unable to dance, had to cancel this week's dancing (the horror of it!), and who knows when that bloody ankle will be firm enough to provide reliable support on heels? However, I am still privatly resolved NOT to cancel my lesson on Friday, unwise though it may be...(wisely enough I chose not to ask for my doctor's opinion on the matter).
Anyway, the good news is that I shall have more time to pore over tango and related topics and write my blog which I have gravely neglected in the past couple of months (it all began with two festivals, one a week after the other, and the sleep deficit has been hanging over me ever since. I somehow cannot find the right balance between dancing tango and writing about tango - and sleeping and all that other unnecessary stuff which is imposed on us for inexplicable reasons, for that matter).
BTW one thing worth mentioning about the festivals is that I saw, for the first time in my life, Julio Balmaceda and Corina De La Rosa, and must join the already large number of people who think they are sublime! I have never seen anything like it before; their dancing is beautiful and impressive without any acrobacy, innovative and original without ever loosing the true essence of tango; a feast for eyes. Which is why I add these links - see for yourselves..
julio y corina tango vals
julio y corina 2
They dance like most of us would like to dance - only about a million times better:)