Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tango nightmare

OK – I have now experienced it! My first ever tango nightmare! I went out last week to a milonga, even though I was exhausted, ended up staying way too long and when I got home, I realised that I had been on my feet for approximately 20 hours with very little sustenance except for a couple of chocolate bars. I went to bed feeling sniffly and awoke at about 3am feeling shivery (my covers haphazardly thrown on the floor). It was then that I realised the fading edges of my dream had been all about me on a dance floor, clumsily and chaotically dancing and stepping on people’s toes! I could still feel the shame on my cheeks as I stepped on yet another person’s toe and then thankfully I woke up.

I think I might try and have a break for a week!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Beauty and sadness - which tango expresses it for you?

One day I hope to be able to read this and understand the intricacies of this gorgeous poem in Spanish. But even in translation, I cant read this without getting a shiver down my back. One day I hope to experience these emotions while dancing tango....

Tonight I can write the saddest lines

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance".

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing.In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Pablo Neruda

Ahhh (sigh)

Now question time folks: Which tango music would you dance to, to best express these emotions?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Is dancing with poor dancers good manners or good practice?

I was back out again the other night and for the second time running, managed to dance to pretty much every song with the exception of about three. Now I wouldn’t flatter myself that I was the best dancer there by any means – in fact I was distinctly average but I think it might have partly been my decision to ask and dance with everyone –including a couple of beginners who had just tried their first class. Now I agree this is less pleasant for me and can be a bit of a challenge but I was trying to follow the advice of S – one of my school’s advanced leaders. He had danced with me the previous week and told me that I wasn’t feeling the energy from my partner when I danced. He said that I needed to ‘locate’ this energy and then channel it into my moves. So far so good, but then he said it was all too easy to do this with a good leader but that if I really wanted to improve I should try and locate this energy in all my leaders, even the bad ones (!)

So this is what I tried to do the other night but I must confess that sometimes it was very, very hard and quite often I felt like we were both just doing our own thing while holding hands. Unfortunately, being on the dance floor meant that it was too tempting to ‘fill in’ the moves or ‘help out’ when my leader started floundering (both for their sake and mine); and now I’m wondering if I might have actually hindered my learning by dancing this way? At the end of the night however, a couple of the beginners leaders came up to me and said how much they had enjoyed dancing with me and ‘thanked’ me for dancing with them, making me wonder how many other dances they had managed?

So how should you behave at a milonga? Should I put up with poor dancers in the hope that I will be learning something from them or should I start to be more stringent and go for quality rather than quantity? Isn’t that a bit harsh on the newbies? And after all everyone is a beginner at some stage aren’t they?


Drina x

PS: On a side note, you never know which beginner will become an excellent leader so surely my good manners now might bode me well for the future!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A brazen woman?

Yesterday I went to a small milonga close to where I live. It has a casual atmosphere and as there weren’t that many people, I managed to dance with pretty much all of the men during the warm-up class beforehand. When the dancing began in earnest, I was up straightaway and onto the dance floor – in fact I think in the whole night I only sat out three tangos and that was only because I was in the bathroom! My plan was that if no one asked me, then I should just go up to the nearest man and ask them. Now at the very end, one of the tangueras said to me, ‘You’ve been dancing non-stop all night. You don’t let any tangos pass you by, do you?!’ At the time I just smiled and said that I wasn’t letting any spare music go to waste when I could be practising but afterwards I wondered if it was a subtle dig for potentially hogging too many partners? Should I have deliberately sat some out?

Generally, women complain about it the other way, which makes me think that last night was an exception. So did I just luck out? Or create opportunities for myself? ­ and now am I the target of every tanguera’s evil eye?! Could I be coming across as too brazen – is it more ladylike to sit demurely at the side? Or were the men in this particular milonga just too polite/laidback to refuse me?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing …

Since Christmas I had been enjoying my first accelerated learning curve and I was loving it! Suddenly, steps which felt so slow and plodding just a few weeks ago, now felt whimsical and playful – my ochos were looking assured and steady and I’d had ‘those’ moments when I was so in tune with my partner, I was not consciously thinking of the next move but just literally gliding into it. These glimpses of bliss had been becoming more frequent and with various compliments from teachers and partners, I had been floating with my head in the clouds for the last few days. Of course though, the proper learning path of anything worthwhile cannot sustain such a course and yesterday I suffered a deserved knock.

In all honesty, I had become a bit too arrogant in my skills – I mean obviously I knew I was still a beginner but I had forgotten exactly how much of a beginner I was. On Sunday, I had danced at a milonga and been inflated by the compliments (which admittedly were probably partly encouraged by my pretty dress). This meant that come my class and practicá, I was ready to shine for everyone – to display how good I’d become in a few short weeks. Well, pride comes before a fall and I spent the whole practicá being told that my embrace was too weak, that my giros were too wide and most upsettingly that my ochos (my pride and joy) were over pivoted! I was a bit low as I walked home but in the harsh morning light, I realised that with the exception of one leader, the others are all dancers who I admire and so should really pay attention to what they say. So from now on, I’m searching for and hoping to maintain the energy within my frame (Leader 1), I’m keeping away from the ‘ballroom fingertips’ (the Teacher) and most importantly I’m not going to anticipate the next move (Leaders 1, 2, 3 and 4!). I might need to buy a bigger mirror for my flat!

Murder on the dance floor

As my dancing has improved, I’ve wanted to go to out to more milongas and as a consequence I’ve seen a lot more good dancing as well as bad. Now as a beginner (and one who looks quite young), I find myself inevitably in a tricky situation – that of being asked to dance by what I would call a ‘semi-experienced’ dancer (ie: someone with more experience in terms of months than me at tango) who decides to ‘teach’ me on the dance floor a complicated move that he learnt a few weeks prior. Or perhaps I should say, someone who uses me as a guinea pig for them to try out moves on. Whenever I hear the words, ‘I’m just going to lead you into something we tried a few weeks ago, it might surprise you’ my heart sinks. What these leaders forget is that if they were leading me well, I’d not need this little warning and presumably I’d be able to follow their signals. Instead, they start teaching me a step which they didn’t master very well the first time and ignore my comments that ‘perhaps it can’t go that way round as I seem to be off balance’ as they crash me into the couple behind us.

Now I may be coming across as a bit harsh but in my mind, a milonga is a social dance place. It is where you go to dance as best as you can. Of course, I want to learn new steps but for me that is what a practicá is for. I was pleased that the last milonga I went to had its own separate room where people were able to practise and this was great. I managed to practise for about an hour and then dance in the milonga for another hour – happy in the knowledge that I could now focus on connecting with my partner and the music. And you know what? – sometimes it is only after one of these magical dances, that I realise how complicated my footing was and how effortlessly I had been led into them! That seems to me a sign of a good leader.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Just a quick post about this lovely series of podcasts I have just discovered on iTunes. So far, there are about 50 podcasts focusing on different aspects of tango, the history, the dance, specific composers, etc. It is presented by the divine Elmira (whose lovely Russian accent has completed hypnotised my boyfriend) and by including frequent musical breaks, I’ve been enlarging my tango music repertoire and am now completed in love with tango vals. Please check out the website (you can also download the podcasts here) -I’m learning such a lot from it!