Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All over the place

The last milonga I went to was an all night affair, which was a lot of fun and the second all night milonga I have been to. But this one I was all over the place and perhaps my only consistency was the fact that I did not fall over once. But that is about it. It was an odd night for me, my emotions were all over the place and so was my dancing. To steal a phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Let's start with the positive though, shall we? I did have some fantastic tandas, which actually amazed me. S2 was there, we chatted quite a bit about tango, dance, work, and being in a relationship with a tango dancer (his wife dances tango). We danced two tandas, one at the beginning of the night, which was lovely, but nothing amazing. Then we danced a tanda near the end of the evening, or actually, into the early morning, and it was fantastic. The music was gorgeous, and full of nuance, the tango itself was beautiful. I felt as though every lead was clear, albeit subtle, and I knew exactly where we were going and I could do anything he lead me into. I actually couldn't, there were a couple of whoops but I just laughed a little and we kept going as if nothing at all had gone wrong. That tanda was magical. My S is right when he says that those moments are when everything aligns. It is as though chance smiles on you and hands you a gift. S2 also gave me a really lovely compliment, he told me that this was the first time in dancing with me that he felt musicality coming from my following. And he thought that with some time, I could really add to the dance with this skill. Yea! So, one really good tanda for the night.
I also had a fantastic tanda with one of the local instructors, B, in Providence. I was actually amazed when he approached me to dance, it was all I could do to smile and accept without leaping out of the couch and into his arms. And of course, I had just turned down another leader stating that I was a little tired and taking a break. But honestly, if someone of this caliber asked me to dance and my feet were bleeding I would accept the dance. He is an amazing dancer and from what I am told, fantastic teacher. So, I prefaced my acceptance as I do with all new leaders, telling him I was a beginner, and he said, "Well, let's see." And off we went. It was so fluid and so smooth. We danced two tangos in open embrace, I followed most everything easily, and only a couple of whoops, which I laughed off. It amazes me that with certain leaders I can laugh off my mistakes, and with others I either can not, or I force myself to. Curious. So the two tangos were lovely, and the tanda ended and he asked me to dance one more to make it "an even three", heh heh, and we chatted through the cortina. B asked how long I had been dancing, I told him a little over a month, about 5 weeks, and he said that I was doing exceptionally well for someone who was dancing for so short a time. He said he could tell that I practice, but that I had an excellent sense of following, and although my embrace was a little tense at times, it was great considering. Yea me! Then the music started..... oh no! Milonga! B immediately saw the panic in my eyes and told me not to worry, just follow and ground my steps. Sigh.... I tried.... and I did ok, but he was an absolute dear to keep it really simple for me. This we danced in closed embrace, and there was one strong lesson I learned from it that had little to do with moving, it had to do with hair. B has gorgeous long curly hair, but in close embrace, it was tickling my face and was a bit distracting for me. I am sure as I get better things like that will not throw me, but it made me think about my hair and how it would affect leaders who were the same height as I am, so I am going to pay attention to my hair when I get ready for the milongas with that in mind. Might be a little thing, but some times it is the little things that completely screw things up.
So those were the highlights.
Lowlights - were both my following and others leading. I'm not going to go into it too much, but some leaders looked great with other followers and so I accepted dances and then discovered that either they were more tense than I was (who knew it was possible?!), tentative with their lead, or did the exact same thing over and over and over again. Then on the flip side, I was a bit of a spaz for some following, not sure why, and unfortunately most of these moments were with S. Which frustrated the hell of of both of us.
So the emotions for the evening fluctuated between happy, peaceful, spaz, frustrated, relaxed, tense, pissed off, ecstatic. No wonder I was exhausted come 4am!

In other worlds of tango, tonight is my last lesson. I think I am going to talk with my teacher following class to see what she believes I should do in regards to lessons. I think I am more advanced than beginners who have been dancing as long as I have, but I still need help getting the basics committed to muscle memory. Maybe private lessons are the way to go to get the basics down and then she can test me to see what level I fit into. Not sure exactly what to do as I learn so much at the practicas and milongas, but I know that I need lessons still. So we'll see how it goes and what she says.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Three T's in my life....

I think I may have found a new calling besides Theatre. Teaching. I am absolutely loving teaching my class in Fabric, I've got really good students, and they are so completely into the subject that the three hours just fly by. I am trying to teach them more than simply what fabric is and how to chose fabric for garments, I am giving them the history behind fabric and how fabric and fashion shaped industry and even countries. For example, cotton and the invention of the cotton gin directly contributed to the increase of slave importation in the South. A few years before Eli Whitney invented his cotton gin, the South had voted to stop the importation of slaves into the States. Then along came the cotton gin (which put Eli into the poorhouse by the way) and suddenly plantation owners needed lots labour in order to make huge amounts of money off of their cotton crops. And why hire workers, or pay for indenture servants, when buying slaves had been so much cheaper a few years ago. And so that resolution that had been passed mysteriously disappeared from the books. And slavery became the horror that we rarely hear about in history class. Not one student was aware of this fact, and bringing to their attention the ramifications of industry on people made me feel like I was actually teaching them something that was beneficial and made them stop and think. I can see how teachers become so passionate about imparting knowledge and encouraging discussion, it really does make a difference. Although I have to laugh as my dad mentioned to me that I managed to chose career paths that did not exactly make money - theatre and teaching.

And then there is the third T in my life now, Tango. Oh yes, you did not think that there would be no mention of tango in this post, did you? Heh heh heh, I have decided to give in to the all encompassing world of tango as it has saturated all areas of my life now. First of all, one of my pairs of Argentine shoes came in this week, and can I just mention what a world of difference the right shoe makes!?!?! I am not suddenly perfect, but my balance is better, my feet don't hurt at all anymore, and, well, they are hot! They are not the red pair, those have been delayed until the first of February (grrrrr) but they are a pewter leather open toe 3 1/2" heel. Yummy. And boy do they fit nicely! So, went to a milonga Wednesday night, and I am not even going to go into it. I was a mess, and then I got upset with myself, and the universe crumbled.
But last night, practica at MIT, and one of the better leaders in the community, lets call him S2 (as opposed to my S), spent about an hour working with me on communication and embrace. Those were the only things that we focused on, and it was beyond helpful. It was another leaps and bounds practica. I had a "light dawns on marble head" moment with my embrace. S2 had me work on keeping elasticity in my embrace in both open and closed embrace. I was almost getting it, just not quite, when he made this analogy "Image your embrace is like water, sometimes it moves up in one direction, sometimes it moves down, but it is always fluid, even if it isn't moving at all." Bingo! Give the girl a prize, she got a clue. I had not been moving my left arm at all, it was always where I had placed it on the leader's shoulder. None too comfy for them or me. But once I grasped the concept that my hand should move to accommodate the dance, well, doors opened up and angels sang from above. OK, maybe there were no angels, but there was a little bell that went off somewhere. Ok, great, keep awareness of the movement to match the embrace. Good! What a relief. Then we worked on presence and communication in the moment. I had to stop thinking of the dance and start thinking of each moment, each step, and keep the present the utmost of importance in my dance. Wow, so much easier, so much less anticipation. It's a whole new world! The funny think is that everything S2 was telling me was pretty much the same things that my S was telling me, but in a different way, so I am starting to get the concepts I think. Here's hoping anyway! Saturday night is the all night Milonga in Providence and I can not wait to dance as every thing that I absorbed can only make the moments better. Yea! Tension be gone! Let the dance begin!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Saturated Tango Weekend

Milonga. I am always concerned when I go to a milonga that I am going to spend a good amount of time sitting and precious little time dancing. S will dance with me, I know, and it is wonderful that he does. In fact, our dancing is surprisingly head and shoulders better at milongas than in his kitchen when we practice. Maybe its the lighting, maybe I'll have him turn the lights down in the kitchen.... of course, I dance with my eyes closed, so perhaps that is not exactly the case. But for whatever reason, I am much more relaxed in a social setting than I am in practice settings. But anyway, this weekend, milonga Friday night AND Saturday night. Friday night MIT (casual) and Saturday night Springstep (dressed up). Both nights I danced a good amount of the time, Saturday more than Friday, and was able to dance with some very good leaders, all of whom had varying styles. It is becoming a really good lesson to dance with leaders of varying styles as I learn more about my style and how to adapt to the leader's style. I am so used to dancing with S that it often takes me a minute to figure out how to move best with another leader. I am sure with time that will improve. However, Friday the lesson of pick your leader carefully was driven home. After sitting for a couple of tandas, watching some of the better followers' feet (not just for shoes, but for how they moved and when) I was approached by a gentleman and asked to dance. Now I had not noticed his dance style before, and I accepted. Let's just say I suddenly thought that I was in a very bad Hollywood movie with a tango scene thrown in to "spice it up". I always preface my accepting a dance with "I am a complete beginner" this gentleman did not have an issue with it and now I know why. He flung me around the room, tried to lead me into figures that even now I have no idea what they were, and was constantly pulling me off axis into side leans, dips, and drops that quite frankly, made me fear for my head. Unfortunately, when I am startled, I laugh, so I am sure that my nervous laughter made him think I was loving it when in fact I was far from that. So the tango ended, I stepped back and said "I am afraid that I need a lot more experience before I am able to dance at your level, but thank you very much for dancing with me." I knew there was no way that I could possibly dance another tango with this gentleman, but I did not want to walk off the floor without an excuse. Luckily, this did not impact my evening, as other leaders asked me to dance, and this gentleman was certainly unaffected, as he found other beginner dancers to fling about the floor, but lesson well learned. If I have not seen or heard of the leader, the cabaceo will be strictly followed!
But Saturday night, that was the better milonga for me! S danced with me in the beginning, which was lovely as always. He does not need to be seen by the community, everyone knows his style and he has no problems filling his dance card. But I need some, well, let's say showcasing, in order to be asked to dance. It does make my night that S opens the milongas with me, because I enjoy dancing with him so much, and it also allows others to see how I move. Win win for me! And that evening I danced with some very good leaders. C was lovely, very gentle lead, very subtle style, and dances like silk. Lovely. And very little talking, which unnerved me a little, but in looking back, it suits his style of dance. I certainly hope to dance with him again. K was there, danced with him, but there was none of the magic from Providence. It was nice, easy and comfortable. Then I danced the last tango of a tanda with D. Wow. It was fantastic. He was great, lead was incredibly clean, I felt as though anything he led me into I could do, and I was suddenly aware that I was dancing with possibly the best leader I have ever danced with. The tanda ended, we chatted a bit, he was shocked that I had only been dancing about a month and he asked about my other dance training. That should have clued me in when he asked what training I had as opposed to have I done any other dance. Then the DJ played a swing set (grrrrr......) and D said he would like to dance with me again when they play tango. Absolutely!! I made my way back to my seat where S informed me that I danced with possibly the best dancer in our community. D performs and his partner is one of the best dancers and teachers in the area. Wow. Yea! Glad I did not know that going into the dance, I need to keep any and all nerves at bay when dancing, there is enough tension in my embrace when I am "relaxed." I am looking forward to dancing with D again. Then the last couple of tandas of the evening I danced with S. Which was fun and a great way to end the evening.
Then Sunday comes, and it is practica times two. Morning practica in S's kitchen, where he showed me the basics of milonga (oh boy.... ) and afternoon practica in Cambridge. Milonga, difficult to say the least. Move fast, move in 8's, don't bounce, ground your steps, focus is on the step not the time between, don't bounce, don't slide, keep presence, don't bounce...... yea..... just as I was feeling good about my progress, milonga steps in to deflate my burgeoning ego. sigh....
But then Sunday afternoon practica, S informs me that getting the attention of the better leaders will help me in leaps and bounds, not only in a practice setting, but at the Milongas as well. So don't be shy at practicas, get in there, chat and practice. Ok. D runs this practica with his partner S, and we tried a few times to dance together, but were not able to due to extenuating circumstances in the form of an adorable, but possessive ofhis daddy, toddler. However his interest in dancing with me gave me confidence to approach him later, so that was good. I was able to dance with some great leaders at the practica, and was able to learn from them, which was great. One, S, gave me almost the exact same instruction and advice that my S gives me, which made me laugh. Guess I do have to focus on those areas! Tension, relaxing, listening for the lead. But he did tell me that I had a really good embrace, and once I banish the tension, it will be great (yes, yes, S gets the credit here for beating into me how not to embrace ;-} ).
So all in all, it was a great weekend of tango, I learned so much, had an amazing time, and managed to completely ignore my laundry, yet again.... I can see the perils of tango. Milonga?! Practica?! Forget about chores, grab your shoes!

Friday, January 19, 2007

A non-tango post!

Shocking! I know.... but I started this blog pre-tango, and it seems that tango has taken over the blog. Someone told me that would happen..... heh heh heh..... so I am going to post about a subject wholly unrelated to tango. My first day of teaching.
I have a new gig working as the costume shop manager for a university right here in the heart of Boston, and I am loving it. It is great to interact with the students, see their ideas, watch them learn, design, and develop skills - makes me want to go back to school myself!
I am teaching a class about Fabric in Design, and this is my first time teaching on a college level. I was incredibly nervous and stressed about it as it is a new class, there was no existing structure to step into, and everyone was excited about it - no pressure there at all! So this week was the first class, and the two days leading up to it I did not really sleep at all, my brain would not shut down and all I could focus on were all the things that could go wrong. I wanted to make sure that the class was interesting, challenging, and that the students actually took things away from class that would benefit them in their design process.
And of course, the first class went well. The kids were all excited to be there, and they were thrilled with the syllabus, asking all sorts of questions about future projects and work that I felt really good about the level of challenge that I am setting before them.
And now, I get to prepare for the next class, as I can already tell that I need to be far ahead of my game for this group of students, which is a really good thing. It feels like maybe I am back in school.... ;-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oh no! Ocho!

Second tango lesson, this time the class has been cut in half so it is a little more manageable in size. And the object of the day? Ocho!
Disassociation is not my friend. Not sure why, but I have a real block when it comes to disassociating the lower half of my body from the top half and not looking herky jerky in the process. I thought tango was supposed to be elegant and sexy!?! Not so much when I am dis-disassociating!
But a couple of things that I learned right off the bat which helped me tremendously (meaning I moved up from sucking donkey to just sucking) was that I had not been stepping in the proper place for either front or back ochos. Knowing where my feet were supposed to be made things a heck of a lot easier balance wise. Plus, I was stepping up when I turned, I was apparently supposed to stay down with my knees bent so that I was always on the same level. Again, balance became a heck of a lot easier when I was not popping up on the turn. But for the love of all things good and pure, why can I not turn my upper body and have my lower body follow smoothly?!? It's torturing me! At one point my lovely instructor said to me "How is it that you move so well and you can not do this?"
Wish to god I knew.
Because then my life would be a heck of a lot easier. And S would not have to roll his eyes for patience whenever he leads me into an ocho.
I have decided to call them Oh no! Ochos! until I get them right. Luckily I have beautiful hard wood floors throughout my apartment and I can ocho the living crap out of them. It seems like it should be simple. Step, turn, pivot. Step, turn, pivot. S told me that using corners in a room is a helpful exercise, and it is. But if my torso won't release its grip on my hips, someone is going to get hurt soon!
And can someone please explain to me how to keep the tension at bay? It seems that tension is the other evil that I am trying to exorcise from my embrace. I think that I am relaxed and then S tells me to let go of the tension in my arms. And yet I have to maintain the firmness of my embrace and right arm. Someone please explain to me firm and relaxed, because I just can't find that happy medium. Really, it is starting to drive me batty. Plus when I screw up or miss a lead, I immediately tense up. I know exactly what this is, it is the fact that I always want to do things perfectly and I don't want to either disappoint my teacher (Be that S or Fernanda) or be less than the best in the class, but I can not seem to overcome this. I want to laugh off my mistakes, but instead I growl at myself and then everything goes to poop. I am hoping that I just need time. At the milonga, I was able to relax and have fun, but that was because I was expecting to have fun and I was not expecting to dance as much as I did. Plus I think the wine might have helped a little, but I certainly don't want to have to have wine before every tanda! For some reason, I get much more tense in practice than at a milonga.
Maybe all of this regurgitating is my issue. Maybe I need to stop thinking and analyzing and just move.
the birth of an obsession.....

On an up note, my two pairs of shoes are shipping today from Argentina! One is red suede and one is pewter leather..... I can not WAIT to get them!!! I think that the heel height (4") is going to be so much more helpful than what I have now (2"). Plus I will then be a towering 5'10"+! All leg my friends, all leg! Well, plus a little shoe.... ;-)

Monday, January 15, 2007

My first tango moment...

Well, it happened, and no one was more surprised than I was! I've been taking lessons (two real ones, and a couple of bootcamp style lessons from S) and attempting to dance for less than a month. Key word there is attempting. I've been to one practica so far, which was helpful in the leaps and bounds sort of way, (thank you O!!!) and then Saturday night into Sunday morning was S's One Year Tango Dancing Anniversary milonga. We were supposed to have a boot-camp style practice session before the milonga to try to get me into dancing shape, but that did not happen due to everything else that needed to happen for the party. So when we arrived and after we set everything up, I was nervous when S asked me to dance with him at the very beginning of the milonga while the dance floor was pretty much empty and few people had arrived, but I was there to have fun and dancing was a part of the fun, so after half a glass of red wine, off we went. And some how, it worked. I was not perfect, but I found my axis and kept it, I had my balance and kept it, and the tension that normally invades my embrace and upper body forgot to come along for the ride. And on top of that, I was having fun so I was able to follow S's lead with the music and exude some semblance of musicality myself. And with each tango, it improved a little bit, until I was so high I thought I would float away. It was awesome. Actually, it was beyond awesome. S would lead me through these little side steps that he favors, and I was giggling my way through them; he lead me through things I did not know, but who cared? I went anyway and did whatever seemed right. I did not freeze, I did not jump, and I had the best time ever. I think that S was even more surprised than I was. I did not want to stop for fear that I would lose it and never find that moment of near nirvana again, but stop we had to, for a variety of reasons, and honestly, if I had not danced again that night, I would have been thrilled. But I did dance, for almost 5 hours, and with some leaders I found that near nirvana, and with others I did ok. There was one gentleman, P from Montreal, whom I danced with, and it was lovely. I told him I was a complete beginner, but he did not mind at all. So off we went, and it was a similar thing, he danced one tango with me very simply, to see where I was, and then increased the level of his lead for the remainder of the tanda and through the second tanda. It was amazing. Again, I followed through steps I did not know, I just released thinking and followed with what felt right. (Note to self, remember that feeling and try to replicate that release EVERY time.... it works wonders!). After the first tanda, we chatted through the "curtain" and he asked how long I had been dancing. I told him less than a month and he was very surprised. He thought I had been dancing for at least 5 or 6 months, so my ego had one of the best boosts ever. P could tell that I had ballet wiring in my body, but I was trying to overcome that, and he thought I was progressing really rapidly. The second tanda was even more fun than the first, and I just laughed at my missteps and enjoyed the dance. It was heavenly.
There were multiple other leaders whom I followed well with, K was great, his lead was very clear and kept his movements simple and we had a grand time. There was one moment when he put me off axis and just stepped around me, turning me on my right foot, and I felt like I could turn all day if he wanted me to. My balance was right there and I felt so strong and secure. It was as though everything came together and worked in tandem in my legs, feet and hips. And then a milonga came on, I have not danced milonga at all, and fully expected to be walked back to my seat, but K stuck it out, showed me the basic step, told me not to cross, and off we went, moving very fast around the room, but he kept it so simple that I loved every minute of it. P from R.I. was also lovely to dance with, and we had the best time. He was very playful and I basically laughed my way through the tanda. There were some other leaders whose styles were so vastly different, that I struggled to keep up with them and follow. Those dances were passable, and I hope not torturous for them, but it was difficult for me to switch between leaders with such varying styles, I did not realize how difficult that would be. I now realize that I need to keep in mind the leader's style when they ask me to dance, there were a couple that I really should not dance with until I am much further along, and probably one or two that I just should not dance with at all because my budding style and preferences do not mesh at all with theirs. S made a very good point as we were driving home later that night...errr...early morning, just because I am a beginner, I do not have to accept every offer that I receive. Being selective about my leaders will help me learn, and I should use the observations that I make while watching the dancers to decide if I can learn from the leader. Sound advice I think.
After about 5 hours, I pretty much blew out my feet. It reminded me of when I played woodwinds in orchestra during high school and college. After playing for hours you can "lose your lip" in that you can no longer feel the notes or find the nuances of the rhythms. You are just blowing hot air, and that does not make pretty music. And that was what happened to me. I danced a tanda with a leader whose lead style was so incredibly subtle that I often had no idea what I was to do or where I was going. I felt awfully about it, but what could I do? I may have moved really well earlier that night, but I still am at the point were I need clear leading. Immediately after I danced with K again, and he noticed immediately that I was off. He asked what happened, and I said I must be getting tired. I tried to re-capture the magic from earlier in the night, but it was gone. Then I danced again with S, and I was a mess. I was really tired, and all the tension that I had managed to avoid, came rushing back. He also wanted to know what happened to me, and what could I say? I was done. 5 hours seems to be my limit right now. So we finished the tanda, he went off to dance more, and I went to get some wine and take my shoes off for awhile.
I sat on one of the couches, ate some veggies and drank some wine and watch the last few hours of the milonga. (Yea, my first milonga, 9pm to 6am.... do you think I may have pushed it a little thinking I could dance the whole night?? My perfectionist tendencies can sometime get the better of me.....) It was a lovely evening, and I was able to chat with a variety of people about tango, art, and dance. And I even was told by a couple of the leaders whom I danced well with that they look forward to dancing with me again to see how rapidly I progress. Talk about an ego boost! It was great. And of course, the best ego boost was from S who normally tells me me "More presence!" "Get your butt under your shoulders!" "What are you doing?! What was that?!", and instead I was told that danced rather well, considering my level. And even not considering my level. So all in all, if I thought I was addicted before, I am incurable now!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How to not be harassed at the T

Walk around the platform practicing your tango walk, forwards and backwards, while dressed nicely and carrying a motorcycle helmet and book bag. No one will mess with you! Ha!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lesson #1 - what a high!

Had my first lesson in a tango class last night, and man there were a lot of us! I didn't count, but there were at least 10 or 11 couples, which made maneuvering more interesting than it probably should have been, but I'll get to that in a moment.
When I showed up around 7:20, it was at first was all women in the studio. I sat down, changed my shoes, and looked around. Good space, good floor, lots of light... Then more women came in, and we nervously laughed when the 8th woman walked in the door. We then began chatting about who was taller than who to figure out who would be leading. Our lovely teacher, Fernanda, walked in at that point and promised us that it was a balanced class and not to worry, the men would be there soon. We then chatted about our tango history, I was the least experienced of the ladies. Most of them had been dancing for a few months. But I at least had some experience, so I did not feel completely out of place. Then the men started to appear, and there was a collective sigh of relief from the ladies.
7:30 came, on went everyone's shoes, and up onto the floor we went. The very basics were covered. How to walk, what the posture should be, where your weight should be. And off we went, moving around the studio in the tango walk. It was great to finally practice with a huge mirror along one wall so I could see what I was doing (and yes, S, I now see the duck in my walk, and I killed it last night! Down with the duck! Long live the Hip!).
Then we learned a paso basico - the basic steps, which is an 8 count step. Not too hard, pretty simple movement that reminded me of a box step, only the women add in a cross mid way through. Pretty. And now we partner up. My first partner was a very excitable gentleman who had been dancing for almost a year, he was quite a bit shorter than I was - in my heels I was probably 5'9 or so, and he was eye level with my chest. He immediately began correcting my movements, and I did not exactly agree with what he was telling me to do, so I smiled and kept doing what Fernanda has shown us to do. Half way through our partnering, he walked me right into another couple. Whoops. Of course, had he been looking at the traffic and not my chest, that might not have happened. But there you have it, apparently my chest was fascinating, but at the very least, he stopped correcting me and commenced staring. Eh.... whatever. Except I was now making friends with walls and columns as he was walking me into those as well. sigh....
Change partners. Yea! Next gentleman had been dancing for awhile and had broken his foot 6 months ago, so he was starting over. What a difference! We walked very smoothly through the basic steps, and we even moved with the music! Lovely! He told me that I had a very good sense of following (thanks S!) and would I be comfortable trying to move in an open embrace as opposed to practice position. Absolutely! And that firm circle of embrace went around my back, and off we went. Ever notice that the feeling of that embrace is absolutely addictive? Yea, me too..... The steps were even better! We walked through the steps, found pauses and moments in the music to actually dance to, and it was lovely. The exercise ended, and he complimented me on my embrace. His exact words were "You have a very nice embrace, and thank you for not hanging off of me!" Yea me! (Yea S!)
Ok, we learn a new variation on the paso basico, and new partner. This gentleman was just as new as I was, and his concentration was very sweet. Unfortunately it was also crushing my hand as we had all moved into open embrace and this was panicking him a little. I kept gently telling him to relax, be gentler with my hand, and he was doing fine. He was having a very hard time figuring out how to lead me out of the cross, but after some trial and error and discussion, he figured it out and off we went. Not exactly to the music, not exactly on the beat, but we were moving nonetheless and he seemed pleased with figuring out the move, and my hand was no longer in a vice grip. Yea us!
Whoops, yet another variation of the paso basico, now we had three options with this movement. And new partner too. This gentleman was a mess, I am sorry to say, but he was. There was no rocking balance at the begining so we could begin together, he just leapt into action and would push or pull me with him. Which never seemed to work.... gee.... wonder why.... I kept asking him to just give me a beat or two of movement so I could get in step with him, and he finally said "Look, it will just be easier if I give you a push in the direction I want you to go." Uhmmm.... no, please don't. That won't help me at all. "But it will just be easier, look, I'll push you which ever direction I want you to go." And as though to emphasis his point, he leapt into movement and pushed me backwards, I stumbled, almost fell, and then I got irritated. "Look, if you want to push and pull someone, take swing dance lessons!" Whoops, Irish temper flared a little. Our lovely teacher, thank the universe, was watching and hurried over. "No, no, no, she is not a doll. Give her direction, let her know where you are going with your intention, don't push her there." She worked with him for a moment, then showed him what she meant by leading me, and had him try leading me again. It was better, instead of pushing he was now simply pressing his hands against me, which I could at least ignore.
Ok! Switch partners again! And this time, walk the floor, lead your follower into one of the combinations of the paso basico, continue walking, then lead her into another version and continue in the same vein. Yea! We were going to dance! Almost.... Leaders were warned to watch for other couples, and to simply rock step your follower in case you found yourself in a mess and had no where to go. Oh boy, let's see what happens. An older gentleman was walking towards me with a smile. I had seen him move and thought he would be a good partner to try this out with, and smiled back, but suddenly my hand was grabbed and my very first partner pulled me over to him. Sigh... guess the cabaceo is not in effect in class. I sent a smile over to the older gentleman and shrugged my shoulders. He smiled back and tapped his watch as if to say, next round!
So, back to chest oogler for the combinations. And it was awful. He did not watch traffic, so I was constantly being danced into other couples, poles, walls, and even the chairs along the edge! My ankles were beginning to bruise, and my temper was getting shorter, and then he started making only what I can describe as Hollywood Tango Faces. He made what must have been an attempt at a seductive face as he moved me around, eyes switching from my chest to my face. Then, whamo! Deb, meet the pole! Smash! Deb, meet the chairs! Sigh... Then I suddenly hear those happy words, "Change partners!" Yea! The older gentleman approached and I happily removed myself from the grip of my breast's partner. I discovered that my final partner had been dancing for almost a year, and was here to refresh the basics. It was great, he was very clear with his lead, he sort of had a sense of the music, and I stopped making contact with poles, walls and chairs. Although other couples still danced into us as not everyone was comfortable yet with the steps. But at least that was less of a problem as the songs went on. We had fun, I felt graceful, and it was a good way to end the class. He complemented my embrace and told me he looked forward to seeing me at the class next week. Yea me!
One hour and a half had flown by, and none of us seemed to want to leave, we all chatted a little, talked about next week, and everyone seemed reticent to take off their shoes. I, unfortunately, should have taken my shoes off quicker and left a little sooner, as my breast's partner came and sat next to me as I was changing shoes and tried to make small talk. Which would have been fine, except his small talk centered around innuendo and attempts to discover my romantic status. I pretended not to hear what he was saying as I was hoping to disengage him gracefully, but he would have none of it. Finally he became blatant and made mention of how passion and tango go together. sigh..... fine..... "Yes, that is what my boyfriend tells me. I am really looking forward to the day I can really dance well with him." Big smile. "Have a good night!" Quick exit to the door. I did not want to be rude to him, I am going to be in class with him this whole month. But jeez, tango class is not where you should be trying to troll for dates!
However, despite that little hiccup at the end. I was on a high the whole night from class. I can't wait to learn more and move more and hopefully dance soon! I can see that I am going to be very poor soon, and all my pocket money is going to go into classes, workshops, practicas and shoes.... oh the shoes..... just wait till those begin accumulating! And yes, S, I WILL own a pair of green shoes! heh heh heh!

Monday, January 08, 2007

My first dance......

Travelled out to Northampton this weekend with S. Weather was gorgeous, a bit freaky to have 68 degree weather in January in Mass., but gorgeous nonetheless. Saturday night we went to the milonga in Northampton, it is on the 4th floor of the arts building on Main street, I remember taking contact improv and yoga classes there when I lived in the Valley, it is a great space and a great floor. So we get there, look around, and see that everyone is sitting along the walls. No one is dancing at the very beginning, so S offers to dance with me and give me a lesson as we are dancing, great, I can dance a little and not be worried about others on the floor as there is no one else on the floor. And so we go out onto the floor, and I suck. I am thinking so hard about what I am doing and what I should be doing and what the music was like (music was very different from what I was used to hearing at S's when he would teach me, so it was a little disjointing) that I just collapsed everything I had learned. Really frustrating as I had been so excited at the prospect of actually possibly dancing. So S took me over to a quiet corner and we worked on walking, posture, arm position and trying to get me to not tense up. Seemed a hopeless case and I was so disheartened that when we went back to our seats, I immediately took my shoes off as he went off to dance. I just felt so awkward and foolish.
And, as seems to always happen when I take my shoes off and observe the cabaceo, a gentleman approached me and asked me to dance. I laughed a little and thanked him, and explained that I was a complete beginner and was not feeling confident at all that night. He offered to keep it really simple and asked "How can you possibly gain confidence if you never try to dance." Good point. So on went the shoes, and off we went to the floor. I said I was going to apologize now for everything I was about to do, and he said "Don't worry, I'll lead you, just have fun and listen to my body."
And off we went. I was really tense, trying so hard not to be a regret for this gentleman who was so kind as to offer to dance with me. Halfway through the first tango he told me again to relax and just enjoy moving. Big breath, big release, and I tried. And it sort of worked! I was able to listen and almost dance, and when he lead me into something I did not understand, he just gave me an extra second to figure it out and then off we went again. At the end of the first tango I fully expected to hear "Thank you very much" and be lead back to my seat. But to my surprise, he chatted with me about how that was not so terrible and once I relaxed I did ok, then the next song started up, he offered his hand, and off we went again. This time I did better. I tried to breathe and relax and step from the hip. I decided those were the three things I needed to do and it made everything go a little smoother. And when I screwed up, I just laughed a little and kept going. And then there was a third tango, he offered his hand again, and
off we went again. Each dance was a fraction better than the last one. At the end of the set, he told me I was not so bad and to keep practicing and I would get there. I was on a little high. I was so happy to have not been a complete failure and to have had an opportunity to dance with someone other than S (whom I do adore, even when he tells me not to walk like a duck. But he does tell me not to walk like a duck when he is teaching me, so it is a little different), and even though no one else asked me to dance that night besides S, I felt good about the night. And even though there were quite a few beginner leads there whom I certainly would have danced with if asked, I did not especially feel as though I had to keep dancing. I felt ok with myself and feel as though this might actually be something I can do. Maybe even eventually do well, although I'll reserve judgement on that for the moment. :-P
Tomorrow is my first real lesson with Fernanda and I am really excited, I can't wait to learn more and really begin working on the basics. I am sure that there will be more on this subject soon!

Friday, January 05, 2007

A New High...

Custom made shoes. In the world in which I work, and sometimes live, in - custom made anything is the norm. I am constantly making garments specifically for actors and singers, made to flatter their shape and presence. But for myself? I rarely indulge that urge. I have an armoire full of fabric, most for shows, but there are some gorgeous silks, crepes and wools that I found and squirrelled away for myself. But have I done anything with them? No.... At least, not yet....
But today.
Today I purchased my very first pair of custom made shoes. For tango. And they are gorgeous. As you can see.... :-) I am quite thrilled with them, and the whole process of measuring my feet so that they can be made exactly for me was a feeling that I suppose my actors have quite often, but was new to me. It was quite the high. I was e-mailing with the crafter in Argentina, and he was so specific on what he needed and concerned that I understood how to measure, I thought to alleviate his worries with explaining what I do for a living, and then he opened right up to me. Asking me what style of clothing was I going to be wearing, what was my inseam as he wanted to discuss heel height in relation to my leg length, and we just had the best insider conversation about making garments/items for other people. So these beautiful red shoes are being made for me and will be in my desperate little fingers in three weeks (ack! who can wait?) I am going to buy a sensible pair of black shoes as well, but those I will buy local and pre-made. My first "real" lesson is Tuesday, and I am already excited for it. I've had one lesson at a milonga in NYC and multiple lessons with S where sometimes I get it and sometimes I feel like the most ungraceful, uncoordinated duck... but I keep trying, and I keep going back. Because I know what I want to do, dance like, and look like. It's damn addictive.
I've already chosen fabrics for skirts that I am going to make to go with the shoes (here is where my inner designer geek rears her eager little head). Once I have the shoes in front of me, then the real fun begins with marrying the fabrics to compliment the shoes. It will be a whole new wardrobe of outfits built from the ground up, literally! Who will need jeans anymore? Not I, I will have a closet of asymmetrical skirts, handkerchief hem dresses, and sheer little tops.
But, I think I'll leave the roses in the vase.... ;-P

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blast from the near past

Wow, ever find something that you wrote not too long ago but completely forgot about? Well I just did. Found something I wrote to a friend in September about a particularly bad day I had that turned unexpectedly positive. It made me laugh out loud (which I think my roomates are getting used to) and I felt the need to post and share it, as I think it is a pretty damn funny story. (S - you can tell me if it actually is funny later.... ;-} )

September 28, 2006
One of the famous lines from A Streetcar named Desire is "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers."
Well, today, I was amazed at the kindness of a stranger.
This morning was rough, and I mean could not move or drag my sorry butt out of bed rough due to a bought of insomnia along with feeling less than well these past few days. Last night was really bad. Tossing and turning, stressing about all the gigs I have on my calendar (got to remember to eat the elephant one bite at a time, not run at it with a knife and fork - I can not claim this as my own image, someone very clever told me that) and listening to my neighbors have very vocal sex. I now know that he is just as monosylabic in bed as he is in person and she actually called him "studmuffin" at the height of their coital, uhm, bliss. I had no clue that people actually used that word in any context other than humour. So after receiving about 2 hours, give or take, of sleep last night, I had to climb out of my suddenly comfortable bed at what I consider the butt-crack of dawn and go style a photo shoot for a production as a favor to a friend who has pneumonia. His illness trumps my whiny self-indulgence. So I walk out the door, and am greeted with a sight that made me swear like a sailor, which in turn caused my neighbor to growl at me as she was bringing her 7 year old out to the bus stop for school. The sight that made me loose my cool in front of a wee child? My car. Apparently there is a plague in the city, a plague otherwise known as sadistic fuzzy-tailed rodents.... or squirels. And they had a picnic on my car last night of pears from the pear tree in my yard. And I mean they gorged themselves on pears, throwning the rotten ones on my windshield, hood, driver's side window (don't ask, I have no idea how they did that). And after they finished their Roman-like gorging, they purged. ALL OVER MY CAR!!
Fine, I'll take the T and deal with this later, but I am going to buy myself a 5 adjective coffee goddamit to make myself feel better.
(I'm getting to the stranger reference, I promise!)
So I am standing in line at my favorite little coffee shop, looking... let's say haggard... at best. Honestly I am sure it was more grumpy, puffy and glazed, but we'll call it haggard and leave it at that. But I manage to keep some manners, and when I opened the door, I held it for the older gentleman who arrived at the same time I did. He smiled a thanks, I think I grunted a version of you're welcome, and I take my place in line behind him. I am not paying much attention as all of a sudden my body decides that NOW it wants to sleep, and my brain keeps obssessing over the little sadists that live in the pear tree, but the gentleman who entered before me, who is now in front of me sure seems to be taking a long time to order, and why is he whispering to the guy behind the counter? Whom I did manage to notice had lovely long red hair and was wearing a Utility-Kilt, *file that away for later, sigh*, and now I just want my coffee so I can smash my body in the train along with the rest of the morning commuters whom I have not shared space with in over 3 years. So yummy boy in the kilt takes my order over the head of whispering ordering man, gratefully I order my multiple adjective coffee. He finishes the gentleman's transaction in front of me and turns to make my coffee. The gentleman turns around with his coffee, smiles at me, and says "I hope that your day only gets better, you seem like you could use some sleep and rest."
I weakly smile a thanks as he departs. Great, upgrade from haggard to "Death Defrosted in a sparking microwave." *sigh* My adjective heavy coffee is served and Kilt seems to have forgotten to ring me up, as he is already asking the person behind me their order.
"Excuse me, sorry, but I still need to pay."
Big smile from Kilt. "Nope. That guy bought your coffee, said you looked like you really needed it, and he had never had a woman open a door for him, so he already paid for you."
You could have knocked me over with a plastic stirrer.
People rock.
And you know what I am ashamed of? I don't really remember what the man looked like, so even though I went out to the street to try to stop him and thank him, I could not. I just remembered an older man in a suit, and I was surrounded by older men in suits.
Suddenly my day had a whole new outlook, and my feet were not quite so heavy anymore.
Sometimes, the kindness of strangers helps to rekindle your love for humanity.

On a Lark....

"Are you feeling adventurous?"
It is amazing that those words would give me pause, and yet sometimes they do. I was thinking on that today, that here we are, another year clicked up on the counter of years, and here I sit, with a whole new year spread out before me, the blank canvas of this year's story, and I can not wait to see what it brings. Adventure, I certainly hope so, although every once in awhile, the thought of adventure makes me pause, which it never did before. I never used to wonder what type of an adventure it would be.... adventure was adventure! That was all that mattered. And for the most part it still does. Heck, I went away to Montreal for a long weekend with a (at the time) brand new interest, and that adventure turned out really well. I walked away from a well paying office job that I absolutely hated and turned my life into what I wanted to do, and that turned out well too. Adventure and risk seem to treat me well, I inherited the spirit of my grandfather, who if my grandmother mentioned that the New England winters were starting to get to her and she longed for a glimpse of sun, he would come back within a few days with tickets to someplace warm. Not necessarily someplace traditional, like the Bahamas, but perhaps someplace unusual and interesting, like Peru. And off they would go on their adventure. That is what I want in life. To be able to look over and say "I've been thinking, what do you say to Greece this time of year?" or "I've never been to San Diego, want to go?"
But I have to say, even though I might pause for a moment, I then jump head long into the possibility and see what will come. So perhaps I am not quite as old as I was afraid I was becoming. As long as the Irish gypsy in me still dips her toe into the unknown with a grin on her face, I think I'll do alright. Maybe not just look for the road less traveled, but instead the road no one else noticed, or created yet....