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!