The MIT practica last night was surprisingly empty. I think that they might have been on spring break as well, but even so, there was a dearth of community members there. Which was both good and bad, there was plenty of room to move and practice in, however there were not many people there. It was, for once, a leader rich environment, so as a follower, I had options, which was great. S really worked with me on a variety of issues at the opening of the practica. In fact, we were the only ones dancing for about 15 minutes or so as there was only myself and the student organizer as followers for the first half hour I think. So the break down that S gave me was good, even though it frustrated me. It is tough when you hear "Remember that thing that all beginners are told to always do? Yea, not so much anymore. Only do that when you need to; otherwise adapt." grrrr..... rules are becoming more elastic and moment appropriate, which is good for my understanding of the dance, but bad unless you want me to be thinking while I am dancing, then not so good. But regardless, it was helpful. I also had a really good half hour or so dancing with B. He is quite a good leader and very musical. He asked if there was anything I wanted to work on and I said everything, so don't dumb down your dance for me please. And he didn't! I really had to work at times to keep with him, but the flip of that was I was focused to much on him, I completely breezed through any mistakes I made. Something I have a hard time doing, and when I do, it makes everything easier. I don't know why this is. S is always telling me not to tense up when I make a mistake. But I really don't know how not to. I am getting better at fudging my way through mistakes, at least I don't stop moving any more, but it is hard to not think "Crappers! I think that was a molinette and I just did a sacada!" I just hope that I get over myself soon. The other little light-dawns-on-marble-head moment that I had was that with very tall leaders (such as B) the cheek to cheek close embrace is MUCH more comfortable and allows me better balance. It is a crap shoot for this embrace with leaders my height or slightly taller, but for the very tall, score! Much easier.
Otherwise, I also had a really fun few dances with a European gentleman, J, who came into Boston on holiday, looked up the Boston tango calendar and came over to MIT to see how the locals were. He thought that the practica was very full, which made me laugh, as I told him that this was in fact empty and usually you had to dance very close and keep embellishments to a minimum as it is normally packed like a sardine tin. He was not the best dancer I have danced with, but he was a ton of fun and had a great sense of musicality, so it was a blast. The only issue was I could tell he was used to having lots of space, as he danced into several people (twice we danced in S, and after the second time, I started dancing with my eyes open to try to warn him of any upcoming impacts). Regardless of the looks we were getting, and we did get a few, he was a ton of fun. He also mentioned that he loved dancing with Americans as we were more able to follow figures that Europeans. He mentioned that Europeans prefer to walk beautifully with musicality than dance less than beautifully with figures, whereas Americans prefer the opposite. Not sure if that is across the board true, but it was interesting to hear his opinion on this.
There was also two moments where I felt like an experienced dancer. There is a beginning leader, D, whom I danced with about a month ago a few times. He was a mess, but he showed promise, had rhythm, and really enjoyed himself, even though all he could do at the time was walk and lead the foot sandwich (I have no idea what it is called, that is what I call it. The leader "sandwiches" your foot with his feet and then leads you to step over his foot.) So when D asked me to dance last night, I was curious how he was doing so I said yes, and he has improved! His embrace actually feels like an embrace now, even though he is still in open, he can lead clearly a couple of moves, and his posture and presence were pretty good. I told him that I could tell he had been practicing as he was definitely improved since we danced last. He absolutely beamed and told me he had been taking classes and practicing in his dorm room, much to his roommate's chagrin and amusement. I told him it showed and to keep working as he would no doubt be even better the next time we met. It was really nice to be at a point where I could tell not only that this kid had promise, but that he was advancing. I will most certainly dance with him whenever I see him as it is fun to see him grow up a little, as it were.
The other moment was the opposite spectrum. Another beginner dancer asked me to practice with him. He said that he was a beginner and would I mind practicing walking with him. What could I say except of course. I was there myself not too long ago. So off we went. And it was rough. He had no presence, no sense of the beat, and was stiff as anything. Plus his embrace felt awful, his right hand was pressed hard on the top center of my shoulder blades, so his hand almost matched the placement of my hand on his shoulder! Halfway through the tango I could not take it anymore, he was pushing me off axis and it was actually very uncomfortable, so I very calmly moved his hand down to the center, side of my back and started to explain that this was more comfortable for the follower when he stopped cold. Just stopped dancing. I started to ask what was wrong and he said "Well, I can't finish the song now." Implying that I had completely ruined his mojo or rhythm, or whatever by correcting his mistake. I was blown away. I started to explain why I did what I did and he told me he had to wait for the end of the song. So there we stood in silence for approximately 4 years while the last 30 seconds of the song played out. By the time the song ended I was completely annoyed. "I probably should have waited for the end of the song to correct you, but in practica feedback is so important to working on issues. If you don't embrace your follower in a manner that is comfortable for her, you will pull her off axis and your lead will be muddy and thick." And with that I thanked him and went to the side. I beg for feedback in practica, sometimes without getting much in return, but how else can you learn if you don't hear what your partner says about how you feel and move? You don't have to adjust to every bit of feedback, but at the least hearing it and discussing it will only help you in the long run. Some people can't take the heat I guess.
ACK! I just looked out the window and it is snowing!!! *sigh* New England never ceases to amaze and surprise me...... Guess we will have a white St Patrick's Day, and considering we did not have a white Christmas, that strikes me as rather funny and sad. On the other hand, the ASM for one of the show just walked into my office with a bottle of wine that was left over from opening night Wednesday night and said I did not get it from him.... score! I love theatre people.... :-D