Monday, September 24, 2007

One thing after another, just not my feet.....

I just don't get it. One minute I suck donkey and the next I am ok and then another minute passes and I do well. It makes no sense to me. And I am disheartened.

Saturday was the all night milonga at Providence, and I was so looking forward to it. We had missed last month due to tummy distress, so this month I was counting down the days. Plus Robin Thomas was coming down from NYC to DJ, so I knew it would be good.

I, on the other hand, I had no idea if I would be good.

And I was not.

Opened the night with Sorin, we danced in open embrace. He dances a lot more now in open, and while it has helped me immeasurably with my balance, but I miss close embrace with him. There seems to be some discord however with us in close embrace and I am not sure what it is. So we need to address that some time. So we danced in open, and it felt fine. Then Robin asked me to dance, and of course, I was thrilled. Even though I was not entirely warmed up, we had danced at Yale Camp, and I had not been too horrible, or so I thought. Well, this time, I was horrible. I could not do anything. And I felt like I should stop and apologize for my absolute inability to follow a simple walk and remove myself from further embarrassment. After the second song Robin suggested that I take a lesson with Marika the next I am in Montreal, which is an excellent suggestion, Marika teaches follower technique and is an amazing teacher and dancer. But it took what little wind I did have in my sails completely out. I felt like I should just go home and save everyone else the aggravation of trying to lead me.

That did not happen.

Instead, as the night went on, I got progressively better. Which was so bizarre to me. I danced with some favorite leaders who were down from NYC, and the ones I danced with at the beginning of the night, I wanted to run over to them at 2am and say, dance with me now! I can actually dance with you now! But I did not. Maybe I should have. But I did have some good dances which shocked the hell out of me. I just don't know what is going on. And it is starting to piss me off a little. However Sunday I went to the practica in Cambridge, and it went smashingly well. I could dance, I could follow, and I did not have the issues that I had the night before. Which was even more aggravating, as Saturday night there were more good leaders in the room, and I was afraid to catch their eye due to the fact that I was no longer myself on the dance floor.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Leading Lesson #1

Apparently I am argumentative. Of course, I have always questioned the whys and the wherefores, especially if I don't understand or don't agree with what is being said or done. But nonetheless, I have been labeled argumentative. Of course, I am sleeping with my teacher, so that might earn me brownie points ;-)

Last night Sorin started teaching me to lead. And after 3 hours I am sure he was ready to throw me out the window (we were 8 stories up) and I was ready to jump out the window.

We were at the MIT practica, and the further in we got, the more stressed I became. Did you know that leaders leave a space and then jump back into it without warning?!?! Or that leaders will suddenly appear into a space that was empty when they were at least 5 feet away 2 seconds ago?!?!? Shocking! ;-)
And stressful. It was hard enough to try to lead with the chest, not walk like a duck, keep my core still, place my feet where the follower's had just been, listen to the music, move on the beat, and try to not get agitated when Sorin missed a lead or unconsciously back-lead me. Add on top of that add navigation (mine and others) and it is not surprising that at one point I was near tears.
And of course, I was resistant to moving too fast through things since I felt that we were not spending enough time of getting me to lead the walk on the beat. Granted, after the exercises Sorin insisted that we go through he claimed I was moving better than before. But I could not feel it. I just felt overwhelmed.

And after three hours where I thought perhaps I would be left behind in the gutter for my argumentative state, what did I learn?
Well, I can pretty much lead a walk almost on the beat and almost consistently.
I can almost lead the follower to a stop without jarring them.
I can lead weight changes.
I can sort of lead a walking turn to the left (follower's right).
I can lead a side step.
I know the dynamic of leading a rock step, I just can't really do it yet.
I know the dynamic of leading the follower to the cross, I just can't do it yet.
I will do what I am told, see what happens, and then argue. ;-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Flip Side

Tonight is my first lesson in leading.
I feel exactly as I did when I had my first lesson in following, nervous, excited, and a little daunted.
But at least, I already know what it should feel like on the followers end, that should give me a little advantage, right?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Start of the Season!!!

I just got a new design gig with an up and coming professional theatre, and I am quite excited about it. The play is The Importance of Being Ernest, which is my favorite Oscar Wilde play, and one of my favorite comedies. Really witty, fast paced, and so indicative of the time. And then there is the clothes..... yum. This period is great for men and women, which is a treat. Great cuts for men, gorgeous gowns for women, and ohhhh.... the hats! I am renting the costumes, but building the hats! Tell me this does not look like fun! I am so looking forward to this project!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

weekend woes.....

Some days I really get tired of my body getting in the way of my fun. No tango this weekend. Which is depressing. Last night I had a terrible headache that I think was related to the change in weather and barometric pressure. I just could not shake it, and I was not in any shape to dance. And today, my body decided to start the monthly ritual of pain and suffering early. And with cramps like these, who can think of disassociating your torso in pivots? ugh..... not me. So instead, Advil is my friend, as is mug after steaming mug of hot tea. Something about cupping a mug of hot fragrant tea makes things feel better.

But all was not lost in tango, I did dance Friday night, and I had a great night. After what seems like forever but is really only since I got back from Tanglewood, I have not really been able to dance well. Or at least in my estimation, consistently well. But Friday night I did. It was Milonga Naranja, which I enjoy very much. And Tova and Carlos host a guided practica before the milonga, which I always find helpful. They are such great people and good instructors, that I know any question I have will get answered and worked on. So practica first, and then the milonga. Where I was happy with every tanda I danced. I got to dance with K for the first time in months, and it was so much fun. He predominately likes to dance in open, and now that I am more comfortable dancing in open, and can take the long steps (with my balance intact) required for some of the moves he likes to lead, I had a blast. We danced three tandas, and I grinned like a Cheshire Cat through all of them. He is just such a good dancer, and I am glad we got to dance again. It was all the usual suspects at the milonga, and I enjoyed myself immensely. And I think that might have been the key to my success that night. I was just enjoying myself. I was not worried about what I was doing, how I was moving, or what the leaders might have been thinking about that slight hesitation or misstep that happened 1 and 3/8ths of the way through the second song of the tanda..... the hesitations and missteps were still there, I did not suddenly become a tango goddess, but I did not focus so much on them. And I tried not to focus on any issues with my leader, I just enjoyed the dance and enjoyed the person I was dancing with. And you know what, I need to remember to do that all the time. Working on technique and movement is always important, but if I forget to enjoy myself and my partner, then why bother? I had fallen right back into worrying what was thought of me instead of enjoying the moment and the connection. I think that controlled relaxation is the appropriate analogy for tango. :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things....

Some favorite moments from the past few weeks

- the picnic on Caroline's front steps. We had fruit, cheese, bread, olive oil with balsamic vinegar for dipping, olives, and wine. What a feast we had! Oh yea, and chocolate coissants and apple turnovers..... yum! And what friendship we shared. Friends and food, great combination! :-)

- Bicycling through Montreal, the air was cool, the sun warm. And the scenery gorgeous. Everywhere around us people were bicycling; groceries sitting in crates on the back of their bikes, friends calling out to each other to go down a quiet, tree lines street, and the smells of bakeries, cafes, and coffee streaming past us, inviting us to slow down and stop for a moment.

- Falling asleep in the arms of the man I adore after dancing all night. Muscles tired and heavy, D'Arienzo circling my brain, my head resting on his shoulder as his arm encircles my shoulder. Perfect embrace. Perfect.

- Finding that moment where the connection, the communication, and the music is just perfect and there is no need for words. It did not matter how awful I felt I was before this moment, because for this fleeting breath, everything aligned and tango bliss was achieved.

- The pure affection of animals. Fat Cat, who had an extra digit - yes, she had six digits on each paw with 6 claws - would greet us at the door, rub against our legs, and roll over on her belly to show us how pudgy and inviting her belly was for rubbing. Then when you indulged her, her eyes relaxed to slits and purrs emanated from the fiber of her being. I wonder if I purr when I dance well....

- Going to my first grad class, and finding out that it is going to be a ton of work, and a ton of fun. It is Textile Dyeing, and I get a little brass scale to use to measure and weigh everything. There is math! There is chemistry! There is color! Could it get better? I think not....

- Having a moment, just an normal, uneventful moment, when I looked over at Sorin and was hit with the realization that I am in love. It kind of makes your chest get a little tight and your cheeks get a little warm, and a smile creeps into the normal, uneventful space to make it a moment.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Sunday late night/Monday too-damn-early - drove all night to Boston

Monday 9:00 am - Arrived home. Slept 1.5 hours

10:30am Went to school, taught half the afternoon, helped students with questions and projects the remainder of the afternoon, took my first graduate level class at 6:30pm.

8:45pm go home, drive with absolute caution as I am sort of hallucinating about hem lines pulling me over because I could not fit them properly.

9:00pm get home

9:10pm go to bed

9:10:01pm asleep

I have come to realize that I am no spring chicken any more.
And tango has altered my sense of what is reasonable.
Have I mentioned lately that I love tango?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Past tired, now crazy.....

So our favorite Montreal milonga happens Sunday night, L'Academie. It is a great space, fantastic music when Michele is DJing, lovely dancers, and just a wonderful environment. Plus it goes until at least 2am, usually later if people are still dancing.

I was having a hit or miss weekend with dancing. Some times I felt as though I was in the middle of a bad dream when I was asked to tango, only it was no longer the tango I knew, and I could not follow to save my life. Then, the very next tanda sometimes, it was heavenly and spot on. I have no idea what my issue was. But it was frustrating and upsetting. My friend had spoken to some leaders and suggested that they dance with me, and one of them, I have no doubt he was wondering who on earth allowed this follower to step on the floor!! I did not blame him. I could not feel his lead, I could not step clearly, and I could not get back in the space. My friend said my face was full of misery (reason #1 why I do not play poker, no game face) and she felt so badly for me. I felt badly for the leaders I could not follow. No one needs to go through that.

And yet, I had some really magical moments. One leader whom I really adore, is an older gentleman who is very Argentinean in his dance. It is wonderful to dance with him, and when he came over to ask me, I was so full of dread, as I had yet to be able to dance that night. But D'Arienzo came on, and off we went. And I was there. I followed, I moved, I waited, I was. It was amazing to me, as I completely expected to somehow impale myself on my own stiletto as that was the way the night had been shaping up. But no. I found some salvation somewhere. We danced three tandas, and he gave me the most lovely compliment. He told me that dancing with a follower like me was why he danced tango. I waited for him, I completed his phrasing, and my embrace was not a burden. Then he said "So you miss some steps, or miss a lead, pffahh (that's a french expression, closest I can get), who cares? As long as you dance, that is what matters."

Words of wisdom that made me smile and hope for the night.

I also danced with a new friend whose lead is just as yummy as dark brown sugar. Rich, deep and just enough sweet. Every time I go to Montreal, I look forward to seeing he and his girlfriend, as they are such lovely people and I enjoy chatting with them at the milongas.

Later I danced with G, who learned tango in Germany, and although he was more Nuevo in style, we danced three tandas in salon style and it was just lovely. My friend made the best analogy of dancing with him, it was like "Water in, Water out", like the gentle flow of the tide. Man, if my feet would have allowed me, I might still be dancing with him. I just had the biggest grin on my face when we ended each song. After dancing with him, I took off my shoes. The only other person I wanted to dance with was Sorin, and I did not want to mar the night with another tanda of "What the heck is Deb doing?!?". So I sat, wrapped in my shawl, and watched the dancers thin and circle the floor. It was mesmerizing. And I was finally happy with my night.

And now the crazy. We left from this milonga to drive home to Boston as I had to teach today. Yup. Montreal to Boston with a starting time of 2:30am. Uhm. yea. crazy. I did the majority of the driving as Soring was beat and I was sore and my feet hurt, but I was not really tired. I made it all the way to the Vermont/NH border on my leg of the drive before I had to pull over and crash for 40 minutes. Then back on the road with the sun up (amazing how much easier it is to stay awake when the sun is up), and arrive in Boston during rush hour traffic. We were supposedly about 30 minutes from home and a nap for my weary self when we hit the stand still traffic. Each inch we edged forward I counted as a minute less from my power nap. After a half hour we had traveled 4 miles and I was in tears from exhaustion. We finally got through the hideous traffic and sped home. Sorin was a dear and told me to just go in the house and get into bed as I only had a hour and a half to sleep before I had to leave for school. He would unpack my car. I gratefully dropped in to bed and was most likely asleep within seconds.

Class went well. Although the weariness of the weekend robbed me of my vocabulary, and my students were amused with my sudden lack of 25cent words, heck, I could not find 5cent words! But even though I was past exhaustion and still am, I would not have traded this weekend for the world. The few moments of bliss that I experienced during my night of trauma made the whole night worth it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So tired

Sorin and I are vising a dear friend in one of my favorite cities and naturally we will be going out to tango every night! :-) wheeee!

Last night we went out to a milonga that is one of Sorin's favorites and I did a lot of sitting. Which is fine, because I have learned in this city that the first night I go out dancing here, I am watched, and then the subsequent nights I will be invited. I danced almost entirely with Sorin, which was good, although I was so tired from our long drive up north, that my balance was thrown. I could not figure it out, until today when Sorin mentioned that my ballet background was rearing it's tu-tu'd little head again, I was going up in energy and not grounding down. My friend also made excellent advice to soften my knees more, which did help. But I was tired. The place was packed like Christmas lights in a box, and the stress of over close proximity to a couple of people who did not know that navigation was an element of leading added to my weariness. I did dance with one of my favorites in this city, an older gentleman whom I danced with before and enjoy his lead very much. My friend kept prompting me to go ask him, I explained I was trying to cabaceo him, at which point she chuckled at me and said his eyesight is not so good for cabaceo. And she was sure he would remember me and be thrilled that I went to ask him for a dance. So I plucked up the courage and walked over. He did not remember me. But he was pleased that I would come over to ask him to dance. We danced two tandas, and they were just lovely. Although I was hyper aware of my balance issues, but he was a dear and told me I moved beautifully and would I save him a tanda for later in the night. Naturally, of course!

The place was so crowded, it was a wonder that the navigation on the whole was so good. Leaders were really taking care of their followers, and there were a few warning elbows for those who were not respecting the line of dance or the space of others. I danced with another gentleman whom I ADORE dancing milonga with, but by this time I was feeling the weight of the day settle on my shoulders, and I know I did not dance well. He was gracious and thanked me after the tanda ended, but I know I was not dancing as I wanted to. So off the shoes came. There were several leaders whom I saw that I would have liked to dance with, but I did not want my first dance with them to be while I was not able to give them everything. I even turned down a lovely leader from Argentina who does not get turned down! And it killed me to do so, but I took his hands, kissed his cheeks, and explained that I really wanted to dance with him when I really could dance with him. And would he save me a tanda at the Sunday night milonga. He was funny and sweet and told me he would. And then I went back to my friend's apartment. Sorin stayed and danced almost to the end, which I was happy he did as that is his favorite milonga. And my weariness does not mean he needs to end his night early if he does not have to.

Back at my friend's house, we had some bread and chatted in her kitchen about dancing in different cities and the leaders we like. Which sparked conversation as I mentioned that some of my favorite leaders are actually women. I guess some might think that odd, but I don't see why. One of my dearest friends in Boston, P, is a gorgeous leader AND follower, and I love dancing with her whenever she puts on her leader shoes. Also, I danced with a woman, G, last weekend in NYC who was really good. The milonga I was at had a derth of good leaders and an overabundance of followers, and when she asked me I was quite happy to dance with her. Her lead was quite clear and clean, and her embrace was lovely. It is sometimes odd when dancing with women, due to the whole two sets of breasts issue, (yea, yea, TMI I am sure, but it is true! If both women have curves, then you need to find how to fit them together!), but there was no uncomfortable fiddling with the embrace, it was lovely. So I don't look at it as dancing with women leaders so much as dancing with leaders, who happen to be women. If that makes any sense....

Tonight we are all going to the All Night Milonga at TangoFabrika. I hope I will be in a better space to dance, and right after I post this I am off to nap land in order to last the night. ;-)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


The infestation of Boston has begun. And it is always marked by idiot drivers during the first weekend of September, when all the college students move back into town, and people who don't understand how to drive a truck.... and sometimes what exactly a truck is..... try to drive on Storrow Drive. The first weekend of September we Bostonians call it Sorrow Drive, because if you decide to chance driving on Storrow, you will be filled with Sorrow.


Because Storrow Drive is for cars only. It has several footbridges that cross it whose clearance is only 10 feet. Therefor, no trucks allowed. And there are big, bold signs at every entrance that state Cars Only. But some people tend to think that this warning is for others, not them, and they continue on.... and cause all sorts of problems. Like THIS.
Watch the slide show.... it's phenomenal....
Every year I see trucks peeled open like sardine cans because they thought that they could make it. Well, they can't. I was happy to not be in Boston during infestation weekend, but driving home today from work, I saw a truck poised at the entrance of Storrow Drive. Looking confused at the bridge it could not fit under, and abashedly at the cop who just looked weary as he wrote up the citation and called for back up so that they could hold up traffic for hours in order to guide the U-Haul out of the road, in reverse. Because they could not move forward.

I was just happy I left when I did.

Some days, I really hate people in their cars.....

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tango Marathon

Labor Day weekend... what's a tango couple to do? Go tango naturally!

Off to NYC Sorin and I went. On his bike. Yup. 3 1/2 hours on a motorcycle. Uhmmm... let's just say after about an hour my ass was hurting and felt like it was deflated. I started calling it "DeFlater-Butt". Heh. But despite that, it was actually beautiful to travel on the bike. You get to smell everything (flowers, trees, someone's bbq.... although on the flip side of that.... SKUNK!!!), you see more than in a car, and it really is fun. So, off to NYC we went.

And had a blast. We went to three events Saturday. The intermediate/advanced practica at Dance Manhattan, which was really good. My friend L from NYC was the DJ and he did a wonderful job. The selections were right on, and he paid attention to the dancers. Usually at practicas DJs will throw on a playlist and let it run. But L treated this as a milonga, and the music was great. The level of dancers was also really good, and it felt great to stretch and move after being on the bike for so long. We ran into some fellow Boston-ites while there. And discovered that one of my favorite Boston leads was leaving for BsAs that night! Yikes! I was so glad to see him there as we got to dance a few tandas together before he left. Every time I dance with him, I just enjoy it more and more. He is so smooth, so clean and clear, and his dynamic changes are just flawless and musically creative. I am sure he will have a wonderful time in BsAs learning and becoming a better leader, and I can't wait to dance with him when he comes back!

After practica we grabbed a bite to eat, and then thought we would go by the Central Park milonga and watch a little. We did not plan to really dance much, but that completely went out the window as soon as we got there. Sorin and I danced a few tandas in the beginning before it got crowded, and it all came back. I felt connected to him, we were playful, and I was in bliss dancing with the man I adore in Central Park beneath Will Shakespeare. So great to get back into that space! After we danced, we stopped to see who was there, and then I had a first. And funnily enough, it was not a last! A gentleman whom I had seen in NYC before, and admired his dancing, came up to Sorin and myself and asked Sorin if he could ask me to dance. Very Argentinean. Usually I get a little miffed if a leader asks Sorin for permission to dance with me, but this was not the same thing. It was more of a formality it seemed. Anyways, it did not bother me at all. Then he told me that he knew Sorin and read his blog, so he knew who I was and wanted to dance with me. Huh?!?! Ha!!!! That was great! It was the first time I had ever gotten a dance because of Sorin's blog!!! I thought that was hilarious. And you know what? If this is the sort of leader who reads Sorin's blog and then wants to dance with me, I say fantastic! Because this leader was beautiful. It was a gorgeous tanda, full of nuance, musicality, and emotion. I was so aware of how advanced this leader was, but not because of anything he put out, simply from dancing with him. I discovered later from Sorin that he is a tango teacher. Not surprising.... so I would state that he most likely is a tango demi-god and I was thrilled to pieces to dance with him.

Near the end of the milonga, I saw one of my favorite NYC leads, C, dance by with a strikingly beautiful and tall woman. Yea! C was there! I knew if I could just catch his eye, I would have a wonderful few tandas. So I sat down near the front, they danced by, our eyes met, smiles of recognition, and off they went around Will. And they kept going around Will. They were beautiful together, moving with grace, and after the third tanda, I accepted a dance with another lead I knew. A few tandas later. They were still dancing together, and I just laughed. Apparently he had it so good at the moment, that he was not letting her go. Fair enough, I understand that feeling very well. So I just hoped that I would see him at the SeaPort the next night. I then danced with an older gentleman, whom I had seen before, and it was gentle and lovely. He was in his 70's and still dancing. And let me tell you, some young bucks could learn a thing or two from him about salida! We parted when the tanda finished and I turned around and saw the beautiful tall girl dancing with someone else. My head whipped around, looking for C, and there he was, walking towards me with a huge smile. Yea me!!! We said our hellos, kissed cheeks, and stepped right into the embrace and started dancing. I have to say, his lead is like velvet. Smooth, supple, clear, and beautiful. I was again in bliss. Lucky me! We chatted in between songs and turns out the striking woman was a friend of his from Montreal who was visiting. I mentioned I was headed to Montreal the following weekend and he promised to introduce us. Then we danced for another 2 tandas, and I was just in heaven.

After the milonga, Sorin and I found some food and compared notes about what others had told us about the options for the night. From everything we heard, we decided to go to Dance Studio 101 at 101 Lafayette for their milonga. It was a good milonga, although it was better for Sorin than me. The ratio of followers to leaders was about 3 to 1, so I did a lot of sitting, which was fine by me, and Sorin did a lot of dancing, which was great for him. At one point he likened the milonga to a candy store. :-) I did get to dance with the people I was interested in, so I was happy. And I got to chat with C's friend, M. She was lovely and we talked about Montreal, tango, and NYC. We exchanged info and promised to look for each other at L'Acadmie when Sorin and I go up next weekend.
I did make the mistake of dancing with someone who I completely misjudged. Their lead was beyond strong, beyond firm, and beyond endurable. It was as though I was a doll, and was thrown this way, and that way, and pushed here and there. I swear I have bruises the shape of fingers on my back from their embrace! And then they adjusted my embrace! Moved my arm from where I was comfortable to another position. Now, in a practica, I am all about making adjustments and talking about embrace and how to make it comfortable for both of us. But to just move my arm in the middle of the dance??? Wow. Uhm. Wow. I was stunned. Like I said, had this person been other than who they were, I would have stopped the dance and walked off. I was offended. Not to sound as though I am tooting my own horn, but I get compliments all the time on my embrace. I had no idea how to survive the tanda, and for multiple reasons, I did not feel as though I could end the tanda early. Luckily, it was a short tanda and I could say thank you and walk away. Yikes. Oh well. What can you do?

Sorin and I fell into bed sometime around 4am, happy and exhausted.
And that was only one day.

I'll write about Sunday and the SeaPort later. My typing is going downhill as is my energy level. But suffice it to say, the SeaPort was FANTASTIC! Definitely one of my favorite milongas in NYC, despite the challenge of the planks and the tourists. Really, anytime you go to NYC in the summer to dance, go to the Seaport. You'll love it.