Saturday, December 29, 2007

The flip side

Thursday night's practica had a ratio of 300 women to 2 men. Ok, I exaggerate a little, there were only 250 women.
heh heh heh
Actually, it was more like 12 women to 4 or 5 men. Certainly not a good ratio for us ladies. So I was chatting with one of the followers, talking about various things, and she mentions that she has been practicing leading and asks me if I lead. uhmmm... well, not much more than a walk.
OK, she says, let's try it, we can switch off lead.
Oh boy, here we go!
I was pretty amazed at myself, as I have been so hesitant to ask for help with the leading, so I have not really worked on it much at all. So it came as a complete surprise to me that here I was, leading with a new friend in open embrace. She lead in close embrace, in heels, and I was amazed at how well she did that. I lead in my little canvas slippers. Well, I was doing my damnedest to lead that is. But what amazed me the most was that I did not kill her! It was great, and quite the rush. Although I have to remember to watch the floor and not my follower's core. Follower habit that, my eyes are always locked on my leader's core in open embrace. Can't do that when you are leading! All in all it went shakily well. We walked, I lead a left turn, ochos, and discovered how to lead a molinette when I thought I was leading an ocho and opened too far and suddenly she was moving around me. I am not sure what my feet were doing, but I managed to end up on the right foot with her. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and we giggled our way through our mistakes, and she gave me some really good feedback, mostly that I was too subtle in my lead, although my embrace was good, not tight and not ghost-like. And my lead to the cross was much too subtle, but that subtle was better than shoveling her across the floor. I gave her a huge hug and said I would practice with her any time she wanted, even if the ratio was reversed next time!

Bolstered by my quasi rudimentary success, I got bold and asked another follower if she would let me practice leading with her. She was incredibly supportive and happy to do so. Boston followers are so supportive when a follower decides to lead, it is as though we all want the other to succeed, and it is such a warm feeling to know that we all support each other in this way. This time, I tried to impart some musicality in the walk at a very basic level using rock steps. And when I lead something that was followed perfectly, I did my best to keep my composure and keep going, when what I wanted to do was jump up and down and hug her while laughing with glee. But I was good, I saved that for after the song. :-)
Feedback again was too subtle, a little light, but clear. And I did not kill her either! Yea me! I felt giddy at the end and I guess that she caught a little of that as well as she asked to practice leading me after our three songs. Which I happily obliged.

It will be a long time before I attempt anything more than walking, ochos, and rock steps at a practica, even the surprise molinette might have to wait until I have some more confidence. However I do have enough confidence to ask for a dance as a leader at a practica. Although I really do need lots of floor space because when we would suddenly get hemmed in from 3 other couples I would feel a slight panic rise in my throat, like a cat looking for a way out of a bath after being locked in the bathroom. And that translates. Which is bad.
And now that I have had a taste of real leading with followers who follow well, I want more. It is such a great feeling when something you meant to lead happens naturally and on beat, and perhaps with a whiff of musicality. And it is also very informative when what you meant to lead either does not happen or something else happens in its place. It is like someone highlighted what you just did and wrote a note saying "Not so much, work on that!" It helps to know what should have happened because then I can figure out what to adjust and try to make it clearer.

I did not think that the tango bug would get stronger, but it just did!

Last night however, I made the mistake of bragging a little to a friend about my "success" at the practica. He gave me a smile, and then stepped into an embrace as a follower! Oh no!! We are at a milonga!! There are people EVERYWHERE!!! WHY DO I TALK!?!?!
deep breath
And I fucked it all up.
I could not relax as there were people everywhere and I was in 4 inch heels and oh hell....
He was very kind afterwards, and said I was doing ok until I panicked, and to keep my embrace more open and less cramped.
So no more bragging.
And leading only at practicas until I can stay relaxed in tight spots.


Anonymous said...

Do you find that your classes are often heavily female-biased? The ones I've attended in London almost always have been.

koolricky said...

Hi Debbi:
It's great you got the guts to lead. I did read your wee chronicles on your first leading lesson. Leading is difficult and challenging but very rewarding. In Edinburgh, Scotland, due to the huge imbalance on women:man that existed at some point (I recall a milonga where there were over 40 women and 2 men!!) women started dancing and now you'll be lucky if within a milonga you don't see a woman leading.
It's also very curious (and i am menaing to write something about this) how women lead. It's a very different lead from men. Sweeter, ver gracious, fluid...
Anyway, good luck and keep practising!