Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Guerilla practica, but no guerilla leading.... ;-)

We had a guerrilla style practica last night, which was quite fun. We went around to difference spaces and set up shop so to speak.
By the time we arrived at our last space, we had lost some of our group, and I looked around and realized we were 3 men and 6 women. whoops! So off came the stilettos and on went the sneakers and I practiced leading. The friends who allowed me to lead them were so lovely to put up with me! We did not do much, my vocabulary is pretty limited, but I tried to do what I could musically and I tried to give them moments that I knew I would have wanted to enjoy if I had been following. And I had a great time. It was interesting to dance with three different followers and realize their different strengths and how I needed to alter my lead accordingly. I got some good feedback as well, which was both confidence boosting and helpful in critique. The best compliment I got was that my walk was strong and my intent was clear. whoo hoo!

I also found that when I did not stress about the cross, it happened naturally, so I decided to stop thinking so hard when I knew I wanted to cross her, and it would just happen. So maybe 75% of the time the cross when through fluidly, which is a marked improvement of my last attempt at practicing the cross which happened, oh, say about 20% of the time. I am also doing better about watching the room and not falling into the follower default of watching my partner's core. As a leader, I need to be aware of her core, but watch the room! Luckily, I have never walked my partners into anything, thank whatever patron god of tango there is!

But it is really hard to switch from leader to follower immediately! I lead one of my favorite leaders, and then he led me, and man it was tough! My brain was sort of sparking, confused as to what was going on. It took me a whole song to settle into following. So until I get better, I need to give myself some time in between leading and following, otherwise I may end up looking like a short circuiting mess! ha!

So, feeling more confident about leading, even though I am still in open embrace right now. Next practica, I am thinking about trying to lead ochos.... Ai!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tango Dis-Etiquette

Sometimes people's behavior surprises me to the point of speechlessness. And I am always reminded of a very wise piece of advice given to me by one of my theatre professors, it was "Be sure you treat those whom you pass on the ladder to success well, because you will meet them again on your way down."

Not too long ago, at a milonga, I was sitting on the edge of a stage along with about 6 other women. The milonga was very follower heavy, and this space was certainly a good area to be seen, but it was also one of the few places with good air movement, and it was hot that night. So sitting there I struck up conversation with the women beside me, and we chatted of this that and whatever. Then a young Tango-HotShot-Wannabe came over and squeezed in beside me and the young lady I was chatting with. As he squeezed in, he started talking in a falsetto voice "Oh, none of us ladies are getting dances. Oh, won't someone come dance with us!" all the while flipping his hair and pushing his chest out. I was struck dumb by this flagrant taunting of women whom he apparently thought far below his swelling talent.

I have to admit, that I had seen this man climb over the past year or so in a nearby community to where he is, had been curious about dancing with him even though I thought him rather stuck on himself, but after this crude and rather cruel display, I no longer had any interest in dancing with him ever. I am sure he will never ask me, so I will never have the pleasure of saying No, Thank you. Who knows, perhaps he will go far now that he calls himself a teacher, but I know 7 women whose thoughts of him turned very dark one night, and I am guessing that none of us will ever take class with him, or give encouragement to others to take class with him. It just strikes me as a less than intelligent choice to mock those whom you feel are less than you, and are also your potential target group for teaching.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taguerositos - or tiny cute tangueros

From the minds of babes....

I can not claim to have found this first hand, instead I found it through another obsessed tango dancer. I just had to share it with all of you though. Too stinkin' cute! And imagine in 10 or 12 years when they are in early adulthood.... damn!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Practice makes Perfect?

Took a really interesting workshop this weekend with Tomas Howlin on how to practice. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You work on something with someone until you get it right. But what is right? How do you get there? How do you know it is working? And how do you not rip off the head of your practice partner when they give you less than constructive feedback?

Interesting indeed.....

Sorin and I had been finding that we needed more constructive and communication based practice times together. I love him, I really really do, and there were times when I just wanted to kill him because of what he was telling me, what I perceived he was telling me, or what he was not telling me. And I have no doubt that it went both ways. Our common theme was he would give me feedback or instructions that would drive me insane, I would not get what he was saying, he did not know how to phrase whatever the elusive thing was that he wanted me to do, and then a month or two later, someone would mention to me that I should do A, B and C in order to properly do Z, and I would get it. Then I would ask Sorin why he could not tell me what so-and-so said.

You see how this goes. Round and round and round until we have two very frustrated dancers.

Tomas cut through all of that by encouraging body awareness and perception. How do you react when someone asks you a probing question? How should you react? How do you communicate what you feel/do/want? How many ways are you communicating it? How can you communicate it in different ways so your partner gets it? How can you listen to what they are telling you without focusing on what you want to tell them?

Really interesting thoughts.

Things that got me thinking.

We practiced an exercise on the different ways to interpret and react to and interact with our partners. How to adapt and communicate on both sides of the embrace. There were some ah-ha! moments...

There was one moment when we were exploring the different ways the leader communicated to the follower that they want to move in or out of close embrace. Sorin and I practiced it a bit, then Tomas asked how the communication went. I mentioned that I knew when Sorin wanted to slide in or out as his right arm would change position is a specific way that communicated to me that he was going to change the embrace. Sorin immediately disagreed that he was doing that. Which, naturally, made every one laugh. But later we talked about it, and instead of my getting defensive for what I perceived as a dismissal of my response to his actions, I said "This is what I feel from you, you do this and I know what to expect." His reaction was along the lines of this is only the first step in what I do to change the embrace, it is not how I change the embrace. My response was, but it is the first step, so it is what I feel first, so to me, it is how you begin to change the embrace.

And an ah-ha moment was born.

He heard what I was saying as valid, even though he thought he was doing something else. I heard that he felt that what he did after this moment was what changed the embrace, even though I felt something else first.

Tomas gave us some communication homework for the next time we practice. And I am thinking that maybe we might be better able to communicate in practice together and not get so quickly upset with each other.

It's quite a concept.
I am thinking that there is hope for us, that there will not be an obituary that states "Unfortunate and untimely deaths due to miscommunications in practicing colgadas."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

things that make you say hummm....

I was just told by one of my students that I can be scary. Apparently when actors or singers badly misbehave in fittings, I tend to look at them in a way that makes them shrivel up into husks of their former obnoxiousness. This makes my students cheer. But it apparently also makes them nervous when this look is directed near them.
I had no idea I did this.
How incredibly cool.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comeback Trail

Getting sick actually helped my tango. Believe it or not. Being forced to sideline myself for over a week, I was afraid that I would somehow have to struggle to get back to where I was before I got ill. Plus I was still sort of weak, pretty sure some of the weight I lost was muscle mass and fat - 5 lbs in 1 week, not too good for the body. Although great for the wardrobe! ;-)
Anyway, went dancing Friday and Sunday, and it was great. I felt connected, I felt musical, I felt leads, suggestions, and opportunities. It is the opportunities that makes me most excited. Sometimes when I feel what my leader is hearing in the music, and something else in the music inspires me, I am able to offer a little voice to the phrase, be it with embellishment or an active moment of suggestion from me, and I know there are other things that I do that I have no idea how to categorize them. It is so cool and exciting to do! But there is something really uplifting when these moments happen and Sorin whispers "nice!" in my ear, or my leader laughs a little or gives me a little squeeze to communicate enjoyment.
Although I have to be careful not to take over the lead, so I do them rarely. I did it once Friday night with someone I had never danced with and unfortunately I threw him completely off, he did not know how to react. He told me that he thought it was great, it just took him by surprise. I was chagrined as that is not a cool thing to do. I need to make sure that I am not only heard, but understood. I don't want to startle my leader.
So being ill allowed me time away, time to ruminate on things I had been working on, and allowed me to come back fresh, with a clean slate, and an eagerness to dance. I still have lots to work on, but having a brief respite was actually helpful.

So more practice with timing and communication, but this seems like something really wonderful to offer to play with.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Missed Connections

I was supposed to go the the NYC festival this weekend, I had been looking forward to going as production at school was going to hit full force very soon and I would not have the time I do right now. Our plan was to leave Friday and drive down with friends. Wednesday I started to feel under the weather. Thursday I felt like crap, and was having a hard time breathing, and the stairs at work were killing me when normally I run up and down them all day. With reservations, I did go to practica on Thursday, but I did not dance. Sorin was DJing, and I had some things to give to some friends, so I went, but I sat aside, away from everyone, and watched. Friday morning, I knew it was all over. I was sick sick sick. I decided not to go, I did not know if I would recover in time to attend any of the milongas, I did not want to be ill in someone else's house, and I did not want to get anyone else ill. Even if I felt better by Sunday or Monday, there was no guarantee I would not infect someone, as I did not know if it was the flu or a cold or what it was. So I missed a weekend full of friends and dancing.
Which I was sad about. But now I am angry about.

I went dancing last Tuesday at my favorite milonga, and I heard yesterday from a friend who send me a lovely message about feeling better, and mentioned that so-and-so, who was at the Tuesday milonga, was just getting over something similar. Apparently this person went to the milonga feeling ill, but "well enough to dance."

If you are feeling under the weather - DO NOT GO DANCE!!! Even if you feel "well enough", you are probably going to infect those you dance with, and possibly those at the water table, or those you sit next to, or those you cough near. I should not have gone to practica at all on Thursday, but I promised to deliver something, so I went, and I tried my best to stay away from people. So yes, not the best idea, but I tried to minimize any damage to others.

I mean, close embrace, it is lovely, intimate, and, well close! You share breathing space. And if you have some germs looking to party in a new space, you share those too. And usually I prefer to do my partying with those who are not looking to invade my immune system.

So please, this is the season for all those crazy little germs, and festivals, so lets make sure to share connection, and not illness.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pride AND Prejudice in Tango

Sometimes I am amazed at the level of prejudice and arrogance that exists still today. And it's creepy little hold even extends to tango. Although I think what amazes me more is that people seem to think it is ok to voice these prejudices. Just don't voice them to me, because I have a tongue and I am not afraid to use it.

Recent conversation steamed me to the point of my Irish getting up into the stratosphere. It was said to me at a recent tango event, that they could not possibly dance with someone who was gay, and it was beyond their understanding why there should be a gay/lesbian practica. I was floored for about three seconds, and then asked them how on earth would they know if their partner was gay? Well, of course this person would know, they "would not be able to connect."


Uhm, hate to tell you my friend, but you HAVE danced with a partner who plays for the other team, and you did not seem to mind one bit.

I simply said that I had danced with gay men, and gay women, and had simply marvelous connections. So that little statement does not hold water.

There was some persistence on the other person's part on how being gay in tango was an issue, and I just felt the need to stop being polite to this person in this conversation.

Why the hell does anyone think that someone's sexual alignment has anything to do with their ability to connect in the dance? It's absurd. And it pissed me off. Although what actually got my fuse lit was the fact that it was said to me in such an off-handed way, as though there was no doubt in this person's head that of course I would agree with them. And why would anyone want to keep the scope of our tango community limited? It's the same as saying "Oh, blondes should not dance tango, I just can't connect with them because I am sexually attracted to brunettes." It has no bearing whatsoever and just makes you sound like the exit side of a donkey.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Last of the Longas....

This past weekend was the last LongaMilonga in Providence. It was a bittersweet celebration. Hundreds of people came, laughed, danced, talked and celebrated a Milonga that had made a name for itself in the tango community.

I was determined to last until the end. I never had, I always lost my wind around 4am or so. But this night, I wanted to stay up to the bitter end. So I made sure to pace myself, made sure to make the night last. My dance card was full, I had a lovely night. A night that went all the way to 6am, and we were not the last ones standing. But, in order to safely drive home, we left. I felt good about it though, I did not feel as though we left too early. Which was the important thing.

It was slightly strange to look around, see all the faces both new and well known, and dance through the night, knowing that although there may be other events at PT, this will not happen again. It seemed sort of wrong to be having such a good time, and then I realized that actually it would have been wrong to not have a good time, being melancholy would not have helped anyone. Why mourn when you can celebrate! And that we did. I brought my camera with me, with every intention of photographing the moments that happened, but I was so in those moments, that to tear myself away to search for the camera and stand on the sidelines, seemed like a foreign concept. So I did not, and I just have my memories to go on. Which I rather like :-)

The night also brought back memories of my first LongaMilonga, where I sat most of the night and watched from the couches. It's a tough crowd, and one where beginners can certainly feel discouraged, which I remember distinctly feeling myself. Although it also lit a fire under my stilettos because I wanted to be one of the followers who was dancing all night. When you are placed in an environment where the enticement is how you dance, your embrace, and your connection - not your clothes, your shoes, your hair - it is a Darwin moment. And actually, your clothes, shoes and hair can work against you rather than for you! The reactions to that moment are varied, but it certainly is something that makes an impression. It is a little jarring to come from a community where one would dance a good portion of the night, for whatever reason, and be dropped into a situation where the rules are the same, but the stakes are different, higher. I had a couple of conversations during the height of LM with new dancers who just looked shell shocked. I tried to convey that this is part of the growing pain of tango, when you leave your comfort zone, where you are known, and jump into a larger pond, where you are not known yet and have to start all over in a sense in order to become known. Some seemed to have that fire in the back of their eyes that said "I want to get there!" and others who seemed to shrink back and yearn for their comfort zone. It was very interesting to be on the other side of that Festival Fear. For the LongaMilonga was sort of a mini festival in a way. I did not know how to tell them about overcoming that level, which looks like a solid rock face cliff. But I knew if they wanted to, they would find a way.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Overheard phrases and my interpretations

Things overheard on my commute this morning

*Overheard phone conversation waiting for the train
"Are you sure that is what the results are? Is it possible that the test is a false positive? Should I come back in for more bloodwork or do you need more samples? I can't possibly have that!"

My interpretation. Man contracted something or other from someone other than his wife, and is desperate to not have to tell her. Instead, he would rather tell the entire platform of the 9:09am train. Can you say TMI?!

*On commuter rail, men behind me
"Well, Rebecca is 15 years younger than me, but still, that was not right."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, she told me I lost the match because I am older and slower than her."
"Yea, hell of an apology! I mean, doesn't she care how it looks for her to win?!"

My interpretation
Wealthy older man is upset because his trophy wife is not playing by the rules and is confused why she is not being a trophy 24 hours a day. She had the audacity to beat him in a tennis match and then not apologize for winning. He is shocked and amazed. He is even more amazed that she thinks he is old. Seatmate knows about the wife's affair with the tennis instructor, but can't say anything because he's begun dating the Man's second ex-wife.

*Conversation between two girls behind me walking up Huntington Ave

"Well of course I did not do the reading! I had to go to Tommy's party this weekend, and there was just no time! I mean.... you know.... I had stuff to do, I can't be expected to drop everything to read three chapters! Ya know?"
"Mm-hm. But that was just awful that she called you on it in class! I mean, you know, half of us didn't do the reading... she did not have to pick on you!"
"I know! I wonder if my dad should call someone about that...."

My interpretation
Two girls had no idea that when they decided to go to college they would actually have to work and study because they have been getting by on charm and perfume for years now. They are so used to Daddy stomping on anyone who intrudes on their world with reality, that they don't know how to deal with reality now that they are immersed in it.

Some days I just love figuring out other people's issues... especially when they hang up all this dirty laundry for everyone to see!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hey TangoBaby!

Just because I know you would appreciate it.... Here is my first project for my costume production class this semester....

I am recreating this look from 1950's Dior......
I'll post my progress. I am so excited!

I am also taking a millinery class, so maybe I will make the little hat too.... ooooh!

Wonderful Oddness

Last night was my happy milonga - Odd Tuesday. It was packed and it was wonderful. I had a great time, had lovely dances, and felt like I was moving rather well. There were new faces, favorite faces, and one famous face whom I did not realize was famous until today. Ah well. If we dance with the gods, will we realize that they are mortal? (That's my justification and I am stickin to it!)

I really and truly did not have one bad dance last night. I danced until I could not dance any more, until my feet were sore and numb at the same time. I needed that. The music was really good, the walls had new artwork that was interesting and beautiful, the air was just the right temperature - the planets aligned, the angels sang and somewhere a fairy was laughing.
Ok, maybe it was not quite that level of magic, but it was pretty darn close! The only thing that would have made it better was if it and I could have lasted longer.

I danced with a beginner who has been bitten by the tango bug, we talked music, we talked style, we talked about those moments of excitement when you get something elusive. I danced with someone I have not danced with in about 6 months, and it was really fun and made me realize that I miss dancing with him. I danced with a friend who just came back from BsAs, we talked about everything. And, of course, I danced with Sorin - which was possibly the best dance of the night. We connected, we communicated, and we had fun. What more can you ask for?

It is funny, a night like last night makes me happy and inspires me to keep growing and dancing, because I want more nights like that. Lately I have had some dances that made me feel all of my shortcomings. I don't believe that was intentional on the leader's behalf, it is just the way it went. I was being challenged in ways I did not yet know how to meet. Which both fires me up and dampens me down. It makes me want to get better so that I can meet the challenge. And it depresses me that I am not there yet. Where ever there is.

So now I am feeling inspired from both sides of the tango coin. From challenges I have not been able to meet, and from situations where I just felt like I was on top of the world.
Lucky me, I have two great events coming up in my home town - workshops with Felipe and Rosa and then in a little over a month - Tango de los Muertos!

It never stops.....

Friday, September 05, 2008

Back to the Beginning of Leading

Thursday night I practiced leading with another beginner leader/experienced follower. It was fun to try to remember all that I had forgot, considering the last I lead was before my adventures in Tanglewood this summer. I'm having a hard time leading the cross in close embrace, but can do it in open. In fact, I can do more in open than in close at the moment. It seems I need more close embrace practice. But we had a blast, switching off leads, helping each other figure out why things were and were not working. And I had a small "whoosh" moment. The "whoosh" comes from a workshop I took with Mila and Korey, and it is a feeling that you share with your follower on a dynamic pivot or turn. They were doing it on steps that were far beyond my current leading skills. But what I did discover was a molinette lead to my left and as she took the final step forward, I led a fast pivot round on her left foot so that she would step forward to my right. And then I was so shocked that it worked, I inadvertently lead her to a back cross and ocho out of the move. Now if I can only figure out how I did that.... it would be cool! But that never happened again when I was thinking
about it. But I practiced the molinette and pivot combination a few times until I felt I had it sort of down, and I just felt so incredibly happy with it.

One tiny step forward onto the path. But it was a step forward, and for a follower, that is huge. ;-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

open to the possibilities

There is something really great about discovering a connection with someone you dance with for the first time. Sometimes it is also the first time you meet them. Keeping yourself open to possibilities is one of the exciting aspects of tango as far as I am concerned. Yes, there are leaders whom I look forward to dancing with whenever we are at the same milonga, but finding new favorites is just as wonderful. In chatting with someone recently, they mentioned that they only dance with those whom they already know that they will have a good connection with. I found that so limiting and, well, bizarre. Because in order to find out that there was a good connection, there had to be a moment of discovery, so why cut yourself off from that opportunity?

This discovery happened twice to me this last weekend in Providence. I danced with someone I have seen before at different venues and cities, but for whatever reason we never danced before, so I was thrilled when he asked me to dance as I had liked watching him dance with others. And I danced with someone who was visiting from the other side of the country and I had never met before, but again, I had seen him dancing during the night and thought he would be awfully fun to dance with.

Both were great in completely different ways, and I was so happy to find two such wonderful new connections. There is that trill of excitement that runs through you during the first moment of the first dance as you find the connection in the embrace and realize that this was going to be wonderful. Hearing your leader's musicality, hearing what he hears in the music, offering what you hear and feel. And then creating the music together.

It doesn't really get much better than that. :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First real tango trauma

So last night was the second to last LongaMilonga in Providence. An era is coming to an end.

I had a great time there, despite a tango injury. I decided to try giving myself pedicures, because my toe nails had bruises and scrapes on them from floorcraft collisions, and they were just not as pretty as I wanted. So I bit the bullet and bought some really pretty dark blood red nail polish and tried to pretty up my tootsies. Seemed to work. And last night, I was dancing with a particularly athletic leader, and felt a sharp pain in my left big toe from something or other that caused me to scrape my own foot. I thought not much on it and continued dancing. Although at the end of the song, my foot felt odd. I looked down, did not see anything, shrugged, and continued the tanda. Half way through this song however, my foot felt decidedly squishy. Like wet sand squishy. And a little painful too. I made it through the song, looked down again, did not see anything. Bent down this time, and saw that my toes were covered in blood. oops. Guess blood red was not the best choice for nail polish! Excused myself to the bathroom where I discovered that I had removed most of my toenail and it was barely hanging on. (Insert dance of uncomfortable heebie jeebies here. I certainly did, only my left leg was in the sink as I did it.)

Hoo boy. And of course, once I saw I was hurt, I started to feel pain. So I cleaned my foot and my shoe (oh! My shoe! Stained!) as best I could. Debated the brilliance of removing the toenail that was sort of hanging on. Decided I just could not bring myself to do that. Found a large band-aid, some gauze and tape and wrapped that sucker up tight. Hobbled back to the floor to find some sympathy from Sorin, and wondered what to do. I did not want to stop dancing, but wouldn't it be prudent to do so?

Got some Advil, took 4.

Thought some more about stopping.

Found my canvas jazz flats that I brought with me. Brought them over to my seat.
Looked at them.
Thought some more.
Slipped the left one on just to see how it would feel.
Slightly uncomfortable, but tolerable.

Milonga Sentimental by Otros Aires came on. One of my favorites....

Turned to Sorin and asked him to help me see if I could dance with my toe like this. He gave me a look and a laugh and said ok.

Didn't go too bad. Just could not raise on my toes, had to stay flat footed. OK. I could do this. So we danced the next tanda.

yea, could not really do this.

Sat down for awhile, foot propped up to stop the throbbing.

A friend who had just come back from BsAs asked me to dance later. His hip was acting up and he knew I had hurt my toe, so I figured we could still dance. It was fun, we had a good time, and then he very gently sandwiched my left foot and I just about jumped out of my skin.


So the tanda ended, I apologized for my stupid toe and I went to sit down for the rest of the milonga.

I find it amazing that something as small as a toenail can wreck such havoc on one's evening.

And of course, today is the good practica in Cambridge.... maybe if I take 4 Advil now and 4 again before we leave.......

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

5 weeks is a long time to go without tango. A long time. I did not realize just how much I was going to miss it, or how much I needed it. I always looked forward to dancing after a stressful day, as it released all the pent up energy and allowed me to relax. Well, the 5 weeks I was away were very stressful and I had no outlet. So I was amazed that I did not jump out of my own skin when I finally came home and went out to dance.

I thought I would have regressed more than I did. Don't get me wrong, I certainly did have a regression, and I am very aware of the areas that got soft, and it is upsetting. I was just having a break through in responsiveness due to the help of some wonderful leaders, and now my brain knows what we talked about, and my body is saying "whhhaaaat?" But the joy of dancing has been absolutely rediscovered.

I got home Wednesday afternoon and we went dancing that night. Just walking up the stairs, hearing the familiar strains of D'Arienzo float down to greet me, was almost enough. Opening the door to the studio allowed the music to envelop me, my first abrazo back. I felt the excitement of Christmas morning as a 4 year old. Changed shoes, and Sorin and I danced for, I don't know, three or four tandas. It was heaven. I settled into his embrace like I had never left, and off we went. A few missteps here and there, but who cares. We were dancing. The only thing that threw me that night was someone took my glasses by accident, so I had no vision and was fearful of snubbing people because I could not see them. At all. Luckily this is not a cabaceo heavy milonga, so as forms came towards me I could recognize their shapes. I had wonderful dances, and a great time despite the lack of vision. Luckily, I got my glasses back on Saturday night from the woman who took them. She just grabbed them and left, as she is one of the lucky few who does not need glasses to see. If she had put them on, she would have immediately known they were not hers since I am blind and she apparently is not. But it was a couple of worrisome days without them.
But I left floating, which has not happened in awhile. Not because my world was rocked, but because I had danced and danced well despite my hiatus. And it was so lovely to have so many people say "You're back! We missed you!"

Thursday's practica was also good as Sorin and I worked together the whole night. He was called selfish by another leader, but hey! We had not danced with each other in so long, I think we are allowed a night together! And Sunday's practica we worked together for an hour as well, and my stubborn streak resurfaced to butt heads with his stubborn streak. Luckily, we were saved by one of my favorite milongas. I heard it start and I said "This is one of my favorite milongas, could we just dance this one?" We did, it was great fun, and then arguing about colgada leads seemed so silly. I danced the last tanda of the evening with a friend, who asked how long I had been away. Her response was "5 weeks?!?! You poor thing! 5 weeks without tango.... I couldn't do that!"

And now I know, although I could, I don't want to.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It's a small world, and words travel far....


I am incredibly flattered by this. It made my day!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

40 Days and Nights.....

Today is my fortieth day in the Berkshires. I leave on the 41st. It has rained every day that I have been here. I am ready to be dry again.....
It was a challenging gig. On all counts. And it is over tomorrow.
Thank god.

I am tired, and I want to go home.

I want to sleep in my bed next to my man.
I want a shower that is not the gathering place for the house spiders.
I want to not be aggravated by directors who refuse to understand the difference between conceptual art and practical costumes.
I want to go dancing.

Although, I did get to dance for a fraction at one of the crew parties. If any of you know theatre folk... you know what crew parties can get like.... but there we all were, 12 or so of us, 8or so bottles of wine and a case of the local brew, and someone threw on a CD of swing music. My friend and coworker jumped up, he had a few beers, and grabbed me to lindy hop. Don't really know how, but his lead was so good, I did not really need to know. So suddenly we were the entertainment for everyone, bopping around the living room to some swing, and having an absolute blast. Not that I plan on giving up tango, but who knows? Maybe swing will be a fun sideline at crew parties from now on.... ;-)

I will miss the bats in the attic. They ate all the mosquitoes as they swooped around the garden at dusk.
I will miss the smell of wet grass and lilies in the morning.
I will miss the girls I dressed every night in their hooker fineries..... what a lovely group of budding professionals!
I will miss the crew, local 54, and their donut breaks... they never understood why I did not want to eat donuts twice a day......

So goodbye Tanglewood. Take care. And for goodness' sake, dry out!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hiatus hiatus

Am in the middle of my tango hiatus..... stop.....am going crazy..... stop.....send help... stop.....preferably in the form of DiSarli tango or Canaro milonga asap.......stop..... quickly!


Really though, the first week I was here I was climbing the walls. I felt like an outdoor cat who was shut into a closet and no one heard me yowling. I literally paced when we got home at night. My roommate would laughed at me. No tango, no tv, no internet (oh, I am hijacking the theatre's internet right now as this is the one day off before we head into tech hell and there is no one here to kick me out of the office, mwuahahaha!), no car, no nothing.... except for lots of thunderstorms. One tree split in half, one patron at The Shed was struck and survived. Me, I'm staying inside, dry and electric free, while enjoying the night light shows.

Although, lucky me, my antsy-ness was alleviated one weeknd. Sorin came to visit me for a weekend a week ago and he got to experience the country with me. And dear that he is, he found a milonga that was an hour away and we went. So I had one night of dancing, which was fun. The folks in Amherst MA were very welcoming and kind. Although I rather felt like an exotic animal because when we walked in, everyone turned to look. This is a small community, everyone knows everyone, and there are no surprises. And in walks two surprises. But once they figured out that we were not looking for directions to somewhere else, they were very warm and I had a very nice night. It just felt lovely to dance with Sorin again.

Once we start tech I won't be able to miss anything, I will be too busy, which will be a blessing. Then in about two weeks, I will be back home, safe and sound. And dancing again!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Tango Hiatus

I am about to leave for the wilds of Tanglewood, where there is no tv, no internet, and no tango. I'll be out there for 5 weeks. I love this gig, I've been for four years now, and I love the work, the opera and my coworkers, who are both dear friends.

But 5 weeks without tango.....

Last year was not so bad, I was a beginner, and although I was bit by the tango bug, it was not a huge deal to me to go for weeks without.
Rather odd when real life intercedes with tango and you start thinking about how to make it all work.... do the work I love and tango... ai yiyi. addicted much?

So today is my last day of tango before I leave Tuesday morning. And I am glad that it is my favorite practica, and Sorin is DJing, so it'll be three hours packed with my favorite music and leaders. I am thinking of requesting that we dance today, and not practice. I want to leave on high notes.

Speaking of high notes, I do love going out to Tanglewood in the depth of summer. I live right on the campus, in an old farmhouse that has bats in the attic, and music every night drifts over the fields and we sit on our back porch sipping wine and listening to the concerto of the evening.
Granted during the day we work like fiends, but it is all good.

I'm bringing one pair of tango shoes with me. You never know who might be a fellow out there in the Berkshires....

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A taste of summer

Shortly after a rogue sun shower, my favorite kind, I went out and picked mulberries from the two trees in the yard, with thoughts of making tarts. Standing on a rickety wooden ladder, I managed to collect a good amount of the sweet tart berries, much to the dismay of the birds. They hollered and hooted their displeasure at me as I took the ripest, sweetest berries in the trees. There was one very brave bird who would swoop from limb to limb on the other side of the tree from where I was perched, yelling its little head off at me as I took away their snacks. Sorry birdies. Even though I can't fly, I'm taller and have a colander. Here are the fruits of my labour..... just enough for one largish tart!

And here is the large tart! yummmmm.....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

There is so much to write about, and yet words fail me. Or ideas fail me. So I have not written. I have started posts, then put them aside and left them to germinate into inspiration for me to write. Which they did not do. They simply sat there looking at me, waiting for me to complete the thoughts I started.

I have had a landslide of sadness these past 6 weeks or so, along with a healthy side of worry and concern. The death of two people near and dear to me, mixed up with health scares of others near and dear to me, has put me in a funk. And tango has been a precious release for me. I have not thought about technique, I have not thought about position, posture or pointing my toes. I have simply tried to find bliss is the moment. And it has helped.

At a practica recently, I became very vehement against trying something that I did not believe would help the issue at hand. And I got mad. Really mad. And I realize now that it was because I did not want to analyze who was doing what wrong, I wanted to dance and connect. I did not want to find fault. Or look at what was wrong. I wanted to look at what was right. I wanted to feel better. If I had known that at the time, I could have verbalized it. But all I knew was that I did not want to hear what was wrong with me. Even though that was not what was being said.

This past weekend we went to NYC despite my having to be back on Monday for another funeral. Actually, we went because of my having to be back on Monday for another funeral. I lost my grief dancing. I was selfish, I did not accept any dances I did not want to have, and I also did not get to dance with everyone that I wanted to. But I found escape that night, which was what I needed. And then the next morning, sitting around the breakfast table with friends, eating french toast, nectarines and coffee, I felt relaxed. Exhausted, but relaxed.

I am going to be leaving for the wilds of Tanglewood in a couple of weeks to work on the opera, Mahagonny, and will be technology and tango free for 5 weeks. I love working out in Tanglewood, it is gorgeous and although we work long, tough hours, it is such a labour of love that it is worth being removed from the city and those I love for a little while. I was thinking of filling the time before then with classes and structure. But I think instead what I need instead is just to dance. And maybe find some healing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A good day

I was asked to be a part of a seminar on Leadership and Tango, taking the skills learned in Tango (on either side of the embrace) and applying them towards leadership skills, the attendees were all educators. My part, as well as that of a friend, was to be followers in the tango aspect, and assistants when the basic walking skills were taught to the attendees, and being the instructors' partners in the end of seminar demonstration.
Talk about pressure! Yikes!
But it was a blast. It was a room full of alpha educator leaders, who were strong in their opinions in the beginning, but then it was amazing to see them all make the connection between learning how to lead or follow in tango and the parallels they found for teaching in their fields.
My friend and I worked with different people as they learned as fill in followers or leaders. The only tango they learned was how to be comfortably close to another physically, the tango presence, leader intention, and how to walk. That was it. But you would think that we were unlocking the mysteries of the world to them! The thing that rocked my world was when they caught the idea that a follower is not a passive being who receives, but an integral part of the communication of the dance. It was like a dozen lightbulbs going off in their heads, especially when the traditional gender roles were not being used. Everyone lead. Everyone followed. I had a moment with one gentleman who "got it" while I was working with him. I rotated in as his follower, and he said to me "Oh good! Now I won't have to worry!"
"Why is that?"
He responded "Well, you know what you are doing. So I'm golden."
I gave a little laugh and said "Yes, I know how to follow reasonably well, but if there is no lead, I won't be able to contribute to our dance at all. Which makes you not so golden."
He looked at me in surprise, then I saw what I said connect and he had an Aha! moment.
At the end, all of the attendees, even the men who's wifes had obviously twisted their arms to come, caught some of the excitement that inspired most of us to start tango. They wanted to learn more, they wanted to work more on walking. They wanted to hear more about leadership. So the two gentlemen running the seminar said we can either spend the final few minutes working more on learning tango, or they could watch a demonstration. You would have thought we were playing musical chairs they all sat down so fast! So music went on, and I danced with the tango instructor, and my friend danced with the leadership instructor (who is also a very good tango dancer). I was very happy that our dance was kept simple, nothing fancy, nothing showy, just simple social salon tango, which felt just amazing. In speaking with the attendees afterwards, I was even more grateful that the volcadas, colgadas, and all those other adas were left behind, because I was told repeatedly that they felt they could one day do what we did. It was a performance that contained elements they felt was attainable for them.
There was one gentleman who gave me such a laugh because I remember the feeling of disbelief he gave us when I was a beginner. I had not danced with the tango instructor before today. We danced a few songs together before the seminar to warm up and get a feel for each other, but that was it. The gentleman would not accept that as truth, he was convinced I must be the instructor's partner or assistant. He could not believe we only met that day. Then he said to us "So, in tango, you can connect that completely with people you've never met before?" Yes sir, you can. And thus, the addiction begins..... ;-)
Reply to all

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ahhhh.. so that's my issue.....

It's been a hell of a summer so far. I am hoping it gets better soon. It has to, right? :-)
I have been listening to Annie Lenox recently (*gasp* NOT tango music?!?!? heh heh, yep, not tango music.... shocking, I know.....), and I always listen to Annie when I am melancholy or having quietude in my life. I have a playlist titled Mellow - and I have been listening to it as I integrate into Sorin's home (I hope soon "My home" will flow easily from me). I could not figure out what was wrong with me, Sorin even mentioned to me that I have been out of sorts recently. And I did not figure out what my issue was until today, when I ran into a friend who asked the innocent question of "What's new?" and I started to tell her all the new things happening (most of which are all good), and when I started to tell her about the death of my friend a few weeks ago, I broke down into tears. My core is still shaken from his death. My heart is broken for my friend and "sister", his wife; and his step-daughter, my god-daughter. I can't even type this without feeling my heart swell and drop in my ribs.

He was the same age as me, a few months older. He fought cancer for over a decade, and every time he entered that battle field he was nothing but positive and victorious. The amount of good he did in the world humbles me. He was politically active in his town, he owned a business that was a haven for the youth of his community and he gave them a place to be at night that kept them off the street. He loved my god-daughter as if she was his own blood and was a marvel with her. He was over 6 feet tall, his wife under 5 feet and they fit together perfectly.

I am still mourning the loss of such a spark in my universe. Now that I realize why I have been so out of sorts, I can work towards finding positivity again. Being snappish, sad, glum and unbalanced is not a good way to honor his memory. I have so much to celebrate right now, so I am going to work towards offering thanks for the happinesses in my life and to stop being a grumblecakes or DebbiDowner.... ;-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Supreme Indifference and Invisibility

I noticed a trend this past weekend. And that was that I was sitting. A lot. I circulated, I chatted, I sat in one of two areas near the dance floor in what I thought were good line of sights, and yet I sat. I was not sure what the reason was, and this was not the first time this has happened. There have been many posts about sitting at milongas and at festivals, and the blunt truth has always boiled down to those who are not good enough, sit. So I panicked a little. After all, I was sitting. ergo......

But instead I sucked it up and asked a question I did not really know if I wanted to hear the answer to. And I learned two things, that I have a tendency to look intimidating with an air of "supreme indifference" and that I tend to be invisible.


Apparently what I thought was a calm face with a slight smile, was instead stand-offish and rather bemused in a "royal we" sort of way. And that I tend to be invisible, leaders want to dance with me, but I don't stand out, so when they don't see me, they dance with others.

Well that threw me for a loop.

I vehemently denied being a "royal we" - mostly because I was horrified and mortified at the thought that was the case. Yes, after hour one of sitting, I do tend to space out a bit, but..... haughty??? Perish the thought! So proclamation number 1 (heh heh) - circulate more! I try to save my feet in my CIFs by sitting a lot, well, I can save them all night if all I do is sit, so walk and talk is my new way of saving my feet to dance. And instead of calm, I am going to try engaged, if I am sitting and watching the floor.

But invisible...... how to tackle that?

A chat with another leader when I mentioned this new discovery was at first surprise, and then agreement. He mentioned that I always look nice, but I always wear black or brown, so in a darkened room, despite my pale Irish skin, I sort of blend in. Circulating will help, but damn it! I am a costume designer! for THEATRE!! If anyone should know how to dress someone so that they look good and are distinctive, it should be me! I can do it for other people, why not myself?
So, horror of horrors, I am going shopping for distinctive tops. I bought some fabric that is pretty cool and colorful for wrap tops, and those are being cut this afternoon.

And while all of this was happening, I had a couple of moments where my doors were blown off their hinges. One was in a practica with an instructor whom I adore and respect greatly, and he mentioned that he wanted to see me step with quality. I was too smooth and mellow, that he often thought while we were dancing that "If only she had..." in response to my not showing the power I had with my steps. Wow. It's a whole new world. We worked on that, it started to feel good, I started to feel more from him, and the plateau I did not realize I was on, started moving in an upwards direction.
So of course, I immediately approached Shorey for a private on follower technique with this idea as the basis for the lesson. She was in town DJing at Providence at the festival, so it was now or wait months until the opportunity appeared again. Sorin constantly raves about dancing with her, and about her embrace, so it was a no-brainer. Our lesson was at the crack of dawn - 11am - heh heh heh, and worth every penny. We talked about lengthening the torso to allow for torsion and balance, about embracing with communication and being right there with your leader, and how to match my step quality to the music to communicate what I am hearing and suggest to my leader what I want to dance to.

First of all, Shorey is an excellent teacher, she communicates clearly what she wants you to do and is able to get out of you what you may not realize is there. Secondly, she is a very good lead! and thirdly, she gave me knowledge and inspiration to bring my dance to a new level. It's a whole new world, and I have lots to work on, but I am thrilled with it all.

So between proclamation #1, some striking yet signature Debbi clothing, and my new way of thinking about dancing - I hope to be vacating a couch sometime soon..... ;-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loss and Sadness

A beautiful person has left our world. Which is heartbreaking to me.He has touched many lives, and I wanted to share with you his very well written obituary, in the hopes that his spirit and life force might continue to inspire.

He will be dearly missed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A good practica

Sunday was Mother's Day, and after visiting with my lovely mother, I went for the last 2 hours of practica. I had not danced in a few days due to various and sundry reasons, and it was beautiful out, and I really wanted to dance. I am glad I went, it was a day of pleasant surprises.

When I got there, I was treated to dancing with a beginner whom I can no longer call a beginner, despite the fact that he has been dancing less than a year. It has been awhile since we danced, and the progress he has made was really amazing to feel. He was more confident, he was clear, he had some new movements that he used really well with the music, and it was a lovely set of songs that we danced.

I also danced with two beginning leaders in our community, and I was very impressed with how good they were for how short a time they had been dancing. One leader already has down the tiny, nuanced, musical steps that I just adore. I think I giggled my way through the first song once he did that. The other leader was pointed out to me by a lovely friend, and although he has only been dancing a few months, he was on the beat, he was clear, and he did not try to do too much, he just went with what he knew.
I am looking forward to seeing these two progress! It really is so exciting to see fresh new faces get bit by the tango bug and grow within the dance. Really a wonderful thing!

I was also lucky to dance with above mentioned friend and leader-pimp :-) and we had a blast just kind of goofing around while dancing. Seeing what happened when different things were explored. I remember about a year ago in a workshop with Jennifer Brat and Ney Melo, where Jennifer was encouraging us ladies to embellish during pauses in the dance. I remember being horrified and resistant - how would I know when he was going to move again? What if I screwed up the dance because I wanted to tap my toe? What if? What if? So I didn't do it. It was too much for me. Now, I embellish when the music moves me. And in practica with my friend, I did all sorts of things to see what happened. Some worked without notice. Some make him laugh and give me a little squeeze of appreciation. And some absolutely screwed things up - but when that happened, we both giggled and moved on to the next phrase. It was no big deal. Granted, it was practica, and most of that stuff I would never do in a milonga. But still..... I no longer fear messing up. It's rather a good feeling.

There was one stiletto in mouth moment though.... I was asked by what I thought was a beginner to dance, and I accepted, and I regretted almost immediately. He shoved with his left hand, he pushed my ribs with his right, his chest was a battering ram, he looked down which pulled his energy and me down, and he paid no attention whatsoever to the music. Oi vey! I thought I knew which local teacher he was taking lessons with, and I decided to ask if he was open to feedback. He looked at me with surprise and said ok, so I mentioned his looking down, and how it pulls his attention and me down, which made it difficult for me. Would he mind trying to keep his posture upright for a song? He made mention that he had heard that before, so sure, he would try. He did it, and it helped, although all the other issues were more pronounced now. Afterwards he mentioned it seemed to help. Wondering whether to mention another of the uncomfortable issues I felt, I asked him how long he had been dancing. He said 5 years.

really? 5 years?
ok. hmmmm...

That is my verbatim response. There is a reason I don't play poker! I then thanked him and went to the ladies' room to see if I could re-hinge my jaw which had fallen open. I have no doubt my incredulity was apparent on my face. But really, five years, I can't find a way to offer feedback that would not be taken poorly

I only follows that after having a great time with both beginner and advanced and those in between, I found myself in an uncomfortable moment. It's the way my life goes. Oh well, it just drives home that years does not equal ability or level.

This upcoming weekend we are heading to Montreal for the festival up there. I am looking forward to seeing my friends in Montreal again, it has been so long since I have been up there, but the weather is warming, so despite the hideous gas prices, its Canada bound!

Monday, May 05, 2008

ahhh.. childhood

Today I read an article on childhood in the 60's and 70's, and oh boy the memories! It is amazing to me that most of my childhood has been government regulated away.....
A few of my own thoughts and memories to add before I post the article, which I found on line without an author, so I can not give credit where credit is due....

Deb's additions:

My favorite toy was the Sit-N-Spin. I learned just how fast I could spin while looking up without loosing my lunch through trial and error. When I neared that danger zone, I simply looked down at the handle's design and hypnotized myself.

My mom used to hang laundry in the back yard, and it was all still there when she brought it back in at night. I used to run between the sheets on hot summer days and it was the best feeling and smell ever.

We kids were kicked out of the house after breakfast, and we had to ask to be let back in if we need to use the bathroom because my mom would have locked the screen doors. Once the street lights went on, we had 5 minutes to get home to wash up for dinner.

Speaking of washing up - there was no Purell, no anti-bacterial anything. There was a bar of Ivory soap, and you could have loads of fun slipping it through your hands to make a very satisfying "splunkage" noise in the sink full of water.

I did not know that cars had A/C until I was in junior high, it was an add-on for cars. An add-on my dad did not believe in when the good lord had created windows for us.

When we whined in the store that we wanted something, my mom would gather us up and leave. We learned that if we wanted to go to the store with mom, we had to behave. She once left an entire cart of groceries in the market because one of us acted up (I claim it was my sister, she claims it was me.....).

The remote control was often a small child in the room. Who would happily get up to change the knob on the television to one of the 7 channels we received. Oh, and the TV was not a babysitter, it was a treat and a privilege to get to watch tv after dinner with my parents - who often were the ones who chose the show we watched. If we complained, we got a book.

And now - the article...

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s probably shouldn't have survived, because our baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint which was regularly chewed and licked.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles or latches on doors or cabinets, and it was fine to play with pans. When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just flip-flops and fluorescent 'spokey dokeys' on our wheels.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags and riding in the front passenger seat - or the boot - was a treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle, and it tasted the same.

We ate chips, bread and butter pudding, and drank fizzy juice with sugar in it, but were never overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one drink with four friends - from one bottle or can - and no one actually died from it.

We would spend several hours building go-carts out of scraps, then go top speed down the hill, only to find out we'd forgotten the brakes. After running into a patch of stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back before dark. No one was able to reach us and no one minded.

We didn't have Playstations or Xboxes - no video games at all. No 99 channels on TV, no videotape films, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no DVDs, no internet chatrooms.

We had friends - we went outside and found them. We played French skipping and rounders, and sometimes that ball really hurt! We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones, but there were no law suits.

We played Knock Down Ginger and were actually afraid of the owners catching us. We walked to friends' homes. We also, believe it or not, walked to school; we didn't rely on Mummy or Daddy to drive us to school, as it was just round the corner.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls. We rode bikes in packs of seven and wore our coats by only the hood. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of they actually sided with the law.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem-solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
And you're one of them. Congratulations! Pass this on to others who had the luck to grow as real kids, before lawyers and the government regulated our lives for "our own good".

For those of you who aren't old enough, we thought you might like to read about us.

And something else to put a smile on your face...
The majority of students in universities today were born in 1986. The Uptown Girl they know is by Westlife not Billy Joel. They have never heard of Rick Astley, Bananarama, Neneh Cherry or Belinda Carlisle.

For them, there has always been only one Germany and one Vietnam. AIDS has existed since they were born. CDs have existed since they were born. Michael Jackson has always been white. To them, John Travolta has always been round in shape and they can't imagine how this fat guy could ever have been a god of dance.

They believe that Charlie's Angels and Mission Impossible are films from the past ten years. They can never imagine life before computers. They'll never have pretended to be the A-Team, the Dukes of Hazzard or the Famous Five. They can't believe a black and white television ever existed. And they will never understand how we could leave the house without a mobile phone.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts on the valleys to get back to the summits

I've been having a difficult time with allergies and asthma lately, which has been affecting me in all areas of life. I am tired all the time, I am coughing like a plague victim, and my energy has been sapped. So the good feelings I had been having about my dance these past weeks has plummeted. It feels like I just can't really keep up. When your lungs are functioning at 71%, it is understandable (I would like to think anyway). Although the endorphins that course through me when I dance keep the coughing at bay, I feel sluggish at times. Of course, I don't want to explain this to every one who asks me to dance, it is sort of setting the stage for a sub-par dance rather than a sublime experience, and I don't want to jinx what might be. Might be a little Pollyanna of me, but that is just the way I feel.

I went to my happy milonga, and it was a crap shoot. Some times I had no major issues, and was able to relax and enjoy the dance, with others, it was a mess. And when you can feel the irritation/disappointment/frustration of your leader when you are not dancing at your best, it just makes everything worse. I try to overcome, I try to be better, but some days it just isn't going to happen. I'm tired, I'm slow right now, and I am below my best. It is an odd mixture of irritation and sadness that I have when I feel my leader's displeasure with the dance. When he or she is able to overlook my shortcomings (which I am sure/hope are temporary), then I am more able to have some fun and be playful with the fact that I am under par. Find other moments to appreciate. But when my leader is constantly adjusting and giving off the energy that equates to an eye roll, I rather want to say "We all have bad days, give me a break or thank me and no harm, no foul."

The translation of that eye roll, which is the only way I can describe it, is something that I think we all need to be aware of. Accept that if someone who normally dances at a better level is a little "sub-par" that day, it is most likely an anomaly, and don't give them less than you normally would. The energy between leader and follower is so sensitive, that it will be appreciated. Tina wrote this wonderful post about embracing your partner with love, and I believe if we all follow this, it would help raise the bar of all connections in the dance, regardless of the type of day they are having. I am going to do my best to follow this, regardless of how I am feeling, or how the dance is going. If I can offer this when I am at my lowest, highest, and all stages in between, perhaps that will encourage the perceived eye roll to change to a quick squeeze or giggle at whatever misstep happens.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Things that make you go..... hhuuunnnhhhhh?!?!?

I find it very strange that there seems to be a wave of beginning leaders who want to teach tango. I just don't get it. I heard through the local grapevine of a beginner who started a mere few months ago has aspirations of teaching. He should have aspirations of walking. However he is more interested in figures to alternative music. There is another who wants to "revolutionize tango and infuse it with a new flavor." Direct quote, I was there and heard it. This leader has been dancing less than 6 months and feels one does not need to learn the basics in order to dance or teach tango.... in fact he is very resistant to feedback at practicas, so I have stopped working with him.
*head scratching moment*

I don't get it.

And the most curious thing to me is that these are all leaders. I don't hear any followers saying that they want to teach, but then again, I don't dance much with the women. So that may be a factor..... however there does seem to be some sort of fever that the young leaders have caught to become teachers before they have really begun to understand the dance. I have been asked by a few people when Sorin and I are going to start teaching.... uhm.... we need to keep learning, thank you, we are not at the level of becoming instructors!

Any idea why this happens? This sudden urge to teach when one does not know the subject?? It baffles the mind.....

Monday, April 21, 2008

NYC and strawberries

This weekend we went to NYC for Nocturne, and literally that was all! It was kinda cool and kinda crazy to drive up, dance, and drive back. But Nocturne was so much fun, I had a blast.
Of course, we forgot about the pope visiting NYC, which caused all sorts of traffic havoc. Sheesh! I mean the man has a pope mobile fer goodness sake! Why does he need to shut down the Triboro bridge AND FDR Drive?!?!? Argh.

Despite the pope, it was a great night. I had some really wonderful dances and connections.... even after the point where I was dropping with exhaustion and my synapses were misfiring to my feet. Ha! whoops! Step where? heh heh.
And there was celebrity sighting at the milonga. Which caused quite the buzz! Although everyone was cool about it, no one made a fuss at them. Gotta love New Yorkers!

On a separate note - take a look at these monster strawberries we got! In April! Can anyone say genetic engineering? But they were sweet and firm - so is it wrong to enjoy mutant strawberries on the first warm weekend of the season? ;-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

NYC here I come

After a long week, full of angst and end of the semester trials and tribulations at work, we are heading off to NYC for Nocturne. I am looking forward to seeing friends, dancing all night, and relaxing and dancing myself into exhaustion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

To be or not to be.... there are many questions

Tango attracts passionate people, which is a good thing. I believe that you have to have a passionate disposition in order to feel the dance, feel the music, find the connection and express the emotion. It is part of the attraction of the dance. Almost like a slight edge of danger due to the undercurrents.

And yet the flip of this is that it can easily degrade into flinging sand in the sandbox when people feel that they are "right" someone else is "wrong" or there is a difference of beliefs on a basic level. This is why I left a tango list. It got to the point where I was not reading any posts anymore because I did not want to deal with all the assertions of right and wrong about an art form that in its essence is improvisational, and therefor fluid. I know people who are anti-nuevo, anti-traditional, anti-alternative, anti-Piazzola, anti-occasional dancer, and so forth and so on. And they are all right and they are all wrong. It's all opinion and preference. And yet the force with which they assert their beliefs sometimes takes me aback. Tango is a large umbrella and envelops many styles, ideas, concepts and beliefs. Being judgemental, in my mind, does not help with the image tango has. I have also noticed a trend among some of the writings that I read where similar assertions have been creeping in. It really makes one want to say "Shut up and Dance!"

I was questioned recently about why I dance with such a range of leaders. Some of my favorite leaders have very different styles and preferences within tango. One is a very traditional milonguero with a slight V frame, another is nuevo with sweeping and dynamic moves, another is very experimental with a traditional base, and then there is Sorin :-), dynamic and musical who takes what he likes from different styles, although his base is traditional. The person who questioned me saw me dance a milonga set with the milonguero and then a tango set with the nuevo, and they could not understand how it was that not only did I change leader styles abruptly, but my "style" also radically changed between leaders. They could not understand why I did not have my own voice. My answer is that I do have my own voice, ask any leader who dances with me and I would like to think that they would say that I do have a clear style/voice/contribution. But I adapt to the style they lead. I don't think this makes me lesser of a follower. I would like to think it makes me better because I have not pigeon holed myself into one aspect of tango.

They thought I was crazy and did not believe me when I said that I enjoy all of these styles.
It disappointed me that they felt this way. If one adamantly dances one way , in my opinion, one misses out on so many aspects of tango that it makes me a little sad.

I feel as though there needs to be acceptance towards the aspects that one does not particularly like/relate to/connect with and a willingness to explore within the art the different shades and hues that tango offers.

You may laugh at me, but I heard on random on my iTunes as I was writing this - Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Movie - and the lyrics sounded incredibly apropos....

What's so amazing
That keeps us star gazing
What do we think we might see

Someday we'll find it
That Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us are under its spell

We know that its probably magic.

I've heard it too many times to ignore it
Its something I'm supposed to be

Someday we'll find it
That Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tango Tootsies...

So there I am, sitting on the edge of the tub, happily taking care of my feet with a punice stone when it dawns on me.... my feet are a mess! Looking at my poor tootsies, I start counting the bruises... three perfect round black and blue marks decorate my left foot. Stiletto stabs, one of which is actually under my toenail, the other two on the soft flesh beneath my toes. It still amazes me that when stepping backwards one continues to transfer weight even when one feels something soft and non-floor like beneath one's heel. Or maybe it is me, I can feel what I am stepping on, and if it is something other than floor, I immediately lift my foot and increase presence to my leader so he knows I stepped on someone if he did not know it already. But not these ladies. They nailed me. And not in the good way. My toenail is ugly from the bruise, and I wish that I could stand to have a pedicure because polish would be the perfect disguise for the ugly black and purple mark. But I just can't stand to have my feet touched, and I don't like nail polish. I can feel it, and it makes my skin crawl. Does anyone else feel that? Or is it just another weird thing Debbi does......

Anyway - back to the bruises.

I remember when I first started tango and got my first Milonga war wound, I was so proud. It was like I was initiated into the follower sorority. Now, I barely notice them, unless they get out of control like they are right now. My right foot is bruise free, but the leg is not. Practica last night, my leader stopped me short from a collision, however the other leader did not, and the follower was making some sweeping motion with her leg that hit me as she swept left and then hit me again as she swept right. Uhm... hello?!?!? If you hit someone going one direction, don't you think you might not want to go back, regardless if your leader leads it, because the body part you already slashed might still be there??? When she hit me the second time I turned around and said "You're joking, right?!" At least they both blushed, mumbled a sorry, and scooted away. My leader laughed and said he did not have anywhere to go, but he did not believe that the other couple would continue the figure after first contact. oh well, maybe they will think next time.

But what I want to know is this.... when I look around the milonga, all the tangueras feet look so perfect and lovely, and then I look at my paws and they are bruised and abused.... how do you ladies do it? What is the secret that I have yet to discover?? Is it really the pedicures that I see everywhere? Cause I really don't know if I can get over the heebie-jeebies I get when people touch my feet.... although I can try.....

But please oh please tell me true.... how do I disguise the black and blue????

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tango Tranquility continues....

I am hoping that I never wake up from this tango dream. It has been a few weeks now that I have been moving well, enjoying amazing connections, finding moments to contribute to the dance, and been on cloud 9. This past weekend was the Yale Tango Festival, and I have to give credit to the organizers and volunteers for doing such a wonderful job. There is too much to talk about, and most of it would be incoherent as I am still processing it all, so instead I will just offer some favorite moments from the Yale Tango Festival.

*Dancing with new and old friends. I love festivals as I am starting to recognize people whom I only see at festivals, and we get to dance and re-connect. It is such a wonderful thing. And then there are the new dances, it is great to find new connections and partners. There was a contingency of dancers there from Colorado, and I got to dance with some of the leaders. Man they grow them tall there!! Each leader I danced with was easily over 6’. The top of my head did not meet their chins…. And I am no shorty. But it was really lovely to feel a different style of dancing. They were smooth, it was all about the walk, with a few movements added. Very nice and very languorous. It is interesting to feel a difference in style from the East Coasters that I am used to dancing with. Just as there is a marked difference from Boston and New York and Montreal, there was a marked difference with Colorado. Which I find thrilling.

*I led for the first time in a milonga. And the only bump we had was not my fault!! My friend M was an absolute doll and allowed me to lead her (after she led me, which was just a great time, and I loved how she growled at any misbehaving leaders who weaved in and out of lanes!). I realized very early into the first song that my limited repertoire was not really going to work as there were too many people on the floor and I could not focus on them and vocabulary. So we walked, we rock stepped, we had some percussive side steps… I tried to be musical without figures. I was very proud of myself for not killing her, not freaking out, and keeping a beat with some semblance of musicality. Whoo hoo!

*Sunday brunch practica. There was an adorable 9 year old (I think, give or take a year) there in an very spring-y little dress, cute little dance shoes with a slight heel, hair neatly pulled back, a touch of lip gloss, sitting oh so properly with hands folded in her lap along the line of tangueras on the side of the dance floor. And she could dance. And she got dances, which made me smile. She even got to dance with a tango god, who was an absolute gentleman and danced what looked like a very enjoyable tanda with her. I have no idea if she knew who she was dancing with, but the joy on her face of dancing, warmed my heart. I grabbed Sorin’s camera and snapped a few pictures of them as it was too wonderful a moment.

And finally:
*Three Tango Highs. Dancing with tango goddesses. During Saturday’s practica I had the opportunity to dance with Mila, and it was just fantastic. She is wonderful lead, incredibly clear and musical. I had an absolute blast and was on a tango high after we danced. I can’t wait to dance with her again! And then that night I asked Kyla if she was leading, and if so, I would love to dance with her. She came to find me later and we danced a couple of tandas which was just great. She also has a crystal clear lead, and her exuberance and musicality shine through and makes for an amazing connection. I adore her as a person and now I adore her as a leader too!! And then finally on the last night, when I was so past exhausted and my muscles had gone from sore and tired to super relaxed and loose, I got to dance with H, whom I had been trying to cabeceo for the past few days. Finally caught his eye, and off we went on what I can only call a phenomenal two tandas. The connection was like a circuit, constant little pulses back and forth, he would suggest, I would suggest, and we danced. It was perfect.

There were many other moments that I recall fondly, or made me laugh, or were simply beautiful (Kyla and Robin’s performance the final night comes to mind with beautiful), but it is so much to digest. I will just leave you with that. (And thanks to Elizabeth, whom I stole the title from as her post on Tango Tranquility really resonated with me.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tango Blessings

I feel I have been very blessed this month in the realm of tango, I have had some of the best dances in my very young life as a tango dancer in this dismal month of March. Which is rather amusing to me. Grey, cold, dingy days filled with bright, heart-lifting, warm dances.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a growing spurt. I was able to be more active, and leaders noticed and commented. I was better able to feel that connection, find my partner, and share accordingly. Things I had no idea I had been missing were becoming clear, and I was amazed at finding them.

It was sort of like I had been living my life without, oh... say chocolate. And was offered my first taste of dark, bittersweet chocolate, and my palette suddenly realized all it had been missing. And now I can't go without.

Of course, I am lucky as I am attending two festivals this month, so my tango sphere is considerably wider than it normally would be. But even so. I have always had a good time at festivals, but I was not a temptation to the better/elite dancers, as there were always a good number of elite followers to be had. But this last festival I attended, I discovered that I was dancing all night with some of the better leaders there. Granted, I still am not on the radar of the tango gods, which is understandable, but I seemed to be dancing with a good number of the best of the "mortals" there. Which rather took me by surprise. A very pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.

And now this weekend I am looking forward to the Yale festival, and I already have some dances lined up on my dance card. :-) It is a little strange, I am not concerned about how I am going to dance while there, I have confidence that the strides forward I made are still going to be with me. I plan to enjoy myself and my partners thoroughly..... maybe that is the key??

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Feedback vs Back Off

The issue of feedback is an interesting one. I am always open to feedback and want to have a dialogue in what my partner feels, responds to, etc. I try to go to practicas in order to open this dialogue with leaders. I find this almost as helpful as workshops or classes because I can focus more on nuances in practica, whereas I focus on technique in class. This does not mean that I take all feedback as gospel truth. I listen, I digest, then I take what works for me or that I agree with and go from there. Some feedback I have received has allowed me to grow in leaps and bounds, which I am eternally grateful for.

So when I come up against someone who is completely against feedback, it is a curiosity to me. And when that person is a beginner, I am flummoxed. I certainly do not think that with the short amount of time I have been dancing I am any sort of authority, and I don't give feedback on technicalities, I give feedback on embrace, on what I feel, on what I don't feel. I try to make it a dialogue as opposed to "You need to do this." Which is not helpful to anyone.

So why on earth when you are asked by your follower at a practica if you are open to feedback would you respond "No, I don't find instruction helpful. I just want to relax and not think about what I am doing." Uhm, ok. I can get the wanting to relax thing, wanting to enjoy the dance, but if you are gripping your followers shoulder blade and using it as a rudder, and your lead is coming from your head and not your core, you might want to hear about these things, especially the bone gripping thing, otherwise you might not be getting the dances you want because your follower is not going to want to put up with being man handled in that way.

So what is it with feedback? Why are some dancers open and welcoming to hearing what the other person feels in the dance? Why are some completely against this dialogue? Is it that scary? Is it because the feedback is coming from someone who is not an instructor? Is there a better way to offer feedback, or is it best not try, just to walk away if you feel unsafe or are in pain (which is what I actually ended up doing, right or wrong.)? I guess at the heart of it I can't wrap my brain around a resistance to growing and getting better.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The reason why I never win the door prize at milongas.....

Bored art students....

will create guerilla art when left alone together at school for spring break......
This is what we came back to after spring break, our staff conference room was turned into an idyllic, pillow filled dale....
I love my job!!! These are the minds I work with!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beginning of the week....

I have a preliminary interview for a design gig in NYC today!!! I am very excited about this, I would love to break into NYC and get some work there. It would mean more travel to one of my favorite cities on a regular basis. And work in NYC!! Pretty cool. It is an off-off-broadway theatre, but everything I have read about them sounds pretty cool, and I like their vibe that I get from their website, and it seems that they have some really good history. So, here's hoping!

In other worlds, a.k.a. tango - I had a good tango weekend. Saturday night was a monthly milonga that I had a pretty good time at, they always have a birthday dance for the month's birthday celebrants, and a friend of mine contacted all the good followers he knew and asked them to be there to take part in his birthday dance, which was brilliant as it caused a whole group of us to constantly cut in on him. ha! good for him! I need to remember that for my next birthday dance in December....

Sunday practica was also good, I worked on some pointers a favorite leader gave me - elongating my torso, making my back as tall as my front (his words, pretty good image) and allowing my shoulder blade to lift my arm as opposed to my shoulder joint. It made it much easier feel his lead and the nuances he was suggesting in the dance. I find it amusing that once one reaches a certain level in tango, we start going back to the basics, the beginning, to make our adjustments there. I remember being told that we all go back to the beginning lessons during our tango path back when I was a rank beginner, and I remember being confused by that. Now it makes perfect sense.

We seem to have an influx of beginners in our community, which is great. I hope that they become enamored with the dance and stay. It is really interesting to watch them go through the pain of learning, leading, following, stepping.... I remember back to my beginnings and how overwhelming it all was. I remember watching the feet of the more advanced followers at the time, trying to decipher how it was that they were stepping, how did they know how far to step, what was that extension like, and why were they so smooth and I felt so abrupt when I stepped. I realized at one moment during the practica that there were three girls sitting on the side, staring at my feet and talking with each other while pointing to my and another's steps. It brought me right back to last spring when I was doing the same thing. I also remember graduating from watching feet to watching embrace and faces. Who had that connected look, and how did they achieve it? Such a fishbowl, this intimate connection between two people.

Although the one thing I have noticed with the influx of new dancers, is the sudden degradation of line of dance and floorcraft. And even common sense. At Saturday's milonga, some decided to walk through the floor during a song to leave. I am surprised he did not burst into flames from some of the looks he got, and I was also amused to see one leader, who is a stickler for propriety on the dance floor, lead a low boleo in this guy's path. Not sure if he got the hint, but I have no doubt he will soon. Growing pains......

Thursday we leave for DC and the TangoMarathon. We are staying with a friend and are looking forward to visiting with her as well as dancing all night every night. I have no doubt it will be a good time, I am already planning my wardrobe, which includes my fabulous new pants as well as some tops and wraps that I am making right now that I hope will be ready in time. I gave Sorin the task of keeping me on task with my sewing projects this week.... hope I did not give him too much power with that task! ;-)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Odd Tuesday

It feels like spring out, it is cool with that undercurrent of warmth, and it is amazing just how much my mood has improved with the change in weather.

Last night was Odd Tuesday Milonga, my happy milonga, and as I am in a slow time with work, I was able to go to the practica before hand. Although the practica (as well as the milonga later) was sparsely attended, I did get one very valuable bit of learning from the practica, and that had to do with the tension issue I have been having with my right arm. I spoke with a friend of mine who has been dancing for a long time and teaches with her husband in Boston, and she told me that she learned to open up her shoulder socket to her partner (as opposed to collapsing the shoulder or pushing the shoulder forward) and to keep the shoulder soft when one feels pressure against the hand and arm when it is not necessary (i.e. - boleos, you want that added pressure, walking - not so much). She learned this through something called Alexander technique and it seemed to work well for her. So I tried it out. And you know what? It worked! Just visualizing keeping my shoulder joint open, relaxed and fluid made a huge difference. It was difficult to remember to keep it constant, but with practice I am sure it will turn into muscle memory. Even Sorin mentioned that he noticed the tension had decreased significantly when we danced.

Although the milonga was disappointing in the lack of attendees, I did have a good time dancing with some favorite leaders. One of whom I had not danced with in quite some time. Sorin was DJing so the music was good, and I had new pants that rocked!!! BCBG was having this huge sale, so I wandered in more on a whim and tried on these pants as they were 70% off. I was amazed at how beautifully they fit, so I bought them in navy with red and tan pinstripes. They make really lovely swooshing feelings on pivots, boleos and turns. Fun!

$150 pants for $45?? Yes please!

Monday, March 03, 2008

It might be.....

I think it could be.....
the beginnings of spring out there!!! Went outside to get a coffee and it was not frigidly cold out! I was almost slightly warm in my coat and scarf! Imagine that..... It might be time again soon where I can go right from the car to the dance floor, and not have to stop off in the coat room first to removed 5 layers and change shoes.....

Once can only hope......

Sunday, March 02, 2008

One whole extra day of dancing!! Leap Year!!

This weekend has so far been a crazy one. We went to New Haven for the Leap Milonga, which was fun. Yale is always a great place to go visit friends and dance. Unfortunately, a few hours into it, I started to feel unwell - crampy tummy, headache - and Sorin and I decided that we would drive back instead of crash with friends who had so generously offered to put us up for the night. We were all disappointed that we would leave, but if I was ill, I did not want to either make other ill, or be ill in someone's home (I hate to make other's have to deal with that). So even though the snow was falling outside, we said our goodbyes and hit the road.

Poor Sorin! He did all of the driving, and it was less than fun. Snowy, slushy, unplowed roads. What should have taken a little over 2 hours took almost 3 and that last half hour was torture for him as he was exhausted. But we made it and collapsed into bed. Not to rise until well past noon Saturday. Still feeling not quite myself, we thought about the day and what to do. I had a dye project looming, but there were workshops that MIT was sponsoring with Korey and Mila that we thought would be good to go to as we were now going to be in Boston for the weekend. So we decided to attend their workshop on single axis turns. So I prepped my dye project (pictures coming soon!!! It's "curing" as I type!) and then off to the workshop we went. And I am so glad that we did! I had never taken any instruction on single axis turns outside of practica setting, so it was great to start from the very foundation of what one needs to do in this movement and progress to various types of single axis turns. And even though this was titled as an advanced class, it was structured and taught so that everyone learned the good foundation of this movement
and was challenged on various levels. I really liked Korey and Mila's teaching style, and I hope MIT sponsors them to come back again soon. They taught ideas and concepts that lead you to discovery, and in such a way that was fun and challenging. It was a good workshop.

Later last night we went to the milonga and had a pretty good time. I was still feeling out of sorts, but I knew it was nothing contagious and after a few advil, I felt better. Had some lovely dances with some favorites, in particular was a tanda of Brazilian milonga (who knew?!?) that was a blast to dance with my favorite milonguero leader, whom I always look for when a milonga tanda comes on.

I did realize that I have to work on tension in my right arm. I tend to tense that arm when I feel tension from my partner, which causes a domino effect and my arm is sore by the end of one song. With some leaders I do not have this issue, and with others it is very present. I try to relax my muscles as soon as I realize I am doing this, but I am sure it is as problematic for the leader as it is for me. If anyone knows of a way or trick to keep your arm loose and relaxed regardless of your partner's arm, let me know! I have tried keeping my arm "rising" where I have the energy going up instead of down into my partner's hand, but that is almost as exhausting as the tension.

Anyway, at the end of the night I was thrilled when Korey asked me to dance. He has such an amazing embrace and beautiful lead, it was just lovely. And he did a single axis turn with me that he taught in class that is a 720 degree turn that he says has the "Wheeee!" factor, and let me tell you, it does!!! I was laughing as we came out of it! It was a great way to end the night. Korey also gave me some great ideas for tango clothing for men, we chatted about tango fashion and clothes earlier in the evening, and I am going to make sure to give him credit if I incorporate some of his ideas in with mine. :-)

Today there are more workshops with Korey and Mila, and we are on the fence between those and practica... what to do??? But right now I have a dye project that needs my attention. For those who know dye processes, I am using resists on cotton lawn fabric to create a stained glass effect. Once it is dried and cured, I will post the result. I am so loving grad school!!! :-)