Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Comfort zone? Nahhhh... Leading Zone!

I spent a good chunk of Sunday's practica working on leading with one of my favorite leaders, who happens to be a woman instructor. She was leading me and we were working on different single axis turns and she looked at me after awhile and said "Do you want to lead me? You really should."
Well, yes, I do, there are just all these.... uhm.... dancers here and..... well they dart and weave and......


ok. yes. I have to get over the fact that there are other people out there on the floor.

So I walk with her. Simple walk, rock step when things get tight, left turns..... I'm feeling ok, she gives me good feedback about being stronger in my lead, don't drop the energy when I get surprised or stressed, be constant and steady. Great, good, I'm working on that....

She gives me exercises to do. YIKES!!!
More than a walk in a straight line????


Step to the left of the follower, then come back in line, then step to the right and come back in line. Weaving in an S shape as I walk, keeping the follower straight.

Surprising enough, it went fairly well. And since it went fairly well, we have another exercise to do.....
Oh no, ochos.....

But first I had to play with her axis, feel where she is when she is on her axis, and what it feels like when she is not. Wow, pretty important stuff, and much easier to feel that I expected. I stepped in an arc around her, using the arc to play with her hips and pivoting. Feeling how my placement affected her placement and how the pivot can change. Then I added a step to the arc, to allow her to step out of the pivot and into the ocho. It's rather amusing to me that after a year of working hard to be elegant in the dance, I am back to fumbling and stumbling. I thought those days were long gone, but no..... here they are again! Ha! Humility is a powerful thing! ;-)

So I played with all the exercises as I lead her for a tanda or so. I am fairly proud of myself for staying with the music, it is ingrained in me now to hear the music, so that at least went a little easier. At least I was not plodding along off beat and off rhythm.

It was a good session and rather encouraging, pushing me out of my slight comfort zone of the straight line and into options was helpful and something I most likely would not have done on my own for awhile yet. So much more to learn.....

On the up side, I am going to my favorite milonga tonight, and I am so looking forward to it! I have my new shoes Sorin bought for me and I am just itching to dance. :-)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

One year to the day

To day marks the one year mark from my very first tango lesson with Fernanda.
For giggles I went back and re-read my posts from that first class series. I could not help but laugh and shake my head.... what an innocent I was! I've come a long way, and yet the path ahead of me seems endless. Which I rather like....
Anyway.... happy one year to me! I bought myself a little vegan chocolate cupcake and one of my students stuck two wooden matches in it, one for the year that's past and one to grow on. So cute....
I'm looking forward to "the one to grow on".

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I got Tagged

So, apparently there is a whole lot of tagging going around, and to be honest, these "learn things you did not know about your friends" things are a weakness of mine. I love them. It's weird.
But, La Tanguera tagged me and I am happy to oblige... so here it goes....

The Rules:

  1. Post the rules on your blog
  2. Link to the person who tagged you (see above link).
  3. Share seven random and/or weird things about yourself.
  4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Ok - 7 weird things.... only seven?!?!? ;-)

1. I am a mutant.
Yup. My eye color is a mutation. I have green eyes, but they are green yellow eyes. Most green eyed people have green-blue or green-brown. But I have lots of yellow. And when I am out in the sun for awhile, they get more yellow. heh!

2. My name means "Busy as a Bee".

3. I can usually identify fabric by touching it. Might be a hazard of the job, but it is a good skill to have.

4. I am always reading, usually multiple books. It is not unusual for me to have between 2 and 5 books going at one time. I also harbor secret desires to be a writer. I have started a book from my stint working retail for Victoria's Secret back in the early 90's as a bra specialist. It even has a title - "My life as a Bra Queen." Maybe one day it'll have a binding....

5. The greatest love story in my opinion is Max and Valerie from The Princess Bride. They remind me of my grandparents, except for the living in a hut thing....

6. I failed penmanship throughout elementary school because i would go outside of the lines, and refused to change how I wrote. If it was misspelled, I would change it, but style, that was my choice. Then when I got to high school, I was praised for my unique and beautiful penmanship. I am often asked to handwrite labels and signs because of my penmanship. I am so glad that I was encourage at home to be an individual, and not give in to homogenization.

7. I have rare blood, O-. So I am the universal donor for all negative blood types, but I can only take O- blood if I need it. I am on the short list with the American Red Cross, and during Katrina, they called me every month to donate, even though you are supposed to wait 6 weeks between donations. You can see all the little needle scars in the crook of my elbow from my constant donating. I also have a theory about blood type and mosquitoes. I am a mosquito magnet, they love to bite me, and I believe that it is because I have rare blood that they don't often get to eat.

So there you go.
And here I tag.... ;-)
Fishnets and Fedoras
La Planchadora (a sneaky attempt to have her write again, I so miss her postings!!)
Reality Pivots
Tango Shoe Divas
Sorin ;-P

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Mistakes happen at milongas. It is funny how easily one can mistake an invitation for someone else as directed towards you. Cabaceo helps with this from what I am told, but it is not fail proof.

I found myself on the wrong end of an invitation a little while ago, and it would not have bothered me except that it was not handled well, and so I felt slighted a little and more upset at the correction of the invitation than the fact that the invitation was for my friend and not for me.
I was standing next to a friend of mine, who was sitting, and I heard a voice next to me say "Would you like to dance?" I turned around and saw the leader glance at me, so I thought that the invitation was for me. I said yes and then his face took on an embarrassed look and he said "Oh no, not you.... I'm sorry." at which point I realized that my friend was standing and that the invitation was actually for her, and my turning around must have caused him to look at me. Plus his approaching her "through" me, where I was between him and her, also contributed to the mistaken invitation. I quickly laughed, moved aside and sat down. But those words.... "not you" caused a little flame in my cheeks. If he had still been looking at his intended when I turned around, I would never have mistaken the invitation. Even if he glanced at me, but then turned his gaze back to his invitee, again, no mistake would have been made. But when the mistake was made, a slightly more elegant disentanglement would have been appreciated. Because even though he might have been flustered, to say to someone "Not you" implies a whole world of dismissal.

I have not been dancing long enough to know all of the proper codigos, nor have I been to BsAs yet to really experience cabaceo invitations. However I do believe that there are better ways to handle mistaken invitations without causing too much embarrassment for anyone involved.
One thing I was thinking of was that if this does happen, it would be very nice at some point in the evening to ask the person to dance. It does not have to be a whole tanda if the DJ is playing 4 or 5 song tandas, just for the last couple of songs of a tanda. It would be a very nice way to apologize for the error. I am sure many people will disagree with me on this one, but I think it would ease the situation and take away most hurt or upset feelings. I have heard that in BsAs if a woman accepts a cabaceo that is not intended for her, the gentleman will usually dance with her to avoid causing her embarrassment. This I do not expect and it does not really apply to North America as very few people truly use cabaceo here. Would I have accepted an apology dance from this leader? Most likely. Will I accept a dance from this leader in the future after what really happened? Questionable.

There is really no easy way around this sort of thing, but to allow the other person to more easily shrug off the situation would be appreciated I am sure.

Of course, all of this is from my perspective, a follower who is still gaining experience and learning. I would be interested to hear from leaders as to what their experiences have been and how they handle the situation. As well as anyone, leader or follower, who has experienced cabaceo mistakes and how they were best handled.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Lead, Take Two

I tried the other side of the embrace again for half of last night's practica. Another high, and the realization just what a challenge I have set out for myself.

One of our local followers was kind enough to let me lead her for awhile and she gave good feedback again. My lead was not as subtle as last time, I need to be always clear, even when there are disasters ahead (another couple dancing near us, yikes!) and not let tension flow through my left arm into her right arm. Step clearly, step lively, and if I have to think, don't stop, just rock step it a little. It went fairly well. Again, it is amazing how much translates in the energy of the connection. There were several times when I was about to lead something and changed my mind, either because of traffic, or a new thought, or what have you, and invariably it was the first thing I was thinking of that she executed. Never the change. Because I started the first idea and did not properly snuff it from existence. Ugh, there is a lot to think about!

Then I got to lead a good friend of mine, who is a leader, and whom I had not danced with in a month! He also gave me really good feedback. I was leading with my legs, not with my core, and my energy was going down, not straight out. We made some adjustments and BAM! There is was, the right energy placement. It was fun to lead him, and let me tell you the difference between leading a little slip of a girl and a tall, strong guy.... whew! Navigation suddenly had blind spots, although the resistance he was giving was considerably less than she was. Although neither felt bad, it was just a world apart. He was very light, and she was more molasses-y thick with her movement. Bizarre. But fun!

I also lead another leader friend who claimed that he did not know how to follow at all. Aha! Challenge! It was truly a challenge as I had to be uber-clear and uber-direct in leading, so all we did was walk. Then he started asking me to take him to the cross, and lead him into ochos... and it all came back, the Oh No Ocho! Only this time, I was "leading" them, not trying to follow them. It was exhausting honestly, to try to lead all these different things, and navigate, and be musical, and keep everything inside my head. But he did give me some very good advice about making a more dynamic cross. Leading her to the cross, following her through it, and the leading her out of it. Pretty cool. Although I really want to get the basics down, get my core clear and really know what the hell I am doing before I start leading any figures, even the ocho. Right now a left turn and a rock step is as exotic as I get. But I am feeling good about the progress I am making. It is baby steps. But they are forward baby steps. So that has to count for something I would think.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Savor the old and encourage the new! Happy New Year!

It is one year since I started dancing tango. Thereabout anyway. My first class was in the beginning January of 2007. And it is the beginning of January 2008. What a year it has been. And what a year it is going to be! :-)

Right now I am still basking in the warm glow of dancing for three days straight. The New Year Celebration in Providence was just amazing. Ellen and Robin did such an unbelievable job organizing and hosting this event. It was phenomenal. On all accounts. I wish them rest and relaxation after so much hard work!

There is too much to write about, so I will just talk about some of the highlights and impressions.

It was a room full of amazing dancers New Years Eve. I did not have one mediocre dance, never mind bad, that night. Sorin and I were there from 8pm until 4:30 am, went home to sleep for a little bit, and were back there before noon to keep dancing. Which we did until 2am that night. And then went back the night of the 2nd to take classes with Homer and Christina! Whew!
I was very happy though, as I was moving well, my new black suede CiF's were perfect, and I got to chat, dance and celebrate with friends new and old.

Had some tango moments, which I have not had in awhile. Two lovely leaders from St Louis were there, and I had the absolute pleasure to dance with both of them. One whom I had met before and the other for the first time. Both felt lovely to dance with. Subtle, strong, musical, perfect embrace.... just a whole lot of "sigh! swoon!" in the tandas. Am looking forward to seeing them again!

Then there is the leader from NYC whom I had seen many times, had tried to dance with before and never was able, well this time we connected and danced! After the first dance he asked me why we never danced before, I had to laugh! It is so fun to discover such a great connection with someone you suspected you would enjoy dancing with. He lead this gorgeous little directional change, and gave me latitude to make it small, deep, slow, sharp... whatever I felt in the music, and he would take that motion I began and continue it into the next phrase.... whew! What a high! We only got to dance once for a few tandas during the festival, but I hope the next I am in NYC we get to dance again. :-)

I am not sure if it was my confidence that night, the atmosphere, the leaders, or what, but I was able to offer some voice to most of the dances that I had. Dancing milonga with a good friend he lead a front ocho that turned into a series of tight, fast front ochos. Afterwards he said he did not know how those came about, but they felt so good that he just let me go with it. Cool! :-)
Speaking of milonga - it is absolutely my favorite. I love the rhythm, the steps, the control, the release, just so amazing. And when danced with someone who leads it well, it is breathtaking. I had a few sets of breathtaking milonga, and afterwards I felt like a cat. A sunbathing, cream on the whiskers, sated cat. So cool.....

Class with Homer and Christina were fantastic. Their teaching style is just thought provoking and inspiring. They offer you a concept, let you figure it out, and then see what you have created and offer options in tweaking it into something higher. In three hours I learned more about groundedness and elasticity than I thought possible. Amazingly helpful. And they are so open, and so generous with their knowledge, I wish that they were staying longer so I could take more classes with them! Definitely money well spent, and I will certainly look for them in the future!

All in all a dream of a New Year, I spent 72 hours with friends and the man I love dancing, sharing, celebrating and connecting both on and off the dance floor.
Really, what more could one ask for?!