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!!! :-)