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.)