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..... ;-)


Anonymous said...

Debbi, everyone suffers from "invisibility" now and then, no matter how good you are or what you wear. Trying to figure it out can lead to magnificent discoveries for growth (as with you), or to extensive pouting and self-blame. There is no one answer or reason for it. It is one of the mysteries of tango why one night you are the Queen of the Ball, and the next a piece of gum under the table.

NYC Tango Pilgrim said...


That sounds like a very good improvement from what you wrote. Long torso, strong feet and warm embrace...the good qualities of a fantastic dancer.

ModernTanguera said...

As a fellow brown/black-styled person, I really appreciate you pointing this out! I'll be going to my first out-of-town festival in a couple months, and this is a reminder that I should pack some of my brighter outfits.

It's interesting to see how our self-perception can be so different from what people see. I used to get asked all the time if I was sad, until I realized that my normal, quiet, calm face was being misinterpreted ... regularly. I hope your changes work for you - they sound like good ideas! (Also you have convinced me to take advantage of a class with Shorey asap!)

Caroline said...

I knew your sitting had nothing to do with quality of your dance.

I had a similar feedback - a milonguero called my dancing "suave" - meaning soft. I asked him if that was a good thing, he shrugged and said "yeah..." Not the most enthusiastic feedback. My attempts to be as light as possible backfired on me. Now I attempt to be light and yet "there".

I've also learned to dress to impress. My sister who was one of Canada's top models in her youth got very depressed when for the first time, I got the looks on the street and she didn't. I happened to be dressed up for tango when we went out for a quick coffee. Never underestimate the power of femininity! I was basically a tomboy all my life till I discovered tango, now I am constantly wearing dresses and skirts.

And lastly, and this probably is redundant to say but I've noticed that when I am in a great mood, smiling and laughing, I get asked alot whereas if I am feeling pensive or lost in thought, I don't. Body language is everything.

So lesson learned was "dress up, smile and make your presence known."

Debbi said...

J - good analogy! It's true, you never know which way the tango wind is going to blow.... but I am determined to at least be in the storm if at all possible!

NYC - working on it.... ;-)

MT - Yes, you most definitely should take a class with Shorey!! She is wonderful and I have no doubt it would be a good experience for you. And yes, a noticeable and memorable item works, does not have to be a whole outfit, but something signature is perfect for a festival!

Caro - I am so not surprised that you turned heads on the street! ;-) It's true, a smile and eye contact will get you everywhere, and not just in tango! Went shopping at lunch and found some fantastic pieces at a vintage store on Newbury St - still gotta be me! ;-)

Bruno Afonso said...

Hi Debbi :)

I would only like to add that it is really attractive to me if a woman is looking at the dance floor with a smile on her face or shows (somehow) that she is having a good time. That said, after sitting for 1+ hour, I can imagine not feeling a bit upset for not being invited more...

You have a nice presence and positive energy. the only reason I would not invite you immediately is because you probably would like to dance w/ better dancers :)

There's many factors as to why one day you may not get invited all the time. Don't stress too much over it, just like Johanna mentions...

I look forward to your brighter dresses :) and if you can show me how you have changed your approach due to Shorey :)


Anonymous said...

The air of supreme indifference may not have been your own creation but a product of your, then present, environment as well. Call it a guilt by association effect if you will. I would not necessarily take a single person's opinion on this as gospel truth either way.

La Nuit Blanche said...

dearest debbi,

i don't see the "haughty royal" thing. we met not too long ago, and i remember my first impression of you -- which was warmth, crystalline intelligence, and a sort of smooth je ne sais quoi in your gestures. :-D

i wouldn't exert myself expending extra energy if i were you -- that was just one person's comment, and i think your serenity makes you very approachable. if anything, people probably see how well you dance, and are intimidated to ask you. anyway, i don't remember you doing any sitting at all, in the milongas of nyc. lol.

that being said, i remember the first time i saw you after you had dyed your hair a deeper, slightly brighter red (i think it was at the last nocturne before empire closed down?). with your creamy pale skin and bright eyes, you really popped in the crowd!

and i love something bright on a person's dress, to give the smile an extra glow. i remember your special design i saw at yale, and the crisp whiteness of it lit up your face from below, and gave me the feeling of running along a summer beach.


La Tanguera said...

Oh my goodness, Deb, no way you are a standoffish "royal we". You come up as kind, sweet, approachable!!! May it be that other people are projecting their own insecurities on you? Even then, I guess it's useful to be mindful that people can be afraid, and that sometimes keeping a encouraging smile may be useful.

On the invisibility--I hear you. As J says, it's a mystery how one day you can be the flavor of the day and on the next everyone ignores you... but that's a reality. That said, I have myself experimented with my outfits, and have noticed some difference between the times in which I wear brighter, more noticeable colors to days in which I go in my usual black (which is my natural tendency). As I think I heard once a wise guy say (ehem)... you need to wear things that make you stand out and easily recognizable when in a large crowd... ;)

Miss Tango said...

Maybe you´re just "too damn sexy for your own good" as I was once told. and your quiet, scintillating smolder turns the men to bumbling fools on the dance floor.

Anne L. said...

:-) Nice!