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.

3 comments:

Stanley Dankoski said...

Debbi, I like this entry. I have much to say, but for now I will agree that the last LongaMilonga was indeed bittersweet. I kept looking around, thinking, this is how it used to be! It is sad to know there will be no more. It is great that it ended on a high note.

Bruno Afonso said...

This was my second time there. Last time I was there it was virtually empty. So it was great to see what it was supposed to be like :) I'd like to be positive about the future...

I found your view of the milonga quite interesting and agree that it felt a bit like a micro-festival. That unique feeling of going to a place where you are never able to be totally in the comfort zone. Too many good dancers and the darwin thrill kickin' in. :-)

I guess people now know me a bit in boston so it makes things so much easier to be able to dance than ever before. I still distinctly remember going to a sunday practica and being too frightened to ask anyone to dance with. I learned a lot by watching some people though...

I like the darwinian effect. In a good way. It drives me to think and try stuff in the dance. To better myself. Always trying to get away from the tango-stale feeling. I feel the best thing about it is how it makes for a great humbling experience.

Brandy said...

Thanks for this post, Debbi. As usual you've put your finger on a piece of the tango experience that really hits home :)

This was my second Longa. I fared better than last time in terms of time spent dancing, largely because there were more Boston folks in attendance, but I agree with your thoughts on the Darwin effect.

It's definitely a reality check to remember there's a much bigger world out there beyond your own little circle, where all bets are off.

For me, both Longas were distinctly bittersweet- not just because the milonga is ending- but also because of the way it feels to watch an impressive and unfamiliar crowd. Inspired and mesmerized by the beauty of the dance, yet sobered (and more than a little intimidated) by how far I have yet to go... I guess I'd better get working!