Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Practice makes Perfect?

Took a really interesting workshop this weekend with Tomas Howlin on how to practice. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You work on something with someone until you get it right. But what is right? How do you get there? How do you know it is working? And how do you not rip off the head of your practice partner when they give you less than constructive feedback?

Interesting indeed.....

Sorin and I had been finding that we needed more constructive and communication based practice times together. I love him, I really really do, and there were times when I just wanted to kill him because of what he was telling me, what I perceived he was telling me, or what he was not telling me. And I have no doubt that it went both ways. Our common theme was he would give me feedback or instructions that would drive me insane, I would not get what he was saying, he did not know how to phrase whatever the elusive thing was that he wanted me to do, and then a month or two later, someone would mention to me that I should do A, B and C in order to properly do Z, and I would get it. Then I would ask Sorin why he could not tell me what so-and-so said.

You see how this goes. Round and round and round until we have two very frustrated dancers.

Tomas cut through all of that by encouraging body awareness and perception. How do you react when someone asks you a probing question? How should you react? How do you communicate what you feel/do/want? How many ways are you communicating it? How can you communicate it in different ways so your partner gets it? How can you listen to what they are telling you without focusing on what you want to tell them?

Really interesting thoughts.

Things that got me thinking.

We practiced an exercise on the different ways to interpret and react to and interact with our partners. How to adapt and communicate on both sides of the embrace. There were some ah-ha! moments...

There was one moment when we were exploring the different ways the leader communicated to the follower that they want to move in or out of close embrace. Sorin and I practiced it a bit, then Tomas asked how the communication went. I mentioned that I knew when Sorin wanted to slide in or out as his right arm would change position is a specific way that communicated to me that he was going to change the embrace. Sorin immediately disagreed that he was doing that. Which, naturally, made every one laugh. But later we talked about it, and instead of my getting defensive for what I perceived as a dismissal of my response to his actions, I said "This is what I feel from you, you do this and I know what to expect." His reaction was along the lines of this is only the first step in what I do to change the embrace, it is not how I change the embrace. My response was, but it is the first step, so it is what I feel first, so to me, it is how you begin to change the embrace.

And an ah-ha moment was born.

He heard what I was saying as valid, even though he thought he was doing something else. I heard that he felt that what he did after this moment was what changed the embrace, even though I felt something else first.

Tomas gave us some communication homework for the next time we practice. And I am thinking that maybe we might be better able to communicate in practice together and not get so quickly upset with each other.

It's quite a concept.
I am thinking that there is hope for us, that there will not be an obituary that states "Unfortunate and untimely deaths due to miscommunications in practicing colgadas."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

things that make you say hummm....

I was just told by one of my students that I can be scary. Apparently when actors or singers badly misbehave in fittings, I tend to look at them in a way that makes them shrivel up into husks of their former obnoxiousness. This makes my students cheer. But it apparently also makes them nervous when this look is directed near them.
I had no idea I did this.
How incredibly cool.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comeback Trail

Getting sick actually helped my tango. Believe it or not. Being forced to sideline myself for over a week, I was afraid that I would somehow have to struggle to get back to where I was before I got ill. Plus I was still sort of weak, pretty sure some of the weight I lost was muscle mass and fat - 5 lbs in 1 week, not too good for the body. Although great for the wardrobe! ;-)
Anyway, went dancing Friday and Sunday, and it was great. I felt connected, I felt musical, I felt leads, suggestions, and opportunities. It is the opportunities that makes me most excited. Sometimes when I feel what my leader is hearing in the music, and something else in the music inspires me, I am able to offer a little voice to the phrase, be it with embellishment or an active moment of suggestion from me, and I know there are other things that I do that I have no idea how to categorize them. It is so cool and exciting to do! But there is something really uplifting when these moments happen and Sorin whispers "nice!" in my ear, or my leader laughs a little or gives me a little squeeze to communicate enjoyment.
Although I have to be careful not to take over the lead, so I do them rarely. I did it once Friday night with someone I had never danced with and unfortunately I threw him completely off, he did not know how to react. He told me that he thought it was great, it just took him by surprise. I was chagrined as that is not a cool thing to do. I need to make sure that I am not only heard, but understood. I don't want to startle my leader.
So being ill allowed me time away, time to ruminate on things I had been working on, and allowed me to come back fresh, with a clean slate, and an eagerness to dance. I still have lots to work on, but having a brief respite was actually helpful.

So more practice with timing and communication, but this seems like something really wonderful to offer to play with.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Missed Connections

I was supposed to go the the NYC festival this weekend, I had been looking forward to going as production at school was going to hit full force very soon and I would not have the time I do right now. Our plan was to leave Friday and drive down with friends. Wednesday I started to feel under the weather. Thursday I felt like crap, and was having a hard time breathing, and the stairs at work were killing me when normally I run up and down them all day. With reservations, I did go to practica on Thursday, but I did not dance. Sorin was DJing, and I had some things to give to some friends, so I went, but I sat aside, away from everyone, and watched. Friday morning, I knew it was all over. I was sick sick sick. I decided not to go, I did not know if I would recover in time to attend any of the milongas, I did not want to be ill in someone else's house, and I did not want to get anyone else ill. Even if I felt better by Sunday or Monday, there was no guarantee I would not infect someone, as I did not know if it was the flu or a cold or what it was. So I missed a weekend full of friends and dancing.
Which I was sad about. But now I am angry about.

I went dancing last Tuesday at my favorite milonga, and I heard yesterday from a friend who send me a lovely message about feeling better, and mentioned that so-and-so, who was at the Tuesday milonga, was just getting over something similar. Apparently this person went to the milonga feeling ill, but "well enough to dance."

If you are feeling under the weather - DO NOT GO DANCE!!! Even if you feel "well enough", you are probably going to infect those you dance with, and possibly those at the water table, or those you sit next to, or those you cough near. I should not have gone to practica at all on Thursday, but I promised to deliver something, so I went, and I tried my best to stay away from people. So yes, not the best idea, but I tried to minimize any damage to others.

I mean, close embrace, it is lovely, intimate, and, well close! You share breathing space. And if you have some germs looking to party in a new space, you share those too. And usually I prefer to do my partying with those who are not looking to invade my immune system.

So please, this is the season for all those crazy little germs, and festivals, so lets make sure to share connection, and not illness.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pride AND Prejudice in Tango

Sometimes I am amazed at the level of prejudice and arrogance that exists still today. And it's creepy little hold even extends to tango. Although I think what amazes me more is that people seem to think it is ok to voice these prejudices. Just don't voice them to me, because I have a tongue and I am not afraid to use it.

Recent conversation steamed me to the point of my Irish getting up into the stratosphere. It was said to me at a recent tango event, that they could not possibly dance with someone who was gay, and it was beyond their understanding why there should be a gay/lesbian practica. I was floored for about three seconds, and then asked them how on earth would they know if their partner was gay? Well, of course this person would know, they "would not be able to connect."


Uhm, hate to tell you my friend, but you HAVE danced with a partner who plays for the other team, and you did not seem to mind one bit.

I simply said that I had danced with gay men, and gay women, and had simply marvelous connections. So that little statement does not hold water.

There was some persistence on the other person's part on how being gay in tango was an issue, and I just felt the need to stop being polite to this person in this conversation.

Why the hell does anyone think that someone's sexual alignment has anything to do with their ability to connect in the dance? It's absurd. And it pissed me off. Although what actually got my fuse lit was the fact that it was said to me in such an off-handed way, as though there was no doubt in this person's head that of course I would agree with them. And why would anyone want to keep the scope of our tango community limited? It's the same as saying "Oh, blondes should not dance tango, I just can't connect with them because I am sexually attracted to brunettes." It has no bearing whatsoever and just makes you sound like the exit side of a donkey.