Thursday, January 29, 2009


Ticket purchased - to BsAs - Leave the US June 1st, arrive in BsAs June 2nd. Stay until July 31st. It's real. It's happening.... and my stomach is flip flopping!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yes, you, Ms TB, on the west coast, you have a question?

Tangobaby is interviewing people, and I adore how thoughtful she is about the interviews she has conducted so far - so I am threw my hat in her ring - and here are the results.

Here's "The Rules."

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions and link to me.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1. I know that you and Red Shoes met through the Tango blogosphere, but you are both impassioned theatre professionals and seem like soul sisters, if I may add an observation. If you could collaborate on a dream theatre project with her, which one would it be? Give us juicy details of what it might look like and how your aesthetics would compliment each others. (Who knows, maybe it will come true?!)

You make me blush! But in racking my brains to come up with a project we could have fun with, I went to the classics (a trend with me), and I think one of the best challenge plays that we could work on together is Waiting for Godot. How do you make characters who never change clothes, never leave the stage, and nothing changes interesting for 2 hours?
I am a HUGE fan of lighting designers, they make what I do look good. They can also make things look bad, so I always work closely with them and we use our palettes together in a way that is harmonious (even when your end results is supposed to be unharmonious) – and enhances the environ of the characters. And from what little I have had the pleasure of glimpsing into her work, and knowing about her work (one of her Glasgow-ian fellow adventures is a student in my department where I teach!), I bet we would have a great collaboration! :o)

2. Looking back on your tango past, what has been the greatest unexpected gift from tango? What has been the biggest disappointment?

Wow, I have had to sit on this question for awhile…. And my past is not that deep! Only two years…. But I would have to say though, that the greatest unexpected gift has been the connections with people, some of which have translated off the dance floor. A whole new world of people has entered my realm, and I am grateful for them. Some of whom I have yet to meet!

The biggest disappointment??? I have yet to find it. And I think I am grateful for that as well, I tend to not brook deep disappointments well….

3. As a costume designer, what have been some of your favorite designs? What inspires you when you sit down to design? How many different disciplines do you draw from and who or what are some of your muses?

I take from everything and anything when I design. I post research images from the era if it is period, from folks that I find from that era that resonate with me, paintings that resonate with the feeling I want to give the character, pictures of my actors, swatches of fabric that have the feel, drape, look, etc., of what I want to use. If you just walked into my office, you would think that a library and fabric store had a whirlwind romance near my desk and draped bits and pieces of their affair around my work space.
I had an image from a Zulu warrior above me when I was designing Henry V, then there was the day I realized Eleanor Roosevelt was speaking to my Lady Augusta from The Importance of Being Ernest. If it speaks to me, I use it, sometime I never know what it has said, but I know it was important. Such as the image of Monet’s Geisha while designing Pinter’s “Betrayal” – to this day I don’t know what her impact was, but I know that she was impactful at the time.

Some of my favorite work has been that which has surprised me the most. Or productions I loved the most. There has yet to be a Shakespeare project I have not loved working on, but it is usually the supporting characters I have the most fun with, not the leads. The leads have to be “pretty” in what ever way that show calls for pretty. But for example, Emilia from Othello, how do you dress a woman who is married to a man whom she desperately wants to please, to the point of unthinking betrayal, even though he outwardly despises her? These are the challenges I love.

4. Besides dance and design, what other creative pursuits do you enjoy? Are there other artistic adventures you'd like to embark on but just don't have the time right now? What would be the next creative endeavour you'd like to undertake, if you could?

Most of my other pursuits are those of a more passive creative bent. I am a voracious reader, I am always reading multiple books. I have partially written one book based on my experiences working in intimate apparel that I have already titled “My Life as a Bra Queen”, I have written an unpublished children’s book about a beloved pet pug who has cancer and goes in for treatment (an effort to help children understand illness, no publishers were interested though). I used to write a lot more than I do now.
I also knit, nothing intricate or super difficult, but I find it very relaxing and kind of zen. I had to learn how to knit on a movie shoot where we needed garter ties and had none, so I stayed up one night making 8 pairs.

What I would absolutely love to do though, is learn how to paint. There is something so enticing about a prepped canvas and a drawer full of gorgeous pigments in oil…. I would love to be a painter and translate how I see. And now that I am typing this, perhaps this will be the next endeavor.

5. When you are feeling creative, what kinds of music do you listen to and why? Do you listen to tango music when you are designing?

Ha! No, I do not listen to tango music when working, I do listen to tango music often, Sorin has it on in the car, and I have a tango playlist on my ipod. But it depends on what I am working on as to what I listen to when I design, certain music inspires certain moods with me, and that can help with my process. I am a huge Annie Lenox fan, especially when I need a moody environment. Dar Williams for light hearted. I need a certain vibe around me, so the music helps along with posting inspiration around me. Inspiration could be art work, images, research images, and even words or phrases from the play itself or from me…. I had a question once posted above my desk when working on “The Bog of Cats” that was “If I was going to burn my house and kill my child on my jilted wedding day in order to punish the man I love, what sort of gown would I wear? Here is the answer:

Sting, David Bowie (old school Bowie), 30’s big band music, modern swing music, ABBA, David Gray, Ella Fitzgerald, Garbage, Elvis Costello, Sarah McLachlan…. These are all on my “working” play list on iTunes.
I have to say though, often the music does not seem to go with the design work. I remember listening to David Bowie a lot when working on Hamlet one summer…..

Basically, whatever gets the noggin boppin, is how I go.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tales from the Other Side

So, I have been attempting to lead for a couple of months now. I can say with confidence that I can almost walk. There is not much else I can do, but I am working on it, and I don't try anything in a milonga setting if I am not confident with it. Those lovely lovely followers who agree to let me lead them know this, and usually it turns out fine. I use dynamic changes and try to hit musical phrases so that it is not nap time for them.
And then one night recently I danced with the Willful Follower.

A song came on that I liked, the floor was basically open, so I grabbed her and off we went. Or should I say, off she went. This was the first time in my life where I encountered the following:
Leader - leads the follower to step back with her right foot.
Follower - executes a poorly supported back boleo followed by an even more poorly supported front boleo and steps forward into an ocho.
Leader - stunned silence, mute horror

It did not matter what I led, she did what she wanted, often in the opposite direction of where I was leading. Thank god no one was on the floor, or there might have been a blood trail. I had no idea what the hell to do. At one point I just stopped moving, she did all sorts of things around me, and I was thinking "Ok, maybe she's tired herself out now and we can walk" - nope. She was not like a toddler whom you can allow to stimulate themselves into exhaustion and nap time. Oh no, there were more surprises for the remainder of our dance time. I have to admit that I really wanted to say "Let me know when you are done and we can move forward." But instead I decided to stop moving at all and allowed her to whip herself into a froth around me.

I still don't know what I could have done to contain that energy, if anything.
But I do know that until I am a better leader, I will not be subjecting myself or any dance floor to that spectacle again.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Growing Pains

As part of my quest for getting off this plateau, I asked for a private lesson with a visiting teacher whose in class advice really got me thinking. It was impromptu, I had not planned for one, but it seemed like a really good idea. And I think it was, or it will be, but unfortunately everything we worked on in the private seems to have completely screwed up my dancing. I can't dance right now. At all.

It was a good private. We talked about having "melting" embrace, no tension what so ever in the shoulders or back or arms. I apparently have a small amount which was so difficult to actively get rid of. As I thought about having no tension, I would get tense - round and round we go! sheesh..... We discussed posture and connection. Where to connect, how to connect, what to do if the connection from my leader is hard to find. He is against chest and belly connection, he wanted chest only, so we worked on my lifting my rib cage to find the connection. It worked well with him. Problem is, a good half of the leaders in my community like the belly connection - that will be interesting! Then he made a slight adjustment to my hip placement, turning them more under, I was slightly forward which made pivoting quickly a bit shaky at best. That was an amazing alteration, instantly everything was easier! Then we worked on stepping with power - this was the hardest of all. I was trying to do all of the above at once and felt like a new born foal. on roller skates. on a sheet of glass. I think it was too much. However it was all good feedback and helpful and all issues that I know I can work on.

Then the next day we go to my favorite milonga. And I was still a new born foal. only without the roller skates, but still on the sheet of glass. It was insanely frustrating. And I had such a hard time until the last hour when I said "F* it" and dropped everything I was trying to do and tried to just dance. I was able to enjoy the last couple of tandas I danced, although I was still aggravated with myself. In the car ride home, Sorin suggested i break down the work into segments, and work on them one at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. Doh! That would have been smart!

It's such a catch-22 sometimes. Medicine makes you better, however you have to deal with the bitter taste and funny face for awhile until it assimilates into your system.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year

I have not written in awhile. It seemed like I was always going to regurgitate my dances, and that did not seem interesting at all. So I waited, and then stuff happened - life kept moving, and now it is the new year. And I feel inspired to write about a few things.

Tango Doldrums
I was in the tango doldrums, not depression really, because I still enjoyed very much going out and dancing regularly. But I felt like I hit a plateau. Kind of like a thin layer of Saran Wrap was keeping me inside my sphere and I could see that there was all this great stuff on the other side, but I could not figure out how to get through the saran wrap. I knew it was not a glass ceiling, I knew I could move forward, I just did not know how. I think one of the issues was I had not taken classes in awhile. A long while. I needed a challenge, and that challenged needed to be external, I was internalizing too much already. I still need a challenge. So my plan for the winter and spring is to take classes and privates (when I can afford them) and find some way to get over the hump. I am sure I will get there, as I am reassured that we all go through this. :-)

The best dance of my life - EVER
Don't discount the old people.

New Years Eve in Providence was amazing. The picture above is from New Year's Eve. I had just the best time. Lots of friends, old and new, lots of food, lots of great music - and the best dance of my life bar none. Up until now I had a top 5 - I could not really rate them against each other, they were just all together in the top. Well, New Years Day, I had a tanda with a gentleman that blew them all out of the water. I had noticed a tiny older little couple on New Years Eve (I swear she was under 5' and he was maybe 5') dancing pretty much with each other only. I enjoyed watching them, and it was obvious that they had been dancing a long time together. They enjoyed each other and they just fit together. It was a pleasure to watch them.

New Years Day, late afternoon, he approached me and asked me to dance. I accepted gladly, I knew from watching him he was good, I was only concerned about the fact that in heels I was about 9 inches taller - in fact, he had a face full of cleavage, so we adjusted to a slight V and off we went. I would say in about 30 seconds he figured me out and then he amped it up. It was amazing. He had what I have been told is the Argentinean embrace - firm and solid yet unrestrictive. It was unpolished and yet elegant at the same time. It was incredibly musical and subtle. And although he was definitely in charge, he listened. A friend told me that I was grinning from ear to ear while we danced. I loved every second. When the tanda was over, I discovered he was Argentinean and had been dancing for over 30 years. He was an absolute gentleman and walked me back to my seat, where I sat for an entire tanda, just glowing.

Later that night, I confided to several women friends that I had just had the best dance of my life that night. One response I received was "Oh, he asked me, but I turned him down, I don't pay attention to the old people." You could have seen my tonsils my mouth was so far open. I responded with "Well, you can't dance for over 30 years and not be old...." She had a light bulb moment and realized that you can't discount old people.