Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ruminations

There have been multiple excellent tango discussions that have happened recently, in milongas, at practicas, in our kitchen, that have had me ruminating for awhile. And I still don't have answers, I only have my opinions on the subjects, and I have to say, those opinions may change eventually, soon, or never. But I am coming to believe strongly that it is those diverse opinions that makes tango (as with all art forms) so interesting. I have stated before that if the only art hanging on the walls of the Boston Museum of Fine Art was Degas, I would go one, maybe twice, and never again. It is the diversity of expression that keeps me going back regularly. Same with tango.

One discussion - adaptation. I strongly believe that everyone should have a style, or feel about them. It is what makes them THEM in the dance. However, I also strongly believe that there has to be an adaptation between the two in those first few moments of the embrace. You need to find each other, adjust to each other, and find the connection. I do not agree with those who say that the follower must adapt to the leader, I feel that there should be a mutual adaptation. I am not saying that if the leader has a milonguero style that he should suddenly switch to nuevo, just that he (or she) should find their partner. I wish I had better terminology. I love words, I devour books, my vocabulary is not exactly shabby, but this is the best I can do to convey what I mean. As an example of not doing this, I absolutely hate, hate HATE it when a leader wraps his arms around me and is stepping before his right arm has settled on my back. I have to admit, there have been times when I have refused to step until the embrace is settled. This has caused confusion, irritation, and surprise from my partner. I appreciate that they love the music so much that they want to move, but they should appreciate finding me as their partner before they take that first step. Because I want to find them as well. And we should be enjoying the music together.

Another situation that came up were some requests for me to teach. Teach. Big word with few letters. In my professional life I teach, and it is hard work, challenging, and often amazingly rewarding. But I am teaching subjects that I have worked in professionally for over 10 years. I started tango a little over 2 years ago, and I think it is safe to say that I started actually dancing about a year ago. Can I teach tango? Not in my mind. Do I want to? No. Not now, and I have no idea if ever. The responsibility is too big. I can work with people at practica and offer feedback as to what I think may be the problem, but teaching means more than offering feedback on what you think might be the issue. In my mind, you should be able to see how someone is moving, or not moving, and communicate the solution in a manner that the pupil will understand. Which might mean several different ways of explanation. You should be able to lead and follow. You do not need to be a fantastic dancer (although it helps), but you need to show what you are teaching clearly and easily.
There have been several instances where practicing with someone who was very influential in my formation as a dancer where the conversation went something like this:
"Why are you doing this-thing?"
"Because you told me to."
"When?"
"I don't know, about a year ago? You told me to always do this."
"Oh. Well, don't anymore. I no longer think that is the way to move/dance/embrace/etc."
Me silently (sometimes not so silently)
"AAAAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!"
And then I have some rewiring to do. And I don't want to do that to someone. Tell them an absolute that will alter because I learned what should really be done later, and they now have it in muscle memory. I know tango theory and fashion change, but I think basics do not.
I have discovered that several people whom have danced for a short amount of time have decided to become teachers. And I have such mixed feelings about this that when they ask me what I think about their aspirations, eyes shining, confident I am going to gush affirmations, it is difficult for me to not shrug my shoulders as I say "Well, good luck, teaching is difficult."

3 comments:

NYC Tango Pilgrim said...

Debbi,

Good post. I agree with you on the adaption of embrace. I would use a quote from Javier Rodriguez: "connect with your partner, then as one connect with the music." That's why in my past post, I wrote about embrace that man should invite the woman to find her embrace first, then complete the embrace. (assuming that the woman has learned how to embrace a man). If a man dances for the woman, he is considerate, patient and not forceful. Women come in different shapes, size and height. Man needs to adjust.

But I do believe that woman adapts to man. All the great tango experiences that I've had, one common character of these wonderful women (some are the best): they allow me to express myself in the music completely. Like one of my female teachers had said:" a good woman in tango is like a shirt on the man."

This is just my two cents...

Johanna said...

I don't know of any other social endeavor that motivates people to go from beginner to teacher in three classes.

Welcome to the Headscratching Club.

Gustavo said...

Debbi,

I love what you wrote about teaching, and have to say I kind of feel the same way. About the styles, and what you say about the guy stepping before settling on a good embrace: I really hate the word follower, and I understand that it is a practical thing to say in a country where many women take the men's role (perhaps out of necessity!), but I do hate it. I'm a little on the traditional milonguero side and I think you have to dance like a woman or like a man -or masculiine and feminine if you prefer- and there are no leaders and followers in tango. In my style (salon- Villurka =P) it is considered to be the man who goes after the lady. She always comes first. I think what you described is what we in Argentina call "llevarse la mina puesta" as in "running her over", is that correct? :)