Experience Tango Blogging!

In the midst of bar acceptance revelry, I took up my first permanent host role as opposed to "guest host" at Tango Popolare's Tango Experience. Or is it Experience Tango? I keep getting them confused. Bellingham also offers a Tango Life, and a Tango By the Bay, and then there's the Tango Cafe that Tango Popolare puts on in Conway...   So I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of Tango ___ milonga names. I feel like it sounds a little too promotional Buenos Aires Tourist Package to Disneyland rideish to start calling milongas TANGO ____ (life/experience/journeys/odysseys/adventures/mountain
/It's a Tango World After All!?). I guess I've never had a problem with festival names like Tango Magic, but it just seems more appropriate for a festival somehow.

I generally approve of the tradition of calling milongas by song titles - La Garua, La Milonguita,  - as well, probably because it keeps the name punchy and reminds me of songs, which reminds me of happy dancing, which makes me think of tango more than the word tango somehow. I also enjoy references to some aspect of music or dance. Or really just evocative single word names - El Beso anybody?? - feel nice to me. I can also support just going with the name of the location provided that the location itself put some thought into its name. For instance, we used to have Blue Moon Milonga... that sounds pretty decent. Even more, I think the best candidate for Bellingham-names is the unofficial one for the monthly alternative practica at Pure Bliss Desserts. That's because it's commonly referred to as "Bliss" and hell, that is a fantastic name. "Are you going to Bliss tonight?" Ok, sure it sounds like a  lead in to cheesy pick-up line ("no? Would you like to??") but it's rather evocative and so totally tango. Ok, I guess Tango by the Bay falls into this category a little bit, which may explain why I mind the name less than the experience/life line. Because, hey, it's tango... by the BAY. And, the Tango Cafe is more often simply referred to as The Muse, which is a pretty decent name as well. The added bonus of this approach is that it increases the likelihood that people will

But really that wasn't my point. It was a random starter rant to an otherwise lovely experience (of tango!):

Yes, that was my celebratory champagne for having passed the bar. Do I know how to party or what??

I'm never sure how to really break a fantastic milonga experience down into words. It's easy to mire oneself in positive synonyms and once I do that I start boring even myself. But it's a little hard not to be super positive after finding out about the Bar Exam. I couldn't help but announce it at the end of class, although thanks to the magic of social networking and the usual dance-community grapevine, all the regulars seemed to already know. My current "student" (the one I'm giving wholesale privates to these weeks) even brought me a card and flowers. Oh and I incurred the joy of what will be a long future of anti-divorce-attorney rants from slightly insane people who are angry that the law allows you to get restraining orders against them when they try to take action against the horrible guy who is stealing your wife away from you... awkward! But a fitting initiation into my future profession.

To maintain some semblance of perspicacity, I'll readily let you insert the various gushing adjectives in between three or four bulleted points that distinguished this gushing post from most post-tango gushing posts.

1. I felt that we made far more success on the co-teaching orientation lesson this time. I don't like long chunks of speech/demo or dancing in a lesson. I also like to keep it fun. There's nothing worse than a lesson that takes itself too seriously when people are already feeling baffled and vulnerable at their own disconnects with movement. My co-teacher may err on the side of prolixity (and a spontaneity that often leaves me scrambling a bit), so frequently if I disagree with a way he's explaining something, it can bring up the "do I stretch out the entire process by talking more or just let it lay?" conundrum. In this case, we managed to minimize that dynamic.

We started with posture, moved to partnering, built on walking and then - something I really liked and which was mostly a great spontaneous redirection of a slightly incorrect explanation of a chest lead for a side step - we added the concept of leading a follower's side step with the lead's torso (circular step around the lead instead of him stepping). I was big on the theme of "this area of the torso is what's leading" so it fell in well. And from there, we added what would have been two steps of molinette, but really was a segue into how to get a follow to do a back cross step. That naturally led into ocho, with a quick "upper-body turns, hips follow, pivot on the feet" breakdown for the follows and some basic understanding of an easy set up for the leads. I felt like it was a nice foundation and also good technical reminders for the more experienced dancers who maybe focused more on the steps and less on the underlying mechanical building blocks. And there was a beginning girl there who had an utterly infectious laugh and smile. This in and of itself made the class feel like a success.

2. I danced with my Harry Potter again. This was my favorite partner from last month's Bliss. I always feel a little nervous when going out for a second tanda with a newly discovered "favorite" as you don't yet know if (1) it's a fantastic all-around connection (2) it was something about the context or the musical style of the prior tanda, or (3) it was entirely a fluke. You have to hope that it's number one, but it can be disappointing to realize the others. In this case, it was even better than the first time. We had some struggles through the first song, partially due to the complexity of the music (heavily dramatic modern orchestra and very unpredictable) and partially because the floor was particularly slick that evening and every one was feeling the balance issues. But, as before, by the third, we had fallen into perfect synchronicity and were breathing as a single unit. His moving foot brushed the arch of my weighted foot as we stepped, something I usually think of as a sign of precision, but in this case, the light brushing contact between his right foot and mine as we walked was more than that: it was this little tiny reassuring moment of tender podiatric intimacy, much like a soft rub of the back or squeeze of the hand. Quite delightful. It's funny, as my favorite partners are not necessarily the best dancers in the room - there are often little gaffes, or maybe they don't look particularly polished from the sidelines... I can only fall back to the breathing together and that simple feeling that we hear the same music.

HP's first tango taught him the beauty of tango shoes!

3. It was interesting how perceptions and impressions can change. There is one dancer who started not long after I did. Somehow I had always thought of him as haughty and somewhat stuck up, particularly for his abilities. This little bias was grounded in nothing tangible, but had until now kept me from making my eyes available for his cabaceo. On Wednesday, he had asked me to dance just as I changed my shoes, and I apologetically promised to find him for a definite dance during the weekend. So, I finally decided to try dancing with him (secretly afraid that he would judge me harshly for his inadequacies in leading... sometimes I get proactively defensive). It was a blast! Less refined or perfectly ethereal. Far more athletic, but fun. And of course he turned out to be a very gentle and genial fellow who also enjoyed dancing with me - evidencing some clear taste! That only took me, what, six years to clear up an incorrect first impression? I will give some credit to the grace that comes with more mastery (hopefully), but I also just have to guess that I was clinging to inaccuracies.

4. On a different theme of less nuanced impressions, I remember seeing a dancer at Bliss who looked intimidatingly good there. Her footwork was quite refined and although I didn't get to see much of her, I raised quite the image of her deific virtuosity in my mind. Again, because the floor was a bit slippery on Saturday, I think many of the more technically impressive follows looked a little shakier (the others just use the leads for balance anyways, so not a huge difference) and little imperfections were magnified. Watching her dance with a wider variety of partners for a longer spell, I came more to understand that we were in similar categories of ability at the very least.

 It does make me understand how some people can be so incredibly impressed by people whose style does not do much for me - it all depends on what eye you apply to the dancer in question. I think that there are many ways to view a person who is dancing. When I view my own dancing, I do so with a particularly finely tuned eye that is sensitive to every single flaw (hence, why I sometimes overstate to myself the utter dreckitude - thanks Andre Leon Tally - of my own abilities). When I'm casually watching, I may see none of that, or see certain markers of good technique and develop a more inflated view of a person's ability. When I apply my "would I like to dance with this person" view, yet another image emerges and the focus is far more on partnership and facial expression. And I have yet another eye for teaching - quite balanced to my estimation of what positives are there to develop, how a student looks compared to my estimation of their potential ability, and what habits are most likely to be dislodgeable. And of course if I'm feeling competitive, I have a keen eye for flaws in others as well as myself. The point being a fairly banal conclusion: my opinion of somebody as a dancer is drastically dependent on how I am choosing to look at them.

Are you gazing at me with rapture or did I just trip?
 Darn floors!!

At the end of the evening, I came out with many positive adjectives to attach to the night and felt rather a success. I also gave up on waiting for the dance to end and abandoned my co-hosting obligations after the dance went about forty minutes longer than scheduled with no clear discussion from the co-host. I feel a little guilty, but I am good at making myself feel justified on these things!
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