There's More Accomplishment to an "Accomplished Dancer" Than Dancing Well...

I began my tango-evening by falling out of my chair. No, that's inaccurate, I followed my chair rather splendidly in its descent to the floor. To my credit, I did so while continuing to strap my shoe and retained a certain elegant grace about the topple... or so I'd like to tell myself. Considering it was a more formal evening - live music always bring a bit more glitz and decorum than the average practica, it seemed the least I could do. It was an accomplishment.

And really, I should rewind I began the evening ultimately with two far greater accomplishments: (1) getting out of the house; (2) finding parking on the horrific quagmire of Capital Hill. In fact, let me categorize the accomplishments of the evening as a whole!

Accomplishment 1- getting dressed and getting out the door:


When I'm in Seattle, 9:00 p.m. usually means I am already snuggled up under a blanket with my boyfriend feeling particularly cozy. The idea of abandoning my warm and fuzzy robe and going outside after a freak hailstorm to drive to the aforementioned quagmire alone is enough to chill my blood, even if I ultimately know the pleasure will be worth the pain.

It helps that these days I've reached a point in my dance where I no longer feel the need to take or be taken seriously in my wardrobe. I've never gone too far this route, but naturally there is a pressure to dress in a certain style that advertises "I dance tango... and well, damnit" before stepping onto the floor. When I started, I took my fancy in the most gregarious directions to sheer show tango. It took a few years of fishnets snagging in belt straps and odd wardrobe malfunctions for this taste to minimize. I still indulge on occasion, but am increasingly too frugal to plunk down the cash required to maintain such an aesthetic.

As this was around the time that I perhaps caught the ever pestilential Buenos-Airesitis (No, I don't speak Spanish, but my kisses and hugs are sooo much more South American than my paper white complexion and Nordic height might suggest! and when *I* was in Buenos Aires...), it was a convenient time to switch my wardrobe entirely to that style intended to complement your nights taxiing between La Viruta and Club Villa Malcolm. And honestly, this style is far more amenable to dancing and in line with what flatters. It just sometimes smacks of this need to attire oneself in vestiges of authenticity that don't always gel with my particular quirk. I still love my babuchas (wherever they are - stupid move!) and in my defense have never understood those odd diaper turkish pants that seemed en vogue in BsAs at the time... but I was definitely subconsciously attempting some serious signaling. These days, I'm happy to go back to what I would consider more my signature style. Last night it was a grey sweater dress, glasses, a ponytail, and gray socks with bright metallic threads making a plaid pattern. I do wear socks with my stilletos. It's quirky and so am I. Anyways, dressing this way means substantially fewer hours of contacts-makeup-hair-and-ensemble-matching. Which in turn increases the likelihood of making it out.


As a side note, when one of my leads complimented my socks, I responded that they were my "lucky Bar socks"... apparently the capitalization and parenthetical (exam) didn't come to the fore and he looked quite perplexed, thinking that they were the socks I wore to bars when I wanted to get lucky... There was not point to that story, except I may not speak English anymore.... (did I ever really?)

Accomplishment 2 - Parking and getting there
As for parking... well the less said the better. There's a reason that when I actually lived in Seattle, I attended the three milongas within walking distance and left my car parked at my boyfriend's house in North Seattle. A half hour of circling Capital Hill is... such a delight!

Accomplishment 3 - Back to falling


Upon entry, I found some friends who located me the aforementioned broken chair. Upon toppling, I decided it would be safer to stay on the floor for the remainder of the shoe-donning experience. I believe a new chair was fetched, but fortunately I did not need to sit for the remainder of the evening. I do think I have some bruising, but fortunately little of that attached to my ego. The exquisitely dressed wine sippers at the tables surrounding me seemed slightly horrified, but to me, I consider a pre-dance fall to be good luck in that I've gotten gravity and all its snark officially out of my system.

Accomplishment 4 - Straying from my comfort zone


I realize that one of the reasons that tango dancers can come across as cliquish has as much to do with a certain reluctance to face the daunting potentialities of the unknown. Particularly on evenings with packed floors (and that many more wild cards who may or may not feel random urges to drive his/her partner straight into a lurking comme il faut - yes, I have drawn blood personally and shed my proportional share as well). And of course, because it is a dance that is so intensely personal and idiosyncratic and danced in sets of four that could wind you up with a bad connection for up to fifteen minutes... well it can be downright scary to venture towards the unfamiliar.

My unfamiliar partner of note was vaguely familiar to me and an odd experience... He approached me early in the evening and asked where I was from and how long I'd been dancing. Based on my "seven years" he asked me to dance. I hope that it was also based on watching me dance - or liking my socks - since "seven years" can mean just about anything from "seven years of daily privates" to "once every two years over the past seven years... and I am tone deaf." He was a lot of fun and clearly technically accomplished. It was good dancing with him, but it never felt quite like *tango* whatever that means (like pornography and art, my best answer is that I know it when I see it or really feel it). 


I was unsurprised to later discover that he was a stage dancer whose form of preferred tango probably harkened back to his stint in Buenos Aires performing for tourists with a ballerina partner. You could almost feel his peripheral peering about for a stray camera or fourth wall. He would comment on moves during the dance in the analytic framework of a practice session, for instance - "nice, most follows don't get that" or "my mistake" or "oh I see this adjustment for your height..." To defy stereotypes, despite this focus, he was genuinely nice and had a decent sense of floorcraft considering the almost Viennese spinning and acrobatic leg work we went through. And his shifts in level were delicious, his sense of musicality was spot on, and he was quite good about leaving me on axis. But it was exhausting in the sense of feeling a pressure to perform for him as well as with him. I was relieved when he told me after a tanda and a half that he was more of a Pugliese guy and this Biagi sort of style the orquestra was taking played against his strengths.I was then distressed to notice that he spent much of the next hour hovering near my chair and watching me, and eventually walked onto the floor after a multi-tanda set with a familiar partner to ask if I would like to dance again.

Accomplishment 5: Surviving the small talk and kind of taking a compliment or fifty


One of the scarier things about the tanda concept is that it means that there are moments of interaction between partners that are not dancing. While it is perfectly acceptable - and preferable - to share a wordless dance and leave all communication to the body during a song, the pause between songs requires interaction. The go to conversation with unfamiliar partners is usually quite scripted: usually something about how long/where/how often do you dance, mixed with a touch of small talk. I have to admit, I rather enjoyed the get out of awkward conversation free card that not speaking Spanish gave me in Buenos Aires (or at least the struggles to communicate in broken Castellano and English filled up the awkwardness with a mutual struggle).

Last night was particularly challenging, because while I can take a compliment, I get a little uncertain how to take an endless barrage of compliments. It was an interesting evening in that aspect. My stage-dancer was particularly relentless - mentioning at least every break and often during the dance that I was a fantastic dancer or his favorite of the evening.... to the exclusion of any other conversational topic. I think once he asked who my teachers were (I boldly replied "nobody at the moment") and we may briefly have discussed our respective forays into ballroom (paso doble for him - which does not surprise), but honestly I couldn't even engineer the conversation to small talk despite a few efforts. I don't think I even know his name or where he's from. My other unfamiliar partners were similarly single track to a lesser extent.

I'm just really unsure how to react to positive feedback from new partners pretty much in any dance. I mean, I know that I do occasionally share mutual effusion with certain partners. But when it is less of a mutual recognition that we just had a moment and more unilateral, I am not always elegant with it. I try to neither deprecate nor preen, but sincerely say "thank you" but this never seems sufficient and there's often a stillness that suggests something more is expected of me. Other strategies I have attempted: (1) reciprocating, which can sometimes feel a little hollow if my actual response is "really? I thought our connection was a little off. Relieved you didn't hold that against me!"; (2) smile and nod and wait for the moment to pass; (3) respond but not  ("you have such fast footwork - you spin really well" "oh the spinning is so much fun"); (4) look surprised about something and change the subject ("oh I think the dj is setting up again - must be time for a break!" "OH LOOK A SQUIRREL!"); (5) avoid the potential all together by emphasizing my dreamy rapture in the dance and lingering in the embrace until the next piece comes on. Some day I'll learn to more gracefully accept positive feedback, which would be only fair considering how often I give it.

Accomplishment 6: Surviving the evening injury-free


Maybe it's something about live music, but the floor was a nightmare last night. You know how the closer it gets to Christmas, the more it seems like people in stores cannot navigate space? The stress of the impending holiday apparently effects the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning would be my theory and suddenly you are caught between ten shopping carts that appeared out of nowhere but have some correlation to screaming babies and particularly holly-unjolly holiday grimaces. (Oh thank god for amazon.com)...

Anyways this same sort of insanity seems to emerge on dance floor from time to time. Like I say, I think that when there's live music, there's a combined effect of larger crowds, more beginners, and more energetic showing off ... all coming together to make the ronda a bit more like bumper cars. I doggedly kept my heels to the ground last night despite myriad attempts to get my legs off the floor and flying. And thank god I did, because I can't tell you how many times the upper part of my heel hit somebody else's heel. I also kept my eyes open and watchful - ever ready with the little follow shoulder-tug to avoid mass-collisions. I have to say, I love the energy of a crowded floor, but so much more when it's a functioning and organic crowded floor. Last night, despite many individually delightful dances was a bit jarring, due to the diminished floor craft.

Failure to Accomplish 7: Proper hydration


I completely failed to take any breaks during the evening for water, despite having the sore-throat harbinger of seasonal malaise. When I got back to Andrew's, it was late, the kitchen faucet was locking jaws with the dishwasher, and every one was asleep... so I am suffering from a fairly substantial dance hangover. Just like those legendary college evenings - I'm a bit woozy, have a headache, and random bruising (from the chair). That's gotta mean it was a good night, right?
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