I haven’t posted here for the last five years and that saddens me to no end. A combination of over-facebooking and avoidance in writing my musings has created a vaccum on my tango path documentation. That betrays my original goals in documenting my own trajectory all the while getting feedback and other’s opinions.
I’ve realized a long time ago that Facebook, twitter, instagram are not only aimed at transiently sharing what you feel. All your content will all disappear over time, blurring the lines between your memory and reality. And that’s really sad because all your efforts to dump your brain and come to terms to your experiences will be a waste of energy, minus the immediate therapeutical effect. Facebook is awesome if you want to be popular. Transiently popular.
Recently in a conversation with a lady about musicality I described one quality that more mature leaders look for in followers. I described it as “I’d like her to follow me even if I was heading to an abyss”.
This vision originates from one of the most remarkable things I witnessed in the dance floors in Buenos Aires. Individuality and musicality are very tied and it was an amazing sight to witness dancers that had a distinctive, unique and coherent musicality. Don’t get me wrong, anyone can have a very distinct and unique way of moving. All beginners do in fact. But in order for it to make sense and present itself as artful event it needs to be rooted on solid musical grounds and make sense as a whole.
A dancer’s musicality needs to be built and nourished with creative elements upon solid building blocks. It is the life long arduous work of a creative dancer to constantly keep tuning these elements. Some times a re-thinking of some groundwork is in place, to revisit what we learned in our first classes. Other times we strive for refining tiny details that for some reason we believe are deeply important.
All these changes will reflect itself on fundamental approaches to the whole dance. Changes in the groundwork of our musicality building may change a milonga approach radically. We may shift from a more straightforward stepping on most beats to a seemingly less comprehensible way of moving like emphasizing instruments or global mood of the song. Higher level tweaking manifest themselves in how one swings rhythmically just like a jazz musician swings through a melody. As one matures these things keep driving us towards a higher understanding of the dance and music.
Now, how to bring this back to the milonga dance floor? Nothing makes sense except in the light of our connection to our lady. One can go about doing what one wants somehow disregarding our partner. Apparently that is fine for a lot of people but that is another post altogether. So we must adapt, concede and encourage musicality. Throughout our life on the dance floor we will find women that are at different stages of musicality. Reactions will range from pleased (and sometimes impressed!) to downright disconcerted when presented with less fashionable common approaches as far as musicality goes. As one grows as a dancer, it is part of our developing social interaction repertoire to be able to handle and cope with this diversity. It is also very important to remain humble and understand that we are simply exposing someone to our current state of development.
On some glorious days we will find a lady that understands us and appreciates it. A thrilling experience I cannot emphasize enough! These tandas will make all of our efforts and musical growth seem worthwhile and provide stamina for subsequent pursuits in this elusive goal. On most days, we will not. And that’s when we want the lady to follow us to an abyss. Because this involves ignoring their pre-conceived ideas of musicality and take a leap of faith into someone else’s world.
These abyss goers don’t understand it yet but they are performing a much harder task than the more musicality mature ladies. They are shutting off their clinical brains and just dancing. Just dancing. Blissful dancing.
I often say to followers to “walk as if they were a queen” if I feel their forward walk is lacking confidence and energy. That normally works! They walk bolder, with confidence (what I’m going for) and mainly, with their torso instead of over reaching with their legs.
The other day I realized that everyone knows how to walk as if they were queens. Very interesting for a country that never had monarchy 🙂
As I am getting mentally ready for a weekend full of dancing – can’t say I’m physically ready – I’m inclined to share something that has been in my mind for a while now. It’s a bit long for nowadays’ 30 seconds post standard but it just might be worthwhile. It was definitely worthwhile for me to get it off my mind! Let me know what you think.
I’ve recently started to experience a trend with some of my favorite followers. They do the same mickey mouse moves on certain parts of some songs, over and over. Sometimes they do the exact same little spiel every time we dance to the same song.
I believe this is born out dancing repeatedly to the same songs with leaders that end up doing the same thing they see people do in their scene. Unfortunately, they all end up with the same rhythmic interpretation, if not the exact same steps, syncopated in the same exact way. It gets boring.
This poses two problems for a leader 1) he has a hard time getting away with something different, quiçá, more surprising and tasteful 2) he feels he has to do what they’re expecting him to do thus avoiding the ignorant/not being a cool kid vibe.
The first point is more close to my heart as I believe it can really start to stifle creativity. Early on the dancing career it’s ok one thinks – “she can do her spiel as she really enjoys it” – but after a while it becomes annoying. My mind goes something like this: “I’ve done what you’re expecting me to do lots and lots of times before so can we try something different this time? Trust me, we can even enjoy ourselves just listening to it while pausing. You know what, we are going to be the cool kids because we’ll be different than anyone else!”. You’d be surprised as to how hard it can be just to pause sometimes. It is even harder to explore together new rhythmic interpretations.
As to avoiding the feeling of not being a cool kid it only comes with time and a friendlier community. Normally friendly goes alongside with knowledge, let us remind ourselves. The leader will have normally two reactions from the ladies. The condescending “oh, that’s cute” or the “oh, he’s trying something different, let’s check it out, I may actually like it and broaden my interpretation possibilities (followers do interpret the songs too)”. I know the one I like more.
To this date only one teacher has emphasized the idea of exploring the limits of music interpretation. He had us to try not dancing to the beat at all. It’s not straightforward specially if you’re musically inclined, or so I realized. It was obviously an exercise but one that has a lot of benefits and practical applications. Subtle interpretations of the dance can come out of it so try it out. It’s an extreme but you can slowly then start going towards the beat.
Dear Debbi, your post regarding tango etiquette on how you gracefully explained to a young leader the 101 of a milonga etiquette is great. I do, however, digress with you on the reason why people leave Tango for some other dance. There’s just not enough kind persons willing to explain this stuff in the tango scenes of some cities. Yes, the teachers should do this. But so should anyone.
It’s the off putting attitude of people that generally turns people down on activities. Everyone wants to be welcomed to a social group and enlightened with a positive spin.
If you’re a starting leader, don’t fret about your mistakes and mishaps. The kindest followers tend to also be the truly kind persons. The ones concerned about setting everyone right – specially the young and naive – tend to have a big ego and dance more with their own ego during the dance than with you.