Jun 08

Slow but confident ?

I’ve always been into subtleties and surprises. It is if of no surprise then that I normally enjoy more dancing with followers that enjoy the pauses and musically driven movements in our share of tile. I take great pleasure in finding how honest and real the connection is, how much both of us are in sync. I’m a fan of less is more. Lately, I’ve been finding that I must lack the ability to transmit confidence and serenity to my followers. They often ask me what they should have done or they should do while I am pausing. Some have even confessed that sometimes they feel awkward because they’re afraid of not being able to follow what I am trying to lead. In reality, I’m just pausing for a bit.

That has got me thinking for a while. Either I am not dancing with followers that enjoy some pausing or slower movements – which are notoriously harder because they actually require both dancers to have good balance and grounding – or I am lacking the skills to convey confidence and the feeling of just enjoying the pause or slower movement. I believe it’s more of the latter and I have been trying to find how I can improve it. A lot of it is a mental mindset. Some friends tell me I can lead them much better after the Denver festival, noticing an improved sense of confidence and certainty in the movements. That, though, is not enough to convey calm and serenity in slower movements and pauses. I know practice will help but does anyone have insights on this?

Here’s a video of two dancers I admire. A while ago I took a milonga workshop with them. Clearly above what I danced then, it was nevertheless useful. They are dancing an exquisitely slow dance that looks (to me) beautiful. Enjoy it!

May 08

"You're musical"

When followers compliment me, usually it’s my musicality. I play and hear a lot of music so I thought that would be normal. However, honestly, I always thought that was a way to say something positive since my technique clearly is lacking in most areas. I believe in respecting everyone’s feelings and in a social setting like a milonga, I don’t care about mistakes or not doing it perfectly. I care about having a great moment while dancing with a person.

But, “musical” is good and I proud myself of that. And honestly, you don’t need crazy technique to have a wonderful dance. You just need two persons opening their heart for some musics or a whole tanda. I decided to tell this story because while reading this post by sallycat I remembered how important it is to dance with your heart open. And that’s what I learned at my last milonga.

A follower I know went to dance with a leader she considers amazing – he looks amazing to me too – and the person sitting next to him was a follower I had never danced with. I decided, why not? She looks friendly and I should capitalize whenever I feel like dancing with a new person. She seemed very humble and happy to dance a bit more before the milonga was over. I didn’t feel any of the “so, are you that good to invite me?” vibe or the more usual “ok, let’s dance, I’d rather dance than just be sitting I guess…” vibe.

At the beginning of the dance I told her that I was a beginner. I know I shouldn’t have: it’s too much information. But I immediately felt we had an open channel of truth and she just smiled at me. I danced very slowly, very simple and just trying to get to know her, how she moves and how we were connecting. We only moved around half the room. Simple, slow movements, with the music. On the second music I felt we were connected and in sync right from the start and I danced with my heart. I moved like I felt like and only did things that my body knows by now how to do them on its own. Things I’ve practiced enough times to be confident enough to play with their timing. Simple things of course, I’m a beginner.

It was clear to me that she was enjoying the simple moves, the slow turns, the pauses. At a point in the music, we stayed together for about 10 to 20 seconds, just feeling the music, the pause in movement, the moment that made that dance magic and unique. We moved a quarter of the room. When the music ended she said “You’re not a beginner“. I smiled back.

Apr 08

Boppers and beginners!

Alex coined a great term: boppers. My golden-standard to check if the follower “bops” a lot is to do some corridas. It’s one of the best feelings to feel both of us glide instead of trying to manage her boppiness… I call them bouncies.

At any rate, Alex’s post inspired me to write about why I love dancing with beginners. Why? First and foremost because I still consider myself a beginner and I make a point of reminding that to every person I dance, specially if they start going on about how good I am. I always tell them that they still need to dance with great dancers to have an honest opinion. That said, there’s much more as to why I really like dancing with beginners.

Clean Slate. Yes, they don’t tend to have vices, obnoxious unlead quirks, etc. I try as much as possible to make we feel as equal instead of me giving them a lesson or helping them out of pity. Sometimes it is a bit impossible if they’ve only had very classes/dances. But in general, in practicas I ask if they want to work on something specifically and then ask if we can work on something I want to work on. Not only I try to level our dance relationship but I also try to get somewhere together. It helps the community feeling of learning tango and makes us more accessible to each other in the future to try/practice something out. It’s also a great way to meet peers and since I’m shy with people I don’t know, the more the merrier.

No attitude. Very rarely I’ve seen beginners with an attitude problem. But they exist. It’s all good, I don’t dance with them. Recently I was taking a beginners class and a woman there apparently had something against me. I had never spoken to her neither did any harm to her. But she had a problem with me. I won’t be dancing with her since I am very sensitive to all kind of less positive feelings coming towards me and I dance to enjoy the music and its positive vibe. The moment I stop enjoying it, I’ll do something else. Life’s too short to waste it on unhappiness.

Pushes my technique forward. They’re beginners so when I try stuff I’m not very good/proficient at, I really have to do my best to lead it really well. Chances are they don’t know what I’m trying to lead and neither they’ve done it enough times before to have muscle memory for it. This helps me become much more clear in my lead and take into account the follower, their shortcomings and own pace. It’s a humbling experience that I recommend to everyone.

Helps me become a better tango citizen. The more beginners I help out to become better dancers, the better I get at it. The more I realize what works in helping out someone become better follower/leader, the more insightful comments I can give to anyone in the future. This will be better for the community as a whole.

Future dance partners. Obviously, if they practice a lot with me, they will realize what I feel is really important to me in a follower. It’s a selfish driver but it is more unconscious than otherwise. I am fully aware that other leaders will enjoy different things in a follower but I don’t force any ideas.

There’s more but this is enough for now 🙂

Apr 08

The embrace reciprocity

Johanna writes about why women can’t sometimes understand why other women get all the dances.

I must say I can relate to this (imaginary?) point. If you really dance tango because of the music and are deeply connected to the music, you want someone that also has that passion. I couldn’t care less if she can dance upside down or has impecable technique (just needs to have balance of course…). If the embrace is musically sterile the whole thing is pointless. Besides, great dancers tend to have this big ego and that just screws up people’s minds.

Lately I’ve been growing a bit annoyed of women that dance with a guy as if it was just a dance. It isn’t just a dance. At least for anyone serious about it. It has to be an experience, a moment unique in time and space. Just sit if you don’t feel like dancing in the deepest sense of the word. This isn’t a practica. As someone commented on Johanna’s post, you can have a feeling of what lies ahead the moment you embrace a woman.

With a great dancer you want to dance forever simple moves, slowly, melodically and eager to see how she interprets it. How her smile (that you can’t really see) will get right back at you as a tsunami of confidence. With the plain vanilla technique obsessed dancer you normally try hard to convey feeling and you get back a sad face because you didn’t do/try the latest and greatest trick of a recent workshop. The dance will feel like a workout instead of a blissful magic moment shared by two human beings.

Let go of technicalities and spend 3 times more time listening to music and feeling, interpreting and dancing it in your mind than practicing the latest technical challenge. In the grand overview of it all, any man will rather dance with you than anyone else. The more experienced I get, the more I see how enjoyable it can be to dance with a very beginner follower that is into the music…

Unless he’s not there for the music experience. I am sorry for you then.