Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Too many fish in the sea

Hopefully. Because after one year or so of tango classes (not one year of tango, as this would mean going to milongas, and to praticas, and buying CDs, and buying black clothes, and drinking mate yerba, and eating empanadas...), not only don't I have found a regular partner, but I still have to find an ideal follower. My town is reasonably full of various tangueras, yet none of them seems to qualify:

M. is too old (per se, I don't mind, but this means she has poor balance and moves slowly), is heavy, dosn't pay attention to the lead, and talks a lot of what I could have led.

N. is a girl whom I used to love. Indeed it's to please her that I took up the tango. But as she's loving another boy, she doesn't want to encourage me and so keeps a very large distance between us when we dance, so there is never any connection and it's more like some
sort of tango exercise. And, I have to face it, she's a bit too small.

C. is fat and heavy, and makes herself even heavier by dancing in milonguero style. But it sometimes happens that she's the only one woman whom I know in a milonga, so it's either inviting her or
not dancing at all.

A. was great. A beginner, but as she come from the salsa world, she had balance, rythm, and wasn't afraid of funny patterns such as leans or barridas. Also, though not really pretty, she was young and thin. Maybe a little bit too tall, but had she become a regular partner of mine I certainly wouldn't have sought for a better girl to dance with. She moved because of her studies, and I don't think we'll ever happen to share a tanda.

B. didn't move, and we actually dance a tanda or two every time we meet. But we're not studying with the same teachers, so she has no idea of what I'm leading and so makes the sequence she just learned (the blame is on me, of course; a good leader would not
have this problem). Also, she's too heavy and tall. And as a heavy and tall person, she moves too slowly.

S. and V. are professional dancers. I hired them for a while (private classes and private practicas), until I realized that as they were stage dancers (and, more over, tango was only their "minor", their "major" being ballroom), I wasn't improving at all my tango by dancing with them. Somehow, I was even going in the wrong direction.

M. is even greater than A. was. Pretty, clever, patient, with a good balance, moving quickly and with grace. And we were taking classes with the same teacher. So what went wrong? I did.
Her tango improved way quicker than mine, and soon she was able to follow the best tangueros in town. So she just never dances with me any more, as this would remind her of the old days, of the beginner she was, and isn't any more, and that I still am.

F. is a very nice person, supportive, kind, whatever. But she's almost 80, and I'm always afraid of breaking something when we dance. So, while I always invite her with great pleasure wherever we meet,
she is certainly not my ideal partner.

L. is in the same category (delicate, not so young lady), but, unlike F., she thinks that she is a good dancer. But she is not. For a while I thought she was, and that it was only my fault if our dances weren't nice and smooth, until an argentine teacher whispered in my ear that he just hated dancing with her, as during her many years of practice she had mainly acquired bad habits. So, at the beginning I didn't dare to invite her because I thought she was too good for me, and now I refrain because I think she's too bad...

A-M. A very good dancer, who asks me to invite her every time we meet. I usually agree for one tanda, but not more, because I feel that her interest for me has nothing to do with my tango skills.
I even tend to be distant with her, and to decline all her proposals for workshops and festivals. In this I'm not fair, because there have been times, months ago, when I did ask her for attending classes or workshops, and she always agreed.

D. is a kung-fu adept, and her tangos look a bit like fights. I didn't know it when we first met, when I replied to her partner-seeking ad. But I don't mind at all, kung-fu practise gave her balance and speed. What I mind is her weight. Despite being smaller than me, she's much heavier. So I don't really feel that I'm leading. I'm merely suggesting moves, and she chooses to follow or not. She would like to keep me as a practise partner, but obviously we don't match,
she needs a real (i.e. 200 pounds) man, not a sissy like me.

T. is my newest partner. Only five months of tango, and mainly practise, almost no classes. Young, thin, a bit too tall, not knowing much but aspiring to improve quickly, she might be an acceptable practise partner. One big pro of hers is that she's not pretty (she's from Russia, and has their typical caterpillar-driver face), so I'm not attracted to her, and when we dance tango we're just interested by the technical thing, we're not trying to share a moment, or find a connection.

To sum up, and adding a few other followers with whom I tried to practise: out of about 25 followers,

7 are too heavy
11 are too tall
3 are too small
9 have a style (milonguero, or stage) uncompatible with mine
5 are too old
9 gave up the tango
3 want more from me than just tango
7 don't have the potential to become good intermediate followers.

Of course, this can be put the other way: I'm too small for almost half of the tanguras community, 66% of them will say I'm too weak or have a bad style, and so on.

Still fishing...

posted by Pablo  # 4:26 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

183 sequences

A commun friend introduced me to an argentine woman who was enjoying a few week stay in our beautiful town. The conversation quickly switched to tango, of course, and she taught me that if argentine tango was from Argentina (no big news...), not the whole Argentina was dancing tango. Tango, she said, can be found mainly in Buenos Aires; in the other parts of the country they have their own dances. And even in Buenos Aires, the twelve thousand people dancing tango are a very small minority in comparison with the twelve
millions of inhabitants.

I invited her (did I forget to mention it? All this occurred in a milonga) and I noticed she had a vast experience, because she managed, by pivoting me a little from time to time, or stopping me (always very smoothly) to always keep us in the LOD, and always at an ideal distance of the other couples. After a whole tanda danced exclusively with my little vocabulary (ochos and...that's all), I apologized
for being so limited, and she pretented it had been ok.

Then she told me the story of this Buenos-Aires tanguero who proudly
proclaims that he knows 183 sequences. No less. Yet, all women run away when he enters a milonga and they try to avoid dancing with him. Because, once he has invited a tanguera, he indeed proceeds to execute his 183 patterns, always in the same order, whatever the orchestra plays, without caring too much for the music, the follower or the other people on the dance floor.

So much for the myth that pretends that the argentine leaders are just wonderful to dance with...or maybe it's a kind of fairy tale told to beginners like me, to encourage them.

posted by Pablo  # 1:59 AM (1) comments

Monday, May 10, 2004

Not your style.

The lady wanted to sign for the next summer tango festival in Paris, with the greatest teachers you can possibly dream of (Chicho, Fabian and Sebastian) when it's all about tango nuevo . She had been dancing for more than 6 years, which qualified her for the highest level of classes ("three years or more of practise, very advanced").

Sure, the program for this level is great: mutual ganchos, double-time & syncopation, colgadas, musicality (Well, indeed it doesn't sound that great; but imagine what class it can be when Chicho works on syncopation with a very advanced audience...). Yet, the levels listed by the organizers are a bit confusing: level 0 is for people with less than one year of experience, level 1 is for people with less than two years of experience, levels 2 and three idem. But levels 4 and 5 have
the same required years than level 3! The difference is left to the student's judgement: is he "experienced and very skilled", "experienced and skilled", or just "experienced"?

The lady asked the organizers what they were meaning with these weird upper levels, and the answer was "Come and take a class, we'll evaluate your level". So she took an intermediate/advanced class, and the teacher, one of the festival super-stars, looked at her from time to time to see how well she was doing the daily step (follower's back saccada). At the end of the class she felt happy with herself, and went to the organizer's desk to sign.
"- It was all right, I had no particular problem whatsoever, level 5 will suit me perfectly. What did the teacher say ?
- He said level 2. It's not your style of tango."

Level 2 is "less than three years of experience". Poor lady, she failed the exam. She hadn't one chance of being successful, because I happened to be her leader for this class, and being a beginner I led
her badly (not on purpose of course; at the time I knew nothing of this "exam", she was just another partner for me), and badly led she danced badly. What was I doing in an "intermediate/advanced" class ? Well, I had just finished my beginner's class as I was leaving the organizers asked me to stay because there was a shortage of men.

I too will make this festival. I signed for level 1 classes, and
had no exam to pass beforehand. It's the great thing when you say that you're a beginner: people take your word for granted.

posted by Pablo  # 5:44 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Name my fault

(The title refers of course to this poor guy, imprisoned in Guantanamo by U.S. army men, without any reason, and who repeatedly asked them this simple question. He's just been released, after two years in this american's waiting room of the Hell)

The lady sat in the last free chair of the milonga, which happened to be next to mine. So we talked a bit while she was changing shoes, and we agreed that I would invite her when the next tanda would begin.

The next tanda came, and at the same time also came a gentleman, who invited the lady. She began to explain she had already been invited by me, and I answered to the gentleman that there was no problem, they could dance together. What they did.

My idea was that this man was surely a better dancer than me (he was), and so the lady would have a nicer dance with him. Also, he had walked through the whole floor to make his invitation, while I, on the other hand, hadn't had to make any effort or take any risk. So my merits were in any respect lower than his.

Yet, when the lady came back, she bitterly complained, and told me that I had offended her, by allowing the gentleman to invite her. Women are known to have an intricate way of thinking, but I'm still puzzled. Possibly she felt offended because I sort of publicly showed that I didn't care dancing with her, and so hurted her self-esteem.

Well, I'm used to getting few dances at milongas. Often zero dances. My expectations are low, losing a dance is nothing for me

posted by Pablo  # 5:08 AM (0) comments


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