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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Schizophrenic ducks 

End of June, and end of the tango season as well. For the last but one class, our teacher explained that this time it would not be a "do what I do" thing. He and his partner wouldn't show any sequence. Instead, he asked us to improvise on a given theme: barrida after a sacada.

He let us improvise for a while, then whispered something like "Oh, my God", looked at the ceiling and stopped the music.
"Well, well. Maybe I should have told you what the word improvisation means. What I'm seeing
right now is this: one of the basic, two, and so on to the cross, sacada, end of sacada, resolucion, and now once again one of the basic, go to the cross, barrida, resolucion.
This is not improvisation. I want you to make a barrida one step after the sacada."

Here he demonstrated front and back sacadas on every possible step by the follower (side,
forward, backward) followed immediately by some sacada.
"See? There are countless possibilities, you just have to find a new, improvised one.
You're supposed to be intermediates, you should have developed this ability by now. But you're
just a bunch of schizophrenics; during the class you can reproduce our difficult sequences
with our alterations, combinations, subtleties but when you're on your own right now, or when I see you in the milongas, you're doing nothing but basics and ochos. You come to our class but we're not reaching you, our teaching just glides on you like the rain on a duck's oiled feathers."

Now he asked us to add other specified elements to our improvised sequence: a change to crossed system, then back to normal system, an alteration, a giro, and a boleo. All this without using our beloved ochos and cross.

At the end, each couple demonstrated its sequence. Nobody was able to show something really convincing, but all in all it was not too bad. When the teacher called my name, my partner screamed that she didn't want to go, that she hadn't understood anything of what I had been leading during the class and that she preferred to perform with any other leader. The teacher then picked a random lady to dance with me. Our little performance was pathetic of course, despite all her goodwill.

posted by Pablo  # 3:37 AM (3) comments

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What women want 

A tango e-zine from Gainesville (the U.S.A, Florida) lists all the requirements needed for "tango males" [their words]. It takes them no less than 19 paragraphs, and it's so long that one e-zine is not enough, they had to split it in two issues:


Out of these 19 commandments, one is about technique (and still, not really sharp). It's so short that I can reproduce it here in extenso:
"Dances to the Music: He dances to a particular piece of music being played. He never carelessly does a series of pre-set steps without attention to how they fit with the music. If the tango is fast and rhythmic he doesn’t do large sweeping steps that have nothing to do with the music, because he wants to show off. He always dances on the beat. After pausing, he starts dancing again on the beat."

I find that even this lonely paragraph is questionable. Always dancing on the beat? Never heard of dobble-time, contra-tiempo, syncopation? Never read these words by Gavito:
"I step on the string bass, I lead the woman on the violin; if tango was supposed to be danced on the beat, then one drum would be enough, no need for a full orchestra." But I actually praise and worship this lone technique paragraph, lost in a ocean of womanish requests.
Because all the (very lengthy and detailed) rest is about look, attire, hair, outfit, attitude, perfume. It seems the only thing in the mind of Gainesville women is "If they see me dancing with him, will the other women here be jealous?".

Anyway, if I ever go to Gainesville (very unlikely), my report is already written:

Before coming, I've taken a Cologne shower. Also I've put massive amounts of deodorant on my underarms, and kept my hair stiffly in place by a generous helping of gomina. My fingernails are manucured, to avoid causing any scratch.
Now here I am, sat at my table in the milonga, wearing an ironed white shirt under my dark-blue suit. The cortina comes, it's time to invite a lady. Eye contact, she smiles back, I stand up and walk to her table. "Shall we dance?". I extend my hand, she takes it and stands up. We can hear the first notes of "Desde El Alma", but I don't rush, we're not even in the abrazo yet. I smile to her and say "Vous etes très en beauté ce soir!". She can't speak any french, but she guesses it must be a compliment and blushes slightly.
Finally I take her in my arms. Here there is a short playful episode, some nice handwork between the two of us to find the most comfortable -for her- position of her right hand into my left hand. Each lady has her own favourite hand position, I know I have to adjust. Now the abrazo is settled. A smooth, close abrazo, as it seems it is what she prefers. I can feel her breathing, and as time goes by, we end up breathing "à l'unisson". My back is exposed to the flow of dancers, like a wall that protects my partner against bumps caused by other people.
And indeed bumps there are, because other people are moving and I'm not. I don't know a single step. I saw "Shall we dance?" but even the simplest moves shown by Richard Gere proved too challenging for me. So, I'm staying where I am, very confidently. I feel I'm conveying this confidence to my partner. I'm not here to impress her with my steps. And obviously she feels secure. This time she won't be endangered by some advanced step. Everything is crystal-clear, she doesn't need to guess what the next step will be: there won't be a next step. We keep silent, I don't want to disturb her dance. From the outside we're looking like an oil painting, but actually we're sharing an unforgettable inner dance.
Three minutes later the song ends and the other couples freeze in a dramatic pause. So do we. By the way, we have already been freezing for three minutes. Like the true gentleman I am, I escort the lady back to her table. Quite easy, because her table, of course, is just there. Here I feel that a final compliment would be appropriate: "It has been a privilege to be leading you". She thanks me with a grateful smile: "You're the best leader I've ever danced with!

posted by Pablo  # 2:35 AM (1) comments


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