Sunday, May 5, 2019

Study

Some people like to study with championship tango dancers and watch videos of championship tango dancers dancing tango so some day they may also win a championship.  And if you don't win this time, try, try, try again!

Some people like to study stage tango movements because if they can't get people to pay attention to their low key, boring social dancing, they can kick it up a notch by flinging their partner into outer space (and other people)!  

Does anybody really want to study how to dance well on a crowded dance floor anymore?  Where the best dancers can express the music with the simplest movements while they are shoulder to shoulder with the couples around them?


Maestros Blas Catrenau and Myriam Pincen dancing on a VERY crowded dance floor.  Perfection!

I don't know about others, but I think this is the highest form of Tango expression.  I leave ambitions about winning championships and showing off for other people!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Osvaldo


Osvaldo and Coca performing a beautiful Vals at La Nacional - "Con Tu Mirar"

Today would have been Osvaldo's birthday.  We remember the first time we celebrated Osvaldo's birthday, we were at Confiteria Ideal on the closing night of Martha and Manolo's Camicando festival in 2007.  It was the first time that we were in Buenos Aires, and Osvaldo and Coca were teaching milonga at the festival.  It was a wonderful night - live performances by all the maestros of the festival, live music by Tubatango, and even a group performance by the students.  A night to remember!

Our dear milonguero friends and maestros were full of life, living their tango lives to the fullest with milongas every night, busy teaching schedules and teaching tours lined up for months in advance.  In a blink of an eye, we have lost Alberto, Martha, Osvaldo....and we miss them every day.

Last night we were talking to two veterans of Toronto Tango, both have been dancing Tango for over 20 years.  They had seen and experienced even more of the old maestros than we had, the ones that passed before we even started learning.  How quickly things change in life and in Tango!  A mere five, ten years ago, tangueros and tangueras all around the world wanted to dance with the milongueros and like the milongueros.

Now everyone wants to train and dance with the newest and shiniest cookie cutter competition winning couple, learn the fanciest figures and adornos, and maybe even win a competition themselves.  Milonguero?  What is that?  Those old people danced strange and funky.  They didn't follow competition rules.  We don't want that!

Luckily we have the magic of Youtube to keep examples of the old style milonguero dancing alive and accessible to all - along with hundreds of videos of performances by Osvaldo and Coca.  When Osvaldo was alive, they performed almost every night and everywhere they went.  They were beloved, and they always brought down the house.

Would there be a day when everyone will become tired of Tango turning itself into Ballroom dancing?  Would they re-discover the Milongueros and want to dance in the old way?


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Practicing

As a follower, I hate it when a leader "practices" on me in a social dance (that means "milonga") setting.

Recently, I danced with a relatively new local leader.  He was a eager lesson taker and had improved quite quickly.  He could dance all evening non-stop and he had quite a lot of the "good followers" on his dance card.

He was also quite aggressive (and clever) in befriending Man Yung and I in order to ask me to dance.* Can't really say "no" to a "friend", can you?

* Has someone used this tactic on you?  Do you use this tactic yourself sometimes to get dances with people who aren't cabeceoing you?  This can be a subject of a whole post by itself.

The first couple of times I danced with him it was "ok".  Sometimes it is easier to just go ahead and dance with someone who is a "friend" even though it isn't "great", rather than rejecting them and risk being seen as "unfriendly", not "nice" or maybe even "an asshole".

Unfortunately (or maybe Fortunately) he had just taken a slew of private and group classes with some visiting teachers and he couldn't restrain himself from unleashing his newly acquired steps and adornments on me, even if it meant tripping over his own feet and almost falling on his face. Obviously he didn't know how to do any of those new steps well yet but what a fantastic opportunity to PRACTICE on an experienced follower!

That was wonderful because it turned me completely, utterly, WTF off and I didn't care about being rude or unfriendly the next time he asked me to dance.  I could turn him down guilt-free!

In my opinion, when social dancing, it is inappropriate to practice stuff you don't know well on your partner UNLESS they have consented to it beforehand.  It is also inappropriate to practice in a milonga if it will be disruptive to others on the dance floor.

Ideally, practice on people who are not your regular dance partner (or any practice at all) should only be done in a class, or in a practica where it is understood that people are there to practice.

When I lead I like to err on the side of caution.  When introducing a step (that I actually know I can lead) to a follower, I stop immediately at the slightest sign that either of us are stumbling.  I am not going to try, try, try again until we both get it.*

* Yeah Man Yung, stop heckling me on the sidelines when I am dancing with some of the best milonguera followers in Toronto - I am NOT going to practice NOTHING on them so there!

I don't think being able to lead or making (or forcing) followers do a gazillion trillion steps enhances the dance experience.  Rather, I think there is more merit and enjoyment in being able to connect with a follower on a level that is comfortable for the follower, and being able to express and communicate the music and feeling in Tango simply, WITH LIMITS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO.

To quote W. Somerset Maugham "To write simply is as difficult as to be good."  Applies to writing, applies to dancing too.

I was joking to a woman leader in ballroom/latin dance a few weeks ago about how NONE of the followers I was dancing with wanted me to throw some back sacadas and enganches at them to spice things up.

She laughed and said, "Yeah, me too - I ask my followers whether they wanted me to do a triple axle double salchow and they all said no too!"

So, if you want to practice, find your OWN partner and go torture them with the complete step repertoire of Forever Tango at your leisure.  If you are lucky your partner will be a super adornista and she will have a great time toe tapping and foot flicking all over you too!




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