Thursday, March 19, 2015

Like Love itself

How am I dancing?  I would like to know.  But it's not like I have a sign like those on the back of tractor-trailers, but instead of saying "How's my driving?",  it's "How's my following?" with a phone number on the bottom so I can get some feedback....

Wait a moment.  Apparently I do have a sign with a phone number - just so that Man Yung can call in to complain. "Irene, you are going too fast.  How about doing that figure with a little more feeling?  I would suggest that you relax your left arm a bit more because you are pulling me off axis when we turn!   Why don't you reconfigure your embrace to something more open like a v-shape so we can have more fun with all the steps I've learned this week from Youtube?"

According to Man Yung, all this advice is extremely helpful for my Tango growth.  Yes, Man Yung is my Tango Guru.  But not in the way he expected.  When he opens his mouth to spew out handy nuggets of "Constructive Tango Criticism", I find myself humming a merry tune and thinking about rainbows and unicorns (instead of listening).  I'm all ears though, when he tells me how it feels for him to dance with Milongueras.

Man Yung's danced with some of the best, if not the best Milongueras in Buenos Aires.   Ladies who walk, talk and breathe Tango, with unbelievable following skills, astounding musicality, incredible footwork.  They dance like nothing on this earth.  Could Man Yung let me in on some of their secrets?

"Yes, Porteña Milongueras do feel different to dance with than even the best followers outside of Buenos Aires!" said Man Yung happily.  "They can follow anything, that goes without saying.  I know, lots of great followers who aren't from Buenos Aires can follow just as or almost as well, but when the Milongueras dance with me, it feels very special." 

Man Yung paused.

A minute passed.  And another minute.

I got impatient.  "Well?  How are they dancing that feels different?"

Man Yung must have forgotten the question.  He wandered off without answering.

I tried to corner him a few days later.

"Hey Man Yung - we were talking about how it feels like for you to dance with Milongueras just the other day.  Can you elaborate a little?  For example, do you remember that lady in blue who smelled like cigarette smoke at Plaza Bohemia who you couldn't stop asking to dance tanda after tanda?"

Man Yung smiled.  "Yes, I remember her."

"How does she dance?"

"She had really great musicality..."

Uh-oh - the dreaded pause.  I better prompt him before he drifted off into a cloud of blissful memories of dancing with Milongueras.

"So, does anyone in Toronto dance like that?  For example __________?"  I named a tanguera in Toronto considered to be extremely good at following.

"No, I wouldn't say that _________________ danced like that," said Man Yung.

"How about ___________________ then?"  This was a friend of ours who went to Buenos Aires very often.

"Oh, ___________________?  Yeah....I guess a little bit."

"How about __________________ and __________________?"  Both happened to be from South America.

"Now you mention it - yes, both _____________________ and _____________________ have a lot of that kind of feeling when then dance."

I went through a list of names and then tried to see what was in common among the ladies who Man Yung said had a bit of the same feeling as the Milongueras when they danced.  It wasn't age.  It wasn't where they were from - although it helped if they understood Spanish and perhaps the lyrics of the Tangos.  It also helped if they went to Buenos Aires to dance often - although there were ladies on the list who had never been to Buenos Aires and were just content to dance in Toronto.

In the end, the analysis was meaningless for someone looking for some answers.  I had to try to ask a different way.

The next time, I tried to ambush Man Yung over a plate of spicy deep fried chicken wings and a tall glass of bourbon on the rocks during dinner at our favourite Chinese Restaurant.

"Man Yung, you know about dancing with the Milongueras.  How could I change my dancing so I could dance more like a Milonguera?"

Man Yung put down his bourbon and gave me a look. "Irene, why are you asking?"

"I think I would dance better if I knew."

"I'll tell you something about Milongueras.  It's true, some of them are really skillful.  In fact, I get the feeling when I am dancing with them that they are thinking, 'Is that the best you can do?  Ha ha.  I can follow anything you throw at me.'  Some of them have reputations to uphold and they don't like to lose.  They can follow everything but they do it so cautiously, so carefully, it is more like we are playing chess than dancing.  And some others, they are only dancing with me to be polite because we know their Milonguero/Milonguera friends."

"What about the Milongueras you have enjoyed dancing with?  Surely not every Milonguera you have danced with have danced with you just to be nice."

"The best Tango dances I have ever had were with ladies who really enjoyed dancing with me.  They weren't thinking about their footwork, they were thinking about following everything I lead 100%, they weren't burdened by their reputations, they didn't care if they made mistakes.  If they had the abilities and depth of Tango feeling like the Milongueras, that's a bonus, but the most important part was their enjoyment of the music - and enjoyment in dancing with me!"

"What about me then?  Do you feel that I enjoy dancing with you?"

Man Yung smirked.  "Sometimes I think you try too hard to follow.  And sometimes - I think you aren't even here.  Like you are thinking of Wal-Mart."

I puffed angrily.  "I will have you know that I am not thinking of Wal-Mart.  Not recently anyway.  What I'm thinking now is whether I should get the Thrunite Archer 1A v.2 flashlight, or the Thrunite Archer 1C v.2 flashlight.  It's a really difficult decision.  The Thrunite Archer 1A takes AA batteries, which are cheap and easy to find, but the light only goes to 180 lumens max.  The Thrunite Archer 1C, on the other hand, goes all the way to 500 lumens and will surely blind any assailant who comes after you - but then, it takes CR123 batteries which are more expensive and not easily found, especially in apocalyptic situations like in The Walking Dead when the whole world has been overtaken by zombies..."

Maybe Man Yung has a point...and I should focus more when I dance on dancing instead of fending off hordes of the undead?

Notwithstanding, I had to ask about The Girl.  I've always wanted to know about her.

"Remember Man Yung, that year when we were at the end of festival party for Camicando in Buenos Aires, and you asked the instructor's girlfriend to dance?  All the men who danced with her were over the moon after dancing with her.  What was so special about her?"

"She was a great dancer.  When she danced it was so sweet, it felt like honey."

"What do you mean, like honey? How does that translate into Tango?"

"It was smooth, but not like gliding.  She was light, but there was weight as well.  Her movement was fluid, but continuous.  Even her pauses were filled with motion.  And she was such a joy to dance with, because she was overjoyed with dancing with everyone."

"What was it that Manolo said again?  Something about love?"

"Ah, yes, I recall what he said.  Manolo said that she danced 'Like Love itself'."


After Man Yung snapped out of his reverie, he offered some more words of wisdom.  "If you listen to my advice about dancing instead of thinking about zombies, maybe one day you can dance like that too!"

I laughed.  "Ha ha - not likely.  I was born with the supernatural ability to tune you out!"  Then I sighed.  "Man Yung wouldn't you be happier having a partner who would be a lot more obedient than me?  Who will actually listen to you - and perhaps even be thrilled at your triple enganche double gancho leg-wrap combos?"

Man Yung patted me reassuringly.  "Don't worry Irene.  Every lady dances differently.  It's a reflection of their character.  You definitely dance like yourself.  It's OK.  Cheers!" *

* Was that a compliment, or a diss?


tangogeoff said...

That's a popular question!
I love your blog!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangogeoff,

It's really too bad we can't dance with ourselves to get a proper assessment. If we asked the people we danced with, we run into trouble because 1) they will lie and flatter you so you will dance with them again, or 2) lie and flatter you so they won't hurt your feelings or 3) lie and say you suck so you will have to take classes with them (if they are instructors) Or 4) you shouldn't be asking them anyway because they don't really know what they are talking about.

It's hard to get an accurate, unbiased opinion you can trust!

And then Man Yung always says, "Why are you asking? Why are you so insecure? Just enjoy your dance!"

(But I still want to know!)

Thanks for your comment!


Unknown said...

Dear Irene,
I enjoyed reading your post about milongueras of BA and Manyung's experiences dancing with them. Unfortunately I do not have the fortune so far to go to BA to witness for myself the beauty of their dancing, but thanks for your blog and many videos online, I began to observe the unique quality of their dancing, I can't say what their embrace is like as I've never danced with them, but just from an observer's point of view (which is very limited), I find there's a few things that are almost seen exclusively in the milongueras, two of which stands out to me the most:
1.clean,precise footwork that subtly but wonderfully express the music, they walk on a single line, like a tight rope, but with much grounding.
2. pivot, pivot, pivot!
this is an interesting observation, as pivoting is universally taught even in tango Nuevo, but the majority of the people really only pivot (by twisting their waist)during front/back ochos. The milongueras pivot literally every second but very subtly to align their feet to the direction of travel before stepping(rather than twisting their ankle), this is especially obvious in Elba Biscay's dancing and some of the old time milongueras.

there are many other wonderful qualities that milongueras have, but they are certainly not easy to spot just by watching them dance, I felt I'm only just beginning to scratch the surface.

Best wishes

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