Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to drive your man insane

First she drives the men insane with her writhing sexy snake dancing... 

I apologize for the misleading title.  I don't actually have any good advice.  Nope.  Not a clue.

"What do you mean, Irene?" said Man Yung.  "Of course you know perfectly well how to drive me insane.  Like the time you put my favourite sweater in the dryer and shrunk it five sizes.  I also go crazy when you finish washing the dishes but leave all the gunk from the dishes in the sink for me to clean up.  In fact, all the half-assed stuff you do takes me one step closer to the looney bin!  Irene, you are very good at driving me mad!"

That's not quite what I mean.

What I'm getting at is how some tangueras have this magical ability to make even normally docile, ronda-abiding tangueros dance like maniacs with no sense of personal space.  How do they do it?

Just saw some of this in action this past weekend.  The respectable tango professional was usually well-behaved on the dance floor with his lovely partner and with other local tangueras.  You can even say he was the perfect model of tango decorum.

However, this totally changed when he started dancing with some young chica in the daisy dukes from ___________.

It was like a tornado had touched down and was tearing up all the floorboards.

"Wow, how come they are suddenly taking so much space?" said Man Yung.  "It reminds me of something that Tango Commuter once described - 'great centrifugal force...dozens of pointed heels...teeth of a circular saw'?"

The other dancers on the floor instinctively kept their distance from them.  She had driven him insane.

We scratched our collective heads and pondered.

Is it because she is a better dancer?

"That can't be - she isn't better than his partner.  His partner is a professional, you know!" I said.

Is it because she is triggering his berserkery with secret signals?

"No, I don't see any cheesy back-of-the-head caressing or earlobe rubbing.  And it can't be heavy breathing on her part either - their embrace has become too open for any funny business like that.  They are dancing so far apart, it's like they can't even contain the force of their ecstatic spinning with their puny human limbs!"

So, I don't get it.  What is it that some tangueras have, that other tangueras don't?  How can a tanguera turn her partner into a complete dance hazard when others have failed so miserably?

Man Yung, as always, was supportive.  "Irene, I can't move!  I'm only trying to lead you into a triple vertical boleo flying hook kick so you can put a stiletto into his face and stop them from rushing into us.  Stop hanging on to me like a dead weight - you are just trying to stop me!  You are driving me nuts!"

See, I told you!  She turned into a vampire!
(Do you think we could vanquish her by staking her in the heart with my Comme Il Fauts?)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How do you explain Tango?

I was having a hard time explaining what Tango was to a non-dancer friend of mine.

"I know what you are thinking - and it's definitely not that!  No no - don't get it wrong, it's not the ballroom thing with the costumes and stuff.  And please don't go imagining me in a red dress with sequins and a fringe!  And forget about the chomping on rose stems as well!  That's not the Tango we are dancing!"

And yet, I knew that talking about "musicality" and "embrace" and "soul" etc. wouldn't help too much either.  "Look, it's just really difficult to describe it.  I can go on and on but I know visually, you are not going to get a good picture of what it is unless I actually show it to you."

And even then with all the assistance that Youtube has to offer, I'm not entirely confident that I'm going to succeed getting what it is that I want across.  That's because even now, I'm not sure what Tango is.  I only know the more I dance it, the more I know what it's not.

We knew within the first month of starting Tango that it isn't the costumes and the dramatic facial expressions.

Within the first year, we knew that Tango wasn't fast feet, high kicks and acrobatics either.  Or poses.

We learned a little later that Tango was not only for the young.  The old had more to do with Tango, and it amazed us.

Is Tango the music?  It seems that definition has become almost too superficial for something so profound.

Ditto the embrace.  We found that after a while, we forget that we are embracing.

Is it passion?  Is it love?  Is it a feeling that is danced?

Is it life?

We only know that words are inadequate.

First you see the mountains and water as mountains and water.

Then the mountains and water aren't mountains and water.

In the end the mountains and water are what they are - mountains and water.

How do you explain Tango?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tango for the Lazy

Sometimes I've got to do something, but I just don't want to try.

For example, yesterday, I needed to take a shower after walking in the park in the afternoon.  There were clothes hanging on the shower curtain rod.  They were dry already and it wasn't like someone was asking me to iron and fold them and put them away.  Anywhoo, I couldn't even be bothered to take the clothes down.  I just jumped into the tub, turned on the faucet and splashed water all over.  I didn't want to get the clothes wet by turning on the shower - so I just crouched down into fetal position and put my head under the running faucet.

Later, I had to make dinner - noodles with minced pork and bean sauce, also known as "Zhajiangmian".  The recipe called for diced scallions and garlic.  All that dicing takes effort.  So I skipped all that and just stir-fried the (already minced) pork belly with bean sauce.  I dumped that over the noodles.  By the way, the noodles were cold since they were rinsed with cold water to get rid of excess starch after cooking. I didn't trouble myself to immerse the noodles in boiling water again because I figured, the sauce would be maybe hot enough to heat them up, perhaps a little bit?

At night, it was chilly but earlier on Man Yung had folded my blanket and put it on top of the dresser.  It would be too much of a strain to get it down again.  So I put on extra pajamas and went to sleep sans blanket. 

"What the hell, Irene?" said Man Yung.  "You leave a trail of half-assedness wherever you go - and I have to pick up after you!"

All I can say is - Thank you very much Man Yung!  I am very lucky to have someone like you!

In Tango, you have these professionals who treat every performance with complete determination and discipline.  Adrenaline-pumping, jaw-clenching, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION dancing.

As a result, they deliver the Tango performance equivalent of being shot out of a cannon with dynamite strapped to their bodies through a flaming hoop across the Grand Canyon while blazing fireworks are bursting in the air around them.  Like the Totis.  When we watch the Totis (otherwise known as Virginia Gomez and Christian Marquez) dance, you are afraid that the force of their movement will cause all their limbs to fly off.  Of course that won't happen, because they are superhuman when it comes to Tango.  We happened to catch their show when we were at Milonga del Moran last October:

And Sexteto Milonguero are no slouch, either

They are so fast and strong and precise and perfectly coordinated with the steps and the music, you can't help but applaud.  Some other names in Tango who are just as crazy astounding include (just off the top of my head) dancers like Milena Plebs, Gabriel Missé, Geraldine and Ezequiel Paludi, and most of the Tango Escenario competitors who make it to the finals of the worlds.  And why shouldn't they impress?    They spend 18 hours a day training and rehearsing.  They eat, drink, breathe Tango, and still think about steps and choreography while asleep.  

Conversely, there's the tribe of the half-assed.  The ones who don't, or can't go to the superhuman extreme exhibited by the aforementioned.  

Some entertain by donning funny costumes (actually, the clothes don't have to be funny - sometimes it could be a "Tango Costume", whatever that means) and exaggerated "Tango!" facial expressions.  Some perform to weird music that has nothing to do with Tango.  Some "Invent" interesting Tango Hybrids.  Some completely fail to inspire with their dancing and so make it up with impressive Tango resumés, claims of "Tango Authenticity", or hypnotize with bullshit new age semi-mystical talk

"What's wrong with that? All contemporary Tango is kind of like this now!" you may say - and we reply, "Okey dokey, to each his own. EXCEPT since Irene took a half-assed shower, she had to use up more time to take another shower later.  Her lukewarm noodles gave her a stomachache.  And she would have come down with a cold if Man Yung didn't cover her with a blanket just in time!"

Fortunately, for those who are effort-challenged or just plain lazy like Irene, there are other ways to do well in Tango.

Dancing Tango with 100% lack of ambition.  Then you don't really care about how well or how badly you dance, or who's looking at you, or how many students you will attract, or how many organizers will invite you to perform etc.

Alternatively: Dancing Tango with 100% honesty.  What you see is what you get.  And if you are just plain not very good, just admit it and don't try to hoodwink anyone or try to pass on your faulty Tango legacy to the ignorant.   Then you are not contributing to Tango Ignorance or Tango Foolery, and no one will mind.

Another one: Dancing with 100% musicality.  No thrills?  No tricks? The same steps over and over again?  Nothing interesting since the beginning of Tango time? No problem, social Tango is not a competition - just enjoy! 

Yet another one: Dancing with 100% love.  Your darling loves you no matter how awkward you look and feel while dancing.  Love means you never having to say you're sorry.

And finally: Dancing with 100% inner peace.  You are ready to achieve Nirvana - does Tango even matter? 

Any, a combination or all of the above will make you ok in Tango even if you can't dance like the Totis.  You can save your energy and time for things like taking a nap, watching the clouds or just bumming around.  Just don't bother other dancers with tailgating or aggressive dancing and you will be just fine!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What is the Optimal Space for Tango?

In Tango, there is such a thing as too much space...


You would think that having a whole dance hall to ourselves, we would enjoy our tango more. 

Strangely enough, spaciousness makes us bicker.

"Why are you dancing so oddly?" Man Yung would ask.  "I think high ceilings and big rooms must make you feel nervous - maybe exposed and naked?"

"Nothing of the sort," I replied.  "Your dancing annoys me when there's lots of room to move.  You expand your You-tubey whirling and kicking just because you can, and it's a pain in the ass to follow!"


"Hey Man Yung - what if you throw a few more people into the room?"

"That's not so good either - we might behave ourselves more because there are other couples around, but this is Toronto Tango and you are bound to get one or two maniacs who light up at the prospect of there being space.  The next thing you know they are charging up and down the dance floor re-enacting their own amateur, furious-footed version of 'Forever Tango'" like the other people sharing the floor don't exist."


"How about light to medium density?  Around, say three to five couples per 100 square feet?"

"Only the very crazy will try to do their death-defying "Show" in these conditions.  That's good in a way, but then the over-confident and slightly deluded will still think they have enough space to execute unexpected boleos, volcadas/colgadas, ganchos, enganches and shin-stabbing 'gems'.  And oh, watch out for the big steppers - dancers who have been taught that the right way to dance socially is to do great big stiff-backed stiff-legged ostrich/giraffe-like walking and giros.  They'd be able to dance under these conditions and they will turn the dance floor into their own special kind of bumper-car hell because they can't help but take these nice, long, elegant strides right into ya instep."


"What do you think about Buenos Aires crowded?"

"You will need lots of patience.  It may take about a tanda to go all the way around the floor because you are really inching along under these conditions, but being able to dance in this kind of crowd can be rewarding.  Hopefully, all the big-stepping, high kicking dancers would have sat down and given up because any undisciplined movement will cause a major collision, and getting the evil eye every second you are on the dance floor is no fun."

"They'd have to wait until the end of the evening to dance then!"

"That's right.  If you have the skill to dance a really crowded dance floor, you can't try to do too much - just small steps, and tight turns on the spot.  This means that you can't think about anything - no figures, no combinations!  You have to react and go with the flow of the music and the movement of the people around you.  It's easier to be present, to really feel what it's like to dance Tango - and under the best conditions, you are dancing collectively with everyone in the room to the same compas. Some of most spiritual experiences in Tango I've had were under these circumstances.  Awesome stuff."


"What do you think of 'Major Tango Festival Crowded' then?

"This is not a matter of density, but of attitude!  You get a congregation of all types from all over.  Some dancers may be well-behaved but you are definitely going to get some who can't wait to show off at the expense of dancefloor safety.  Didn't they pay good money to attend the festival? and by golly they aren't going to restrain themselves from showing the world what great dancers they are and what they have (just) learned from the workshops!  I don't think it's easy for a festival organizer to encourage good floorcraft or to tell irresponsible dancers to tone it down - an event of any magnitude is expensive and if you are planning for next year you don't want to lose any customers by telling them off.  The downside is that if the organizers don't enforce good floorcraft, it's going to be a free-for-all on the dance floor. Have your first-aid kit and neosporin handy!"

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