Not so clear

2008, July 24

With male teachers it’s usually all very clear. They show and explain something, I understand perfectly well and I can’t do it. It can be Nito Garcia showing a 720° enrosque, or Gabriel Angio a 1080° pivot, or Chicho leading a back lifted piernazo just by shifting his weight from his heels to his toes.

Now with female teachers. From time to time when I ask something the answer only brings more confusion.
For instance:

Question: How do I lead this part of the sequence?
“Like a volcada but without the out-of-axis”. (Corina de la R.)

Question: What is the title of this song?
“Go ask Mario [Consiglieri]. He will like it. He will feel he’s important.” (Cecilia de M.)

Question: Why do Nito and Elba always go to Gricel?
“There used to be a milonga named Almagro, where all the best dancers and teachers were going, and where no one was trying to impress the audience with fancy moves.” (Cecilia de M.)

Question: In this sequence I take a backward step, are you sure I won’t bump into another couple?
“L’uomo controlla lo spazio intorno alla coppia, ma non ha occhi dietro la testa se non quelli di lei, quindi occhi aperti entrambi e si evitano incidenti.” (Alejandra H.)
[We were in Spain, and the class was in english. Why in italian then?]

Of course, they can be very clear, when they want:

My taxi-dancer, calling the teacher:
“The guy wants you to check his lead. Kill him kill him kill him!” [The last part was in spanish.]

Another pupil who attends the same weekly class:
“Yes there are good leaders here, but you on the other hand, you have a distinctive style.”

An ex partner of mine, about a festival that we both attended.
“I guessed which classes you would choose, and signed for different ones.”


long long legs

2008, July 8

“Of course everybody has physical limitations and you can’t go beyond them”, the teacher explained during today’s private.

“I once saw in a video a nice leg wrap, all around the leader’s waist, I tried again and again to emulate it with my partner for a show, and got upset because I could not make it, until someone told me that this woman’s legs are 70 inches long. Mines are only 39 inches long, end of the story.”

I’d like to see this video too, because up to now the woman with whom I’ve danced and who had the longest legs is probably Lorena Ermocida and within 70 inches you have the whole Lorena, not only her legs.


…but sometimes he gets some help.
So here I was last month, walking and walking along the edge of a dance-floor during the first exercize of a series of workshops given by local teachers and with a local partner, pretty, half my age (and she wants to become a model). Sounds fine, except I was not local at all, I had come especially in this sea-shore resort for the tango workshop, and everything was unfamiliar.

Soon the female teacher came to me.

-) You’re using the V-shape abrazo, aren’t you?  [Later she made a loud announcement, girls, see this guy, he’s learned another abrazo, correct him if you lose the chest contact.]

-) Yep

-) Ok. Here we’re using the true, authentic, BsAs abrazo with chest contact. It gives a better connection, the lady feels everything you do. Your abrazo is valid too, but try ours, take it as an exercize.

-) Yep.

I said Yep but I thought “Ok these people don’t know that their abrazo is in fact the antithesis of a connection, nailing the lady by the tits to my chest is just denying all her abilities to follow me. And more important, now that I have to use their abrazo I have lost any peripheral vision of my partner’s charming little feet, and she’s not used to me, we’re not sync yet, she has not decided whether she follows the beat or she follows me. I certainly don’t want to step on her toes, let’s be extra careful.”

Then the male teacher came to me.

-) you learned the walk with the projection-of-the-leg, toe-first, right?

-) Yep

-) Stop it and land directly with all your weight, heel first. don’t do this preparatory move of the feet without the weight.

-) Yep

I said Yep but I thought “Hopefully they will end this exercize soon because now my follower’s feet are in serious trouble. I can feel her weight but I have no way to know where her free foot is, if she collects a bit too late then I may land with my heel and all my weight.”

Then the female teacher came again, but talked to my little sweet partner.

-) You’re collecting too quickly. Forget it, just think about the leg which is stepping. It’s not fluid if you hurry to collect.

-) Understood.

I thought “Nothing can save her now.”

The impact took place 30 seconds later.




Telling me something

2008, April 23

Just received that from dancepartner #1
… and for tomorrow Tuesday 22th sorry but again I won’t attend I have an “otro compriso”…kisses.

This can happen. Same goes for her ankle injury after X-mas, and her mother visiting her, and her trip in Italy, and other things she did that happened to take place on Tuesdays, the day when we have our weekly class. Or is she trying to tell me something?

Also, Dancepartner substitute #1, the former ballet dancer, cancelled our partnership after a mere two months because of a change in her work schedule. Fine with that, except last week I saw her at the class, with another leader. Did her schedule change again, or was she trying to tell me something?

And sooner this month I got that message from dancepartner #2 after I asked her for a workshop given by a touring Maestro from BsAs:
Sorry I’m leaving on 17th to give a lecture, back on 20th. Available tonight though, in case your Tuesday partner is off. ~M
Surely it was coincidental if she was gone precisely from 17th to 20th, when the 17th was our regular Thursday class and 20th was the workshop.
Yet when I replied that my Tuesday partner was actually off, I got this second mail:
“I can’t. See you Thursday 24th”
Trying to tell me something?

Now for dancepartner #3, the Wednesday one.
Howya? Fine, hopefully. Here? Just crazy work-aholic, left the office at 21:30, home at 22:00, I fear it will be just the same today, can’t stand it. Would you mind skipping our class?. I pray it will better next week, I’ll let you know.

Well there can be overloads when you work in a bank. And sure, when she took all these Italian language classes in January-February/March, the only available day was Wednesday, I remember how sorry she was about that. Certainly not trying to tell me something. Or was she?

Possibly I got a clue last Saturday. Entering a milonga I saw a group of classmates and took a seat at their table. They all stood up when the tanda started and I remained with a blond pupil. For one minute we watched them dancing.
“They’re getting good”, I said.
“You know”, she answered, “We’re all becoming better and better. You’re really the only one whose tango remains unchanged throughout the years. Exactly the same. Classes just don’t have any effect on you.”

They will all scream

2008, April 14

The teacher in BsAs had warned me.

I am a professional, not everybody can do that, careful when you lead this, and to whom. You can do damage.

Of course I remembered this piece of advice last week when at the practise. But hey, practises are made to… practise after all. And the girl in my arms was not one of my regular partners, and her partner was not there and I’m bigger than him anyway.

Let’s go for the lifted back piernazo, I thought. I grabbed the thigh, lifted…

She screamed.

I dropped everything. Now they were all looking at us. The girl turned to me. Did I break some muscle or tendon or ligament? Did I make it to her blacklist? She was searching her words.

“It was… most pleasing.”
Are you ok, I asked.
“Sure. Feel free to lead that anytime you like.”
Hmm, maybe not to anybody.
“Well, they will all scream, of course.”

Not sure what to do with this step.

Only two things at a time

2008, February 20

I used to think I could focus on three items while dancing:

Where is my partner?

Where to move now?

Am I on the beat/music/melody?

The Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo by Pablo Inza and Co helped me to realize that I lose either the partner or the beat or the sequence, switching from one to the other after a few seconds.

It looks more or less ok because:

When I’m on the beat and I know what I’m leading then the follower will feel that the instructions are very clear and it will seem that we’re connected.

When I’m on the music and connected then my feet will lead some outside walk or side step without any need of the brain and it will seem that I am aware of what I am leading.

When I´m connected and remember my steps then we’ll lose the beat but it will seem that I’m doing it purposefully and that I deliberately chose to leave the beat and listen to some particular instrument.

Typically, for four beats I would lead a complicated thing which would fit with the music without taking too much care of my partner then I would recover the partner on the next four beats while just letting my body lead some basical resolucion.

But… when during the Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo we were asked, while looping on a determined sequence, to add a fourth thing to focus on (a style attribute, which could be either switching from legato to stacato or switching from normal speed to double times to extra slow) then I realized that I was losing either…

…the partner and the beat, doing the sequence and the style switches on my own and off-beat.

…the sequence and the beat, leading style switches to my partner that were totally irrelevant.

…the partner and the sequence, repeating very musical side-steps with stacato/legato changes while the partner, left on her own, was wondering why I was doing this additional warm-up.

Fortunately the seminario ends today, tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual, three-dimensional tango.

yet another partner

2008, January 7

This was her ad:

“Seeking a tall and dynamic male partner!
Woman, 31, 173, 2 years of tango, ten years of ballet and modern-jazz, perfect movements, highly mobile, sensitive, musicality, elegance. Seeking one or more partners to attend the classes by teacher X… on Tuesdays and possibly for practicas, milongas, workshops. Motivated to improve! See you soon!”

Apart from being a male I was not exactly matching the required profile. 15 years too old, 15 cm too short. As for being dynamic… well my opinion is that in A.T the woman is doing the dancing while the leader hardly moves at all.

Still I wanted to take classes with this X teacher. So I posted my own ad.

“Seeking a follower for teacher X’s classes on Tuesdays.”

No need to mention my age, weight, heigth or skills of course. One week later there was a message for me: “Did you find a partner?”. Now all my deficiencies were irrelevant because she was the one who was answering an ad.

That’s how we’ll have our first class with teacher X tomorrow. I’m not sure that we’ll do just fine though. After we met in a practica Friday, I felt that there was more truth in my ad than in hers. She does not look like a ballet dancer, not even like a dancer by the way. Her body is not a silent invitation to dance. More likely you’ll imagine her patiently queueing for hours in front of the mall. She only danced with me at the practica, so I did not see her dancing and can’t tell whether she has some elegance or not. But her movements were far from perfect, she wasn’t that easy to move and her musicality was nil as far as I can judge; she merely followed without adding any musical embellishment. Let’s hope she’s motivated to improve.

Some like it hot

2007, December 24

A kind guy had brought a basket of roses at the Friday practica. Plus, one of my class partners was here, she knows me well and is not surprised any more by all the stupid ideas that can come to my mind. And by the way she’s not too serious either in her approach of the dance, definitely not in a Quest for Perfection. Or she would have chosen another partner.

So she made no objection when I told her that I wanted to find out whether the rose thing in Some like it hot was a special effect or not. Like, when the camera is not filming, Tony Curtis spits his rose while an assistant brings a fresh one and puts in into Jack Lemmon’s mouth.

The roses brought by the kind guy were perfect in this respect, not too heavy or fragile, red of course, and last but not least, without thorns.

I took the first turn, holding the rose just under the flower to leave the main part of the stem available. After a few steps we did a half-turn, I said “Ready?” (We discovered that it’s perfectly possible to talk with a rose in the mouth. ) and when the turn was over the flower was in her mouth. It’s not difficult at all.
After a while I asked the rose back but miscalculated somehow my jaw movement and chomped on the stem, almost breaking it and making any further exchange impossible. We stopped for a second, she threw the stem away while I adjusted the flower in her corsage.

Now, if I ever become a movie director (for a toothpaste ad maybe) I’ll know that it’s perfectly possible without any special effect.

Dancing with the clowns

2007, November 12

There is an unknown, remote practise in town, where beginners go. I have many memories of this place, going there with a book, being greeted by a “Hey you’re still here, how comes you haven’t given up yet“, reading my book and sipping tea while the beginners with a partner were exercizing their steps, and even sometimes practising with some follower whose leader was a bit late.
I’ve read so many books there! War and peace, Cities in the plain…
Also during all these months I’ve improved my musicality a lot. It’s much easier to focus on music when you’re seated and you don’t have to make/lead steps.

This room where we were practising A.T is not in a dance studio but is part of an unknown, remote theater where no public ever attends but which is used intensively as a school for aspiring comedians and clowns, or for rehearsals. Once, a comedian playing a beggar, unshaved and holding a half-empty bottle of beer, entered the room and began commenting out loud about our dance and mimicking our steps. Nobody answered him and finally he left, grabbing some cookies on his way out. Oops, was a real beggar.

One day the practise ended.

Last Saturday it reopened, in a somewhat different form. The aspiring clowns/comedians now have monthly A.T discovery sessions as part of their training. Then there is the practise, open to anyone, where I went for the memories, the tea and the cookies.

“They’re all absolute beginners“, the teacher explained me. “But also they’re not ordinary people, they can juggle and walk on a string.
While the comedians were very similar to regular beginners, leading the clowns was not a piece of cake. Even without their big shoes, they walk like ducks when moving forwards. They escape from the abrazo whenever they can. They never stand still, forget about making a pause.
Even leading anything at all is not that easy, they can improvize and will find their own way to follow your lead. They get bored quickly, you have to keep them interested. They like very much the playful parts of A.T, like the barridas, but first you have to catch their shoe. Doing steps the simple way is an unknown concept, they’ll do the CW front ochos on the left foot.

At the end I was mainly leading them into quick giros, at least it kept them busy.

Gender imbalance, a theory

2007, October 16

 The theory goes: “when women outnumber men in a class, it’s because they hope to dance with the teacher.”

So I tried yet  another class yesterday, given by an argentine emigrate. He teaches without a partner, picking  a random follower to demonstrate the patterns. Not always the same follower. One point for him by the way. I bet it’s flattering but still unpleasant as a leader to see your partner kidnapped by the teacher. Also when the pupils exercize he partners the lone follower, if any.

 Well there were no less than three more ladies in this class. And when the  “change partners!” was yelled I could see the women swiftly getting away from their current leader and moving one step backwards, to the wall, pretending they’re some invisible ninja, manoeuvring to avoid the leaders, trying to remain alone.  And once the couples were set, the three followers would move one step forward in the direction of the teacher.

Ok I did not attend this class only to check my theory. I did not know the teacher but I did know the dance studio beforehand, and especially I remembered that years ago  they used to keep a box full of free candies.

The box was still there.