This blog is not currently active, but I’ve made my older posts here available to read if you’re interested. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to take up blogging about tango again …
1. When you arrive at the milonga, take some time to say hello to other dancers—both leaders and followers. If it’s your first time, you could even mention that to the person at the door. Say hello to the people around you as you put on your shoes. Remember: This is a social event. Even if you’re a beginner, many people will be happy to meet you, talk to you, and dance with you!
2. Start the night by dancing with followers you know. It will give you a chance to enjoy their company, and other followers will see you dancing. If you don’t know any followers at the milonga, start by approaching followers who seem open to talking. Say hello, chat, mention that you’d love a dance with them later, and then walk away. Really. Approach them later for a dance.
3. Watch how the other leaders behave. At some milongas, it’s ok for leaders to walk up to a follower and ask her to dance. At other milongas, that kind of behavior is scandalous—in those cases, it is more appropriate to catch a follower’s eye and non-verbally request a dance. In all cases, it is helpful to catch the followers eye and make sure that she is not in the middle of a conversation or trying to get a dance with a different leader.
4. Listen to the music before dancing: Is it a tango, a milonga, or a vals? If you don’t know the difference, ask another leader. (Usually, the DJ follows a set pattern of tandas, for example: 2 tangos, 1 milonga, 2 tangos, 1 vals, …) All music is played in sets called tandas, usually with three or four songs each. A couple is expected to dance an entire tanda together (although either person can cut the tanda short by thanking the other person and excusing themselves off the floor).
5. Keep it simple! No one will mind if you stick to basic steps that you feel comfortable dancing. They will mind, however, if you try to do fancy moves that you haven’t mastered yet! It’s more fun for everyone if you play it safer. Also, this will help you watch the line of dance and take care of your follower, which is your primary responsibility!
We don’t talk about height all that often. Shorter ladies tend to play around with higher and higher heels, while us tall women try to make do with our height … and even search for lower and lower (but still attractive!) heels. That is my current quest.
On Friday, I had a long night without enough sitting and resting. One song into the final tanda, all I wanted to do was kick off my shoes and dance barefoot. So I did! And, lo and behold, it fixed several things that I have been noticing about my connection with my favorite leader. We are pretty much the same height, so when I put on 3″ heels I begin to tower over him. Barefoot, it feels perfect. Except, of course, that I have no shoes on.
Last night, I brought my trusted pair of jazz shoes to start out the night. Black was not exactly the color of shoes I wanted to wear with my light-colored dress, so after that first tanda I switched into my regular heels. But that first tanda … lovely.
So now I am on a quest to find a pair of shoes that are flat or with very small heels—but shoes that are still attractive and functional for dancing. It is more than a little bit difficult. Have any other tall tangueras found a solution for this? I really want to dance in something that keeps me shorter, to improve my connection with these shorter leaders who I adore dancing with …
Not a lot to say about tango lately—I have been dancing, and it has been the usual. Some of it has been good (very good), some of it has been satisfying, and some of it has been disappointing. I am just doing my usual to shift the balance toward more incredibly dances and fewer disappointing ones.
In the rest of my life, I am working hard and starting to see small results. A lot of my time has gone to my budding freelance work. I launched a website for it, I apply for gigs daily, and right now I am holding my breath for some paperwork to get pushed through in my favor. I am coming up to the end of the fiscal year in my full-time job, too, and I’m readying myself for the “Let’s look at next fiscal year” talk. Just in time, I got this note from the universe:
One must let go in order to be free.
P.S. It’s easy, especially with so much else happening in your hot, amazing life.
I am trying to figure out how much I can let go of my job at this stage. I think I have to be ready to put the entire job on the line in order to negotiate—ideally, I would cut my hours (but hopefully not my salary!) in order to spend more time developing my freelance work. I should have a verdict in the next couple weeks.
I have a little less energy right now to work on and think about and dance tango, but it will be better in the long run. I am so excited about the possibilities!
Sometimes I forget that I am not only a tanguera with a modern dance background; I am also a modern dancer who tangos. Last night, I got myself to a modern dance class for the first time in ages. It was with one of my favorite teachers, who always approaches the class with both a sense of humor and a serious work ethic. He has an eye for what needs to be fixed and a way of explaining things so that I understand how to fix them. He teaches a Horton-based modern class, and I always leave tired and satisfied.
Tango is improving my modern dance. My arms feel connected to my torso. My torso feels like the powerhouse of my upper body. My hips feel like the motor for my lower body. My legs are along for the ride. Best yet, I feel intimately in tune with my breath. All of the upper body, breathing, arm-related warmups just clicked last night. I knew how to reach out with my arms and my intention but keep my torso still. I could isolate and dissociate and twist (although I have always been twisty).
Of course, the choreography wasn’t so smooth. My brain has gotten rusty, so picking up choreography doesn’t happen so quickly as in the past. And I found that balancing barefoot (with one leg behind me in arabesque, while my torso and arms moved all over the place) was not so easy as balancing in heels. I never thought I would say that. I did, however, get compliments on my quick, sharp movements.
It felt so good to be back in the studio. To play on the floor and in the air. To be off axis yet on my own, and to know that I will be there to catch myself. To play in that space that is so different and yet so similar to tango: where I am given a movement and invited to fill it with my personality; where I am working muscles but finding relaxation; where I am my own person but feeling and moving with others; and where I can inhabit my body fully in the present for the pure enjoyment of dance.
Last night I joined a bunch of friends for a guerilla milonga in the park. It was a beautiful night with a full moon to accompany us. The evening started out with everyone dancing around the fountain. The tile actually provided a nice surface for pivoting, and I enjoyed joking with my leaders about getting tossed into the fountain. Of course, that idea couldn’t be ignored. One couple did get into the fountain, and we all cheered them on!
Our party moved on to a nicely lit walkway in front of a museum. Along with the passersby came a photographer who took a flyer and promised to send us the photos. From there we moved onto a bridge in front of the botanical gardens, over a pool. I hopped up onto the railing, and the Shoe Diva shed her shoes to join me. We managed a 180 degree turn, and she led me along the railing. Definitely my shot of adrenaline for the night! And the railing was probably the better surface at that stop. It was a beautiful area, though.
The final stop was a nice marble surface in front of another museum. We were all pretty tired at that point, but we goofed around a bit. I was thankful for my dance sneakers by the end of it. My toes got a little bit crammed into the front of the sneakers after such a long time, but my feet were so nicely cushioned and they handled the odd dance surfaces very well.
All in all, a very fun night that I will be very happy to repeat.
I am supposed to be translating dozens of sentences about economics into Spanish, but instead I watched this video. And then I had to share it with you. The talk is about nurturing creativity and our creative genius. (Sally, I thought of you when I watched this!)
My favorite part comes in the last few minutes, but please watch the whole thing. This is another fabulous talk from TED (which, if you know nothing about it, you should take a few more minutes to explore). Anyway, I invite you to see why I might have watched this and thought of tango: