Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 3-9

Saturday, March 5, 2011
The Late Shift milonga.
I missed the lesson by Korey and Adeline Ireland, though I was told by some tangueros I admire that it was an excellent one. It was a fun night of dancing for me, and I hit the milonga tanda trifecta by being blessed with dancing with three of my favorite milonga Leaders. It was nicely crowded, but not overly so, and the gender balance was about even. The vibe was pretty mellow and relaxed, no stink of desperation or anger of some dancers who were sitting too often, and no frenzied speed dancing or boleo whacking, so obviously floorcrafting was pretty decent. The Leader quality was quite high overall, so I imagine most everyone had a good time. For some strange reason, people seemed to be in a very chatty, open mood with me, discussing things that went beyond what we usually talk about on the milonga dance floor.

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Free Bollyhood Practica.
Since it was a rainy day, I thought I'd make my way over, assuming it would be less crowded because of the weather. Thankfully, I was right. (Though finding a parking spot was a little more difficult.) The lesson was just finishing up, and I was amazed and pleased to see that it had a very full attendance, with gender balance. Looked like a fun, productive class. The practica was OK. I was surprised to see so many people come in just for the practica, and I was also surprised by the high quality of dancers. I felt the floor was a little sticky, my shoes were a little sloshy, and my body was a little tired and achy from so much dancing the night before, so I didn't dance my best.

I had a chance to catch up a little with Jaime, as I've thought of her often, and I do worry about her if too much time has passed and I haven't seen her around. But that's another story. When we got back from Buenos Aires in August 2007 and started going to a lot of milongas, she told me about her philosophy of dancing with five new people at every milonga as a way to build community and as a way to experience new dancers. I've thought of that nice, friendly sentiment often since I now find myself not particularly cabaceoing much, and un-cabaceoing more, and not particularly wanting to dance with new people, and hearing comments about the San Francisco tango community having the image of not being particularly welcoming, and about the cliques. ::::sigh:::: And so I do try my best to "be out there more", but I admit that I am guilty of having a certain "list" of people I really adore dancing with (that I hope to catch their glance in a cabaceo), and others that I am open or OK dancing with, and yes, there's the list that there is no way in H-E-double-toothpicks that I would ever dance with. Ben of CellSpace once remarked that we all know that there are only 20 or so tandas in every milonga, but 40 people we really want to dance with, and that leaves the newbies or visitors out in the cold sometimes. And so here we are, the San Francisco Bay Area community, not having the most warm and fuzzy reputation in the tango universe, and with those who have been around for a while having the responsibility of either changing that, or living with it.

And so, whenever I am asked by someone unknown to me to dance, I think of ... Jaime. And I suck it up and dance. Sometimes the dances are brilliant. Other times they are agony. Often times they are surprising in their quality.

Back to the reality at Bollyhood, a newbie came up to ask me to dance (after hovering for a while, and asking a few people around me to dance [several of whom declined]), and it happened to be a milonga. So my heart sank a little, but I sucked it up. The dance was... mostly walking... and not always on the music. He had a good time though and wanted another song, so we gave it a go. Then we thanked each other and that was it. No, the experience did not make my heart soar with elation. But I did try my best to follow him (and it's always great to focus on what is essential in tango) and accept his musical interpretation as a Leader. And I could go on and on about dancing with new-to-me folks where my reaction is "Never again!", but what would the point of that be?

So what is my point here? Well, maybe there is none. Although one leader who was feeling chatty recently talked about the pressure of knowing that so many Followers want to dance with him, and wanting to be a nice guy, and concerned about his reputation as not being an easy person to get a dance with. He is really bothered by it... and I am not sure there is any solution. There is a balance between wanting to be open and inclusive and building the local community, versus dancing for ourselves with people who make the experience joyful (however each of us individually feels that). Most of our favorite dance partners have been folks who have been in the same classes with us over the years, people we've traveled with, or people we've seen after going to the same milongas for years. And yeah, that makes it tough on the newbies or visitors. But some of us have spent thousands of hours and hundreds of days walking and working on foot strength, weight changes, and balance exercises at cold, rainy bus stops or dance studios while no one is watching, or listening to lots of tango music and translating and analyzing the lyrics, so it should be understandable if we are frustrated with and don't spend a lot of time dancing with those folks who don't know what an ocho is, or think stop-and-park ganchos are the bomb, don't where the beat is, or who ask the DJ to play Por Una Cabeza because in their mind they think they are as macho as Arnold Schwarzenegger or as attractive and sensual as Tia Carrere when in reality they move as clumsily and clunkily as someone with really bad eyesight who has no musicality and no connection and who was always picked last for every sports team they ever tried out for since kindergarten and who moves with as much grace, precision and alacrity as a dented little red wagon with one missing wheel.

On the other hand, some of my best dances have been with people who I had never danced with before previously. And still other fantastic dances have been with Leaders who were vastly superior dancers than I could ever hope to be, but who showed great kindness and generosity in giving me a spin on the milonga dance floor. And so, to keep the cycle of goodwill going, because what goes around comes around, maybe we all need to bless others as we have been blessed. At least for a token tanda or three at every milonga (whack-a-mole tango ambushers/hogs excluded, of course; no need to reward them at all).

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