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Thursday, 4 October 2018

Sore tango feet?

Just back from the very successful Tango in the Spring event in Canberra, Australia - a lovely opportunity to immerse oneself in Golden Age tango.

But, all those hours of milongas can take their toll.  Sore feet was not an unusual topic of conversation.  Some might say that it's a good problem to have - implying that they should be happy, because they did lots of dancing.  Does one inevitably follow the other?

Well, I'll let you into a secret.  You can have your (milonga) cake and eat it, too!

Here are some tips:
  • Keep your body in shape
    If you can easily maintain a good posture in the embrace, keeping your axis aligned over the weight-bearing knee, then you are more likely to be using your foot efficiently. (You'll find it harder to pivot, if your weight is on the outside of your foot.)   Poor distribution of weight can also lead to injuries.
    You might try exercises for the feet and ankles, too.

  • Select well-fitting and well-cushioned shoes
    Our feet weren't designed to walk in high heels. So, we will be asking for more trouble wearing shoes which are also too tight, too loose, un-cushioned, etc.  (Note. Good padding for the balls of the feet becomes even more important, as we get older.) 
    The shoes may be pretty. They may be a bargain. But, trust me, you'll regret it unless they are really comfortable from the start!  Just ask yourself how many pairs of rejected tango shoes you have stashed away, or given away.  If you're like me, it will be too many to admit to!

  • Keep heels and balls of both feet in contact with the floor
    Why dance just on the balls of your feet (unless pivoting, of course)?  Use your heels and your metatarsals. 
    While extending into a back-step, keep the metatarsals (not only the toes) in contact with the floor.  Lifting and placing your foot, will mean that each step effectively impacts the floor. Ouch!
    These techniques also ground us and help with our balance.

  • Choose partners carefully
    You don't have to dance with anyone and everyone.  If you know that someone's dance style causes you discomfort, then you don't have to accept the invitation.  Use the cabeceo to avoid this, or politely refuse.

  • Take a break
    Perhaps you've just danced a lovely tanda, and feel like basking in the lingering pleasure. Maybe the person you hoped to dance with to this next tanda is already dancing. Or, the music being played doesn't inspire you to dance.
    No problem.  Sit and watch the dancers, enjoy the music, or have a chat. Your feet will appreciate the break.

  • Ice
    Keep a small plastic bottle of water in the freezer at home. If you do get sore feet, cover the frozen bottle with several layers of newspaper or a cloth, and roll your bare foot over it on the floor for 5 minutes or so.  The cold reduces inflammation.  The improvement is amazing and lasts!
Of course, for ongoing problems, you should get professional advice.

I hope this helps.  You may have additional tips to share.  Would love to hear from you.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Musical chairs in the milonga

Are you a milonga gypsy?  Or do you like to return to your own chair after dancing? 

So, what's the fuss about seating at milongas?

Consider this real-life scenario (only names have been changed):

Joanne and Phil normally arrive at milongas fairly early.  Among other things, they like to take their pick of seats before the milonga gets busy.

After a hectic week, they headed out to relax at a local milonga.  Having paid the entrada and found a nice spot to sit, Harry slung his coat over his chair with his phone safely tucked in the coat pocket out of harm's way.

Many people arrived, and as the milonga became busier, each new arrival tried to work out where there was a free place to sit.  To avoid any unpleasantness, before sitting down most new arrivals politely tried to confirm with those sitting at a table, whether a place was available.  Sometimes they would get it wrong, and the recent arrival would have to gather up their belongings and find another spot.  At times, this was accompanied by some awkwardness.

Meanwhile, Joanne and Phil had been enjoying the milonga.  Returning to his chair after a tanda, Phil found someone else sitting there, engrossed in an animated conversation.  Having nowhere else to sit, and being far too polite to say anything, Phil waited patiently.  Then he realised that the 'visitor' was not only sitting on his freshly dry-cleaned coat, but probably also on his phone!  Still he said nothing!!  Instead he continued to wait ... somewhat anxiously.  (Politeness can be taken a touch too far.)

Fortunately, the phone was undamaged, and Phil was able eventually to reclaim his seat.  No harm done.  

But, could you imagine some better alternatives to this scenario?  Allow me to suggest a few improvements:

Organisers provide sufficient seating for everyone
This ensures that each person has somewhere for their jacket, drink, mints, fan, etc.

Organisers keep an eye on seating
They make the effort to indicate comfortable options for each person when they arrive, rather than leaving dancers to their own devices after taking their money.  This also prevents congestion in any one area, thereby reducing obstructions on the dance-floor.

Dancers return to their seat at the end of tandas
If you have been 'visiting' another table for a chat, you return to your seat (or go elsewhere, such as the bar) at the end of the tanda.  This ensures that the 'owner' of that spot has somewhere to sit when they have finished dancing. 
Returning to your seat also facilitates the cabeceo, because potential dance partners will know where to look for you.  In fact, sitting down during the cortina helps everyone in the milonga.  If people are standing and chatting on the dance-floor in between tandas, your line of sight may be blocked.  With everyone seated, you can easily look at potential partners, if you wish to dance the coming tanda.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Just a friendly word of advice

At a practica (or even at a milonga, heaven forbid), has a dance partner given you advice about how to improve your tango?  Perhaps it was a suggestion about your embrace, your balance, your movements, etc.  Did the advice make sense to you?  Were you successful in putting the advice into practice?  If so, did you feel that it resulted in an improvement?

Most of us do want to improve.  And, I think I would be correct in saying that most of us would love dancers in our tango community to continue to improve, so we can enjoy more of those treasured tango moments.  For that reason, we might from time to time, be tempted to provide unsolicited advice when something isn't quite working while dancing.  But quite apart from the inappropriateness of 'teaching' in a milonga where we should dance as equals, will this advice actually be helpful to our partner?

Do we have sufficient expertise to analyse and advise on movement?  Do we have expertise in the opposite role?  Are we certain that we are not responsible, at least in part, for the 'problem'?  In a practica or in class, wouldn't it instead be more helpful to provide feedback to our partner about what we are feeling, experiment together, then if advice is needed, ask an expert?

Take a look at Why most advice you get about your dancing is wrong, by Veronica Toumanova.


Monday, 14 May 2018

Diaries of BsAs - Wardrobe malfunctions

Let's face it, most of us take the trouble to present ourselves well at a milonga.  We take care with our personal hygiene, do our hair and make-up (at least some do!), avoid strong perfumes (and other noxious food and body odours), and wear nice clothes.  Most of us want to make a good impression, don't we?

But sometimes, despite our best intentions things can go wrong...
  • Some time ago, I was about to leave the ladies' room, to return to the milonga.  Thankfully, one of the other ladies called out to me in Spanish: Tu pollera! (your skirt!)   Had she not been thoughtful enough to do that, I would have strolled into one of my favourite milongas with part of my silk skirt tucked into my underclothes!!   Now that would have made an attractive sight.

  • Not so much embarassing, but not a good look was a mature-aged gentleman in a nice suit happily dancing with his partner.  Unfortunately, he was oblivious to the fact that his suit jacket was tucked into the back of his trousers.

  • A few words of caution to ladies keen on wearing short skirts.  A while ago, a woman arrived at a milonga, obviously doing her best to present herself as a something of a vamp in both her theatrical arrival and the way she dressed.  Some men were immediately drawn by this, and invited her to dance.  However, her dress was so short, that her underwear was on display to all, when she took up the man's embrace.  Observing reactions around the milonga, she was clearly the source of comment.  It didn't take long for one of the organisers to have words with her.   Returning from the ladies room, she was wearing thick black tights.

  •  At a recent BsAs milonga, I was sitting out a tanda and watching the dancers, when something suddenly caught my attention.  It wasn't the male dancer's great skill or musicality.  I had to look again a couple of times to ensure what I was seeing was not what it seemed.  With great relief, I realised that it was only the end of his tan-coloured belt which I could see.  The last 10 centimetres or so of the belt had come adrift, and was hanging from the centre-front of his trousers.  Mercifully, the belt was soon tucked away out of sight.  Perhaps someone kindly told him.
Check your attire carefully before going out and before leaving the bathroom.


Sunday, 6 May 2018

Diaries of BsAs - Mission accomplished

In April, before leaving for Buenos Aires, the Adelaide tango community came together to support a very disadvantaged northern region of Argentina which had suffered devastating floods in early 2018, where the mud-brick homes were destroyed.  Our monthly Comme il faut at the gorgeous Mt Osmond Golf Club, became Adelaide's own Milonga Solidaria. 

In Buenos Aires, Hugo Maffi and Mary Aragon coordinate the very successful Milonga Solidaria whose aim is to support a different worthy cause each month.  All milonga services are donated, meaning every peso taken at the door (including donations) goes directly to where it is needed.  Last year, our very own Milonga Solidaria in Adelaide raised enough funds to buy half of the personal water filters needed in a remote community in Santiago del Estero!  Together with the funds raised at the BsAs milonga in May 2017, this meant that the goal of supplying unpolluted water to that community was achieved.  (Scroll back through their Facebook for more details.)

Last March, Hugo and Mary's milonga supported the Mil Techos para el Chaco Salteño project, raising money for two roofs in that flood-ravaged area.  This year the Adelaide tango community raised US$1,150 (about 24,600 pesos) to support that project - enough for two more roofs.  Fundacion Sí is the not-for-profit organisation, staffed entirely by volunteers, which is running the Mil Techos project.  Last week, we were able to meet with Paola and Adriana, two of the key Fundacion Sí volunteers in Buenos Aires, to deliver our donation and hear more about their activities.

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