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Friday, 28 February 2014

Ladies! What does it take?

Some time ago, I posted advice to tangueras, but here I'd like to delve a little deeper.

In the early days of my tango journey, I worked hard on learning to execute the figures being taught, struggling to replicate sequences and decorations.  I was expected to do my share of the figure, regardless of how it was being led by my partner.  I thought decorations were essential, expressive tanguera accessories.  When reflecting on the results at the time, effective and elegant are two adjectives which do not immediately spring to mind.

Then I began learning about good technique - thanks largely to hours working with the maestra de los maestros, Aurora Lubiz. My body was trained to be ready, able, relaxed and responsive to the music and to my partner - whoever that might be for the next tanda.

After some years of dancing and learning, another critical piece of the puzzle eventually fell into place for me.  It was about my state of mind.  It was about being truly in the moment and surrendering to the dance - entrega.  For this, I needed to
  • be confident with my partner, but not dominant
  • surrender and be actively responsive
  • allow the music to possess me, yet not preempt how my partner might respond to it.
Some of these points may appear contradictory.  But then dancing tango involves subtle give and take.  It's a deliciously, delicate balancing act.  Simple, but not easy.

Ladies, let's forget about the flashy moves and decorations. With sound technique and the right state of mind, you can dance successfully with any good milonguero.


Chris said...

Patrica wrote: "With sound technique and the right state of mind, you can dance successfully with any good milonguero."

So true!

And there's much benefit in knowing early on what kind of partner you want.

Because hours of practicing with classgoers who can't dance is the cause of many of the difficulties suffered by a newcomer then trying to partner someone who can dance.

Practice makes permanent.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Chris, of course, everyone will want to dance with a partner who can already dance well.

But the accomplished dancer will not necessarily enjoy dancing with an inexperienced partner. To put it bluntly, dancers need to do the hard yards before most good dancers will want to dance with them. So, inexperienced dancers need to be patient and work at their skills, seeking out teachers/mentors who will impart the important stuff of social tango. Then they need to practise in a focussed manner, seeking critical feedback from these teachers, thus ironing out dysfunctional habits. Otherwise, their practice may simply make unhelpful patterns permanent.

Janis said...

It's not easy for women to forget about decorations when the exhibitions by touring couples are all about flash and decorations.

The recent Lady's Tango Week in BsAs featured an Embellishment Marathon by all the participating female teachers. Johanna Copes knows how to get people to pay their money and get them hooked on things that have nothing to do with social tango dancing.

In the last few years, I've seen many milongueros viejos invite a visiting foreigner to dance. This wasn't always the case, and foreign women are reaping the benefits of dancing with some of the best in the milongas.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Janis, you're right. Dancing with someone who has lived and breathed the traditional milonga for all of their adult lives can be a real treat. Few others can communicate such a deep connection with the music. However, I should add that I have also experienced some wonderful tandas with foreigners.

Tango Therapist said...

What excellent advise for everyone, not just the ladies. But taking advice like this is very hard because of the overwhelming strong current of teaching techniques that "take years to develop [and thousands of euros/dollars/pesos]. Beginners (under 20 years of dancing) don't want to hear it, but really there's only a great tango walk (and then a bunch of other stuff). :-)

Anonymous said...

If your partners enjoy your decorations and your dancing, ladies, why change what you are doing to please a censorious blogger?

Bob said...

Dear Anonymous, when I dance, I don’t want to be impressed by women’s decorations; in fact, her decorations are probably happening outside my awareness as a natural flow from our movement. If they are so overt that I’m conscious of them, then they may be disturbing my axis, or distracting my focus on our connection and the music.

So the question remains, who are you wishing to impress with the decorations you create – your partner (if so, see above), the non-dancers, or yourself? If it’s one/both of the latter two, then you are not dancing with & for your partner, but essentially dancing for yourself. And that is quite apart from your movements possibly causing danger to surrounding couples, or at least distracting them from their own dance. In brief, I only find decorations beautiful if they are subtle, and serve to elegantly complete the woman’s movement, otherwise, they are attention-seeking & potentially disruptive to the social dance.

Anonymous said...

Bob, please read the comment again. "If YOUR PARTNER enjoys your decorations, why stop doing them to please a censorious blogger?" One of the main reasons many followers decorate is because their partners show them, in so many ways, that they love their decorations. They say so, explicitly and comment on specific ones; they smile, laugh and look and feel incredibly happy (you can feel their cheekbones raising in a big smile as you capture detail in the music); they ask you to dance repeated times (by cabeceo). If you enjoy decorating detail in the music and your partner enjoys what you are doing, *really* enjoys what you are doing, that is what matters. Decorations, done well, have no effect on the led and followed movements, they don't disrupt the dance in any way, but are part of the flow. And if you, as a leader, are thrown off axis because your follower gently tapped the floor with her free foot or painted a weightless rulo as she took a side step, you need to work on your axis! And how decorations can distract your attention from the music is before me. Decorations are about expressing subtle details in the music, including musical adornos and less prominent, but still very beautiful melody lines (listen out for those violins!). If you don't like them, is it because you don't like the music???

Anonymous said...

PS As for "causing danger to surrouding couples", that will only happen if the decorations are very big and 99% of decorations are teeny tiny and very subtle indeed. But my main point is this: you should dance to please your partner, not to please a censorious blogger you have never met.

Bob said...

Such is the physics of the vertical axis: the centre of gravity of whatever shape is directed exactly over one point – give the shape a small nudge, and it’ll topple over. So it is for the man with a good axis. He’ll have his weight directly over the front part of one foot for much of the time. However, he’ll trust his partner’s skills, and if they’re good he’ll maintain his axis. But should she disturb it, he’ll brace, and the moment will be gone – and possibly the tanda. With good skills, the woman’s decorations will be almost imperceptible, and they will dance as one.

I’d love to be able to congratulate my partners on their elegant decorations but I simply can’t see them – I don’t dance with an open embrace. My focus will be on feeling my partner’s body, not on her feet; we’ll communicate our feelings for the music as we move together. Certainly her decorations will enhance her dancing, and she’ll be pleased, and those watching will appreciate her elegance. But I’ll be largely unaware of them.

Chris said...

Bob wrote: "Certainly her decorations will enhance her dancing..."

I have to say in my experience decorations much more often deteriorate a woman's dancing than enhance it.

One of the simplest things that many a woman can do to improve her dancing is quit doing decorations. Unless of course she's training to be a competition dancer or class teacher.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Anonymous, I think you and Bob agree on the point that any decorations by the woman (or man, for that matter) should be a subtle expression of the music and not disturb their partner.

The problem arises when a dancer insists on executing decorations, but lacks basic technique. Without the basics there is little chance of musicality and subtlety. A man at the receiving end of this once said that he felt like a pole-dancer's pole!

Bob said...

Yes Chris, I should re-phrase one of my remarks. Perhaps I should have written: "Her decorations MAY enhance her dancing, ....". We've all seen inappropriate decorations, but I've also seen elegant, perfectly-balanced ladies using small decorations that derived from the natural movement of their bodies .... and they were beautiful & in concert with the music. These women have already developed their skills to a level where they have the ability to decorate sensitively & not disturb their partners.

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