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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Diaries from BsAs #2 - Thank goodness for friends

From him:

It appeared that G only danced with the local milongueros, but somehow I managed to dance with her twice last year … and she was good!

I hadn’t seen her in my first week here, then she appeared on Monday, and I hoped that we’d dance again.  As much as I tried, she wouldn’t return my cabeceo, so I greeted her as I went past; still no result.

Eventually her friend S nodded; I’d never danced with S, but I’d seen her over the years and knew she danced very well.  I made sure I gave the tanda everything, and during one of the chats, S remarked that she thought I had looked ‘lost’ earlier, but I said that I had been trying repeatedly to catch G’s eye.  I also decided to slip in that I suspected that G had forgotten me, then watched their table during the Cortina.  Yes, they immediately talked …….. and with the start of the next tanda, G looked my way and nodded!  Thank goodness for friends!  

The tanda was great, and later, to finish the evening on a good note, S & I danced again.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Diaries from BsAs #1 - The price of honesty

From her:

During recent visits to Buenos Aires, I’d noticed him appearing at milongas, tall and usually clad in a suit. He’d dance with a few ladies, then disappear again into the night. His style of dancing impressed me and it looked like his partners enjoyed the experience, but I’d never been able to catch his eye.

Then on our first night back in BsAs, he looked my way and we danced a tanda of tango (Calo, if memory serves me correctly). Later, we also enjoyed a tanda of milonga together. After three hours that night, I decided to leave the milonga. Jet-lag had been playing havoc with my body-clock. I needed some dinner, which I mentioned when he asked why I was leaving so early. I should have seen it coming, but I’ll blame the jet-lag.

He, of course, asked me to join him for dinner.
What I said: I breezily declined the offer, saying I was dining with my partner.
What I should have said: “Thankyou, but I’m very tired after the long journey.  I enjoyed our dances. Hope to see you again at another milonga."

Well, I saw him again at several milongas thereafter.  Did he even glance my way? Of course not! I suppose I’d injured his pride with the direct refusal.

Moral of the story: Keep ‘em guessing gals!

Update (1 May):  Looks like I've been forgiven, as he's invited me to dance at a couple of milongas since my initial faux pas.  But things appear to have changed.  He seems to be exhibiting some interesting bits of territorial behaviour since establishing the identity of my partner .... but not winning!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Perhaps size matters

Might there be a relationship between the size of the milonga dance-floor and the level of dancers?

On one night at Lujos, we were dancing in the small space that is El Beso in Buenos Aires. The dancers displayed a high level of skill and excellent floor-craft.  The couples seemed to collaborate and flow together.  Over the next two nights, the floor-spaces were progressively bigger, and the level of dancing; floor-craft descended to what could be described as ordinary, then poor.  In the third and largest venue, it was impossible to relax into the dance, due to distracting and unpredictable movements of surrounding dancers.

Closer to home, many dancers have remarked, that at our milonga, Comme il faut, where the floor-space is the smallest of all local milongas, the dancing is calm, with good navigation, movements are generally small, and there’s consideration for other dancers.

Theory: the best dancers congregate in the smaller venues – where good skills are essential, while others head for the wide open spaces. 
But wait a minute, on following nights came Lujos at Plaza Bohemia and El Maipu at La Nacional; the latter being quite large. Both milongas attract skilled dancers with very good floor-craft. 
Hmm, while my theory may have some merit, it’s not the whole story; there are clearly other factors that can over-ride the proposition.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cabeceo capital of Australia?

If you like an invitation to dance in the form of an outstretched hand, a tap on the shoulder or a more formal Would you care to dance?, then perhaps you should stop reading right now.

It may come as no surprise that I'm a strong supporter of the cabeceo.  Novices to this elegant technique of invitation typically find it challenging.  But once you get the hang of it and develop confidence, you'll find it quite empowering - for men and for women.

Why bother with yet another challenge?  You might well ask.  Isn't dancing tango hard enough?

Well, call me a traditional tango purist, if you like.  But for me, dancing real tango is about becoming one with the music and my partner.  It's not something I can simply switch on - with anyone, at any time, with any music.  I prefer to dance less often, and feel satisfied when I do.  So I prefer the choice to be mutual.

Over the past few years, we've been encouraging use of the cabeceo at our milongas: Comme il faut and La Esquina, and it's so gratifying to see that it has caught on.  Seldom do we see men approaching unsuspecting women with outstretched hand.  Rarely do they hover in front of their intended victim practically forcing her to get up and dance, or bluntly refuse him in public. Many experienced dancers in Adelaide now use the cabeceo quite effortlessly.  Dare I say, that it appears to be becoming the norm in some milongas here.

Perhaps it will eventually catch on in other Australian cities.  But in my experience, so far Adelaide easily wins the prize for the cabeceo capital of Australia.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Dance like a man!

Watching dancers at a milonga my internal voice sometimes yells out “Dance like a man!  So what is it that bothers me?

I simply believe that leaders in tango need to display masculinity, and some behaviours, in my eye, exhibit a lack of it.  For example, his left hand pulled in towards him, an open ‘embrace’ with his right hand just above his partner’s hip, walking with tentativeness, flexing his body sideways in order to walk outside his partner.  My advice regarding these: keep the left arm to at least 90 degrees, adopt a genuine, close embrace, walk decisively, and use body dissociation/rotation.

The man needs to transfer his male energy to his partner.  The mentality isn't about leading & following, it’s about clear, effective communication.  It’s about confidence, which is not arrogance; strength but not forcefulness; intensity not anxiety; feeling that you belong there, not fearfulness about being judged.  
Guys! Don’t dance as if you’re apologising for being out there.

The man needs to engender a sense of trust in his partner so that she can relax and be receptive.  He therefore needs to be confident and decisive in every, single move.  Uncertainty can be detected by his partner in a millisecond, trust will diminish and tension will rise …. the dance will  go downhill from there. 

In brief:  Stand like a man, embrace like a man & walk like a man!


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