Monday, July 30, 2007

it's going to get worst before it gets better

In the last few months I had someone tape me dance a few times (you can see them if you look here) and while it seems I continue to improve, which is a great thing, my posture still sucks. So recently I started to work on it every time I dance. Unfortunately that affects the connection, the embrace, it makes me feel stiff and to some extent it ruins the experience. But the more time I allow myself to dance with a bad posture, the more difficult will it be to fix it later. Sigh ... so I guess it will have to get worst before it gets any better. So, please folks, bear with me while I learn how to maintain a proper posture ...

Saturday I went to the LongaMilonga in Providence. It was better attended then last month, but boy, the summer sucks for tango. Not only in Providence, but in Boston too. Actually, I remember someone saying that in Montreal some milongas are closing for the summer for the same reason. Anyway, back to the Saturday's milonga, M, a favorite follower from NY came down with a bunch of friends, which was awesome, as she is not only a lovely dancer but a sweet person as well. We danced a couple of times, a few tandas each time, which were good. Good not great, because I'm still struggling to adjust my posture and on top of that, I wasn't feeling very inspired.

Among the other dancers from NY who came up for the LongaMilonga was S, a woman I've seen many times in Providence but somehow never got a chance to dance with her. Well, there is a reason, when the milongas are better attended she is busy dancing non-stop with all the tango "Gods" so she's kind of hard to get to. This time I had more luck. Wow, she is REALLY good. In addition to the good technique (balance, embrace, following) she has an amazing presence, it was so surprising it took me the better half of the first song to get used to it. In addition, she is very musical, making her contribution to the dance by using changes in dynamic of her steps, using her shoulders and by changing the ... "groundness", among many other things. And all of that while she flawlessly followed anything I lead. I can understand why the best leaders line up to dance with her, I certainly am her newest fan. Too bad I wasn't in the zone, it kind of sucks when it happens and you dance for the first time with someone. First impressions tend to last for a very long time. Not to say I sucked, she did after all sticked around for a few tandas, but I was pretty far from my best.

The music was quite good, Ramji V from Ann Arbor (he's in the area for a while) DJed and I did like most of his selections. One thing though, he played a few of my favorite songs at the beginning of the milonga, before the dancing started and I remember thinking "crap, this is a waste of a good song". Kind of a catch 22, if you don't play good stuff, people will not start dancing, but if you play the good stuff at the beginning, it's a bit of a waste. When I DJ I always keep what I consider the best music for later in the evening. I'd be curios how others feel about this.

At the practica Sunday it was sweltering hot. I got to practice with a few people, nothing out of the ordinary. Most people were very self conscious about being sweaty, so that didn't help. The music was fantastic though. I liked every tanda. Amazingly, that happens every time when I dj ;-)


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

back to work ...

... after a week of vacation. Saturday to Thursday in Montreal then Friday to Sunday in CT for Yale's summer tango camp.

As you can read in my prior posts, the (Montreal International Tango) festival was a disappointment (though apparently festivals can be worst...). So Wednesday we (Debbi & I) went to the Studio Tango milonga and it was fun. Thomas Howlin was DJing, and the music was fine. I didn't care for some of his selections but that's to be expected. Even when I'm DJing and dancing I find myself thinking ... "what the hell was I thinking when I selected this song"

While the milonga went for 4 hours and I danced practically non-stop, I only danced with 5 or 6 people, all of which I danced with before. This raises an interesting issue. The more good partners one dances with, the more interesting dancing is, but so far I've been reluctant to "give up" a good partner for the chance at another good one. As in, if I find someone I like to dance with I usually dance until I need a break or they need/want one. For example Wednesday I asked an older woman, she is probably in her 50s (but one would not be able to tell from the way she moves). She is a wonderful dancer, the best leaders in Montreal line up to dance with her and we danced for 5 tandas in a row. Now, I could've walked away after say two tandas and maybe I would've found somebody else just as good. Or maybe not. Well, I'll eventually figure it out, this is one "problem" I don't mind having ... ;-)

Thursday morning we packed everything and headed back to my place, which we left Friday at noon to make it to the Yale's Summer Tango Camp site around 4pm (the drive only took about 2.5 hours, we had to run some errands). Friday evening there were maybe 10-12 people there, and I didn't dance much. Robin Thomas assisted by Kyla Mares taught a class on front ochos. I know that sounds too simple, I mean front ochos are probably shown within the first hour of any beginner class. But as it usually the case in tango, one can make any (simple) move into a fantastic experience and this class brought back to life the close embrace front ocho for me. I got to dance with Kyla a couple of tandas and she is not only good, but lots of fun to dance with. She is from Reno, AZ where apparently she is "growing" a small community. The big surprise came when she told me she was only dancing for a couple of years. Wow, that only shows how irrelevant "the years of experience" is as a metric for dancing abilities.

Saturday Robin & Kyla had another class, on milonga this time. I definitely like his teaching style with one caveat. I don't believe he allows for enough practice time before he stops the music to make another comment. Sometimes I would barely have time to execute the exercise once and then we'd stop again. But then again, maybe it's a good thing, it avoids practicing things the wrong way. While more people came Saturday, the milonga started late, around 11PM (the class went for 90 minutes before that) and it ended very early, around 1AM as everyone went to sleep or to hang out around the camp fire. That was kind of disappointing, but the room was very hot and humid, and the floor was slippery and I think people just got sick of dealing with that. While the room had lots of windows, all of them left open, there was absolutely no breeze, so that didn't help. I danced a little bit, the best dances were with Kyla and M, a follower from NY who I met at the last Longa Milonga in Providence. I also got to follow Robin which went well as long as he kept it simple ... Note to self : need more following practice ;)

Sunday we got up late, made breakfast and attended the last class, on vals. Again, there were no fancy moves (which is a good thing), but rather some work on musicality and rhythm. We danced a little bit after that, but other then a couple of tandas with Kyla there was nothing out of the ordinary. We left the camp site around 5:30PM after having a bite to eat with a bunch of other people and we made it home around 10PM (no it didn't take that long to drive home, I had to stop at the grocery store).

So, did I enjoy my vacation? Sure, it was fun. I was expecting a lot more tango, but I did get a few good dances, hung out in Montreal, I got to use the tent again (after two years), met friends from Montreal and NY and made some new ones. Not bad for one week. And I got a really nice shirt from Montreal that goes perfectly with my new blue linen pants. Speaking of linen pants, I need to remember when I'm making the next pair to really re-enforce the waist band. When it's hot and humid linen seems to "grow" and one of these days I'll find my pants around my ankles at the end of a tanda. Sadly I no pictures from the first part of this trip because the card in my new compact camera crapped out on me... Grrrrrrrrr

But I have some pictures and I'll post them soon, so stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Montreal - International Tango Festival (@Tango Libre) - Tuesday

We met a friend from Boston for lunch and then hung out in the city for a while before we headed back to V's apartment to get ready for the milonga.

Since l'Academie has a new milonga on Tuesdays we decided to skip the festival milonga and go there instead. Also Caroline was going there so we figured it was worth checking out.

We got there at 8PM, and we were the only ones there for 30 minutes. I danced with Debbi, as the music was great. I don't know the DJs name but he did a great job. Caroline came in a bit later and she taped me and Debbi dancing.

After that I danced with Caroline a tanda and it went great. Her embrace improved tremendously since the last time we danced together and her following got a lot better as she is now much more calm and able to wait for the lead rather then anticipate it.

After 9:30 a few more people came in but it was mostly dead. There were a few good dancers in the room, so I had a chance to dance with them on a (mostly) empty floor which I really like. The first lady I danced with she's been dancing 16 years... While she didn't have perfect technique like some of the tango "Gods" I danced with in the past, she has a wonderful embrace and musicality and a confidence that I guess comes as years of dancing pass. I then danced with "L", another really good dancer and Debbi managed to grab that on tape. Watching the tape makes me wish I'd keep my back straiter and have a better extension as I step, but I guess I have to be ... gasp ... patient, I will eventually get there.

The lady who's been dancing for 16 year paid me a very nice compliment. She said something along the lines "It is such a pleasure dancing with you. After only a year and a half you learned to fuse with the music and your partner, which is the most important thing". She is french, which might explain the unusual choice of the verb (fuse), but I like it, I think I would like to be fused to the music and my partner. It seems like it's what should matter when dancing. I like compliments which are really meant. Too often people pay empty compliments and I think that practice just waters down the real ones. Which is why I never do that, if I pay a compliment to someone, a really mean exactly what I say. Because if you describe an OK dance as "fantastic" or "amazing", how would one be able to describe a really amazing one? "Oh, this was super-duper-fantastico-amazingly-great" ? So, if I say "fantastic" I mean, surprisingly to many, "fantastic".

Despite the good dances I had, the place was practically dead, so we jumped on the bike and went to the festival milonga, where we arrived around 11:30PM, just in time for the live music ... Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ... Se while that played, we chatted with some people, and it seems we are not alone in our opinion of the festival.

Once the live music was over and Michel started Djing again, I went and asked "D". We never danced before even though I asked her, as it seemed like it was always bad timing. She is fun to dance with and we danced probably 3 tandas. I then danced with a couple of other dancers I danced with before, and while it was not mind blowing, it was pleasant and fun. The milonga went until 2:15 which was fine, as I don't think I would've lasted much longer. There were a couple of other dancers in the room I would've liked to dance with, but they seemed to exclusively dance with one person so I didn't have the opportunity.

I'd say that Tuesday was probably the best day so far.


Montreal - International Tango Festival (@Tango Libre) - Monday

I'm not sure why we went there Monday, as we knew the DJ (same as Saturday) and we knew there was going to be live music (which I don't like). Monday was a complete bust, except for dancing with Debbi at the beginning of the evening on an empty floor. When I say empty, it's not just a figure of speech. We danced for at least 20 minutes alone on the floor, with everyone else sitting down. Don't know why, didn't care. I like empty floors. A few tandas felt really good, particularly a milonga one (milonga still being my nemesis).

With one exception, I have not danced with anyone else. While there were a few people there I would've liked to dance with, the music was atrocious. I thought Saturday was the worst music selection one could hear. Apparently I was wrong.

The one exception was Soledad, one of the Argentine instructors with whom I danced one song. After the performances they were on their way out, but a waltz was playing and Soledad had restless feet, she looked like she wanted to dance. All the other instructors were heading for the door, but I went for it anyway. I walked up to her and said something along the lines of "Oh, are you leaving already? Would you care to dance one song before you go?". So off we went. Not surprisingly she is a fantastic dancer. Light but steady presence, warm embrace, amazing balance and musicality.

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Crap, all pictures are gone ...

I recently bought a new compact camera, something to keep in my bag all the time, when I don't feel like lugging around the SLR, and it's a great little camera. It does a great job in low light, which is why I got it.

But yesterday as I was downloading the pictures into my laptop, the computer froze and it corrupted the storage card. I may have lost all the pictures I took during this trip, which is such a bummer. If I manage to recover them, I'll post some here and on my website.


Montreal - International Tango Festival (@Tango Libre) - Sunday

In the afternoon we met with fellow blogger Caroline, and we hung out for a while, had a great Lebanese lunch and sat down on the grass in a park and chatted. That was a pleasant low key afternoon.

After the experience we've had Saturday, we went to the place where the festival milonga was going to take place, wary of what we would find. The milonga was going to take place in a room in the Old Port which has glass walls on two sides, it looked pretty cool. We got there at about 8PM and looking at the long line formed at the entrance I realized I did not recognize anyone. It seemed the live music with Beba Pugliese attracted a lot of people who are not avid tango dancers. Also, the Claude was DJing again (see my prior post) and the room did not seem large enough to allow such a large inexperienced crowd to dance comfortably. We heard there was going to be over an hour of performances and since the admission price was $35 we felt it was not worth taking a chance, so we went to L'Academie instead.

L-Academie was pretty empty, presumably most people went to the festival, which I later learned it was not exactly true. While the festival milonga was packed, I was told that a lot of regulars were in neither place. What I think happens in these cases, people assume everyone is going to the festival milonga, and if they feel like that is not worth going to, they just stay home or do ... gasp ... non-tango activities.

But despite being a slow night, I had a good time. Aside from Debbi, I danced with a few people. "L", a french woman who moved to Montreal because she liked the people here better then her compatriots, she is a good dancer. I danced with her before when I came to Montreal for the Neo-Tango festival, and when we came for my birthday, and back then she was very tense and her dancing suffered. But Sunday she was not nervous and it made such a great difference. It was a lovely couple of tandas.

I danced with "I", a girl I never danced with before, she is a lot of fun, highly musical, great embrace and while she did anticipate the movement a bit, the qualities she has certainly made up for that. "M", a woman who was obviously somehow connected with the milonga as she seemed to know everyone, was probably the best dance of the night technique wise, but somehow not the most fun, as she didn't seem like she was really enjoying herself much. But she did stay for 3 tandas, so maybe she was having an off night. "E" was there, a girl I met at the Neo-tango festival when she asked me to dance, while she doesn't have the best technique out there (not that she is not bad, mind you) she is fun to dance with in great part because it's really obvious she enjoys it a lot and she doesn't tense up when something goes wrong, and that is so important it makes up for any other issues.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Montreal - International Tango Festival (@Tango Libre) - Saturday

I was very excited and could not wait to come spend a week in Montreal, attending what I was hoping to be an exciting tango festival in a city both myself and Debbi loves. Saturday we got here around 5PM and after meeting with my friend V who graciously offered us his apartment to stay we got ready and went to the Saturday milonga.

The DJ was supposed to be Michel Auzat (according to the festival website), who is one of the best DJs I've heard yet. So I was kind of confused when I saw another guy DJing. Those of you who know me or those who read some of my other posts, know that the music selection is very important to me and I can't dance on music I don't like. Claude Paris (he appears to be the resident DJ at Tango Libre), who DJed all the festival milongas so far (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) has a soft spot for dramatic music (Piazzolla, Pugliese) and another for obscure orchestras and songs. Most of the music he played sounded to me like movie soundtracks. I didn't recognize more then half the music and I could swear I did not hear one DiSarli or Biagi. So, in conclusion, I have to say that Claude is at this point the absolute least favorite DJ I've heard so far. Ever. I will do my best to avoid any event he DJs, as it was incredibly frustrating.

As far as dancing, I had a few good dances (as good as could make them considering the music), some with people I knew from my prior visits, some new. One in particular needs to be mentioned, X from Ithaca, NY. After dancing a couple of songs I found out she was just dancing for 6 months. Perfect embrace and balance, great following skills and musicality. Quite amazing for someone dancing for only 6 months.

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