Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Back from NYC ...

This weekend Deb and I drove to NYC to attend the Nocturne Saturday and the milonga on Sunday evening. As it usually happen, we both had a great time.

The "perfect 2nd dance"

I had many good dances Saturday, but the one that stands out was with Ms. AmazingEmbrace. I only danced with her once before, at Seaport in the fall and I remembered those tandas as amazing. So I was really happy to see her, but I have to admit, I was a bit concerned. Many times, the second time you dance with someone with whom you had a "perfect" first dance is more or less disappointing. There are many reasons for this, some of them objective (it happened that the first time both of you were "in the "zone", you were warmed up, the music was just perfect, etc), and some of them subjective (one tends to idealize a great experience). Well, I'm happy to say that my fears were completely unjustified. I lost count how many tandas we danced non-stop, but it was over 45 minutes. I know this because one of our friends (jokingly) complained to Deb "Did you know that Sorin it's been hogging X for 45min?"... ;-) And every one of those 45 (or so) minutes was as good as it gets. She has an absolutely amazing embrace (hence the alias), the right amount of playfulness and great technique. And what's really cute is that she doesn't seem to realize (or believe) how great of a dancer she really is. If this was the only 45 minutes I danced the whole weekend, it still would've been worth the trip.


One of my favorite dancers (and I'll call her Ms. WackyKid as it fits her personality) in NYC left the city for 7 months. The way some people have birthday dances on their birthday, she had a "good bye" dance. Based on people's response when the "good bye" dance was announced, everyone really likes her and she will be missed. I know I will miss her and I'm glad we got to dance before she left.


I am happy to say I am getting much better at navigation. Both nights were pretty packed and I did OK. Not great, but not bad either. I was thinking I should maybe set up in the garage a "training field". Tie to the ceiling a number of sand bags and have them swing around randomly as I try to "dance" with a pillow. Keep doing it until the sand bags never hit the pillow (and preferably never hit me either). Hmmm, I'll think some more about it...


I think I discovered why I have upper body tension with some followers and not with others. The times I don't, it's because the follower is "immune" to my tension. Sometimes I get tense (a near collision, a brief balance loss, etc). Some followers respond to that tension with some of their own, to which I respond with more, so it keeps escalating. Some followers mastered the art of absorbing the leader's tension and they are solely responsible for my "tensionless" experiences. The challenge now would be to work on this skill myself, to never respond to tension with more tension, but rather absorb it. Of course, I should start by not initiating any tension in the first place :-)

When you have to say no

At one of the milongas as I was sitting on the edge looking for someone in particular, a woman came and sat next to me. She payed me a compliment on my dancing and she asked me if I would dance with her. So far, nothing wrong with that. I happened to see her dancing before and I didn't think we would dance well together, so I said "I am not dancing right now, but thank you", I smiled and then I looked away. After which she asked "Well, maybe the next tanda then?". I didn't want to flat out say no so I said "Thank you for asking, but I am now looking to dance with someone in particular" and I looked away again. At which point she replied "How about later then?" and waited for an answer. So I answered "No, thank you". She asked these questions loud enough so anyone in the immediate vicinity could hear her. Some people use this "technique" to coerce people into dancing with them by using to their advantage the tendency of most people not to embarrass the "offenders". Obviously, the "technique" can easily backfire ...


My milonga is getting better, albeit very slowly. It makes sense though, since the usual milonga to tango ratio played at milongas is 1 to 6, and it took me two years to get where I am now, to get to the same level in milonga I would need then 12 years? I clearly have to do something about that as I'm not prepared to suck at it for another 10 years ..;-)

The embrace, the embrace and ... the embrace

We were staying with friends, tango dancers themselves and when we got back from the Sunday milonga, despite being exhausted, we talked for a while about the ever elusive "perfect embrace". Some people have it, but no one can seem to explain why it's perfect. That is very frustrating, how can one try to achieve that perfect embrace if no one can define it? Grrrr ....

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Too good for your own good?

This post debates the wisdom of perpetually trying to improve one's ability to dance tango.

A while ago someone told me she doesn't want to get too good (at tango). When she saw the perplexed expression on my face, she explained that she lives in a small community and if she got too good she would not be able to enjoy dancing in her community anymore. At the time I thought it was just silly, but I'm not so sure anymore.

As I got better, the number of people I enjoy dancing with reduced dramatically. Most people's experiences seem to be the same. So one can't stop wondering, will the list get smaller and smaller as one gets better and better? There are a few people I know, all reputed to be fantastic dancers, whom I've only seen dancing with just a handful of people. It seems like anyone else just doesn't do it for them anymore. So, why try to get there?

One can argue that if you are better, you can appreciate the subtleties of tango. True, but I still remember my first "tango high" I had when I was about 9 months into tango, and I remember the last one I had. While the level of dancing was certainly higher on the last one, the intensity of it was similar. The only difference is that now I require dancing of much higher quality to get "high". But the quality of the "high" itself was pretty much the same.

I can see one benefit of getting better, more of the good dancers will dance with you. But if one is already at the point where most good dancers will dance with you, what is the point of getting even better?

The big question is, is there a point of diminishing returns in one's tango development ?