I’d decided that moving fully into a Just Dancing phase – as in ceasing all lessons for a time – was just a bit too radical for now. In part because pre-milonga group classes are the best way to meet followers and decide which ones I’d like to cabeceo given the opportunity.
But my focus at present is very much on enjoying the dance, and worrying less about what I’m learning. Which also, I think, needs a new approach to the blog, but I’ll get to that …
Tonight’s improver class might prove to be my final Tango Space weekly class. I’m sampling other schools as of tomorrow, with one in the diary for tomorrow and another on Monday.
The theme for the lesson was the planeo. I’d done the beginner version before, but not the improver. The improver version was a 180-degree planeo into a parada, which felt like something that would be more useful in dance – and that indeed proved to be the case.
I was again taking my approach of treating the class sessions as dance, incorporating the theme of the lesson many times, but dancing throughout, and that again seemed very much appreciated by followers.
The class also brought a new first: I saw Federico turn his attention to my partner and I, watch for 30 seconds, then move on to the next couple without comment. Admittedly the class was short of followers, so he and Julia were both pressed into service as followers half the time, so the bar for giving the nod may have been lower than usual.
The milonga, and a new approach to the blog
Tonight’s milonga seemed to have all the right elements: I liked almost all the music, there were lots of my favourite followers (more than I got the chance to dance with), I was getting lots of invitations, and I danced every single tanda for the first hour or so before switching into a more balanced dance/chat ratio.
But I think a more dance-orientated phase has implications for the blog. So far, even when I’ve been writing about the milongas rather than the classes, the focus has been on my learning. But now it’s more about dance for pleasure, the tanda-by-tanda descriptions I’ve been giving are, I think, less appropriate. It would feel a bit voyeuristic somehow. So my aim will be a more impressionistic feel, just picking out some highlights.
I’m really getting comfortable with my ‘simple, connected, musical dance’ approach. It’s feeling good to me, and a combination of follower reactions and the same followers wanting to dance with me again since I’ve entered this phase have given me the confidence that it works. I’ve lost all feeling of pressure to do ‘stuff,’ and I’m gaining more and more confidence in varying the pace and using suspensions.
The latter is easier with some songs than others, but one of my teachers tonight cabeceo’d me, and we danced the last song of a milonga before a tango tanda. Halfway through the milonga, she asked me ‘can you hear the slower beat too?’ I listened, and I could. I danced that, then switched between the two, and it added a whole new dimension to my very basic milonga. So even with milonga, varying the pace is possible!
I’m also getting much more comfortable with crowded dance floors. It was very busy most of the time tonight, and a great deal of the time was spent trapped in place, not to mention taking evasive action when people in the inner ronda were taking ‘creative’ lines. But for the most part, it was stress-free. There were a few times I knew what I wanted to do but couldn’t because there wasn’t enough room. But mostly I didn’t worry about the fact that this was the nth time we were doing a mix of circular walk and rebounds, because it was still musical.
Oh, and I decided to try The Wine Experiment! I’ve so far avoided drinking wine at milongas, partly because I felt I had a limited quantity of coordination and balance, and wasn’t keen to sacrifice any of it to alcohol. And partly because I wanted to avoid wine-breath in close embrace. But I’d decided that a small glass of wine might help the battle between my inner Argentine and repressed Brit, and a couple of mints between wine and dance would take care of the breath issue. I’m giving a tentative thumbs-up to the experiment.
A very active follower I’d danced with elsewhere was there tonight, and I cabeceo’d her – and had such a fun time! I knew from last time that she’d jump at any sign of an invitation to take the lead, and she did just that. Most of the tanda, I was really following her 90% of the time, with my role mostly spotting when a gap was opening up, so I could walk us a few steps before handing the baton back to her. Collaborative dance is the best!
A couple of followers I didn’t get the chance to dance with ‘reserved’ their tanda for next week.
Don’t misunderstand any of this: I’m not under any illusions that I’ve suddenly become a tango god. I maintain my awareness of my weaknesses. My technique needs a tonne of work in pretty much every area. The difference is that I’m now also more aware of my strengths.
I’m conscious of what Iona Italia calls ‘the land of the long-term beginner.’ The leaders who have become just good enough to reliably get dances, and cease their lessons at that point – and begin their slow decline from there. Don’t worry: I’m not going to turn into one of those guys. Even if I do see it as a kind of milestone that I could …
I will be keeping up my lessons. But I can dance. And right now, I’m very much enjoying that fact.