Ok, so, I went to the milonga, in spite of ankle and everything. I didn’t mean to; I take very seriously the advice I got from fellow bloggers and tangueros, don’t get me wrong. The thing is, I went for a drink with a friend, who also dances tango. He had arranged to meet up later that evening with some other people from his class on my favourite milonga, and we agreed to have a drink together before that. I wore fairly non-tango clothes and sneakers (very clever of me, eh? but I had danced in sneakers before and it’s not so bad... but anyway, just to point out I did take preventive measures). We had a very pleasant chat and when we got up, he said ‘You coming then?’ And of course I did. And frankly, it did me an awful amount of good.
For one thing, this is a milonga where I feel at home; I simply enjoy being there and seeing the familiar faces, kissing people to say hello on the way to the dancefloor... Also, much as I like to dance, it was fun being there not to dance, for once. We chose a strategic position on the sofa, watched others dance, had some wine – which was nice, because I normally never drink alcohol when I dance; I find it’s not good for one’s balance and I don’t very much like dancing with people who do, unless their balance is so impeccable that they can afford it, which is rare anyway. So we were sitting there, sipping the wine and having a good time, when the others arrived. They were two guys from a lower-level class, one of them with his partner who also brought a non-tango girlfriend.
Now, these two are not very experienced dancers and they hardly ever go to milongas. If they go, they bring their partners and dance with them. I guess it’s understandable, they just don’t feel up to navigating on a crowded floor and coping with an unknown partner, all at once; they think they still don’t know enough and are afraid to bore the woman or step on her feet, or both. But then, how will they ever learn like this?
However, I noticed a strange thing. They danced with their partner, the girl who came with them. But they also danced, and several times, too, with her friend, who had never danced tango in her life and had only come there to watch. They literally spent the evening dancing – either on the dancefloor of in an empty corner, teaching the steps – with someone who had nothing to do with tango! Because, apparently, with her they didn’t feel any pressure or fear messing up; on the contrary, it must have made them feel, you know, experienced dancers. I was flabbergasted. And, looking at the floor, I saw this guy who never misses a milonga; he is a fairly advanced leader who makes up for his missing talent with diligence and, to be fair, the stuff he knows to do he does well. He is also a flagrant example of a dancer who uses his partners to boost his (apparently shaky) self-confidence. He always dances with total beginners and keeps on correcting them, to the point of being really obnoxious. I pointed him out to my friend and said ‘But what kick does he get out of that? I mean, wouldn’t he rather dance, for once, and have a good time with another advanced dancer?’ Don’t get me wrong, it is good to dance with beginners from time to time, even if you’re advanced yourself. They will learn, and you will have more good dancers to dance with in the future. Every decent advanced dancer ought to know that. But it is not what it’s all about, unless you intend to make your living that way, and, frankly, there are better ways to make a living.
Anyhow, my friend looked pensive. ‘Don’t get me wrong’ he said, ‘but it is actually nice to dance with beginners, there is much less pressure, and you don’t feel bad about botched moves. You know she can’t really judge you.’
‘Sure’ said I, remembering my beginner days, ‘and if it doesn’t work out, she’ll always think it’s her fault. Whereas, like I found out later, if it doesn’t work out, in about 80% of the cases it is the leader’s fault.’
My friend grinned.
Cela fait 9 mois que j'ai écrit ceci, mais j'y crois toujours..
...Les milongas de Paris sont un rêve; ce n'est pas seulement le fait qu'il y en a plusieurs chaque jour de la semaine (d'ailleurs je commence à comprendre qu'il n'est pas possible de continuer à ce rythme effréné et aller danser tous les soirs - mes pieds en souffrent déjà), ni le nombre impressionant de danseurs et danseuses qui habitent dans cette ville ou qui sont de passage aux milongas parisiennes; ce qui ne cesse pas de m'étonner et de me ravir est le nombre de bons danseurs ici. Bien sûr, Paris est la capitale du tango en Europe, précédé au monde seulement par Buenos Aires; il y a d'ailleurs beaucoup d'Argentins qui vivent et dansent ici.
Mais ce n'est pas seulement une question du niveau technique. Dans la danse de couple il y a un phénomène étrange: si on danse bien, on peut danser avec, plus ou moins, tout le monde, et même y prendre plaisir; mais il y a certains partenaires, pas nombreux, avec lesquelles on s'entend parfaitement dès les premiers pas, une coordination des corps presque miraculeuse. Or, il n'arrive pas trop souvent qu'on rencontre son partenaire "idéal" - la probabilité est petite, mais elle existe. Elle augmente, naturellement, avec un plus grand nombre de danseurs disponibles; et alors là, Paris est l'endroit juste pour une telle recherche.
Hier soir, chez Luis et Pascale, c'était une soirée plutôt sympa, mais rien de spécial; j'ai rigolé avec Carlos après notre cours, puis j'ai dansé avec d'autres et finalment, onze heures passées, je suis allée aux toilettes, puis rentrée dans la salle mais restée appuyée sur le mur à côté de la porte. Je trouve que les choses, dans le tango, se passent souvent d'une façon étonnament romantique, presque kitsch; j'étais là, en regardant la piste de danse j'ai vu une ombre d'homme à ma gauche, lui aussi observant les danseurs. Il me voit, hésite, puis vient vers moi. Il est de taille moyenne, mince, sur la quarantaine peut-être, pas très beau, avec des traits un peu rudes. Il m'invite à danser, et je dis oui, pourquoi pas, il n'y a personne d'autre avec qui je voudrais danser. Et alors il me prend dans ses bras et là, c'est presqu'un choc - c'est parfait, il guide bien, il me tient fort mais pas trop serrée, on s'entend parfaitement. J'ai finalment l'impression de vraiment danser!
C'est bizarre; c'est comme si on était tous des pièces de puzzle et il fallait, sur la piste de danse, trouver ceux qui correspondent à notre forme..
Still not dancing... decided to give it a break, so I can restore my
ankle to its full use later - but I am not sure I will be able to stand
it much longer. I keep on going over the moves in my head and not being
able to actually do them is so frustrating.. It may sound like I am
obsessing a bit - but please note tanguillo's comment saying that for
us dancers it is sometimes hard to find balance in some things, besides
the dance:) How very true.
Anyhow, seeing as my current tango life is quite uneventful, I am going to post something of an older date, on an eternal tango topic which we sometimes forget when concentrating too much on things like technique or etiquette; but isn't it, in reality all about finding your other dancing half? You know (I am sure you all know what I mean), the person(s) with whom dancing isn't a painful discussion but rather a smooth, effortless chat, even a harmony without words - a bit like when, with some people, one must constantly search for conversation topics while with others - even complete strangers - one can talk for hours without the slightest effort, almost reading their thoughts? That this may happen in a dance is a source of constant amazement and delight to me - only it happens so rarely..
The post is in French - it was originally written in that language and I couldn't bring myself to translate it. I hope that's ok.
Because that's what I am, at the moment. Not much, huh. Confined to my
home for a couple of days, I can hardly walk - well, I sort of hop
around, but it's not the same; and, being rather proud of the way I
walk (normally), I so hate being reduced to this unsightly limp. But
the worst thing about it is that I am unable to dance, had to cancel
this week's dancing (the horror of it!), and who knows when that bloody
ankle will be firm enough to provide reliable support on heels?
However, I am still privatly resolved NOT to cancel my lesson on
Friday, unwise though it may be...(wisely enough I chose not to ask for
my doctor's opinion on the matter).
Anyway, the good news is that I shall have more time to pore over tango and related topics and write my blog which I have gravely neglected in the past couple of months (it all began with two festivals, one a week after the other, and the sleep deficit has been hanging over me ever since. I somehow cannot find the right balance between dancing tango and writing about tango - and sleeping and all that other unnecessary stuff which is imposed on us for inexplicable reasons, for that matter).
BTW one thing worth mentioning about the festivals is that I saw, for the first time in my life, Julio Balmaceda and Corina De La Rosa, and must join the already large number of people who think they are sublime! I have never seen anything like it before; their dancing is beautiful and impressive without any acrobacy, innovative and original without ever loosing the true essence of tango; a feast for eyes. Which is why I add a these links - see for yourselves..
julio y corina tango vals
julio y corina 2
They dance like most of us would like to dance - only about a million times better:)
Now this has got nothing to do with tango, but it is something concerning relationships between people, and besides it is really nice and I can't help mentioning it here:) So, I went to the supermarket the other day, it was early afternoon, no crowds, but there was still a queue of 4 or 5 people at the cash desk (it's a very small supermarket, only 2 cash desks and usually just one open). The employees are always rather nice and as the woman before me was paying, the man at the desk fussed about holding a bag open for her, thanked her and said - Au revoir, bonne après-midi..; she picked up her bag and walked out, he turned to me, I said - Bonjour, while he turned back to see her walk out of the door. She was a younger-middle-aged women, quite common-looking and she wasn't wearing a mini-skirt or anything like that, and so I mildly wondered what had caught his eye, when he distractedly said to me - Just a second, ok? - and sprinted behind her, out of the shop. I was genuinely intrigued by now and so I stepped towards the door for a better view and saw him stop her, explain something and thrust a piece of paper into her hand. And I thought - Jesus, is this what I think it is? I was dead curious. And so, when he came back after a while, I looked at him questioningly. Alors? Alors, he replied with a shrug, it's been five days that I watch her come and go... so I thought, what the hell! I've had enough of being alone all the time... I approved, and wished him good luck. And, well, I don't know the suite, but I still think it was grand... surely he gets points for courage, doesn't he?
Now, aren't they lovely?!
Had a most delightful time last night! I danced until I could no longer
stand on my toes, and with some of the best dancers too. I remember
sitting down twice, but never for long, and several people actually
remarked on never seeing me off the dance floor. Around one o´clock I
decided it was getting late and I should go home; and as I was
massaging my aching feet, a girl sitting next to me whom I had seen at
the milonga and talked to once or twice, a beginner, said ´Ah, mais tu
as vraiment beaucoup dansé!´ I acquiesced. She went on ´Mais tu as de
la chance, toi, tu danses tout le temps. Moi, j'en ai marre de être
toujours là, assise...´ Anyway, the gist of the conversation was that
she was totally frustrated, and really cold on top of that (well, you
can´t really wear a warm pullover to a milonga, it wouldn´t be elegant,
but if you wear something that shows off your body and then spend the
evening sitting down, you end up being really cold). The problem, of
course, is that she is a beginner, and not very patient one. She said
it was a vicious circle, ´the men won´t dance with you if you´re not a
good dancer, but how the hell are you supposed to learn, if they won´t
dance with you?´ I told her it was perfectly normal and that all
dancers have been through that stage, that it was bound to get better
with the time, but that didn´t seem to cheer her up. Maybe she didn´t
I used to be just as depressed about not dancing much when I was a beginner; but it was also a really good motivation for me to work on my dancing skills and learn all I could. I would always get a few dances (I think everybody does, if they are patient enough - so no need to despair) and besides, I quite enjoyed sitting down and watching the good dancers on the dance floor - it was far better than watching a film, better than Carlos Saura´s Tango. At my first milonga I only danced with three men; still, I stayed until half past four and left with the feeling that it had been an altogether marvellous night.
And as my dancing skills improved, the number of my dancing partners increased. How often you are invited to dance, and by whom, is actually a very useful indicator of your progress (although, of course, there will always be some good nights and some bad nights, that´s just the way it is). I felt the most profound satisfaction when a man with whom I first danced as a beginner while he was very advanced and on the whole a rather good dancer asked me to do an advanced workshop with him. Hooorrraaay!!! He had been a very good indicator throughout - he rather likes to mentor beginners, telling them what they are doing wrong and how to do things right, which I found quite helpful as a beginner, but a bit annoying later on (especially as the stuff he would point out to me were things I knew I still had to work on). His comments grew scarcer, however, and then at some point he stopped commenting on my dancing altogether. I still remember my feeling of triumph:)
I need new shoes. Not any shoes. I need a pair of ´Comme il faut´s. Urgently.
My increasing obsession with these beautiful and, they say, incredibly comfortable shoes - which I take means mainly that they are very stable and well balanced, and that´s about as much as you can reasonably ask of such 3- or 4-inch-heeled beauties - anyway, my increasing obsession with them happens to coincide with the loosening of my golden sandals´ straps. I could have them fixed, I suppose. I think I will, actually, because I´m very fond of them (they - and my feet, as a consequence - looked awesome last night). But even so, it sort of reminded me that shoes are perishable, and it might not hurt to get another pair? Just to be on the safe side... And since I´ll be getting a new pair of dancing shoes, it seems to follow logically that I should get the best that there is. Not that the ones I have are bad. I´ve already mentioned the golden strap sandals, and then there is the baby-blue/black pair by the Argentinian designer Sylvie Geronimi, simply lovely and very original. But are two pairs sufficient? And the third time´s a charm.. There´s a hitch, however. The closest shop where they sell ´Comme il faut´s is in Paris. Now, shall I go to Paris for a weekend? Wouldn´t mind checking out my old favourite milongas.. but when? No time.. Or maybe just for a day? Take the train in the morning, buy the shoes - if I find any I like - and come back in the evening? It would be feasible.. But is it not terribly extravagant, going all the way to Paris just to buy a pair of shoes? - that seems to imply that buying two or three pairs would be more reasonable - or would it?
Well, I might have to do it - driven by sheer necessity, as it were.
is really a reaction to the comment on my private ´tango nirvana´
theory... there is an important aspect of tango that I have omitted
here, but which in my opinion is essential for understanding the tango
dancers´ psychology; a sort of a strange dichotomy which probably
exists in other dances as well, but is very pronounced in argentinian
On the one hand, we dance tango strictly for ourselves and our partner, a good tango being a very intimate matter between the two dancing partners, an intense personal experience so to speak, which has nothing to do with a show, or a performance for others to look at. On the other hand, though, we also all dance to be seen - hence the shoe fetishism, the motley of different looks you will encounter at a milonga, the way of dancing itself - it is hard to imagine that any dancer, no matter how good they may be, would pay no attention to the image they project. There are always crowds of spectators at any milonga, and the dancers concentrate on themselves and their partner while being at the same time very conscious of being watched. Sounds pretty schizophrenic when put like this, but... Also, women will close their eyes and concentrate fully on the dance and the language of their partner´s body, but they will have carefully chosen their shoes and clothes so as to enhance the effect of their dancing moves. Not to speak of the various dance embellishments... And then of course there are those people who come to milongas ostentatiously NOT dressed-up (such attitude should be combined with high-level dancing skills though, in order to achieve the desired effect).
... I believe that the
stage of addiction is absolutely necessary if one is to become a good
tango dancer. And the longer it lasts, the better.. I suppose everyone
emerges from it, eventually, because it IS rather exhausting in the
long run; but it is something one simply has to go through, no matter
how nutty it may seem from an outsider´s point of view. Or, as a friend
of mine, a much more experienced tanguera, once put it: ´In tango, you
have two kinds of people. There are those who take classes, but rarely
go out dancing because it is too time-consuming / exhausting if one has
to work the morning after, etc.. - these people go to advanced classes
and know many figures, but they never become REALLY good dancers. And
then you have those who become hooked and dance like crazy, hardly ever
miss a milonga and stay out late although they have to work in the
morning - and these eventually become very good dancers.´
Basically it just boils down to whether you adapt tango to your life or your life to tango. And in case someone finds that way-out, I would like to point out that there are tango dancers who simply cannot understand how someone can NOT dance.. It all depends on perspective.
Like I said, however, one is bound to sober up eventually and take dancing easy, ideally content with one´s technique and becoming one of those cool, self-possessed and lofty dancers you sometimes see at milongas, who apparently no longer feel the urge to dance or will only do so for special occasions or partners. But I wouldn´t know, would I, being still a happy addict myself..
I have a private theory about the next and ultimate stage of dancing the tango, a sort of a dancer´s nirvana: the individuals who reach it no longer NEED to dance in order to experience the ecstasy of a perfect tango; the man and the woman simply look at each other and in the split second when their eyes meet, they KNOW what it would be like, they experience between the two of them a perfection beyond the imaginable and the feeling in itself is so intense that there is no need to go through the whole exercise physically; they just sigh contentedly and lean back to recover from it. I have not so far met any such individuals, but of course they would be very rare. Which is lucky, as an abundance of such illuminated tangueros would make milongas extremely dull for everyone else.