18 nov 2007

Metronome last night. A nice time with some good music and seeing some good friends but somehow felt very removed from it all. Even after all the time I've been involved in tango I still sometimes feel like the outsider looking in. That's always been a part of my nature and it doesn't kick in with the severity that it used to, but I still get it sometimes. Didn't dance much, which is the usual story with me. The energy on the floor looked pretty chaotic and I didn't want to subject myself or any partner to it, plus live music is difficult to dance to. I mentioned this to a friend who replied that live music is good to practice improvisation, but that is certainly not one of my strong points. I feel like I've been dancing with pretty much the same movements for a long time now, although my approach to those movements seems to constantly change. There is a part of me that hungers for some variety, but it gets outvoted by this nagging conscientiousness to keep things simple and unobtrusive for my partner and for the dancers around me. Even though I have studied more things than I can remember and have a greater lexicon than I use, I just can't get myself to feel that much of it is appropriate in a social setting. Not to mention that I dance so infrequently with anybody that I don't feel as if I have "permission" to introduce anything risky with them, especially since at this stage of neglect most of these other possibilities are probably not well tuned. But thinking this over brought to mind a comment I read by the pianist Sviatoslav Richter, who upon hearing a recording by another pianist remarked, "He's knowledgeable and plays well, but he never throws himself headlong into the sea. Perhaps he'll never do so." When I think about it I'm absolutely certain that I, too, am playing it way too safe, that I'm approaching things too cautiously. But on the other hand, I am well aware that a milonga is not the place to work out these issues. I think, in general, that in a milonga it is better to err on the safe side.

Regarding the dances I had, even though they were all enjoyable I felt off for all of them, which made me reconsider my thoughts about my connection with the dancer from the other day. Perhaps it's not anything on her end at all. I have a thought which may be dubious but which many hold some weight, that it may be my shoes. Thing is, for a while now I've been dancing almost exclusively in my practice calzados but for the last couple of days I switched back to my formal zapatos which have a significantly different feel to them. The zapatos have a higher and harder heel, harder soles and more of a point at the tip. This makes them more of a hazard for others, which is something to be cautious of in itself, but also makes them noisier, which is something I am also conscientious about. So I'm wondering if this can account for the increased tentativeness in my steps and my lead. I will take them to the practica in Emeryville this afternoon and see if I can work this out.

Later tonight I will go to the La Taza milonga in Oakland. Being a new venue it's still finding its audience but will hopefully start to pick up as it's a nice place to gather.


tangobaby said...

Yes, I agree with you about last night. The floor was chaotic and the navigation almost nonexistant. I know I stepped on at least two people and I was kicked and stepped on several times. And it was very hard for most of the leaders I was with to dance to the live music. I've come to the realization that I like to listen to live music but would much rather dance to the recorded.

This is only the second Metronome milonga that I've been to since I started dancing two years ago. I went to see Michelle and Murat perform and take the class. I saw a few people I recognized from other milongas but mostly I am guessing the people at Metronome are just regulars there? I was glad to dance with some people I haven't seen in a while but I wouldn't make that a regular venue for myself.

I know someday I'll have to venture over the Bay Bridge and check out the East Bay tango scene...

Malevito said...

Hi tangobaby -

Well, if you are on the SF side of the bridge there are enough tango things going on that you almost don't have to come to the East Bay, but we really do have some very nice functions here. For example, the all-nighter at The Beat is probably my favorite milonga in the area (disclaimer: I volunteer there).

Regarding live music vs. recorded, I feel it's almost impossible to dance in a way that's really true to the music when it is being played live (unless, of course, you have rehearsed with the band). That's not to say you can't dance to it at all, but for me the whole point of dancing is to create a physical embodiment of music (which in itself is an art that exists not in visual space but in time), and the only way to do that accurately is to know exactly what the music is going to do next because otherwise there is a necessary delay between what is registered as sound in the brain and then the subsequent physical reaction to it. Boy, don't I sound smart :P

Incidentally, this is not meant at all as a jab at Trio Garufa, who I think are fantastic and probably the only active tango group in the Bay Area who positively represents our scene.

I wonder, are you okay with the fact that you were led to step into and be stepped on and kicked by others? Maybe I'm making more of a big deal about it than it is. I think if I knew it was less of an issue for followers I'd feel a little less hesitant to dance on crowded floors and put my partners' feet, legs, and shoes at risk.

tangobaby said...

Hi Malevito,

I know that people really enjoy The Beat and the All-Night Milonga and someday I would like to try them. My only fear, like others' I'm sure, is that in going to a new place no one will dance with me because I'm not a regular.

I thought your explanation about dancing to live music vs. recorded was spot on (and yes, you are very smart, but what's wrong with that?!). There's a reason why we crave to hear certain recordings over and over again, and then to be able to express oneself in dance to the music we love the most is what makes it so memorable. I think some people really enjoy and feed off of the energy that comes from live music performed but to me that's not enough of a tradeoff from the comfort of dancing to old favorites.

And I agree with you, I think Trio Garufa is excellent.

I am absolutely NOT okay with being led to step on others or get stepped on myself. I usually dance with my eyes closed and I have to put my faith and trust in my leader that he will keep me out of harm's way and also keep me from hurting others. It is very hard to let go and enjoy the dance when you feel like you have to concentrate on avoiding dangers all around you. I felt like some people were very reckless and dancing in ways that were inconsiderate of those around them. It was like a free-for-all at times.