24 feb 2008

Sunday afternoon, post all-nighter at the Beat. These nights always take a lot out of me but last night was particularly draining for some reason. And not because I danced a lot, or because I worked a lot, neither of which I did. Not sure exactly what it was, except to say that sociability isn't a natural state for me and perhaps I've been putting myself in these situations a bit too heavily lately. I recall a line from 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould where Glenn talks about a certain ratio where for every x amount of time spent in the company of others there is a corresponding y amount of time that is necessary away from people. I think this is very true, and that this ratio is different from person to person. For me I think the y is particularly high. This is not to say I don't value the time I spend with these people who I have come to regard as good friends and compatriots following the common compulsion of tango. But there are times when the feeling of community and camaraderie, warm and inviting as it is, can start to make me feel hollowed out and empty for some reason. So today, though it is usually a practice day, I decided to refrain to kind of gather my energies.

Considering the all-nighter, though I heard comments from some who seemed to think the attendance was light I felt we had a pretty good crowd and good energy. It was great to see friends who I hadn't seen in a while because they were away in Oregon or other places, and some faces who were new to me but who others seemed familiar with, some very nice dancers from other communities who were passing through. The few dances I had were pretty rocky and rote (on my end), just one of those nights. Also--though Rina is a fine and experienced dj--I just couldn't really get into the music for some reason. Something about the flow that I couldn't tap any energy from. Maybe part of it was because the tandas I liked always seemed to play when I was doing door duty. I think there was just a lot of stuff that I am not terribly familiar with and I just need to collect more and listen more. There are still plenty of orchestras and plenty of music I need to mine for the distinct voices and modes of expression. For example, Tanturi is an orchestra that I haven't had much opportunity to explore in depth and am presently looking to study, as I have yet to find a signature in his music that moves me.

Anyway, as the sun sinks on this gray Sunday I ponder how I will spend my evening. Don't want to stay home, don't much want to go out, either.


16 feb 2008

It occurs to me that I often get scheduled to play music at Cellspace whenever there is a big festival somewhere out of town. In that sense, I've often had the occasion to dj in the absence of a lot of friends. I guess I can be a bit dubious about the intentions, but I prefer to think of it as a kind of trust that I'll be able to hold the fort while the bosses are away.

As to be expected, Cellspace was noticeably affected by Valentango. There was a relatively light crowd, heavy on the "casual" tangueros and newer faces. Nevertheless, Leslie (my co-dj) and I kept a good energy and a good flow going and had most of the people dancing and the chairs empty the whole night. Leslie tends to be a more adventurous dj than I am so it was good to have her balance out my conservative playlists. All in all a successful evening. It's one of those times I felt we really kept the spirit of Cellspace without veering too heavily on the "alternative" side of things, nor making overly jarring transitions between tandas and/or djs. A shame that many of the regulars weren't around to appreciate it.

One thing about Cellspace, from a dj perspective, is that it is difficult to shape the sound of the music. There's something about the acoustics of the venue that colors the sound in a way that I don't like. Oddly, it seems to only occur later in the evening. Before anybody arrived Leslie and I were doing sound checks and were kind of amazed at how good the speakers were sounding. But during the milonga there was a steady decline, and with certain orchestras the music had what Leslie aptly described as an "underwater" quality. I don't know if that's a result of the presence of the crowd or of a kind of speaker fatigue. It's pretty frustrating because a lot of beautiful nuances get lost in the muddle. Maybe I can ameliorate some of this by using some kind of music software. Right now I only use iTunes, which apparently some folks really detest. I guess I should look into other options, but I don't really know what else is available for Macs.

Thursday night was red night at La Pista. I think I went a little overboard--red dress shirt, *loud* red pants (that I never wear because they are too bright and a little too long, plus they don't have pockets), red and black suede Flabella's on my feet (with a relatively tall heel for a guy's shoe--maybe an inch or two). I even wore a red bandanna, which Glenn suggested I remove on the way back to the car, "in this neighborhood--just in case." Only danced one tanda because I wasn't too comfortable in my chosen wardrobe and also am having some recurring foot problems. Plus I had arrived fairly late, too late to see the performances by Gato y Andrea and Judy and Jon. Spent most of the time lounging on the futon and talking with friends about shoes, salsa (which Vijay played as a quick break from tango), and the importance as a dancer of having a genuine feel for the music, which is one of the reasons why I have yet to study salsa dancing despite a long-standing intention.

I took Friday off and will likely take tonight off as well, considering that so many friends are out of town and that there will supposedly be a lot of work on the bridge this weekend. I'll make up for it tomorrow with Julian's práctica in the afternoon and then La Taza in the evening.


12 feb 2008

The end of last week brought some good tango moments. Practice with A on Thursday, worked on a simple movement I stole from Gustavo and Giselle, among other things. Afterwards, went to the La Pista milonga, currently between names. Apparently, Rina isn't satisfied with the "80/20" moniker, especially since the "20" hardly ever makes an appearance. It's getting to be one of my go to places, even though it's on an inconvenient night and I have to cross the bridge. You can usually find at least a few of the Bay Area's best and brightest making an appearance, so even if you dance as infrequently as I do you can still enjoy watching. This week there was a guest appearance from Gustavo Benzecry Sabá and María Olivera, two very nice dancers and instructors from BsAs. They are self-described Salón style tangueros and as such seem to emphasize a more contained energy. I was most impressed by the tiny movements that each of them peppered their performance with. Watching them adds weight to my theory that dancers from BsAs tend to have more freedom and individuality in their approach. I get more of a sense of play and of personal expression, rather than a dominant focus on doing something "correctly" or of conforming to an established style.

Friday I went to Lafayette to visit my good friends and mentors Marcelo Solís and Romina Hahn and got to see Gustavo and María again. I sat out most of the night chatting with friends but had to put my shoes on when Fresedo popped up for the last tanda (a terribly underplayed orchestra in the Bay Area, in my opinion). I was lucky enough to catch María and had a wonderful set, despite the fact that I wasn't warmed up at all. At the end of the evening I bought a copy of Gustavo's book on Tango as metaphor. So far I've skimmed through it and it's an insightful read, although I differ in opinion on some things, mostly technical.

Saturday night was The Late Shift. Again met up with Marcelo, Romina, Gustavo and María, as well as my practice partner A in one of her rare milonga appearances. Seemed a little lighter in attendance than usual but still a good crowd and a good energy. Gustavo and María put on another wonderful performance and David kept the musical flow running smoothly (with the possible exception of an Electrocutango tanda, but that's personal bias--other people seemed to dig it). Got some very nice dances in, the best I've had in a long time. Nice to get on the floor with dancers you know--and who know you--pretty well.

Sunday, Café Cocomo. Didn't feel much like dancing but I had mentioned to a few people I'd try to make it. Spent the whole time as a wallflower, hanging out with friends and chatting. Didn't even bother to change my shoes, then ended up dancing La Cumparsita in my rubber soled oxfords with a friend who didn't want to leave without getting on the floor at all. Midway through the milonga there was another performance by Gustavo and María. Two songs, the second a milonga, the first fairly tricky--Pugliese, Seguime si podés ("Follow me, if you can"). Their interpretation involved a lot of long pauses, which was perfectly apt. I'm getting more comfortable with stillness but still finding Pugliese elusive. Shortly before their performance María was the unlucky victim of another's heel, which despite the ample room somehow found its way directly onto her ankle and scraping a line precisely bisecting her foot. Absolutely inexcusable, but sadly not uncommon.

Since the weekend have been trying to counterbalance all the tango with other things, but on Wednesday will be at Cellspace to share dj duties, then on Thursday plan to be at the Red night at La Pista. Will dig through my paltry wardrobe for something appropriate.


3 feb 2008

Late Shift last night. Had the will to go but apparently not the spirit. Made it a point to get out on the floor to hang out with people I like but ended up dancing like a zombie. Couldn't connect with my partners and didn't recognize a lot of the music which I usually know, and subsequently couldn't connect with it either. Also felt unsteady on my feet and tended to tip over on turns. Overall a lack of focus and energy. When I dance like this I feel I'm cheating my partners. Been so tired lately. Hadn't danced since Monday so I guess I felt duty bound. I know that's not the best way to go about it but I fall in to that trap now and then. I suppose I'm so tied in to the idea of approaching the "art" of tango with a sense of discipline that I lose the spirit of freedom that I should have. Don't know if that means I should go out more, or less. Or if I should take it more seriously, or less. At the end of the milonga I spoke with some friends about it and we all just kind of shrugged and chalked it up to being one of those nights we all know so well.