28 mar 2008

Wednesday night @ Cellspace turned out to be a great evening, which was a blessing considering some of the difficulties that arose in the last minute. The evening before, my computer started having a glitch where it wouldn't send a signal through the audio output for some reason. I think it's shorting out somewhere and I'm going to have to take it to the shop.

Side note: Funny thing about these Macbooks, they always start acting all wonky immediately after the warranty expires. My previous Macbook had a complete meltdown of the motherboard about a month past the warranty which would have cost around 800 bucks to fix, which is why I bought the current one. Now I am a month past the current warranty and this happens. I know Macs have some true believers out there and I have always been a Mac user myself, but this is not only a drag but seems to show a pattern of unreliability...

Anyway, I ended up having to DJ through my iPod by syncing my playlists in the durations when my co-DJ Sabrina was on. She turned out to be the star of the night music-wise, drawing a bunch of people to our table to ask, "What was that last song?" I, on the other hand, feel like I was the solid backup player, kind of like the person who plays bass. You don't really notice them but they are the ones really laying down the foundation. And in retrospect I think that was the role I played by leaning heavily towards strong traditional tango tandas. I feel like we had a good mix and kept the energy moving really well. We had the seats pretty empty the whole night, and when we were done we had folks beaming at us and presenting us with high praise. It's a great feeling to know you are keeping the dancers happy. It's not a responsibility I take lightly.


Before the milonga I watched the classes--one beginner and one intermediate/advanced proceeding concurrently--and it occurred to me that there seemed to be a noticeable gap between them. That is, the beginner class seemed to cater to absolute newbies, while the intermediate/advanced class catered to people who should have pretty solid basic technique. But in the i/a class there wasn't really anybody who was at the level at which I think the instructors intended when they created their lesson plan. They began with a simple warm up where the leaders were to exercise their back ochos--not leading the ocho but performing it themselves. But when they commenced I couldn't see anyone who could do it properly. This isn't really all that surprising since in action it is pretty rare for leaders to do back ochos. But it is such a basic element of the dance that the technique should be present regardless. And this is where the gap in level seems to be. Many (not all) of the people taking the i/a class were clearly beyond what was happening in the beginner class and it is understandable that they would want to study something more challenging and unfamiliar to broaden their realm of possibility. Yet it takes time to really solidify even those primary concepts that are introduced during our initiation into tango.

I think this is an issue that I often see in classes here. Maybe it's because the classes tend to be too short in duration, but what seems to get neglected is some significant time to work solely on technical exercises. In many classes I see instructors allowing a brief warm up--usually consisting of a free dance for one song--and then immediately begin with the class topic. In Argentina I felt there was a lot more focus on technique, especially during the warm up, and what I have observed in other dances it is the same thing--particularly in classic dances, like ballet. Now, I don't have a beef with people who are casual dancers and aren't interested in investing the time and work into bringing their tango to a certain level. As a dance of the people I welcome those who are just looking to have a good time. These people are really the meat of the community. But for those who have higher aspirations it needs to be made clear that this is not a dance you can take for granted and think you can achieve success. Tango is d i f f i c u l t. Even for people who have danced their whole lives. And there are no shortcuts. Progress takes time and a lot of hard work, some of it tedious and frustrating and potentially painful physically, mentally, and emotionally. But this is what all the dancers we admire have gone through. To think you can get there without the same kind of struggle is basically to dis those who have worked so hard to get to where they are.


Miss Tango said...

The MAC thing happened to me too. If you call them up, most likely they will do something about it, and you don´t seem to need to blow a tantrum about it either.

Malevito said...

Hi Miss Tango, how are you?

You know, the sound problem is pretty intermittent. I think it's okay for now but am not 100% secure about djing a milonga.

I looked into the discussions at the Apple forums and it appears to be a pretty common problem in various forms. What seems to happen is that since the output is both a standard headphone as well as optical the computer sometimes gets mixed up regarding what kind of signal it should be sending. I noticed that when I was having the problem there would be a red light emitting from the plug. I haven't taken any steps to remedy the problem but it seems to have resolved itself. A common piece of advice that I read was to use a toothpick to clear out the plug but that sounded a bit iffy. Might try it, though, if it starts acting up again.

Anyway, thanks for writing :)

tangobaby said...

I'm sorry to hear about your macbook. You don't have applecare?

Apple makes some really great products but they are more disposble than you would think. But PCs are just as bad.

ModernTanguera said...

I think that you really hit on something with your comment about technique and the warm up in classes. My classical dance background makes me used to progressive exercises - a warm up that builds up to smaller exercises that leads to some main lesson. I have been surprised that this doesn't always happen in tango classes, because it seems like the logical way to introduce good technique while still being able to build up to a move that will keep the students engaged and coming back to learn more.

Malevito said...

Hi everyone-

TB: Unfortunately, I don't have Applecare although I had intended to extend my warranty before it ran out. But I thought they'd give me a reminder and they never did, so I missed the opportunity. As for the quality of Apple products, I wonder if part of the problem is that they are mainly assembled abroad. I have heard that it is actually better to get a refurbished iPod rather than a new one because they are refurbished and re-inspected here, where quality control is higher. Anyway, as far as Apple vs PC at least I have a little more peace of mind as far as malware/virus issues and stuff.

MT: I think that the issue regarding the lack of technical exercises has to do with the fact that most instructors, insofar as group classes are concerned, approach the students as if they were casual dancers just looking to have fun. Classical dance, on the other hand, are more performance oriented and perceived as art which is why I think the teachers are much stricter about technique. My perspective is that I consider tango every bit as valid an art as any of the classic dances, so I should respect the process of honing the instrument in the same manner as they do. Again, this is not to disregard or undervalue tango as a social activity, which is the real heart of the dance. But just as there is a distinction between the tango that is appropriate in a milonga and tango that plays well in performance, so there is the distinction in intention between tango that is danced for fun and tango that is studied for its aesthetic and structural possibilities. Needless to say, the diligent practice of the latter can enhance the former, but you don't have to work like a professional to be a good social dancer. Anyway, I think I'm starting to ramble...

Thanks for reading, all :)

Malevito said...

Addendum: Just wanted to mention that I also know of several professional tango dancers who are great in performance but have difficulty dancing in a milonga. So it doesn't always follow that those who are predominantly focused on the "art" aspect are also adept with the social aspects. Ergo, the lack of a well rounded approach has negative consequences dependent on which aspect gets neglected.