8 mar 2008

Trio Garufa cd release party last night at Ashkenaz. I arrived at about half past ten, surprised to find that the live music had started so soon after the dance lesson. The venue was packed to the hilt, bringing together a lot of the disparate factions of the Bay Area tango community in one place. It seems we all knew this was to be one of the big celebrations of the year for us, a coming together to support what is perhaps the one musical group who truly represents the local tango scene at the present time (although there are some burgeoning movements from other musicians in the area, which is a very welcome and encouraging phenomenon).

The fellas were *on* this evening, playing together much tighter than even the last time I saw them at El Valenciano a few short months ago. They--being talented dancers as well as musicians--proudly uphold the philosophy of playing with the dancers in mind. And the dancers responded, although perhaps a little too enthusiastically in some cases. It was one of those nights where an invitation to dance was tantamount to making an implicit agreement to be bumped, jostled, kicked, elbowed and stepped on. There was simply no avoiding it. In the first tanda I danced I got all of these, including a stiletto inside my shoe (distracting, to be sure, but at least it was from a friend who I knew was struggling along with everybody else). Yes, the floor was crowded, but this in itself didn't account for the difficulty of navigating it. Unfortunately, although not unexpectedly, there were enough hotshots to make things tough for everybody. And it doesn't take many, perhaps even as few as two couples can create significant disruption in la ronda. Now, I have to say that there are some who can cause problems but who I absolutely accept on the floor. In particular, I am thinking of beginners and inexperienced dancers who are still learning to navigate. Although some of these people can have an effect on the energy I find it hard to fault them as they are still getting accustomed to it and there is no way around it but to do it, and I encourage them to get out there provided they have at least a rudimentary understanding of dance etiquette. The ones I tend to frown upon are those who apparently have some experience with the dance, whose technique displays some familiarity and comfort but who choose to dance without regard to anybody around them. The ones who move in whatever direction suits them, who throw high boleos, kicks, lapices and lifts (yes, lifts) on a high traffic floor. These people apparently fail to realize that in a milonga you are not just dancing with your partner but with everybody else in the milonga. This is part of the beauty of tango as a social dance, unlike something like salsa where you basically claim your spot and dance within that set space. Those who approach tango with that latter intention would be better off in another dance, or at least in limiting themselves to performance and staying away from social dance floors. Because I can assure them, the only reason anybody is paying attention to them at all is to avoid them and regard them with disdain and ridicule.

As long as I'm on the topic of floorcraft I might as well mention another thing that really bugs me, and that is the all too common occurrence of people who cut you off in order to take a space that you were creating for yourself. That is to say, as a leader, one of the ways to create dance space is simply to wait while the couple ahead of you proceeds, thus creating an opening where you can at least play a little. But more often than not, what ends up happening is the dancers behind me will cut around me to get to that space who owes its very existence to my patience. This is not floorcraft. This ultimately creates more problems because now that everybody knows that most other people are predatory in this manner they tend to be more in a rush when they dance, and also they become tailgaters which is another thing I hate.

Maybe I'm being a bit too idealistic when it comes to what a milonga *should* be like. I find that a lot of the most experienced dancers, though they understand the value of being a part of a unified whole, also know how to read a floor that will not cooperate and thus approach it with a very dominating attitude, creating a path through sheer strength of intention and clarity of direction. The difference between them and the hotshots is that they are always with la ronda and dance within a very compact cylinder and with their feet always well grounded. This is an attitude I have yet to develop. I personally prefer to sit out when I see a violent floor. Which means, I sit out a lot.

Anyway, enough with the griping. I had a good time last night, seeing a lot of friends and listening to some great music. They even managed to squeeze a quick chacarera into the mix which was messy but refreshing. My zapateos were a disaster but you know, you use it or lose it and I lost it. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see maestro Pampa Cortes, a great folk dancer, doing his thang. I'm not even sure if he actually participated. I asked him later if he did and he said, "A little." Not sure what that means. He mentioned something about being very tired after doing several performances a day. I can understand that.

Along with the Trio, Shorey had dj duties which was a particularly compromising position because her sets were short and sporadic, and also she had to work around both the Trio's repertoire and their energy. She handled it admirably, and I have to give special kudos for her starting a set with Fresedo (why is he so dissed in the Bay Area?) Also, the local all-woman troupe Tango Con *Fusion put on a fun little show.

So tonight, perhaps the Late Shift. I'll have to see how I feel around midnight.


Alex said...

Lifts!? Amazing...in the mood I am in these days, if I saw someone doing lifts at a milonga, I might have to invite him outside and bitch slap him around...

Malevito said...

Hi Alex, how are you?

Yeah, that was kind of perplexing, among other things. Not just a lift but a *spinning* lift. Where are the tango police when you need them? Apparently, in the old days they used to have people who would monitor the floorcraft and anybody who got out of line was escorted from the floor, given a full refund and told never to return. I can see how that may be problematic but there has to be some way to regulate things that falls somewhere between strict authoritarianism and complete free for all. I just don't think it's fair that others should suffer from the whims of one deluded guy, and the fact that it's tolerated only seems to encourage the behavior. Maybe the bitch slap thing might be a good idea. Or maybe he should be made to endure some boleos at his ass so he knows what it feels like. Actually, I've heard of a similar regulatory measure where unwanted dancers were deliberately kicked, stomped, and generally bullied off the floor by the other dancers. If anybody has a better suggestion I'd like to hear it.

Anyway, thanks for the comment.

David said...

The best way to prevent an inconsiderate leader from disrupting the dance floor would be for all followers to refuse to dance with him.

The trouble with that is that all the followers would have to agree with what is acceptable dance behaviour on the dance floor!

Malevito said...

Hi David-

Yeah, that would be an ideal solution, but oftentimes it seems that disruptive dancers arrive as a pair and tellingly dance only with one another. And when I think about it, I guess I'm really glad that followers have different ideas of what they like. Otherwise, from a leader's perspective the dance would feel a lot more uniform from person to person.

I don't know how it's been for other people, but from personal and peripheral experience I've found that inconsiderate dancers are near impossible to correct or reason with as they simply don't seem to have the capacity to understand the problem with their approach. It's very much a narcissistic type of disorder. So I guess we're kind of stuck with it, which is a shame. If anybody else has had a different experience I'd like to hear about it.

Anyway, thanks for writing.

La Nuit Blanche said...

i remember one milonga i went to a few months ago, where the hostess actually had to remind everyone about floorcraft and crazy steps, during the announcements. the floor got peaceful for a while, but quickly got crazy again.

i think teachers in every community can also help with the situation by educating beginners about tango in a milonga context... that the fun stage steps they are teaching in group class must not be used on the social dancefloor because they are dangerous.

i have a feeling this would never work, though, since the reason many people get into tango is because they want to do the stage tango thing. :(