19 abr 2008

Recently, my tango partner mentioned in passing how, when she is dancing at a milonga, one of the things she focuses on is the dance space, and it made me wonder if this is part of the responsibility that a follower should share or if it she should leave it to the leader's discretion.

My take is that, ideally, this should be solely a concern for the leader, in the sense that the leader dictates the path that the couple will follow but also regulates the energy of expression. And of course, there is the all important rule that the leader takes responsibility for safety, both of his partner and himself but also for that of the couples around them.

So then, as the leader evaluates all the myriad factors that will, moment to moment, inform his interpretation, the follower should have two primary areas of focus: the nuances of her partner's lead and her own axis. The leader, for his part, will not put anyone in jeopardy through bad decisions, ie. marking a strong boleo, media luna, or large circumference / high energy turn in the direction of another couple or perhaps a chair leg or table, aggressively bulldozing his partner toward a space in order to claim it ahead of another couple who is moving in that trajectory or using her body to tailgate another couple, etc. If the leader is conscientious about the space then there should be a consistent and comfortable flow to the dance.

My concern when the follower takes the responsibility for this space is that, assuming the leader is already being careful, there will be a kind of excess of caution that feeds on itself and negatively affects the flow. That is to say, on a dance floor that is packed or otherwise safety compromised, the leader already will take this into account and modify the couple's energy and dance space accordingly. If on top of this the follower also takes the incentive to regulate the energy and the space it will result in an excess throttling of energy and a kind of overprotectiveness that causes rigidity and loss of what limited freedom the couple has in the given circumstance.

Again, I am only speaking ideally, as there are never absolutes. But I feel that to dance with too many eyes focused on protection (especially here in the states) is to compromise to the extent of irrelevance. Shoulders and shoes will rub, couples will get cut off, there will be the occasional bump. All this is unavoidable, and to overly prioritize the attempt to completely eradicate this from the experience is to completely neuter expression, which is just as much your couples' right as any others' on the floor who may be more aggressive in exercising that right.

This is my take at the moment, but I would definitely like to hear what others think.


14 abr 2008

Have not been in much of a tango mood lately. Don't know if it's because of the high volume I've been getting at work, the crazy ass weather in the Bay Area, taking care of my mom (she's better now) or just overexposure. For the past couple weeks I've been keeping it almost strictly in a practice mode with A. We've been attending the advanced class with David and Mariana on Wednesdays which has been really refreshing for us. I'm not one to take many classes and apparently people know this about me, as colleagues were expressing surprise at my attendance. D and M structure the lessons around an extended sequence which they demonstrate piece by piece and deconstruct along the way. The point is not to memorize the sequence but to understand how the elements interconnect, which will in turn hopefully give the dancers greater insight into making different connections as well as gaining proficiency and possibly devising new variants of the elements. It's fun and challenging to get outside of my comfort zone which admittedly is something I tend not to do, although in principle I know it is necessary to keep growing. And this class leans toward modern concepts (single axis, centrifugal force, contradictory leads, etc.) which I haven't really explored in depth, although for the most part I have previously studied the movements to some degree and can manage fairly decently--again, somewhat to the surprise of those who know my conservative dancing tendencies.

Aside from the workshops, A and I do our regularly scheduled practices on Thursdays and Sundays and beyond that I haven't gone out much, maybe one or two milongas per week. And on the occasion that I do go to a milonga I've been averaging maybe one tanda for the evening, sometimes none. That's fine. I think that by the time summer hits I'll probably get more energy and incentive to get more active again.