Boredom (17 ene 2009)

I remember reading or hearing a line once--probably from some caffeine addled motivational speaker--that if you find yourself bored, it just means you are boring. I don't know how true that is, but it's enough to give me pause when I'm in this particular state. Not that I'm the only one. I hear the lament like a refrain, often from dancers I admire and respect. And as far as I can recall, they are all referring to their own dance. More often, I think, this is a problem for leads, who have the privilege of most of the interpretive control.

I find myself in this state from time to time, although on reflection it's generally not when I'm actually dancing. It's more when I'm off the floor, with the dance on my mind. I was on the subject with a tango friend who I have been seeing less of lately, who seems to be in a similar bind. For him, and for myself as well, it's not a matter of steps. Which is to say, neither of us feels that just the learning of new elements or figures is what it would take to get us fired up again. It would have to be something more elusive, deeper in the DNA of the dance, although it's difficult to say what that would be. Maybe a different perspective on how to communicate a lead, or on how to interpret music. A different feeling in the embrace, on the alignment of your body with your partner's. Or something completely new, at least to you. Something you have never seen before but is an honest expression, rather than just a gimmick.

While I feel this is a natural and healthy instinct, I think it's also very important not to neglect things that may have become familiar just because of their familiarity. It's easy to fall into the trap of "grass is always greener," or thinking that someone else's way of doing something must be better than your own. Of course, sometimes that may be true, but it's a mistake to think it must always be so.

Actually, I think one possible factor that feeds dissatisfaction of one's own dance is actually a good thing. That factor is consistency. This is the basis of any useful language. A "tree" is always a tree, and whenever the word is used it evokes the same understanding. And so is a lead always a lead and communication between you and your partner need not be encumbered by uncertainty. Of course, it is the innate creative drive that pushes us to seek new manners of expression. This inspiration, in our best moments, is what makes us poets on the floor.


On the subject of boredom, I have also been having increased difficulty watching performances. It pretty much doesn't matter who it is, I often find myself getting distracted somewhere in the middle. Usually I find myself tuning out because I am imagining what I would do at a certain point in the music, or how my overall conception would be different. Or if they get into a particular position or do an interesting figure I imagine what I could do with that position or figure, what the possible entrances and exits and expressive uses could be. Worst of all, sometimes what I'm seeing just looks like something I've seen a million times before. It is this last thing which most disturbs me. Uniformity, in my opinion, is symptomatic of fad mentality, and if we're not careful it will sink tango back into relative obscurity. Which, perhaps, is inevitable anyway. To what degree and in what matter of time is the question. And, I suppose, whether it goes down with dignity or as a caricature of its true self.

I've seen it happen before, back when I was b-boying in the '80's. The thing that killed it for us was that we thought we had seen everything. It was the most popular dance around and everybody was doing the same moves. It came to a point where we thought we had taken it as far as it could go, so we moved on. Luckily, it stayed alive in underground circles, with dancers taking influences from places we never would have thought to look, and when I see the b-boys and b-girls of today I am amazed and proud at where the dance has gone. It will be the same with tango when its cycle has run its course. Although I hope the resurgence continues to grow and expand for a good while. There's still plenty of time, and for the general populace tango is still enough of an enigma that there is a lot of untapped potential interest. I still see a healthy insurgence of newbies toddling through their first classes, eyes aground and bodies unmeshed. Actually, that never gets old to me. Witnessing the process of discovery, the aha! moments, is always something that makes me feel really good. Ah, to be a baby again, when everything is new and exciting...

But to trade in all that I have experienced and all I have gained and for which I have worked, just to see things with those new eyes? Not in a million years. Though there are always frustrations and self-criticisms and so much more work to do and, yes, the occasional boredom and fatigue, I'm happy and proud to be where I am now.

No comments: