Nancy Learns the Tango

Month: January, 2012

Dance Partner No. 2

In tango etiquette class my teacher recommended that I let a potential partner know of my two-month beginner status.  Even before the first salida.  This gives him the opportunity to excuse himself before I step on his feet.  And he can save himself from looking inelegant as he suffers through yet another beginner.

Too late.

He said: “You followers don’t need to spend thousands on dance classes.  All you need is a good lead.  Like me.  I’ve been dancing the tango for ten years.  You don’t need to tell me that you’re a beginner.  I’ll know it from your first step.”  I’m seeing a common theme here.  I must have beginner written all over my feet.

To his credit, he hung in there with me.  Using my every misstep as a teaching opportunity.  “Stop shifting your weight, I know where your weight is.  Do not anticipate my next move.  If I tell you to stand on your left foot for ten years then you stand on that foot until I indicate that you move to your right foot.”  Charming.

Truth be told, I could barely follow his lead.  Where was the elegant invitation to dance?  The firm but gentle hand on the small of my back, indicating that I move this way or that?  His movements were sudden and choppy and dizzying.   So, I checked  that my t-straps were secured and held on as he shoved me around the dance floor.

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green

Baby Steps

I went to my first milonga (the social dance event) with the trepidation of a beginner.  But I am taking classes – so at least I’m in the process.  Right?

I was well prepared with a simple checklist from my teachers:

Make sure my upper torso is facing my partner’s, no matter what my lower torso decides to do.  Keep my right arm firm in the embrace so that I may feel the indication of his movement.  Always walk in the line of dance, one foot directly behind the other.  Slightly brush my knees and ankles together as they pass each other.  Extend my leg.  Hips tilted back.  Lean towards my partner.  Step with intention, transfer my weight, collect, resolve.  All while going backwards.  In heels.

Oh,  and then there is dance floor etiquette.

As well as the ritual of the invitation to dance, there is also the art of ending the dance.  To end a dance that you may not be enjoying for reasons such as;  not being able to follow his lead, sweaty palms, blisters or the vapors,  one kindly says “Thank You.”

I asked my teacher in the tango etiquette class why I would want to end a dance?  After all, aren’t I there to learn and practice, good lead or bad?  She suggested it was good tool to have should I ever need it.

On the dance floor, I let my first partner of the evening know that I was a beginner.  To which he said:  “Then you shouldn’t be here.  And anyway I knew you were a beginner as soon as you took your first step.”  To which I replied “Thank You.”

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green

Dance Partner No. 1

My first dance partner was Rama.  South Asian, pressed jeans and all grin.  Our first dance had the awkwardness of ballroom dance class in sixth grade in the basement of Temple Emeth.  Without the white gloves.  He held me in an open embrace which felt like and probably looked like we were holding each other at arms length.

I have since learned that the invitation to dance the Argentine tango begins with the cabeceo.   A nod of the head from man to woman across a crowded room.  She accepts by holding his gaze.  The agreement to dance has been made.  He escorts her to the dance floor and offers his left hand.  They form the connection of the embrace.  The woman waits, softly shifting her weight from one foot to the other.  Ready for the invitation to move with him that she knows will come.  Though not when.

But we knew none of that.

Rama’s invitation to dance went something like this:

“Okay Nancy, let’s dooo eeet!  Okay, c’mon, ready?  Let’s dooo eeet!  Okay, let’s go.  C’mon, we go!  Nancy, we go!  Let’s dooo eeet!”

And we danced?

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green

Beginner Milonga Class

Last night was milonga class.  Milonga, as well as  being a social dance event is also a style of tango, a quicker step.  A step for every beat.

I danced the first dance with my teacher.  As I was stepping on his feet on every beat I said: “You know, I find the music a little peculiar and I’m not always sure where the beat is.”

He was horrified and gave me a sort of: There’s-no-hope-for-you-and-furthermore-what-the-heck-are-you-doing-here? kind of look.  I had the feeling that if he could, he would have called the tango anti-defamation league to escort me out.

In spin class I can find the four count in “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy Bitch” more easily than music by Francisco Canaro.  I’m not used to the flourishes and nuance and pauses in tango music.  Yet.

I had no where to go after that but to close my eyes, feel the connection of the embrace, be assured that there was a four count somewhere and wait for his invitation to move.  And we danced.

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green