12 June 2009

Getting off my tango motorcycle

Seattle, WA is a beautiful, small, yet sophisticated city with the best of most everything.

Its tango community emulates that model and has been blessed with dedicated tango people who have established several new milongas this last year. You can literally go to a practica, or a milonga every day of the week.

I had lots of choices, and I availed of the opportunity whenever I could. Eventually, even a good thing can be too much. My beloved Mrs. Ampster got a little burned out and took a tango sabbatical. That's a good thing as everyone needs to hit the reset button every once in a while. Myself on the other hand, had a different effect...

Splitting the population
Seattle is a hotbed of fanatical, dedicated, and beautiful tango dancers, both milonguero and nuevo alike. However, it has an Achilles heel—The population is not particularly big. Considering that it really takes time to develop good tango dancers, quality growth of the community can be slow.

With this scenario, the laws of supply and demand take over. You have the Seattle tango people diversifying the milongas they go to, thus splitting the population. On one hand, it gives impetus for the community to build and mentor new tango dancers to keep everything going. On the other, without any community growth, some milongas will have to fold. Only time will tell.

Getting off the motorcycle
The effect on myself by this conundrum is that I suddenly find my regular partners missing. In the past, I literally would dance almost every tanda for the duration of the milonga—There are so many friends to dance with. With the splitting of the population, regular partner numbers are diminished. However, it is not particularly a bad thing as I also see new faces. I explore new partners regardless of skill level. It's a great exercise in diversification.

I tried to diversify with my newly found tango friends at my usual pace. It was like riding a motorcycle at speed through mountain passes. There was so much going on all at once, while trying to be smooth and not crash. It's intense. It's furious. It went on for the duration of the tanda—For a few months.

I got tired eventually, and decided to get off my tango motorcycle for a while. I didn't dance as much as I did. The experience was like getting off my motorcycle and enjoy walking through the mountain meadow to enjoy the breeze and the flowers. Things were no longer passing by at a high speed blur.

Appreciating the tango of others
I sit and watch the dancers that pass in front of me. I scrutinize their embrace. I watch as she closes her eyes, feeling the warmth of the embrace and sensing the lead. They move fluidly. They move beautifully. I see some leads do things that are so simple, yet magnificent. I see women extend their legs in long elegant lines as they walk back. I see some women's hand raise as a gesture of feeling the music and the dance.

I watch leaders move in syncopated rhythm. I watch them cast the tango spell on their willing partners. I see different placements for the leaders left arm. Some high, some head level, some low. One even did the scorpion looking high looped arm thing—bizarre. All worked for their purpose and style.

In one tanda, I even saw my own tango development... All at once. There were dancers that represented my own tango evolution.

There were awkward beginners trying out their newly memorized steps–I was once one of them. There was the guy who who tries to teach a hapless newbie and block traffic in the fast lane–I was once this loathsome creature. There was the flashy nuevo guy who tried to do all his fancy stuff–Me at one time. There was the salonisti who danced in a "V" embrace and the milonguero who danced squarely in full contact with their partner–I too have gone these routes. Fascinating!

Its nice getting off my tango motorcycle and savoring the sights of the milonga for a change. Someday, I'll ride at full speed again—maybe.

P.S. That's really me on my motorcycle


Elizabeth Brinton said...

Interesting to hear your observations of all those styles and stages...the thing for the follows is that we live through those with every leader...all the time..adjusting. That too can become a tiring race.
With all the new venues it has forced us to try new partners when are regular ones don't show up...that is probably a good thing. Like you, I have had time to observe some things...some things I would rather not see at milongas at all. And so with the diversity of venues I can choose where to be choosy.

Anonymous said...

Your posts are always so enlightening. This is a very common phase - getting off the motorcycle. It is a sign of Tango maturity, when we realize that there is more to tango bliss than just dancing it. At this stage, we also discover those things that combined make for OUR tango. Personal, individual, and intimate. We distill the artifice from our organic movements.

And yet, when you get back on the motorcycle, it will never be the same again :-)

Liz said...

Dear Ampster -- As always, listening for the heart of Seattle Tango! At first, I was quite uncomfortable with the proliferation of duplicate (sometimes even triplicate) Milongas in our community. Most of them are sponsored by people who have been an important part of our Tango life -- DJs, teachers, leaders, hosts -- and so picking one over another felt like a betrayal well-earned loyalty. Sometimes I would arrive at my chosen Milonga and feel that "everyone" had gone to the other venue, only to have the thrill of being invited by a new leader and having a superb dance as a result. Sometimes I would feel that there were too few people in the room to generate the proper sense of energy, and then find that we had magically become joined together like guests at a very special private party -- small, congenial,harmonious and very pleasurable. Many of us are watching more and dancing less and feeling the richer for it. Thanks for reflecting on this path that we are all dancing on together.

Tina said...

I love the multiple milongas and split population to be honest. There are different styles at each milonga and I can choose to be around people who dance close embrace in the line of dance, and avoid those who do not. So I'm thinking it's positive for the development of the dancers in their chosen styles, and I'm having more fun.
When it was all mixed together I really didn't like tango in Seattle because the line of dance was noooo fun at all and the vibe was just weird. So I'm happy with the way things are :-) It has made my transition from Buenos Aires much easier and I see higher quality at each of the milongas (even those I don't regularly attend). Growth is happening in a different way. :-)

I love the way you see yourself in other dancers as they evolve. You are so kind and humble, and people like you are nice to have at milongas. :-)

Tina said...

"There are different styles at each milonga" meaning each milonga has its own primary style of tango.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Ditto to what Tina expresses. It helps to know that we can go out to close embrace venue and honor the style. This is a good thing. We hope that the organizers will do their best to protect the ambiance and nature of the milonga.
When it is really a mix, it just makes me crazy...not relaxing at all!