27 March 2010

The day I listened to my partner

One of the biggest turning points in my tango was the day I learned to listen to my partner. It made all the difference from just dancing to turning each tanda into an beautiful experience.

Concentrating on technical stuff
In the first year of my tango journey, I was obsessed with technical perfection. How to stand, where to put my arm, when to step, how far the stride should be, toe lead, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

Despite my pursuit of mechanical proficiency, my tandas with my partners felt cold, uneventful, and devoid of emotion. This, despite the fact I knew my execution was correct. It was just not happening. When I try to lead something, my partner doesn't pick up on it. When I try to move, her reactions were delayed, or off.

"What was I doing wrong?" I asked myself. I sat down and postulated that if in fact what I was doing was (technically) correct, it was the transmission of what I wanted her to do was lacking.

Observation and teachers
On my quest to find out the "Why's and How's" of my conundrum, I did two things. I took classes from good teachers and I watched those on the floor whom I considered "Good."

One common thing emerged from both of them. Patience. Nothing was rushed nor forced. I asked myself, what did any of that matter?

Listening, really listening
Many milongas passed and my experimentation continued. I had problems with the patience thing. I didn't get it. Undaunted, I kept trying. I had to. The coldness of the dance still prevailed.

One particularly lovely tanda, it came to me. I GOT IT!!!

The patience thing DID matter. It offered me an opportunity to listen to my partner. I could read her, I could gauge her actions and reactions. By listening to her, I KNEW her. Knowing this, I knew how I could communicate to her.

Giving, receiving, giving... It's working
By giving her my patience, she gave me the answers I needed. This then allowed me to give to her in ways she could follow. My tango was now a two way street.

It was no longer "I'm leading and you follow." It was more like, I led a proposition, she told me her acceptance and to what degree, and it flowed from there.

 For the first time, I could see that my partner had fun dancing with me. For the first time, I felt warmth. For the first time. I felt "That Tango Connection."

That was the day I learned to listen. It was that day when tango became a beautiful experience.

21 March 2010

We made our tango ours

So here I am, rendered temporarily miserable and tango incapacitated by arthritis (temporarily broken again).  Sitting here, wanting to dance... but can't, has caused me to play movies in my head about tango lessons learned from the passed. I am driven you expound on one particular lesson—Making your tango "Yours."

"...but you dance nothing like him!"
One of the (more experienced) tango people in Seattle danced with Mrs. Ampster a while back. In between songs and tandas, he asked from whom she learned to tango. Her answer "Sonny Newman." He then asked, where did I learn to dance tango. She said, "Sonny Newman."

Surprised, he commented that "You (Mrs. Ampster) dance nothing like him (Ampster)." And, "Neither of you look nothing like Sonny!" Mrs. Ampster told me that exchanged, and we both chuckled.

We thought that to be a compliment. Soon a fter we first started learning tango, he said that "You need to make your dance your own." Back then, it was mysterious and cryptic and the comment flew completely over our heads.

Knowing what we know now...
Back then, we simply lacked the experience (at the time) to understand what the lesson meant. Knowing what we know now, Mrs. Ampster and I pick up subtle nuances as we watch the floor. We can see clearly the differences between those with a "Unique tango identity," and the "Tango embodiments."
  •  Tango embodiments
    • They dance beautifully. Their tango becomes the embodiment of their teachers and tango heroes.
  • Unique Tango Identity
    • These are the people who have evolved their tango into something all their own. Not necessarily showy, nor flashy. 
Bizarre evolutionary paths...
I don't quite know how we got to where we did. Mrs. Ampster and I attended only a hand full of teachers over the years. Of all the lessons we took, we only remembered a few things. Despite the advanced things we learned and our attempts to emulate our teachers—who all had something good to share, we always reverted to basic techniques. It was fun, frustrating, confusing, aggravating and strange.

Somewhere during that evolutionary process, we developed a tango identity unique to each one of us. In the end, it worked for us. It (also) seems to work well with those who dance with... at least most of the time. That was the rewarding part of this journey.

03 March 2010

R E J E C T I O N ! ! !

Rejection: re-jec-tion [ri-jek-sh uh n]
  1. the act or process of rejecting
  2. the state of being rejected
  3. something that is rejected
Synonyms: brush-off, cold shoulder, dismissal, nix, no dice, no go, nothing doing, no way, pass, rebuff, renunciation, repudiation, slap in the face, thumbs down, turn-down, veto

Context-Milonga: He was rejected by the lady when he asked her to dance a tanda. 

= = = = = = = = 

This was such a devastatingly brutal word when directed my way (Tango-wise): REJECTION! 

That word pounds in my brain. It gnaws at my consciousness. It hits my ego like a hammer blow. It is a foot stomping to my soul. It makes me hang my head in shame. It makes me feel like a loser. It makes me want to hide... Well, at least, this was what I though in milonga times past. I've (think) grown up since then. It hurts.

Many have talked about how to say "No" to someone asking for a dance either directly or via cabeceo. A myriad of ways exist to turn down a request to dance a tanda. This is my take on how it felt like to be on the receiving end—Before, and Now

  • When I was still a newbie...
The fear of rejection was self defeating to my tango development. As a beginner, I was so scared to get turned down that (for the longest time), I was scared to ask other women to dance. If I couldn't dance with several partners, I wasn't able to learn how to lead. Let alone learn to lead different partners who dance differently.

Every time I did get turned down, I would take it personally. I would stew, and dwell over the rejection. I would wonder what I did to merit a rejection. Sometimes, it made me embittered. Sometimes, it made me want to quit tango altogether.

In hindsight, none of what I thought (at the time) ever helped improve my tango. These emotional childish knee-jerk reactions caused mental blocks to learning. Of course it hurt, but then again, it made me think. I needed to find out more and get to the roots (causes) of rejections.

    • Interviews with lady friends (the followers' side)
During a lively discussion, I asked a few favorite partners WHY they turn down requests for a tanda. They had common reasons of why they would say "No, thank you..."
      • Legitimate things that lead to rejection
        • How attractive was the leader's dancing? Bad dancing/leading shows. Women don't want to be a victim
        • How smooth was the leader's dancing? A rough dancer/leader is obvious. Women do not want to be a rag doll being thrown around 
        • Does the leader stink (Breath, BO, Un-fresh clothes)? News like that spreads fast! Women do not want to suffer through any form of B.O.
        • How's the leader's demeanor? Leaders who act and look bizarre, strange, scary, rude, arrogant, creepy will scare women away—Anywhere!
        • They're tired, in pain, and/or taking a break. Much as they would like to keep dancing, women do get tired. Dancing in heels hurts after a while too.
        • No chemistry. It's a fact some personalities just don't mix. There's no attraction. It would not be an enjoyable dance. Nothing personal
        • Chatters, Talkers, Singers. Women are there to dance tango—Nothing else.
        • Wanna-be Teachers. Very obvious as you can see them teach on the milonga floor. Women want to dance, not to be lectured.
        • Aggressive, stroking, sneaky stalkers. Some people are very aggressive and/or uncouth in their approaches that it sometimes  startles and scares the intended recipient. 
        • Dangerous dancers. Some people lead complex and dangerous moves on the floor. Women notice this and some have told me that they would rather be safe and simple than be put in awkward, sometimes dangerous situations.
My friends shared their experiences. They ranged from the funny, absurd, strange, painful, weird, creepy. What was consistent were the aforementioned reasons. They are, legitimate.

  • Now that I'm a little bit smarter...
Now that I'm a little bit smarter (so I hope), I remember (vividly) the conversation I had with my friends. I take those lessons from their experiences and temper my reactions to their rejections. Yes, I DO get rejected several times.

The difference now is that, I don't take it personally. Their rejections I take as legitimate, and move on. Nothing personal, and no big deal. It happens all the time. I make it a point not to make the mistakes that were outlined. I valued them as priceless "Lessons learned."