27 April 2010

Un-making a tango zombie

I was at Seattle's newest milonga one day (La Milonga) and it was great. Sitting out one tanda for a break, I watched the packed floor and a thought just hit me. My attitudes towards tango had changed (very distinctly) throughout the years.

Here's how I'd characterize it... Some people describe it as an addiction. I think mine went a bit further...

Becoming a Tango Zombie
This was my state of being, in my first couple of years of tango. it was (IMHO) and affliction, a slow, all consuming malady that overwhelmed me. My life revolved around it. Life decisions were made with tango as an ubiquitous consideration. The following were the major symptoms

  • Tango Workshop addiction
There was a time when I can remember that my desire to learn tango, drove me to attend every workshop I could (possibly) go to. I went to nuevo workshops, milonguero workshops, salon workshops, show tango workshops, workshops by this expert from here, experts from there, experts from everywhere.
  • Every single milonga pilgrim
I can remember a time when I was obsessed with attending every milonga and practica, schedule permitting. I had a permanent bookmark on my browser to allseattletango.com. That way, I knew where and when the next milonga and practica would be. My off-work times were spent there. My vacation days were expended there. My social life revolved around them.
  • Obsession with technical over-analysis
Along with the workshops and milongas came the mindset of steps and technique. Thinking of steps and technique. Talking about steps, technique, steps, technique. Knit-picking here, criticizing there. Conversations with friends revolved around steps, technique, new steps, different technique, angle, blocking, contact points, bluh-blah, bluh-blah, bluh-blah. Did I say I over-analyzed steps and technique?
  • Obsessive and/or compulsive tango hero worship
Seattle is blessed with an abundance of really great visiting tango instructors. I think that a good number of the cast of Forever Tango have taught in Seattle. And, I adored them! One in particular (I thought) danced like an angel. I have pictures, videos, posters, autographs... I was star struck! I had turned into a (pseudo) middle-aged tang-groupie!

Recovery and De-tango zombiefication
That tango zombie business lasted a good couple of years. My de-tango zombiefication did not happen instantly. Rather, recovery happened as my tango maturity grew. The following are the things that have taken me from tango zombieland and into back into the realm of the (almost) "Normal."
  • Mastery of the basics
Mastering the basics (in tango) became the key to getting-over the tango workshop addiction. Everything in tango is based on the basics (i.e. walking). Then, progressively builds from there. A lot of the lessons I've learned (thus far) suddenly made sense. No longer was there a desire to attend all workshops. 

Knowing what I know now, I've become very selective and only go to those teachers whom I know will add value to my personal method of tango.
  • Tango celebrity admiration, NOT adoration
Tango instructors are only human, except, they posses a skill that is unique and beautiful. Some aspire to look like them, or be like them. Boil down their technique and you see the simplicity of it all. I admire them for their dedication and expertise. I admire them for their willingness to impart their knowledge. I admire them for their sacrifice, as their profession is not an easy one.

I admire them, but I no longer see them as tango-deities. They are just like me. Someone, who has a particular unique skill, who is willing to share.
  • Self-awareness and balance
This I had trouble with. I (with much effort) learned to find my center of balance. Once I knew where and how to hold myself, it greatly aided in supporting and leading my partner, while keeping her on her center of balance.
  • Caring for my partner
I dance for my partner's benefit first and foremost.
  • Improvisation
This is my method of stringing together everything that I've learned (thus far) to adapt to any music and partner. It changes every time, even if I use the same steps. This makes the experience fresh and new each time.
  • Becoming "Me"
I gave up on being like my tango heroes. I realized that I shouldn't mimic anyone, as my tango had to be mine. Good, bad, or otherwise, it is something unique and something I had to be confident enough about. I tried, and I still keep trying.

    A new dawn
    I'm no longer a Tango zombie and enjoy tango much better now. I am no longer obsessed, nor does my life revolve around tango... Anymore.

    It does occupy a rich and special place in my heart. I am in balance... As it should be.


    360-927-9601 said...

    I love this!

    Halbert said...

    Great Picture!

    Tango and Braaaains!

    Anonymous said...

    So true - so true.

    One negative side effect is that you don't get as many dances because all the yet-to-mature tangueros/as watching don't like the simpler dancing - it looks boring compared to the fancy stuff the stage dancers do - and the stage dancer wannabes do.

    But I guess that's life - if you want good stuff, there's less of it. Quality, not quantity.

    Anna-Marie said...

    Another way I would define tango zombiness is going on automatic pilot--you've heard the song numerous times, so you know exactly when to throw that embellishment, throw that trick, etc...

    A thing I learned from Octavio is to think of a good beginning and a good ending, no matter how basic or how few the steps are.

    Another way to get de-zombified is to be aware of the moves I tend to depend on and change it up a bit (e.g. if I keep on doing upward voleos, then the next time I should use grounded voleos).

    Great topic to bring up, Mr. Ampster.

    Anonymous said...

    "I am in balance... As it should be."


    Anonymous said...

    Ampster - you've had a long and fruitful tango journey, and it's been very educational and inspiring to read.

    However - do you think that over the next few weeks, months, years you'll continue to discover more until you conclude that actually deep apilado is the real thing. Not in your own balance but shared balance. This requires much much more trust and cooperation - but the payoff is huge.

    I just wonder whether most people's tango journeys end with shared balance, not selfish balance.