Friday 12 October 2012

Priorities - the reasons why I dance

I‘ve written about the women's right to make choices, about the proper way to show someone that you don‘t want to dance, about the reasons why I might not want to dance... A reader could get the impression, that I try to avoid dancing whenever I can. 

But that‘s not correct: Those who meet me when I go out for fun or when I am working in an environment that inspires me to dance (and I am not too tired from class) know better. Last April at YSM I went totally crazy! On one of the days, I danced through a whole afternoon Milonga and the evening Milonga without missing more than only very few Tandas. Ok, so this was a tad extreme. Usually, I am a calmer... But you get the point: I like dancing and will do so, when the time is right.

But when is it? And why? How do I chose my partners and what are my priorities? Here they are in an decreasing order of importance:

1. The embrace:
I am looking for a deep connection with my partner in a nice and close embrace. It is top priority. If you are a beginner who will only walk a little, but you take me into your arms with tenderness and dedication - you‘ve got a more than fair chance to become one of my favourite dancers. 

Some additional thoughts on the embrace:
How can I guess in advance, if you‘ve got a nice embrace? There are some indicators:
  • Other women love to dance with you and refer to your embrace. (Yes, women talk about men.)
  • I see them smile and close their eyes when they dance with you. (Yes, I‘ll watch you dancing, before I accept an invitation.)
  • I have danced with you in class and noticed your embrace. (Yes, It‘s an unfair advantage that I have to other women.)
  • I will see you using dissociation to lead and not your arms and hands. (Yes, having technical understanding of communication helps in determining the quality of embrace in advance.)

So, based on my perception, I might want to dance with you. If my guess was right - great! We‘ll dance a lot more in the future. 
But what if not? Well, if you are an experienced dancer, very set in your ways and my presumption was incorrect, I will finish the Tanda and that‘s it. If it does not feel so super, but you are still willing to develop, I might take another chance after a time or after some classes, because:
The quality of the embrace is a function of a proper technique. If you put your feet to a wrong positions you might bring me out of axis and the embrace looses it‘s intensity or relaxation, if you have to use your arms to lead a pivots, we‘ll start pushing with the arms... So: better stick to what you can dance easily and avoid too complex stuff. You don‘t have to impress me. Take me in your arms, do some shifts of weight, a pause, walk some steps... It is quite easy to make me happy.

2. The music:
The music is what makes me want to move. If I love an orchestra (Di Sarli comes into my mind) or a certain Tango, I will want to dance to it. I might even get very, very upset if there is no-one with whom I can move to that tune.
I listen to Tango music a lot and very consciously. And even if I have analysed a Tango in a very intellectual way, it is still it‘s emotional impact that inspires me to dance. Some Tangos are so beautiful, they make me want to cry. I might even cry in your arms when we dance to „Bajo el cono azul“ of OTV or some other favourite of mine. (It‘s not always Di Sarli.)
So, dear DJ‘s: Play nice music and there‘s a very fair chance that I will dance a lot.

Some additional thoughts on the music:
Because of my strong musical priorities and my work as a teacher and DJ, I have a very good idea how I want to dance to which music. I know many women don‘t care so much and are happy with interpreting the music through decorations. I want to express the music with all my body in unison with the partner. Sure, I like being surprised by him, but I will have some general expectations and you might or might not be my choice for this particular music.
For example: To slow Di Sarlis of the 50‘s, I will want to move calmly, elegantly but with a deep focus on being near to the partner. Very strong feelings can develop to this kind of dramatic music and I won‘t dance it with someone who‘s entire concentration is on rhythmic variation.
If I listen to a Canaro with Famá or a Tango by Biagi my focus will be more on the playful and rhythmical interpretation of the music. If there are e.g. syncopations, I want to dance them! Sure, the embrace has to be nice in any case, but less intense and my focus will be more on the music. 
You get the idea? It‘s not about dancing right or wrong, it‘s about how both partners listen to the music, how they filter the multiple information and if this matches.
The consequence being: you might be my favourite Di Sarli dancer, but I won‘t dance a Milonga with you. You inspire me to dance Vals, but I won‘t dance to Pugliese with you. I don‘t want to belittle you abilities as a dancer or even your musicality, but we might just not have the same perception of every Tango. 
The consequence being: If I don‘t react to your Cabeceo to D‘Arienzo, try again with another style of music and you might be surprised how eagerly I accept your invitation.

3. The exchange:
Some men are more open to an active participation of the women than others. They do not only wait for her accepting their suggestion - the minimum requirement for good dancer - they even like the idea of the woman communicating more directly. I am not talking about decorations, but about giving the man a subtle signal that indicates what you want to do. Call it back-leading, I call it interaction and it will always be rooted in my desire to interpret the music in a certain way. I won‘t do it a lot and certainly not with a beginner or someone who‘s not open for such a conversation - but it can be great fun!

4. The elegance:
When I am in a certain mood, I like the idea of moving elegantly. Some men allow for the woman to move with grace and elegance more than others and sometimes it is a question of style or music. Pausing more, taking a longer stride, letting some time for a decoration.... I usually don‘t do embellishments because I focus much more on the embrace and the shared interpretation of the music - on what‘s happening on the inside. Elegance is about how you are perceived from the outside. Usually I just assume that a natural elegance derives from a proper technique and am happy with the outcome. But sometimes, I am more vain. 

5. The challenge:
Sometimes I dance with a guy, because I am up for a challenge. (Mark you, he still has to be capable of dancing social Tango in close embrace. I will not respond to the invites of Fantasia or Nuevo dancers who can or will only dance open - no matter how interesting and perfectly they move.) But maybe this special leader will dance a little bit more complex or just different than my usual partners. He will surprise me with what he is doing and I will have to be more alert to prove my skills as a dancer. Once in a while, that‘s fun too.

So, that‘s it.

This weekend, I‘ll be dancing at our FCA. There will be many of my favourite dancers and great music. Don‘t expect me to be seated a lot!

Friday 5 October 2012

Body language for beginners

So... a couple of weeks ago, I was at that Milonga...

It was a very common situation: In the morning, I had been running a couple of kilometres, we had been giving classes all day, we had walked to all the venues back and forth, we had done a demo... You can imagine, that I was quite tired. In addition to that, the music was not really to my taste and there were very few dancers on the dancefloor that would have tempted me. No one will be surprised, that I was not very much inclined to dance. So I sat down in the very corner of the Milonga, watched the dancefloor, talked to some very nice - mostly female - fans of this blog. I was generally in a good mood, but this changed as I had to spend the next hours refusing invitations. 

Why, dear Tangueros?

At this Milonga, Mirada & Cabeceo are not the custom, but should a grown-up person not be able to read body language? People do it all the time in every walk of life, but in many Milongas this common knowledge seems to be lost.

This is why I decided to write a small manual for everyone who‘s planning on inviting me.

Signs that I DON‘T WANT to dance:
  • I look annoyed, angry, gloomy, sad (insert any other overt negative expression). 
  • I slouch on my chair and make a very un-energetic impression. Maybe my feet are in a vertical position, lying on a chair. Or worse: my eyes are closed, my head is falling down and I seem to sleep. (Ok, I avoid falling asleep at a Milonga even under very dire circumstances, but you get my point, yeah?)
  • I turn and look away, when you are looking or walking into my direction. (Alternatively: I all of a sudden bend down and start adjusting my shoe-straps.)
  • I am engaged in a deep conversation that takes up all my attention.
  • I don‘t wear Tango shoes. (The fact that I WEAR them, is no sign that I want to dance though.)
  • I am getting a foot massage.
  • I read in my Kindle, a book or class notes.
  • I play/work on my iPhone or my MacBook. 
  • I eat a meal.
  • I am engaged in some romantic activity: kissing, cuddling, holding hands and looking deeply into my partner‘s eyes. (Well, I would not do that at a Milonga, but IF I did, it were a definite sign, that I don‘t want to dance with you.)
Signs that I WANT to dance:
  • I look alert, friendly, relaxed and in general open for approach.
  • I sit or stand in an upright position and make an energetic and toned impression.
  • I look into your eyes and smile when you approach me.
  • I nod friendly whilst looking at you.
  • I chat lightly with someone but still actively interact with other people.
  • I start looking around almost panicky, dancing with all my body and trying to make eye contact with you. (Now this only happens when a nice Tanda of Di Sarli is playing.)
I guess, many women would agree to this interpretation of body language and use it likewise. And too many men seem to ignore it or just don‘t have a clue. But it is not all their fault. 

Women send out mixed signals: 
  • You look away, but then still accept the invitation. Even I have done that (rarely, but it happened) after having refused too many men during an evening. I lost my nerves, because I did not want to be perceived as unfriendly and got up. But then I danced with little pleasure. That‘s not good! Even I have to be more strict in these situations. 
  • Another typical mistake: You want to dance, but display an angry face - maybe because you have not been invited all evening. Possibly you even entered the Milonga with that facial expression and unknowingly repelled the willing leaders. In the past, I made that mistake often. Now I know, that my chances of getting invites are a much higher, if I look alert, friendly and directly into men‘s eyes. 
But - you see what I‘m aiming at - this is why Mirada & Cabeceo make sense. It is not just a weird custom from Buenos Aires. It is a ritualised form of natural body language - a setting where everyone actually knows and shares the same code. Like moving to a foreign country: it makes sense to learn it's language and customs to avoid misunderstandings. The same goes for Tango. When everyone speaks the same language and knows the codes, awkward situations like men standing in front of women and having to go back to their seats will not occur. And everyone will feel much less irritated.

So, please: Bring back Cabeceo! 

Before I upload this and start my day with a Yoga session, let me just add a small paragraph.

As mentioned above, I am convinced that this body languages comes natural to most people, but some circumstances may only apply to me personally. So, please do not even bother to try and invite me when:
I will sit that one out.