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26 янв. 2010 г.

Navigation... Where it all comes together

When I first saw a tango floor a few years ago, I thought (as many non-tango people thought) that it was a simple dance as there was not much going on. I was so wrong.Is there anything easy in learning Argentine Tango? It seems that things get progressively harder the more I learn, with milonga navigation being one of the biggest struggles I've had to deal with.

I've found that as a leader (in tango), this is where my brain blows up on the dance floor. Why? You have to lead your partner well (which is a lot to think of), dance well (yourself), keep your partner safe, pay close attention to your environment, anticipate the moves of those around you, dance with (acceptable) musicality—Simultaneously MOVING across the floor in erratic heavy dance traffic!

Practice and perseverance have helped me to cope over the years. The following are what I think (I need) to take into consideration while leading my partner though the controlled chaos of a crowded milonga floor...

Going with the ebbs and surges of flow

When I merge onto a milonga floor, the flow does not stay consistent. Depending on what the dancers on the floor do, the flow may ebb into a barely moving mass. Or, turn into a surge moving away and leaving me behind, which forces me to keep up the pace... only to be stopped by another ebb in flow.

This constant shifting of flow on the floor is something a leader must deal with constantly. It's not so bad when the milonga is sparsely attended, a leader will have floor space and is forgiving of mistakes. The challenge happens when I dance in a pack, much like being caught in a very tight cycling peloton where I have to be able to bring to bear, all skills and be flexible in dealing with this conundrum.

My partner needs to be able to trust me... Implicitly!

I dance for my partner. I try to make her look good and feel good. She needs to trust me without question, otherwise that supernatural "Tango enchantment" will not happen.

In order to achieve this level of trust, I try not get carried away and get lost in my own dance that I lose touch of the environment around me. I keep my partner away from the couple using the flailing tango stiletto heels of death. I try to keep her safe from being slashed, stepped on, kicked, cut, and impaled.

I don't use my partner as a battering ram by NOT running her into chairs, tables, walls, posts, and other people.

Giros, molinetes, check steps, rock steps, etceteras

Remember all of that stuff your teachers taught you in tango class? Notably, figures like giros, molinetes, check steps, ocho cortados, rock steps, and other related "stationary-possible" moves.

I talked about "Ebbs" in traffic flow. When this happens, what do you do? You stall, but, gracefully keep moving in place. You don't want to just stop, rather, you need to keep you and your partner moving in poetic motion. This is a good time to use your "Figures."

Respect space, dance small

I respect my space, and the space of others. Its a common courtesy. I learned to dance in as small a space as possible. That way, when I find myself in a tightly packed floor, I can dance a small yet intensely beautiful tango—At least, I try.

I was taught that one should learn to tango in a space (roughly) 4 ft long by 4 ft wide—The size of 4 large floor tiles. Dancing this small also gives me the ability to keep my partner safe from the following:

Overtakers and speeders
Those who are in such a hurry that they feel compelled to overtake everyone in their way (*Cough* I USED to be a perpetrator... Apologies)
Those who suddenly cut in front of people (related to the over-taker)
Those who follow so closely behind other couples (I'm occasionally guilty of this... Sorry)
Those who engage in A LOT of trivial talking BEFORE they start dancing. Thus, (inconsiderately) blocking all dance traffic behind them causing a traffic jam.
BIG move dancers
Those who dance big (which is not a problem on a sparse floor) and insist on doing so when the floor is very crowded

I try to dance as smooth as possible

Its easy to march, stomp, and lumber along like an elephant. It's easy to bounce up and down like a ball. All of which makes for an unpleasant experience for my partner.

Being smooth was very difficult for me as it required me to learn to walk by adjusting my gait and how I landed and rolled my feet. I practiced walking in front of the mirror. I (briefly) did the book atop the head thing. I tried to be elegant and smooth, yet still dance manly. Oh, and I had to do all of that with a partner in close embrace... I'm still trying.

The Lynch pin—bringing it all together

So, after learning a lot of the nuances of tango and (trying) to make it special for my partner, it all comes together in moving across the dance floor in a crowded and packed milonga. It's a lot to think of, plan, and execute. It requires A LOT of concentration and care.

There was no easy way to do it, and required copious amounts of practice. In the end it pays off when you get it right.

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