Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The thrill of victory, the agony of my feet.

Because my feet hurt! Get it?

Actually, it's not so much my feet -- they went numb after my third week and now I just don't worry about them anymore. My ankles, however, are killing me, because I'm trying to step correctly on four-inch stilettos all the time. What a great idea!

It actually was a great idea, because my pivots are much better, and nothing teaches you balance faster than standing atop an insole with a nail attached. This is not an endorsement of stilettos, since most people can dance better without them and also they are the world's most painful shoe, but it is remarkable the difference it makes in my dancing. Then again, it also means that I'm going to have to be careful not to slice my own feet, or dance so much my hamstrings wither, so I really think the stiletto advice should be taken with a pound of salt. Gorgeous, slippery, painful little beasts.

This last week has been a ton of dancing with absolutely no lessons or preparation, so I spent the whole weekend petrified every time I got an invitation, absolutely certain I was going to mess up an ocho cortado, slice my own foot in half, fall over, snap my hip, dislocate my arm, and burst into flames.

I'm a worrier. Don't know if you've noticed.

That did not happen, surprisingly, but I really can't get over that I've never danced a tango without a mistake. Not huge mistakes, maybe, but it gnaws at me every time, for days afterwards, and I do the move perfectly sixty times in my house like it will erase the mistake I made two nights ago. I know that social dance inherently has a lot of mistakes: it's improvisational and not the product of hours of choreography; there are no prescribed moves like in swing, where one can recognize the beginning of the lead and execute the move even if the lead is confusing, so you have to rely on tangolepathy to figure out where he moves the instant he moves there; when you dance with someone the first time you can never be sure if it will work out, so you take the embrace and take your chances.

Still drives me nuts.

Now, victory! I have a friend in England, Cadencia, who has recently taken up Argentine tango (I win at recruitment!). However, she has run into her first plateau and finds her wimpy beginner leaders more of a hindrance than a help. From the classes I took, I definitely agree that beginner leaders are Teh Suck (and the ones in my leading class graduated with honors from Tehsuck University), but when I was a follower I took the classes in the restaurants right before the milongas and not a course, so if I ever had a really crappy leader I could avoid him for an hour and chances were I'd never see him again. And of course, as a leader, other bad leaders are only a problem when it comes to the line of dance. So, basically, I've turned into a jerk.

As much as she can be a delightful, withering woman, when it comes to tango she has to be nicer, since the community is small and the classes recurring. Poor thing. She comes to visit next month and I've promised to take her out to as many milongas as her feet can take, just so she can get a feel for other leaders. (She's not at a point where she wants to go to milongas at home, but she subscribes to my travel theory of Better to Make a Fool of Yourself on Foreign Soil Where People Might Forget You Eventually. It's a long theory, but it works.)

Expect a flurry of posts in the next few days as I strenulously avoid dance classes!


Cadencia said...

Being nice is the hardest part! I had one class where one of the idiot men kept leaning on my shoulder and calling me baby!! The phrase 'bitchslap' has never been nearer to the tip of my tongue. Fortunately, he appears to have realised that I think he's a total loser dickhead! Even better, he and the other dreadful no-hoper wasn't at the last class!


Fear me and my bitch face!

Tangospeak said...

Bad beginner leaders really do suck - no wonder in Old Tyme Argentina - leaders practiced for years before stepping foot into their first milonga. If you reject a bad leader often enough, he's going to get the message that he needs to improve. But if you keep being nice and saying yes, he'll never learn.

La Planchadora said...

cadencia - I still think that guy should be punched in the face, I'm telling you. If he ever shows up again, feel free.

tangospeak - It's so frustrating, isn't it? I think Old Tyme Argentina had the right idea, if only because men practiced together, so they knew what a lead felt like. It's so bizarre to feel something from the lead for the first time, I can't even imagine what it would feel like to be a leader for years and suddenly be following! (I guess it happens...but seriously, imagine taking your partner and making him do ochos backwards.)

Tangospeak said...

It's so funny to see men being led in a classroom by a male teacher - they get so uptight and self-conscious about it that they can't even do a simple walk backwards, never mind ochos!
I had done some leading in the women's technique class and realized how important it was for a woman not to place all her weight on the leader but stand on her own. The woman I was leading was not well balanced and she put so much of her weight on me that I just wanted to let go and let her fall to the floor. Whereas the woman teacher I was leading was as light as a butterfly.

Cadencia said...

You know, you really shouldn't encourage my violent tendencies... not that they need much encouragement!