Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Leading. No, seriously.

So at first I was just waiting for the day I'd shove my follower through a window and she'd plummet to her doom (you never know!), but it's been a few weeks, and I think I've begun to lead socially.

I've been leading a little here and there with close friends at practicas or at home, so I hadn't really put myself on the market as a lead. I'm a beginner, which speaks for itself. Plus, I'm a woman, which is a stroke against me with a lot of the women who come to the milongas solely to find a connection with guys.

Disclaimer for the above statement: don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the search for connection at all. Man/woman is traditional tango and I'm all for it. (Except that man/man is also traditional tango, but not many guys really want to get into that, so we're right back where we started.) It's just that I personally like finding a connection with the other dancer and with the music, regardless of gender, so leading or following a member of the same sex has never really been an issue for me. Your mileage may vary.

(This disclaimer does not apply for men who don't button their shirts and for women who wear fishnet stockings and fishnet gloves at the same time. Those people are looking for a different kind of connection, if you get me. O HAAAAY.)

My following has improved immensely since I started leading. I was worried I would be unable to mentally switch back and forth, but my teacher makes sure I keep the two roles separate by switching the lead on me mid-song during our lessons, so suddenly I find myself worrying about pointing the foot instead of navigation, or about holding the follower correctly in back ochos instead of embellishments. It's awesome. No, seriously.

At a milonga this weekend, a woman I know from the scene came up and asked me to dance, mentioning that she had seen me leading one of my close friends a week ago and wanted to give it a try.

"I'm a beginner," I said, trying to think if I could possibly be interesting enough. Reviewing my library of steps, I realized it was all Easy Readers, and I blanched. "Like, really a beginner."

"Yeah, but you have nice rhythm," she said.

(Tangocoaster: 601. Me: 1!)

We agreed on just finishing the tanda - one song left, and it was di Sarli, whom I love like I love cake (I looooove cake), so I could at least give it a go.

I kept it as absolutely simple as I could, concentrating on the music and the clarity of the lead instead of anything in my Easy Reader Library of steps. Remembering how beautiful a tango walk can be, I went for feeling over footwork.

For the first time it occured to me how utterly the leader drives the song - something I hadn't had time to think about when dancing with friends or teachers who are critiquing your posture and making sure your intent is clear. Thankfully it was one of my favorite di Sarlis, so I was able to make a go of it musically.

She asked if she could dance the next tanda with me.

(Tangocoaster: 601. Me: 2!!)

Best part: passing my friends at our table, who didn't realize until that moment that I was leading a stranger. Two of them were beaming, one was tapping her shoulders to remind me not to bend my neck to the follower. That's true friendship, right there.

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