Monday, June 25, 2007

Happy Lazyversary!

I've been dancing tango for more than a year. For exactly five days more than a year, because I was too damn lazy to update on the one-year mark. Oh, the passion I bring to the dance!

...makes me tired and so I sleep through whole days of blogging opportunities? Something like that.

A year ago, I danced around a little and knew immediately that I sucked.

Today, I think I suck even more than I did when I started, because that first day I had nothing to lose, and now I know how far I will have to go to be a real tango dancer in my own eyes. (Other people's expectations of me have not been factored into this post. To document outside pressure on my dancing is the last thing I need.)

I have improvements to make, but publically cataloging your list of things to work on is pointless and indulgent. If you are not good enough, then get better.

So, I plan to get better.

Ideally, I will make it to Buenos Aires this year and get verbally abused by disapproving Argentines whom I have paid to abuse me in the hopes that I will improve. (Probably because my sobbing tears will have make the floor slippery so my steps are nice and long.)

Hopefully, the verbal abuse by the Argentines will only be in the classroom and not so much on the dance floor, because man, would THAT be awkward.

Plus, I will buy about 85 pairs of tango shoes, because that's pretty much the only thing to do until the afternoon milonga starts! Well, that and eat alfajores, but man, that's the last thing I need. At least tango shoes have no calories.

Until this hypothetical trip takes place, however, I will just be dancing, and planning to get better.

...any day now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Time to Stalk, Vals-Style!

When you're stressed, I highly recommend a little Julio-and-Corina-stalking. Less fattening than chocolate, and twice as full of feet!

(Metaphor, you win again!)

I normally do not like vals. I think they're pretty, but the mood just isn't me. However, Julio and Corina make a strong case for it.

Things I like about this video:

1) The fact that a minute into this video they start grinning at each other and don't stop.

2) The fact that even though this is a stage performance, Corina still shoots him one or two looks like, "Uh, what's with the turns, buddy?"

3) The "dramatic" lighting makes them look like Smurfs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Someone posted a comment on Leading, linking me to his thoughts on followers and their necessary traits. I didn't read it, since being both a follower and a leader leaves me with plenty of fodder for my own posts, and if anyone here thinks I don't have as many opinions on following as I do on leading, they clearly have never been here before.

Here's the "Following" post that was originally going to go up tomorrow until I found this amazing video clip and couldn't wait any more.

The four walls that a follower needs: patience, balance, a good embrace, musicality.

I'd say these are more or less in order of importance, mostly because patience refers both in waiting for the lead and in learning how to follow well. While a man can build the walls of his house in six months, a woman has to learn how to stretch her leg out fully behind her in a four-inch stiletto toe-first, and maintain perfect balance freehand, and if you think that takes less than a year you're an optimist and also a little delusional.

Clearly, the balance has to come next, and the embrace, because, though it's sad to say, a nonmusical follower with good technique will get dances over a musical follower who feels heavy or wobbly.

Followers, you cannot anticipate the lead; if he leads it badly or muddily, don't do it. To not follow a bad lead will embarrass him, but to anticipate a move and guess wrong embarrasses you. Just because he did something six times in a row doesn't mean he'll do it the seventh time. Wait and see.

Balance is more important than extension, embellishments, or attitude. At the end of a giro, you should be collected; a beautiful, off-balance boleo is not worth it.

A good embrace is not a vise, and it is not a hovercraft; find a comfortable position, and know that it will change as you move. Adapt. Don't use his shoulders as a prop, or his shoulder blade as bread dough. No kneading, no gripping, no holding on for dear life. If you have to hold on for dear life, don't dance with him. An embrace is just that; hug the guy and go with it.

Musicality in a follower is not appreciated as it should be, but if you are musical, so much the better for you. It might not benefit you with leaders who don't know how to wait or give space to the follower, but it will seep into your dance nonetheless and turn you from a follower into a dancer. All the other walls you build for your leader. Musicality is a wall you build for yourself.

This is a demo done by Natalia Hills and her partner; she has flawless balance, supported and relaxed posture, musical embellishments. Perfect long steps. She doesn't follow; she dances.


Okay, this is the bastardy grump post I did not post before, but it keeps coming up and I figure I might as well post it instead of boring all my tango friends with the same grump endlessly.

If you are a man in tango, you probably: are a man (sounds obvious, but bear with me, I have a point), walk foward, dictate the dance.

Despite what a lot of you guys seem to think, none of this makes you a leader. It just makes you a man in tango.

What makes a leader: a good embrace, intent, musicality, ability to pause.

These are universal constants. Now, you don't have to move like Zotto, or have the musicality of Julio, or pause like Gavito; they are masters, and you need only be competent. Take a breath, back away from the YouTube, and relax.

However, to be considered competent, you MUST have all four of these things. There is NOTHING that will make up for a lack of these things. No pattern or cologne or pair of snappy shoes will make up for any of these four things, much the same way as really gorgeous furniture will not make up for the fact that your house only has three walls. You need all four.

If you have great musicality but no intent, you'll step on me. If you have musicality but no ability to pause, you'll artfully dance me around but be unable to collect me. If you don't have a good embrace, I won't have confidence in anything else you do.

These four things take dedication and some time to develop, but by six months of any kind of class or practice whatsoever you should be able to listen to the music, walk nicely without stepping on your follower, and collect without wobbling.

Your followers need it. Really, we do. We don't need sacadas. We hate ganchos. Boleos injure other dancers. Just listen to the music and walk nicely. Let us know you're there. If the music allows, stand quietly with us for a moment; balance us, check in on us. We just want safe houses, really.

If we say no to a dance, and you ask why, we may say a lot of things, but what we're really telling you is, "Your house only has three walls."

If you think you can't do it, or you can't imagine what I mean, or you want proof it looks cool enough, this is Jorge Dispari walking with his daughter Samantha.

Online Videos by

Just saying.

Monday, June 18, 2007


When my feet hurt before I started tango, it was an annoyance. I hobbled around for a day or so until everything got better, or until it didn't get better and I just decided to use the powers of my aching metatarsals to tell people when it was going to rain. No fix, no problem. If I could walk from my desk to the fridge, I was still fine.

This weekend I danced on a suboptimal dance floor that made pivoting difficult; the leaders, not noticing or not caring, lead exactly the ochos and giros they would have led if we had been dancing on ice. I had been so starved out from two tangoless weeks that I didn't care, and when I danced I threw my heart and my feet into it. My embellishments scraped the floor like nails; my shoes laid rubber when I turned.

Two days later, my right foot is still killing me, and I'm walking carefully around the house, insoles shoved into a pair of bedroom slippers, annoyed that I might be another two weeks without tango, quietly terrified that I've done something to my foot that can't be fixed.

I sit at my desk and bend my foot this way and that way, slowly, ignoring the painful pull. This has not happened. This will not happen.

My bones scrape against one another.

I look at my shoes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Video and Grumpness Digest.

I had a big long entry I was going to post about the difference between leading and leaders, but I'm sitting on it for the moment because it's a little grumpy even for me.

I have to remember sometimes that very few people are taking tango as seriously as I take it, so when they see a bad leader they think, "Man, he sucks," and go on with their day. Meanwhile, I feel physically pained that the guy is corrupting the dance with his awfulness and have to resist the urge to immediately eliminate him from the dance pool. Perforado, bitches!

I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it. *takes a deep breath*

Tango was supposed to be my therapy, not drive me to it. Hahahah WHOOPS.

In the meantime, enjoy Samantha Dispari and Andres Moreno as they prove that they are way better than you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Still. No. Tango. OMG.

Still no tango stop.

Going insane stop.

Am seriously on the verge of teaching a stranger just to have something going stop.

Tellingly, would rather teach the stranger than look for nuevo or alternative stop.

Situation critical stop.

Send Julio and Corina at once stop.

Observe the incredibly long, yet incredibly fast steps stop.

Situation much better now full stop.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I thought this business trip would involve tango - I was so sure of it, had heard such good things about tango in Town, that I brought my flashiest shoes just so I could work off excess energy on the dance floor. I worried about whether to present myself as a leader or to just anonymously follow. I had decided to do the former, because at this point my pleasure in tango comes from switching roles depending on my mood, on the orchestra, on how my feet feel, on who's available. To lead in a city where I am a stranger was scary stuff; I'm a bastardy grump, sure, but no one wants to make an ass of themselves in public, and the decision was a big one. I worked up my courage, put on my signature scent.

Not meant to be. Tried two nights in a row, and all possible tango venues were closed or otherwise empty. I got restless, and last night I found myself going out fully prepared just in case I passed someone who could dance. My shoes banged around in my empty bag; Di Sarli played mournfully through my headhpones; I looked at every face on the street thinking, Do you? Can you?

I never used to look for anything in anyone. (It is difficult and humbling; I propose all tango dancers have something inscribed on their foreheads.)

I give it two days before I'm wearing my stilettos to the meetings here. Someone in Town is going to see my nice shoes, dammit, I don't care who it is.

This afternoon in my free time I flipped through Flickr for soothing pictures of tango dancers, and got this:

Did we still need to talk about wild animal attacks? About VISIBLE UNDERPANTS? I really tought that was over. If a cougar eats your skirt, no mantilla will do, okay? You have to buy a whole new skirt. That's the rules.

Luckily, a few pictures later, I found this:

This is what I am missing. Not the visible underpants so much.