Tango in the Night

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IThere was an interesting comment in The Thespians last post where Sir Steven made a comment that dancers tend to like either the Waltz/VienneseWaltz/FoxTrot group or the Tango/Quickstep group.  I love both Viennese Waltz and Quickstep.  To me, they are the thrill rides of ballroom dance (especially when you are doing a heat at a comp with other couples on the floor).  The speed and movement – a couple of steps and you’ve covered a significant portion of the ballroom floor.  But you have to be under control to stop and turn when needed and to hit the hesitations while remaining balanced.  Sometimes it must be like riding a car on two wheels – right on the edge of disaster but you have to keep it under control.

Waltz is the fairy tale.  The prince and princess dancing in the big ballroom with everyone watching doing the big flowing movements with perfect posture and grace.  Think Cinderella.  Tango is the gritty reality.  Cinderella before the ball and what actually more like Cinderella if she never got to the ball and met the prince.  All the sharp movements and the whole character of the dance with the man stalking and really exerting a lot more control over the woman than most other dances.  Steps where you intentionally invade her space and steps where you use sharp upper body movements to snap her into position for the next step.  I think that as I start to understand and feel more of the character of the dance, Tango really starts to grow on me.

And this is the lead in to Thursday’s group class which was Tango.  The step we were doing did require getting the lady into promenade in a couple of places which is supposed to be done by rotating the upper body but not opening the hips so you keep your hips facing hers.  My partner for the night is someone who I will call Hilde from now on.  In contrast to the Body Double and Statue who are very tall and thin, Hilde is tall and very athletically built.  I’m shortening her name from Brunnhilde the Valkyrie to give you more of a visual.  She’s strong and she loves to back lead so she can be a challenge to lead. Thanks to my new upper body strength, I was able to place her where she needed to be.  Funny thing was that after a few rotations, she got back to me and was talking about the best parts of the Tango being those parts.  And she’s not the first one who’s made a comment about that.  Since I’ve never been whacked into promenade, I can’t describe what it would feel like.  I freely admit to not being the most masculine person in the world but there’s a little bit of inner caveman that comes out when you execute that move correctly.  Anyway, she also went on about how much she enjoyed doing the Tango with me.  As I said, she’s a lot to handle so I suspect she just back lead the other guys.

Friday’s group was a little swing amalgamation taught by Kid T.  My starting partner was the lady who became me designated Cha-Cha partner when her husband decided he hated that dance.  I’ll have to give her a proper name because designated Cha-Cha partner takes too long to type.  Normally, the advanced students tend to cluster at one end of the line but this group class was a little slow getting started so we came out a little late and ended up right next to a newer couple.  The pattern started with side passes.  Kid T was going through a rather lengthy and hard to follow explanation and I almost didn’t recognize the step.  At first, I was like “it just side passes, they aren’t that hard”.  But I’ve been dancing for a long time.  For someone who has just started triple time swing, this is weird because it uses Lindy timing (triple step, rock step) so the natural tendency would be to do triple step, triple step which would seriously mess this step up.  Plus, a lot of early swing patterns are circular and this is more linear.  And, it is also a step where you aren’t totally connected which can throw people off.  Once you get it, then it is easy but you can forget what it would be like to first learn it.

Anyway, we noticed these two struggling and they were watching us to try and get it.  When it came time to rotate, they didn’t want to rotate which I get because it is awkward when you think you are the only ones who aren’t getting it and you are new and don’t know people as well.  But when the rotation came back around, my partner took it upon herself to switch places with the newbie so we were each dancing with one of them.  This is what I really like about the people at the studio (and it is probably true at your places as well).  I think dance students are just naturally hard wired to help others.  I guess it is the shared experience.  We’ve all been there before.  We’ve been at the group classes where it felt like you were the only one who wasn’t getting it.  There is nothing more crushing and deflating and it can make you totally second guess yourself.  And, the good news is that she and I convinced them that rotation is actually a good thing, so they joined in.  By the time she got back to me, she was a little dizzy (because there were spins) but pretty much had it.  I got her through the whole pattern and, this time, I did get a hug as a reward.  It makes me feel good just to see and share in the real joy that goes across someone’s face when something comes together and you’ve helped share in that little victory.  I was talking with them a bit afterward at party just to try and be a good dance ambassador to tell them how hard that step was and how it was great they were able to get through it.

Party was interesting.  Kid T told me she pretty much knew my Swing and Cha-Cha routines so we did those as well as Tango and I’ll say the reviews were mostly OK.  We also did a Waltz for good measure.  I did dance a Tango with Hilde and we went through what we learned in group class and a few other things.  There is a new instructor there who I am likely going to have to name as well.  She grabbed me for a Mambo and a Bachata.  I guess she’s done some Bachata so she was teaching me a few things on the floor.  Interesting.  OwnerGuy gave me a little bit on her background but I’m going to have to find out more.  She’s obviously danced before but not a lot of ballroom.  He says she wants to compete which could make life interesting.  I hope she stays with it for awhile because I’d like to see how fast she progresses.  Right now, with her, Kid T and M-Dawg, there are three youngsters with dance backgrounds who have potential but still need a lot of polish.

Well let me take stock of the last couple of months.  I believe I’ve said this before but I’ve always had this secret fear that all of my success was just because I was dancing with a pro who competed.  I think her style of teaching always kept me in that self-doubting mode as well.  That just made it easier for the demons to come out and play whenever something happened.  Now, I’m not saying they are dead and gone but their voices are much lower and they are shackled up making it harder for them to show up and raise hell with my self-confidence.  The last lesson with the Body Double kind of cemented that for me.  We ran through my Fox Trot and Tango routines and got to a point where I was looping them and it was the effortless kind of feeling I used to have with Z.  Just having a teacher who spoke my language and was truly supportive has done wonders for my self-confidence.  No doubt about it, I’m a dancer.  I’m good at this.  I’m not the best but I’m still pretty good.  As always, there is more to learn but I’m in a very good head place right now.  I wish we could continue but I’m ever so grateful for this time.  She was the teacher I needed at the time.

In the realm of unfinished business, before I found out she was leaving, I was considering doing another dance field trip in September.  It is the same comp I went to last year in the fall.  Why?  Because, I wanted to get back on the floor.  I was happy with how I did in Boston and that still holds but I really wanted to see how the experience would change with a different teacher.  How would things be for me in that environment without all the drama and backstory that Z and I had.  It would also be symbolic of a true break from the past and a new beginning.  OK, I wasn’t just considering it.  I was ready to go until I found out she was leaving.

Kid T is all on board and ready to go but I am wavering.  I don’t mean this as a slam in any way, but dancing with Kid T feels so much different than dancing with the Body Double and I’m really thinking I need time for adjustment.  Again, not taking anything away from her but there are two main differences.  First, she’s something of a wiggler and so she doesn’t always sit and stay in the frame I’ve created.  I’ve gotten used to the Body Double and the solid feeling we created in frame.  Secondly, her arms tend to be a little loose so we don’t get the strong connection that I had with the Body Double.  This is why some of the steps in the Cha-Cha and Swing didn’t go as great.  I need the connection to bounce her off me in places to get the momentum to make certain steps work and I don’t have it.  In the back of my mind, the does bring up some concerns I have about where we are going and how much time I’m going to lose while she gets up to speed.  I still want to carry this through to Showcase because I want to do this West Coast Swing.  But I’m again looking at other options. Sorry, but I tend to be very cautious and deliberate.  I’m like an ocean liner and I don’t turn on a dime so it takes a long time for me to put something in action.  Again, I need to actually start working with her on more than just the routine and that will give me the data I need to figure out the right path for me.

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