Disputanda - a Blog

Understanding the Why

15th August 2009

There is a tacit understanding among the dance circuit, that one does not fish for details about the reason that landed us on the dance floor. It is a private affair.

Explorations done here and here and now I must move on to the Why?

My friends, let's call them A & V, not dancers, have given me an insight into what they think about dancers and dancing. Often I come across many who are confused about that elusive connection, it's understanding and meaning. Is it the music, is it spiritual or physical.

The ability to intensify the connection or keep it bland or uncomfortable, energised by the two people involved. We have a choice to either play the game and embrace the music (using our partners simply as a muse) do our thing or embrace our partner and feel the pleasure of the dance.

A&V: Why do you go?
Disputanda: I love dancing - it makes me happy
A&V: Yeah, we've read about your step by step guide to seduction!
Disputanda: I beg your pardon?
A&V: Come on ...... it's obvious why people do it!
Disputanda: Well, if you're not a dancer you won't understand
A&V: It doesn't take a genius to work it out. Humans have needs, there is no shame in admitting you love the sport as everything about it is sensual, sexual even.
Disputanda: Really?
A&V: (tutt, tutt)
Disputanda: To the untrained eye, it's only about touchy feely stuff, but there is soooooo much more than going to dance just so as to get up close and personal with men! "Embrace the music not your partner" Tango tutor's will repeatedly use this in lessons.
A&V: "And my name is Mary, the virgin."
Disputanda: No, they are right, dancers need to do this to learn to Tango, but it involves many steps, learning posture, the walk, the steps, and of course the physical connection is definately one thing which is the most difficult to 'teach'.
A&V: So it's about everything, including being made to feel sensual.
Disputanda: I guess so - but this is the least important reason in my book.

So I was struck by their response. Rather than defend my disposition, I chose to listen. It will take time to come to their reasoning, as I have never admitted to myself that one of the many reasons I am hooked, is for the physical sensations and pleasure I get given.

But as a black person (I hope this doesn't give offense), we seem terribly good at waiting, it's like we've inherited this gene for patience. One will note, that in Africa, lots will sit, stand, waiting for matatu's or waiting for nothing and they never appear restive.

I digress.

Thinking more about A&V's views, I am able to find a common denominator to life and dancing - and that is honesty.

There has to be (in dancing) an openness on both sides, an open relationship. If either partner has an uncomfortable feeling about their dance partner, it is best to come clean and reject a dance.

Honesty really is the best policy here. Be true to yourself to initiate conversation and to converse.

Before the act

.......connection is made. The leaders (men) prowl, scan - (in Tango it's called "Cabaceo") for their next partner. Followers (generally women), acting all saintly, give their signals and a partnership for the next 3 minutes or more is established.

The (fore) play

Tell your partner (through the music), the things you can do, the things you are uncomfortable doing, the things that exite, the things that don't. Be honest. If not, there is no way your partner will understand you. The physical connection, releases an energy which is sensual (based on senses).

The Aphrodisiac....

When either a man or woman tastes the pleasure of dancing with a partner who is aware of themselves, honest about why they do it, then the how will only form naturally. It is next to impossible to have a terrible experience.

Society has evolved in such a way that the basic fundamental human needs are often taboo and not to be discussed. As dancers, we would talk about everything else other than what we feel; perhaps it's difficult to describe - so I often use "yum"!

Like most dedicated social dancers, we rely on dancing just as we do for all the activities that give our body pleasure - it's a physical need, just as is, eating, sleeping, eating, excreting, and sex.

We all have our reasons for taking the classes, attending milonga's, spending all of our time and effort, but now I'm possibly beginning to accept all the 'why's'.

~ Disputanda, 15th August 2009

Tango Nirvana

21st July 2009

If someone would simply explain the various points we absorb and those we don't, not intentionally, but simply because we are not capable of "knowing it all", these technical points are too many to list, but more importantly, too personal to achieve. Beggars belief if there is a Tango Nirvana, well, surely there must be, otherwise we would all be chasing a non-existent dream.

Recently, I've been fortunate enough to be in company of such uniquely tango instructors, who've given me a glimpse of Tango Nirvana. Yes, as a rain season child, I've had my fair share of Tango recently.

There was Rockbottoms, May. On appearance Amir Giles has all the geeky features. His posture may give it away, nevertheless, if I were to meet Amir on the street I'd expect a quote like "There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't!" But what do I get - embrace and more! Amir's dry sense of humour always makes his class fun and his enthusiasm for technique is demystifying - pushing his pupils, both leaders and followers to understand technique.

I left all his workshops feeling fabulous but exhausted. His performance leave the audience most pleased. We (or maybe just me) can't help but go on appearance. Amir will always stand out in the crowd - it's not expected and so when he does it to me (teach, train, dance, dance with me) he does surprise me - on impulse.

Richard and Paul are also pleasant surprises. Both Richard and Paul have a vague resemblance to Priests I once knew at a convent (in the most nicest way possible).

Richard's confidence and enthusiasm as a dancer transmits to the floor and one can feel it! Paul is that distinguished 6ft+ Edwardian Prince, extremely well spoken and comes across (on impression) as an ex-high school house prefect. An academic snob he may have been, but he is definately "divina lider" and probably the best male Tango teacher I have had the pleasure of being tutored by - in fact my review is here.

There've been others, remarkably good at explaining and demonstrating the fundamentals. Particularly enchanting are Alex and Stefano, more astonishgly, they do it! Infiltrating the dance world here in the UK, they come across as unpretentious enough to mix with other dancer's wishing to learn Tango.

It could be ignorance on my part, but there are faces I see only at Tango and those that I see everywhere. Why? A bit like dancers who say "I only do WCS" at a Modern Jive dance event. Puhleeze. Alex and Stefano through their partnership with TangoBootCamp are doing very well and expanding their fan club! I joined their FB group recently so as to keep informed of their events, and so on.

A personal opinion it may be, but my favourite couple, uniquely among those Tango instructors to help me reach my Tango Nirvana. Ste-faa-noh is unique, his greatest gift is allowing the leaders to emerge from an ego-crushing experience to believing - now that is a gift! As for Alex, we all (secretly) want to be her. Have those legs, her killer heels, those stylish embellishments that are so tantalizing to watch, her figure and yes, her dance-partner. Definately the passive one in their relationship, but Alex displays all the qualities of a Tango queen, patience, kindness and humour as she allows Ste-faa-no to take the lead.

Now if only ....

~ Disputanda, 21st July 2009

Rain Season Child

17th July 2009

It's summer. Lately, the last 3 months to be precise, I chose to immerse in an interesting work project. Temporary though it was, it has felt like a lifetime, which has made me re-consider my ambitions. Coupled with the fact that it's my anniversary since I started Tango!

What a life-changing year it has been. A re-discovery of self. A more dignified me, yes, dignified I say and they ask "and you do the Tango eh?" Why the condescending stigma? It's not the dress sense, the shoes or the venues, but our 'cultured' society seems to have this view of any partner-dance, especially when it comes to Tango. My added mission for the heathens.

But Tango is not everyone's cuppa tea.

Tea or Coke?

A few minutes back, I couldn't decide whether to go for the chilled coke or a cuppa.

After my usual 10-minute deliberation about what to drink, I opted for the chilled coke and why not, it's a humid July day.

Not unusual that the weather has an effect on my mortality, as it does on most. Growing up in Africa, weather was hugely significant. Africa's got 2 seasons - Wet and Dry. And yet, most tales have an element of weather, from names to ceremonies. One can't go on without some reference to it. It has its respect, almost like it is a being. Spirits rely on wind and rain to 'travel' and so on and so forth.

We Brits love to have a good old moan, but that probably is as far as it goes. Moan.

Favourable Time

2009 has been favourable - blue skies, air is warm, all the Tango Al Fresco reported no rain. Unlike last year.

It dawned on me, that the good weather has encouraged other aspects of my life and with no previous years to compare, I can only deduce that I'm that rain season child when it comes to Tango. Not that I've been lazy and not following my strict Tango routine, but that my social calendar is busier. Longer days, shorter nights. BBQ and festival season.

Something's got to give.

~ Disputanda, 17th July 2009

El aire en mis manos

26th June 2009

I get different meanings of this phrase each time I listen to the track by Carlos Libedinsky.

The track does not have any lyrics, so it is up to the listener to make their own lyrics, depending on their state of mind, the dance they are having, etc, etc. It is definately one of my favourite tracks - the tempo, the sound, it's simplicity. Very easy to manipulate to express one's emotions through this song.

However, I'm still stuck in the 'connection' topic .....

Ontology 1 - Losing oneself in the song.

El aire en mis manos
Are you really there?
If you are, who are you?
And do you feel me here....
El aire en mis manos
So distance yet so near
You show yourself to me I plead
Or vanish into space
El aire en mis manos
You are not in disguise
If I listen very carefully
You transform into being
El aire en mis manos
I shouldn't be misled
Yes, you do exist
But only as I've read
El aire en mis manos
Once on this land
Hoorah! I've found this connection
And there will not let you out of my hand.

Ontology 2 - Follower's Mantra

El aire en mis manos, literally translates into "nothing".

But hold on, I do embrace a partner when dancing. Going back to the mantra "Depend on no one" and keep all or most of their weight. I doubt even the professional dancer's struggle to be as light as the wind, but this is the goal.

The follower's right hand in the leader's left is decorative and as such should be like "air in my hands".

I have to go back to basics with dissociation, using my muscles to complete my step. It's all to do with how we execute the step.

Ontology 3 - Our favourites

Yes, of course we all have our favourites, those ones we just have to dance with - and they do mean a thing!

But we must not get into a muddle and get the dance and and the dancer confused. Now, must we? The dance & dancer must remain El Aire En Mis Manos.

To be continued ....

~ Disputanda, 26th June 2009

What is it to you?

4th June 2009

So I'm challenged. The magic or connection or language between two dancers, can be felt by one and not the other. To explore this further, I'm going to use the analogy of the...

Puppet and Puppeteer

The puppet (of the human-kind) connected to the puppeteer with string. The puppeteer works with various puppets and likewise the puppets get handled by many. The string in each case will adjust accordingly, either taking into account the puppet's physical make-up or and the puppeteer's ability to handle the puppet. Is it because the tension in the strings is weak, or is it the puppeteer's weight on the string or indeed, the inability for both the puppeteer and puppet to adjust their tension? But who is pulling the strings and who should?

In the real world, (of AT), so far, I've come across the following mantra:

Depend on no-one

As a follower, I need to take care of my own weight - at all times. This is the essence and fundamental principle of a follower's technique - the axis, Giro's, even in dancing close embrace. This is the technique. But when in close embrace, we follower's need to, I'm told "give me something to work with to establish the connection". Which I'm finding difficult to get right, as I have been practicing the technique of taking care of my own weight, staying within my axis and thereby getting lighter and lighter throughout my dance journey. The question to ask is this, is the 'connection' driven mainly on the physical pressure exerted on the man's chest - hmm?

What is it then?

This threw me, and was left confused, challenged even. For C's sake, my dance ethos is based on it. I've revelled in my self-acclaimed powers of discernment, and the spirits I sense in my muse's. What I sense, I will respond to accordingly, but not always will it be like for like and not that simple (in my book). This is far too easy, but maybe it's not designed to be difficult and connection is more physical than delve into the spirit of my partner. Huh, what a pile of c$%p it may appear to be.

It is technique and it can be taught to a small degree. So how can it this be taught? (Depends what this is to you), to me, it's the technique to communicate with my partner, and it's awakened by the music.

I ask "How can one teach you connection?"

In plain, no gimmick, simple terms, "it's the physical connection", they say. They could be right; after all, "they" say Tango is simple, so maybe, it's the physical connection. No more, any less, and I'm told, I give off the wrong single or different style.

Scene 1

Leader 1: "Any good leader would be able to sense what your preferred style is"
Me: "And what is my preferred style?" (because you know me so)
Leader 1: "You are good with your free leg movements, so I sense you prefer to dance Nuevo"
(not sure whether this answered my question .... I let it be)

Scene 2

Leader 2: "Men are not good with subtleties, give me more!" he demands
Me: (I press against his chest)
Leader 2: "More!" He barks again
Me: "Ahh, that's it"

And as I'm pressing hard against his chest, seemingly un-balanced and not taking care of my own weight, the assertiveness is yes better, but it's just that, assertive. Meanwhile, I'm focussed so much on the physical connection that everything is lost in the embrace.

Tough one to call - is it time to break down my fundamentals and begin re-building?

L'aire en mis manos .....

~ Disputanda, 4th June 2009

It's a kind of magic...

16th May 2009

Finding the Magic

Can be difficult, as I'm not sure of what I speak of myself. But if I try to analyse it, it would have to mean the mutual solemn europhoric experience which is shared between me and my partner. The secret of the trick is also never disclosed, nor can the trick be shared or experienced by another.

At the recent RockBottoms Jive/Tango weekender, apart from the leisurely meanderings the hotel and friends had to offer, I suprised myself as I attended most of Amir's classes, where we covered in particular the different styles of embrace for the different Tango styles - Milonguero, Salon and Nuevo.

All different, requiring an understanding of the technique, mostly aware of what my body had to do if I were to close my eyes. I dispute those who adamantly say that the 'connection' is less intense if dancing Salon / Nuevo compared to the Milonguero style. It would be ignorant to think that its just about the physical connection, or would it?

And the Trick .....

For the trick to work, it will need the Magician and their prop.

I can only give my opinion as a follower (taking the role of either the magician or the prop), relaxing and enjoying the moment does help my unconscious mind and will allow for that artistry to develop. With an open heart, I aimed for a communication with my partners. If my partner is receptive, there was a bit of magic, and if not, the trick does not work at any level. But it's not just about using an open heart, it's also about an unquenchable desire to create the dance.

Improvisation

Watching Amir and Tara's improvisation performance during the cabaret - I was blown away by it. My sentiments however, for their prepared piece missed a trick. Me, I'm for improvisation all the way - for this is where the magic is. It does take time to master. The thing that has become apparent recently was:

Conscious and Unconscious

Q: Ever wondered why the followers dance with their eyes closed?

  • A: We don't need to see where we are going
  • A: We trust our partner explicity to navigate without crashing into anyone
  • A: We have surrendered to the music (not our partner)

It's all of the above. It's nicer (feels nicer) to exercise improvisation in this way - it feels better as one can really focus on the motion. A bit like the sensation one gets when chanting. In the practice sessions, Amir made us close our eyes a few times. But aside practice sessions or classes, the improvisational exercise is a good thing to work on and develop for both leaders and followers - and we don't have to close our eyes!

I was bewildered when Amir asked for a poll - sequence vs technique. Could I care as a follower, no I don't think I do. The closest comparison of learning the sequence is to know how it looks "visually" using the conscious mind and I ought to know exactly what this should feel like (in my body) as well. I've also noted that I will be able to correct my leader's movement if it doesn't feel right.

The Grand Finale

1 follower using their conscious and unconscious mind + 1 leader doing the same, equals the power of four and the energy created in the axis shared. Usually unexpected, I can be guided down paths rarely traveled.

And for the audience watching, they will feel the magic when it happens.

~ Disputanda, 16th May 2009

LGTN

20th April 2009

LGTN: Let's Go To Negracha

Founder(s): Ken Royden, David and Warren

Objective: World domination! Well, that and also initially formed mainly for the benefit of Ceroc-ers who are interested in AT, but intimidated at the thought of a milonga.

Aim: to create a sociable meet on the first Friday of every month at Negracha to Tango and mainly to Neo-Tango music.

The Format: We congregate downstairs. Since its conception, the proprietors have granted LGTN their own DJ slot, and lastly the famous 'Cake Club'. Yes, its bring your own cake for LGTN, those signs "No food and drink purchased outside of the premises" do not apply!

Mission accomplished? Well, you'll need to ask them! - and it was only by talking to one non-LGTN leader that the LGTN presence had been noted. Congratulations boys!

Is it possible to have the cake and eat it?

I had the cake and ate it, in fact TWO pieces, scrumptious, moist, ticked all the boxes for me. And the night? I hand't been to LGTN since the January meet, so I was up for it! I used public transport to get there this time and it was just after 22h30 when I arrived after what seemed like a great big hurry to get there - briskly walking, (running) determined I would get there at a reasonable hour this time. I met with CM just as I arrived and it was all go!

Not having had time to calm down and perform my AT ritual, a routine I tend to do before I dance, we scurried upstairs to the bar, found a table and caught up (briefly) before we were both asked to dance.

I was distracted on this night, too many people to chat to and had my mobile phone with me (switched on - bad bad move). After a few dances, I scurried back to the group. It was very busy, full of LGTN members and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. Probably the busiest LGTN I had attended and the atmosphere was just like being at a disco. The people, their Smiles, their laughter, the music .... ah yes, music was just like being at Jive. But did I want to be at jive? Or was it the fact that I busied myself and lost my focus? Is it possible to have the friends, the conversations, and have a magical time? Having it all, can it be achieved? I think it depends on what you want - it's individualistic.

I wanted to be at a 'milonga' or at least what us London folk call a milonga. I wanted to feel lost in the music, I wanted to get into the spirit of it all. If not the sorrowfulness, then at least give us Tanda's please. The playlist was not in three's and the style / beat / rhytm, from one track to the next were miles apart in terms of genre. I struggled to get into it, me, I'm used to the concept of dancing to three's (at a milonga).

Why Tandas

The tone of a conversation (in general) begins softly before it grows.

Track 1 is "the intro", track 2 - familiar with the beat, and can explore a bit more of their ability - the connection should be better than in the first track and the final track of a tanda, well, should be heavenly.

What Is Neo/Nuevo Tango Music?

NeoTango Music I guess literally means modern Tango music where the music is artificially created using electronic sound. The sound - boom, twaf, and less of the traditional "accordian" sound, does make it (on apperance) dramatic.

I've enjoyed drama and like dramatic music - but, at one point, there was a rap?! which I wasn't at all sure of, and felt that I could not 'read' my partner as well as I could normally. It's apparant how dependent on the music I just am, or how music 1influences the dance. But isn't the idea to dance to Neo Tango music, where the style is Nuevo-Tango?

Dancing Nuevo-Tango

I did a lesson once at Carablanca - the teachers were described by Tom as "modern, there style is Nuevo" he said. And I did like the class, had all the basic elements 'expanded' to create a routine I found challenging to do and feels wonderful if done correctly. To accomplish the routine successfully, requires a good working knowledge of your partner - where one could not simply break out into it at the start.

Fun-run?

The last dance of the evening summed things up for me - beautiful to begin with, a bit hit and miss in the middle, connection(s) felt broken, again influenced by the change of music sytle during the three. This did affect the traffic movement, a lot of stop and start, until one point stops, with my hand in his, he leads, running past two couples, Ghost says "sometimes, you just have to run". Taking his advice, I did run home. :(

Conclusion

LGTN is a great idea. Like any, there's silver linings and black clouds. Aside the social group and of it's commercial gains, I could'nt help but feel at a loss. Maybe it had nothing to do with the LGTN, and may be me, I may be going through a low.

Either way, I need to stop running.

~ Disputanda, 20th April 2009

Beginning from the Beginning

18th April 2009

Beginner?

We've all been there, maybe you are there. Sometimes, I think I am there.

Me, I remember the date, the day, just about everything. In particular, those I partnered with. Maybe not their names, but admittedly, they do leave their impression. Good or bad. I haven't forgotten them (yet).

So recently, I seem to have had the fortunate experiences of dancing with beginners. Yes, as a follower, it has been rewarding. Coincidentally, both were significanly taller than me - now it goes without saying that men (and women), can be distinct from each other as shrubs that bloom in different times of the year. But I speak in the physical sense, and we all know by now, that physical and outer appearances do not mean a lot in Argentine Tango.

The Thinking Game

So this was at a practica where I paired up with "R", and more recently at the TangoBootCamp where I paired up with "P". I was surprised at what I knew. The revelation was not immediate, but was clear.

I had to think!

The teacher says: "You don't have to think" .... "this is the leader's role, not for the follower"

How often have we heard this? I mean, it is the key element of any partner dance, one person thinks of the lead, the other delivers or follow's it.

So yes, this "thinking of what the leader has to do to make me move in a certain way" was a new pasture to me. But perhaps it's expected and metamorphic. Dancing with a lead with little or none experience, one will be forced to break down the movement from a leader's view point. It is not easy and this develops in time.

When you are ready, you will know and it will happen as a matter of course. And when it did for me, this marked a milestone in my AT journey. It felt very good - and I have been able to 'look' at myself in greater depth, as I'm getting to understand the leader's movement.

The (Wo)Man in the Mirror

A beginner will have little or no moves, so in theory, dancing with one will be like looking at yourself in a mirror. The same applies to both followers and leaders.

A good dance will have the steps in perfect synchronization, where 2 become 1. The mirror creates 2 images, but the origin is 1.

Demonstration ....

For follower to step into 2 forward ochos

Begin with follower's weight on L leg

Mirrored - Leader's weight would be be R leg

An ocho is like a figure of eight and the motion is:

  1. The right foot forward and with a slight rightward movement at the end,
  2. Then the left foot joins the right one,
  3. The body is turned 180 degrees clockwise

(* Ocho's are normally executed as doubles, so the mirror movement is done with the left foot, back to the original position.)

So what would a leader need, to to make the follower achieve this movement?

Your core

I had to dig deep - I mean deep. It's alright to move the feet, but a good follower will need to 'feel' the movement. What did become very clear is the importance of the move originating from our "core" or hub. So what is it, and where is it?

This is the centre for all communication - received and transmitted. Its physical location would be somewhere just below the centre of my ribcage, sandwiched between my lungs, just beneath my heart - but this is just my belief or where I think my core is.

Now, where do you think yours is? Find it, it's important to know where it is. Generally, often teachers will point out that the man is not leading from their chest ... so, yeah, the core equals chest.

The Illusion

Dancing does create many illusions and most of the time, what meets the naked eye is but half the story. In the demonstration above, observers watching can see the feet. For me, an ocho is an ocho when the following happens: 1. From my core, my lower body (torso) is made to twist in a circular motion, to one side, consciously aware of its 'centre' - and to complete the ocho, my torso is made to twist in the opposite direction.

The rule of four in ochos

Four elements were evident ...

  1. As the torso twists, it lifts automatically and this will create a shift in weight - so the weight will be felt on the 'opposite' side of the body. This will be the initiation of the weight shift and the theory ought to apply to all scenarios.
  2. The torso will create a figure of eight (see diagram). Twisting outwards from one side, returning back to the centre and then twisting outwards from the other side and return back to the centre.
  3. Dissociation will occur
  4. The leg movements are the 'mirrored' effect of what is happening 'internally' (what can't be seen)

Lesson Learnt

All movement originates from the core. For me, pseudo-Tango is when movement is 'forced' - especially leg movements. I do do this, and take refuge to it, only because it is very easy to focus on what is seen than that which is unseen.

Try Something New Today

Something simple, like ocho-ing from the core (not your feet) and see if this works for you (and your partner)

~ Disputanda, 18th April 2009

Redundancy

4th April 2009

So it's 2009 and it's apparent that we are paying the price for many years of un-regulated economic systems that have literally caused an economic melt-down. Most of us would know of someone whose role has been made redundant. It is easy to latch onto this 'tragedy' and it is not uncommon.

It is the norm of human behaviour (depending on where you are); look at slavery, the Holocaust, and so on.

But we all know it is wrong to do so, to hoard tragedy. But I've noted that it is only we in this society that could possibly covet tragedy like a designer jacket - a concept not shared by our relations in other deprived areas of the world.

So for what it's worth, rather than donating my story to Oxfam, so that some other frump in need of colour could 'wear' it away ......

The Current Role

So you're dancing, (you're in employment) make the most of it! and be "present".

Make every move matter. Just like in life, we take 'work' seriously, but we work with a light heart. It is easy, if you know how!

The Redundant Role - does it exist?

It does not exist. Illustration .....

Its the end of the 3 tracks and then your time is up. Your partner has made your role redundant. You go to your seat and wait for that invitation.

But how do you leave the dance floor? Are you poised and dignified in departure, worried or angst about the situation?

Remember not to hoard this. You are still a follower, there is lots to occupy your time with. The music, the people, the dancers on the floor, the venue, anything, so long as you show interest and 'smile'. It is not the end of the world.

So we are at a practica, amongst 'friends' and I have the opportunity to 'share' and contribute some hints and tips. This time, it's from a leader's point of view. *Roger* is at the "I'm in Love with AT" stage, so is eager to take any criticism!

We dance a bit, we stop and I give feedback. Like every beginner, he knows the concepts of leading to ocho, leading to cross, and what to do to cause a follower to pivot. But something is not quite right ..... it takes me a while to figure it out and at the end of 3 tracks I finally solve the mystery ........

The mystery of the redundant (missing) limbs, yes, these do exist

Yes, you've heard it many a time, it is very true - AT is probably the only dance where one is not able to get away with it! Both dancers just have to be present - in that that can be seen and the unseen.

The seen vs the Unseen

The "unseen" is the catalyst for all things "seen"

There is a lot to learn in AT, but let me stick to my practica with *Roger* ....

Think about the 'tension' in the arms - both should give just about enough tension. Me, I'm not mad about 'the subtle' hold - c'mon guys, I need to feel 'something'. Roger was not leading from his core (chest) and the result of which was making some of his limbs redundant.

The Illusion

The point to add here is that although it would seem that the movement came from 'the hand', it comes from the core. Every moment in AT (or in most dances) come from our core and out. I look at this in two ways:

  • Where the movement is initiated from your core, the core being the hub of all 'transmitions'
  • In the 'emotional' and mystical sense - dancing from your 'soul'

How to avoid Redundant Limbs

I've learned since my AT journey that as we are encouraged to be 'present' at all times our physical body also (subconsiously) is in this state, ready to respond to the lead. So it's back to square one (back to our core).

By George, the one thing that can never be taught is 'the connection' so fellow Milongueros and Tangueros, let's work on the way we connect, how to focus on being present, for if we don't, it will be seen, our role will not be done with 100% commitment, we will not make every move matter and it is inevitable that some of our limbs will become redundant during the dance.

And redundancy is not pretty.

~ Disputanda, 4th April 2009

That's (Un)acceptable behaviour

25th March

We are all influenced by culture, emotions, values, genetics, etc.

So readers of "Disputanda" please dispute - as our 'common' ground is not common. I'm not an expert on the subject of human behaviour, but I am human and am writing on what I've experienced to date. Some unusual, some acceptable, some outside acceptable limits, but did you know that 'behaviour' in itself has no meaning but is the most basic human action?

It's been a year since I took my first partner-dance class and what a year it's been. I've learnt a lot about myself and 'human's' in general - our behavioural patterns, etc. Its been refreshing to say the least. Only in dance can we get away with it! The degrees of which are driven by how far the other way we go against 'social norms'.

"Goodness, she is a drama queen" or you may get "she is highly strung, isn't she?!"

What are your immediate impressions? Positive or Negative?

It depends where you are!

In a normal environment, it's perceived as negative

In dance, you can't get enough of the drama! This attribute will most certainly work in your favour - guaranteed! You will be adored and praised!

But drama queens beware, keep it 'tamed' in all other activities until you get on the dance floor ;) Highly-Strung Women, equally loved.

Provocative or what?

In AT the men (and women) all have to be as provocative as they can be, not in the physical sense, but provocative with their thoughts and that 'connection'.

They lead (mainly with their chests) and we respond. That's the nuts *ahem* that's the theory anyway.

So no big deal then. But how do we (followers) react? Our response counter-acts their's - most of the time. A bit like the push and pull theory.

Discrimination vs Inclusion:

The media have a way of addressing sensitive topics only when the need arises which then (to me) makes it seem less genuine. More poingnant, the stigma associated with anything less mainstream for example sexuality - lesbianism, gay's, bi-sexuals, or racism - is still present. In dance, it's refreshing to note that I have not encountered any discrimination (as yet); on the contrary, the perception is 'inclusive'.

Mrs "Bouquette"

Taking these attributes and applying them to the dance would create the opposite reaction.

Formal Introductions - erm, no! It's far more exciting introducing yourself after the dance. During the dance, it adds to the chemistry as both are intrigued by the 'mystery' of it all "So who are you?". And don't forget to "look into my eyes"...... You mean proper "eye contact" and everything ...... goodness!

"I like to know what to do now and what comes next" - This is 'normal' for most women, especially mums, we like what to know what we are doing and importantly what is coming next. We apply a regimented routine in our homes, when having guests round, it's good to 'keep up those appearannces' because it 1) works and 2) is the social norm.

In dance, a good follower will create an illusion and to the onlooker suggest that she knows what to do now, but in actual fact, this is a leaders role. As for what comes next, no chance! Followers must never ever anticipate what comes next and for that matter never know what comes next (unless it's a rehearsed peformance - but here I talk about dancing on improvisation).

What Not To Wear

Then of course, there's the glittering shoes and those outfits!?!

By the end of my 3rd month, I was forced to keeping my dance clothes separate from my 'normal' clothes - it saved me the little time I didn't have to get myself ready to go out.

I'm not saying that my dancing gear would not be worn anywhere else, but there are a few items that are exclusively worn to dancing and would absolutely be unacceptable to wear to any other activity ..... maybe on holiday .... at the beach, where people are less conscious about how little they've got on - it's hot, it's humid, life's a beach!

But it's cold outside, it's damp and the Great British weather leaves little less than desirable - who cares, the unacceptable becomes acceptable. I LOVE the world of dance! Anything goes.

~ Disputanda, 25th March 2009

The subtle art of "Invitation to Dance"

14th March

The invitation to dance can be done in several ways. Here's a few techniques for followers...

The Subtle approaches

Subtle approach 1
You have your eye on him and you stay with him.

Is he dancing? Yes?
Doesn't matter, he will notice you so long as you keep looking even if he isn't.

Are you dancing too and he is infront of you - behind you in the traffic? Yes?
Hmm, it's harder to maintain the stare as you'll most certainly loose the connection with your current partner ... and if he is 'playing', he will too!

I've done this before, only a couple of times, locked eyes with a guy whilst I'm dancing, but it is 'rude' wouldn't you think? so best not too. It's way safer to ask a guy to dance if you are not dancing (and he is). It's his choice to look and accept this cabaceo!

Subtle approach 2
You've done the cabaceo eye thing, but it hasn't worked yet. Don't give up!

Have you found him again? Is he free?

Then register your interest by starting a conversation with him. If he isn't that interested or his body language is negative, then nip the conversation in the bud and leave immediately! The situation could only be made worse and hugely embarrasing if you hang around.

A crowded milonga can also assist ....

You pass him "on the way to the bar" body contact is un-avoidable.

Look at him, if he is looking.

Oh no, he is not looking, then it's up to you to make sure he sees you.

"Excuse me" you say, holding on to his arm as you squeeze through the crowd.

The less subtle approach

It's not straight forward in the literal sense as in AT, it's not in the woman's place to ask the man for a dance. But hey, we are in the 21st century after all and sometimes, life can't wait!

This can sometimes be done for you "by a friend". I remember the first time this happened to me, was at the Tango in Regent's Park - I got introduced to everyone, but clearly remember at the time I wish my friend hadn't 'helped' for I was just a month or so in my AT journey and didn't know much at all. Lowering my eyes each time, I sheepishly accepted all invitations. Me, I was hungry for it, so let my ignorance of moves wash over me. Twas not the only thing that washed over us, as the clouds opened up and the rain came down on the Tangueras and Milongueros - funny that. Anyway, I'm digressing here .....

The introduction of a friend is definately a way of getting an invitation to dance or indeed knowing a friend of a friend. This happened at last weekend's milonga.

We were into our 3rd night of what seemed to be non-stop dancing, and looking back, the dancers seemed to be 'high' on adrenaline. Coupled with this and shortage of men, I observed the etiquette of a guy asking gal was not being followed by most. Saying this, we were at a Ceroc Weekender and it is acceptable at Ceroc for the ladies to ask (mob) men for dances! So I got chating to a lovely lady from Southampton who was there with a couple - I then got introduced to her lady friend and we got chatting. Itching to get on the floor, I asked her if the gentlemen they were with was her partner to which she boasted "Yes" and being high, I asked her straight up if I it would be okay with her if I could have a dance with him. She obliged and actually did the asking for me ;)

The simple approach

Lastly, there's the straight-forward approach - walk up to the guy and just ask. How terrible could that be? Worst thing, he'd say 'no'.

Leaders/Followers Take Note: The invitation to dance is observed throughout the dance - my teacher at TVT can be quite cheeky and she sometimes does not accept Charles' invitation during their dance. Not sure of her reasoning, but I've tried this and perhaps I've been lucky for each time. It breaks the formality. It has made it 'fun' and both can get lost in a tumble of mutual playfulness that you may begin to Tango!

~ Disputanda, 14th March 2009

Escapism, Not recommended in AT

6th March 2009

"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and all times, how to escape" Walter-Bagehot

Such is the world we live in that 'escapism' is a constant, behavioural attribute identifiable in the human kind. It is a need. The means are many forms of entertainment and recreational activities. Like most of you, I enjoy dancing - in particular Argentine Tango - and can admit to be an enthusiast and or passionate about it at times.

As "Uncle Jack" explained the little matter of differences between the two:

  • en-thu-si-as-tic 1595 - 1605 < Greek enthousiastikos, "enthosui" a possession by a god.
  • passionate - deep overwhelming emotion present when there is nothing else left, no other emotion, will or desire, logical reasoning or benefit to participate or continue.

Now, I've often thought that it a bad idea to attend an AT class or a milonga if feeling glum until I attended one of Biljana Lipic's classes at the Dome.

We were encouraged not to escape from who we are and what we were feeling as this makes the person. Biljana explained that all those thoughts which we hoped were elsewhere and become passe, were actually present and we needed to bring them back to our 'core'. Okay, these were not her words, but it's what I made of what she said.

However, I fall more into the tautology category for everything else - especially the emotional, internal self and more poignant to this topic, for everything else that concerns my human kind. The stuff that cannot be seen by the naked eye is complex only left 'up in the air' and not brought back down to earth. We have to be willing to allow for degrees of our propositions.

Bridging the Gap, Mind and Body and that stuff in between
The technique worked for me, but that's just me. Me I'm a stickler for sure, for most things seen (tangible), however, I'd like to think I apply the theory of tautology for everything else and my human kind. You know our emotions, soul, all of that stuff. That stuff that cannont be seen by the naked eye is very complex .... but only if we choose to leave it up in the air. It is very simple if we bring it back down to earth/us.

The warm-up exercise described here had to come from within, so no need for a partner. One may adopt the techniques of yoga or silent chanting. Insight, focus and awareness all achieved - awareness of partner, the music and subsequent interpretation.

I am able to listen and identify the different sounds, the subtle breaks, the tone and rhythm better than I had on this night than other nights. Not that I become a better dancer, but I'm less worried about the moves, and would hope that I'd get carried away by them (or it should at least feel this way).

The exercise stripped those inhibitions which we hold on to consciously or unconsciously and then I couldn't care how I look or what people thought of me and its back to why I like Tango, you see, Tango's one pretension is its lack of pretension.

~ Disputanda

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