woolmyth: (strictly ballroom)
[personal profile] woolmyth
Lots happened this weekend, like Madicon, and an interesting scene. However, it was the tango lesson at the end which has needed lots of processing.

I'm trying to learn tango again. My last attempt failed because my normal learning method of "Hold on, what did you just lead? Show me." didn't work because no one was willing to do that for me. That was about 2 years ago. Meanwhile, my plan of grabbing someone skilled whenever a tango is played at a waltz has accomplished little besides setting in bad habits and not improving at all.

Recently a friend and frequent dance partner of mine, Tobias, asked me to come with him to some tango lessons with Joe Petrisko in Tysons so he'd have a partner. I went to the first one this Sunday. As it turned out, I didn't dance much with Tobias.

Once again, we're reminded that tango is hard. I was the only one there who hadn't taken tango lessons with this teacher, so I got thoroughly picked on by the instructor and his partner, in that "we're not going to let you get the basics wrong" sort of way. Yeah, that's a good thing. I was pushed really hard for about 3 hours, and was impressed by how much time the instructors spent working just with me on what would have been remedial to the rest of the class, had they not been working on other things.

Processing this now, I'm becoming aware of something vitally important. Throughout the lesson I had both the instructor and a couple of other students repeatedly telling me to relax. By which I mean, in some cases, every single step. "Relax, relax, relax." Why? Here's what I've figured out. In ballroom, and just about everything in open position, in order to clear up the communication between partners you firm up your frame (the way you're holding your arms).

Because the signals from your partner are coming to you through the hand on your back, your arm on his shoulder, and the hands you have clasped out to the side. With a weak or soggy frame, your partner can move all over the place without you being able to feel what's going on. But this is Argentine tango, specifically, "close embrace" tango. You dance with chest pressed to chest, face pressed to face or chest. Your left arm around his neck and the clasped hands to your right are for balance, not for leading. He leads from his chest, and you get your signals from your chest and the arm wrapped all the way around your back. He controls your upper body directly. It needs to completely melt into his control. Your responsibility is to follow with your legs and hips, which spend a lot of time swiveling around, are held away from him so you're standing at an angle leaning forward.

Guess what happens in close embrace if you firm up the way your body and arms are held? You destroy the signal instead of making it clearer. So here I have this instructor telling me to relax with every step, while at the same time scolding me for waddling if my legs aren't close enough that my knees are brushing, scolding me if my feet aren't right next to each other between each step, scolding me if, in the process of leaning, my butt sticks out at all or my head leans forward, or I lift one foot as I'm swiveling on the other or turn an ankle to the side to make crossed ankles easier. Meanwhile, he's doing moves I've never followed before and scolding me every time a mistake or my own tension causes my upper body and arms to stiffen. Oh, and did I mention that when I wasn't being told to relax I was being told to reach farther backward for each step, and commit to each step without hesitation or doubt (including in those brand new moves), and getting my hand smacked for not laying flat on my partner's shoulder. I'd get my upper body relaxed for about two steps in a row if I was on a roll. That didn't happen much.

Yeah, I loved it. Well, when you ignore the fact that I was exhausted (from staying up until 5am the night before) when I started and near falling down when I finished. The instructor was very good, pushed me to the limit of my abilities, and was enthusiastic about working with me. He also told me that I was could be really good if I kept working at it, pointed out two women who I should be watching to the exclusion of others, and by mid-class was grabbing me to demonstrate relatively simple moves to other pairs. So I'll be going back on those Sunday afternoons when there aren't waltzes (waltzes are more aerobic, less stressful, and pure joy for me - no way I'm giving them up despite missing every other class in his two-month series). My next challenge. And I'm not even fabulous at Blues yet.
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woolmyth: (Default)

August 2010

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