Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guest post from Stefanie Lein: Once More With Feeling!

Today I'm happy to share with you a guest post from Stefanie Lein, whose post You Have a Mental Problem I linked to recently. Her heartfelt post rang true with many dancers, and the post is making the rounds on facebook. Good for her! She was kind enough to share my post Relax While You Dance on her  blog, so I am sharing this one on mine. Enjoy!

Once More With Feeling!
by Stefanie Lein

Saturday, December 17, 2011, 10am
Dance Starz Studio
Private lesson with Ivan

I'm thinking about changing the name of this blog to "Ivan Says." Just kidding. But in all sincerity, having Ivan as my instructor and the conversations we have on lessons are changing my life. The things he tells me help me to become a better dancer, partner, and person. So be prepared to read alot about what "Ivan Says" because it's valuable stuff and I think worth sharing.

I arrive to my lesson today and Ivan says, "Let's just dance." I'm amenable (of course!) and we begin to Cha Cha. I'm still working on getting onto my own feet, cleaning up foot work, finding my center, staying on balance. I'm "in my head" trying so hard to do everything right, even while having a good time just being with my friend. But you see, when my attention is in my head with my myriad of thoughts, it can't be elsewhere.

We work on cross-overs, trying to get the arm placement right but something is missing. There's no "pop" or "pizazz" or excitement in the movement. Yawn.

Ivan reminds me to extend in five directions like a star, to stand up straight and lift my spine, and I do this. The picture is prettier but again, the movement empty.

I'm still not doing something.

Oh, I'm not looking at myself in the mirror.

I make no eye contact.

I am avoiding connection.

"Look at yourself in the mirror."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Don't be scary." (Translated this means don't be scared)

"Uh huh, right."

Ivan grabs my hands and says, "When you gonna do it? In a year? No, now!"

He pulls over one of the dummies used to display ballroom gowns in the studio.

"This is Linda Dean, a judge. You gonna see her. Let's get close."

Ivan positions us next to the dummy. It is an inanimate object but I am still feeling timid. I fear getting in the space of strangers. I don't want to be "too much" or up in somebody's grill. You see, I was always told I was "too much" so I've learned to tone it down. No, that's a lie. I've learned to reign in myself so much that I can be invisible when I want to. I've learned to not to be the center of attention. I've learned to dim my light so that everyone else can shine, so that things are "fair."

But this defense mechanism isn't going to work for me in this situation and I really want to become the dancer I sense inside. So I decide that I'm going to act "as if." I'm going to be confident, right here in this moment, and look at the pretend face of the judge. I'm going to direct my energy straight to her, unabashedly, freely, joyfully.

And I do.

We practice it a few times doing a cross-over and Ivan is pleased.

"Okay, now we do it to Marieta." We will know if we are successful if she has some reaction in response to us.

We walk right over to Marieta and bam! She physically jolts. I feel Ivan hugging me in celebration. We nailed it!

So far this is shaping up to be a great lesson. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin, less "scary", and more willing to let it all hang out.

But as we start to move again, my steps are riddled with errors. One of the things I often do is connect then pull away. Ivan may lead a turn and I stay with him to a point but then my arms become noodles. The next minute I'm grasping, pulling, frantically trying to find the connection again. I invade his space rather than maintaining my own area. I'm late. Ivan has moved on to the next step and I'm one fraction of a second behind.

This process is unconscious. I have been advised of it before (many times) but it still continues to haunt me.

So we're working on connection and Ivan is talking about the fact that I'm not staying with him. He demonstrates how it should feel and then how it feels when I pull back and break the connection. He's done this with me before so why am I still doing it? As a kinetic learner, after the demonstration I am able to recreate the connection. We begin to move in unison.

We close our eyes. The world fades away. I have no cues to go on except to feel Ivan inviting me to move through the connection. I'm feeling, not thinking, and things are flowing. My attention has shifted from my head where I "know" everything to my body and heart. They have their own form of wisdom found in the expanse devoid of words. I am in the moment feeling, being connected, and nothing else. I am no longer an "I."

The moment I think I know what Ivan will do next because we have done the step 100 times before "I" shows up again, my brain interferes with the flow, and I start to misstep. If I stay connected we move like silk.

Ivan spins me but because my eyes are closed I don't know exactly where his hand is. But I'm reaching for him, seeking the connection and make one by finding his upper arm. The unexpected touch is exhilarating. I've stayed connected and best of all Ivan is excited as well. He was thrilled that we were really connecting and his body reacted as he got goosebumps on his arm from the touch.

"You are like the plug and I am the outlet." He says.

From now on we are to practice first "plugging in" before we take a single step. I don't often do this, and we usually just start moving, but when we do take the time to do this, or rather, create the space with awareness, the dancing is on an entire different level. It transcends steps and figures. It is something authentic and wonderful, more than the sum of its parts.

We practice just making the initial connection with hands as if we are going to start dancing. Once Ivan is satisfied that I am connecting he gets creative.

"Ok, now I have no hands."

I have to connect with his upper arm. But he takes that away from me soon enough. Now I only have his shoulders. He signals me to turn but I'm slow in the uptake. It is more difficult but still possible to respond to his invitation.

"But I not caring I have no arms. I am dancing with a girl and she is responding to me. I feel so good about myself."

He puts my hands on his head. We dance this way feeling the connection.

"See, even with the head!"

Truth be told, no actual touching is required. At the beginning of the lesson Ivan did some Rumba with me using just his body to signal where I should go next. It was trickier to follow to be sure, but so amazing to feel the energy of it. I had to completely tune into Ivan's energy and this left no space for errant thoughts or worries. Just as when I close my eyes, focusing on the connection suddenly makes things crystal clear.

And you know what, I'm dancing better according to Ivan when I do this. No worrying about the steps or my balance or pointing my toes, just feeling.

"We are all forgetting this. We are all forgetting to feeling. Me, you, Marieta, professionals, everybody."

He taps my back and my chest three times with the palms of his hands, "Feel! Feel! Feel!"

Ivan is a wizard breaking the curse.

Didn't I spend a good portion of my life learning how to block feeling? To avoid the difficult emotions like sadness, or grief, or fear, or anger I learned how to numb myself through food and distractions. I've learned how to tune out. I have been practicing how to appear like I am present but my essence, my soul, my consciousness have vacated the premises. My true self is floating in the ethers away from the pain and harsh realities of life.

It works to a point but I miss out on fully feeling my life. Life is flat, devoid of good feelings along with the difficult ones. I don't taste my nourishment. I am living in the future or the past which don't exist. I am disconnected from my surroundings, from my body, and from other people. I am disconnected from myself.

Now the secret to my success is to be present. 100% present in my body. 100% present in my heart. Feeling life. Experiencing it fully. Not analyzing it, labeling it, or judging the experience, just being in it as it is. I can't explain how freeing this is. You'll have to experience it for yourself.

But I think this is why ballroom dancing is so addicting for me. How often in our daily lives are we really 100% present with one another? How many times are we in a conversation but instead of being with the other person, we are thinking about the bills, or doing the dishes, or determining whether what the other person is saying or doing is good or bad, right or wrong?

Metaphorically we are dancing alongside our partner but not with them. We are cheating ourselves and them of the gift of connection.

Ivan was so happy to be dancing with me today because I was being a present partner (for the most part). It is easy to slip back into old habits via my analyzing brain and these are the moments I break connection. But being with another human being, truly just being with another person, is a precious and wonderful experience. I'm so glad I get to share it with Ivan and vicariously with you.

I'm still new at this connection thing so I'm going to begin to consciously practice it. There is a great book by Cheri Huber called What You Practice Is What You Have (actually ALL of her books are excellent and I highly recommend them). I'm going to practice connecting so that I will have more connection in my life. But I need to start small. I'm going to connect with myself first because really, if I can't connect with myself, know my own feelings, hurts, wants, and wishes, how can I ever really connect with someone else?

I've devised a little exercise to jump start the process. I'm going to look into my own eyes in front of the mirror for 3 minutes. I will set a timer. And to keep myself honest about doing this exercise I will post what I discover before the end of the week.

So I now challenge you show up as a bigger player in the game of your life. Together let's create a more present and connected world one person at a time, starting with ourselves. I invite you to join me in practicing awareness and connection, in dancing, in relationships, and in daily business by participating in the same exercise that I've committed to do. I know that only a courageous 1% of you will actually do this, but for those of you who are ready for a breakthrough and do participate, I want to hear about your experience. I know we can do it!



Follow Stefanie and her ballroom dancing journey on her blog at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do you have a mental problem?

Many dancers psych themselves out or hold themselves back because of their insecurities. This post so hits the nail on the head, and all dancers need to read it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Relax while you dance!

I thought I'd talk a little bit about achieving relaxation while you dance. Some people are under the mistaken impression you have to be tense in order to offer "resistance" (which is why I tend not to use that word--people often get the wrong connotation from it). Nothing could be further from the truth! Other people are just naturally tense--heck, I think all of us are much of the time, either because we're learning and maybe a little worried or nervous, or we're concentrating, or it's hard, or whatever.

Being tense while you dance makes it harder to move, harder to lead or follow, harder to feel and flow with the music, it's uncomfortable for your partner and it makes you tired. There really are no redeeming qualities to it. To illustrate, hold your arm so your elbow is at your side and your forearm is parallel to the floor and make a fist with the palm facing up. Flex all of the muscles in your arm and make it as tense as you can. Now, try to hit your shoulder as fast as you can with your fist (same shoulder/same side of the body as the fist). Now, put your hand and fist back in the starting position but relax the muscles until they're engaged enough to hold their shape, but not flexed or tense. Hit your shoulder again.  What happened? You had more range of motion and you were faster, right?

The same is true for dancing, and it doesn't matter what kind of dance you're doing. You move more freely and comfortably and can get more speed if your muscles are engaged but relaxed. It can be difficult to achieve this, especially all the time, but practice definitely helps!

I will point out here, lest someone misunderstand me, you can't be a noodle or your partner can't dance with you. You need to keep your core and arm muscles toned and engaged so they can move you, react to your partner, and keep you balanced. But like in the exercise above, toned or engaged is not the same thing as tense. I'll give you another exercise: stand in front of the wall with your toes about a foot away. Put your palms against the wall, somewhere around shoulder height. Feel like you're holding yourself up off the wall. Now, without moving your hands or losing contact with the wall, release those muscles so you fall into the wall. That is too relaxed. Now hold yourself up again. Now your muscles are engaged. Now, tense up your muscles and push against the wall. Tiring, eh? Relax and just go back to holding yourself up. Note the difference between how those three states of being feel.

Here are some tips for relaxing while you dance:

1. The more you dance, the more comfortable you'll feel, physically and mentally. You'll also feel more confident, and all of this will help fight tension.

2. Take a deep breath as soon as you get into your dance hold. This not only helps you relax, but your partner will feel it and usually will unconsciously take a deep breath as well, forcing themselves to relax. Remind yourself to breathe while you're dancing.

3. Stay in tune with your body whlie you're dancing (easier for followers, since we have less to think about, but men can do this too). If you feel yourself getting tense or notice that one muscle (or two, or three) is getting tired because you're pushing against your partner with it, force yourself to relax it. You may have to do this numerous times during a dance (I do, at least in Tango. In ballroom and swing I'm more experienced and conditioned to the dance frame, etc., so I'm less likely to tense up), but it will soon become habit to correct yourself, and eventually to just not tense up in the first place except in particularly stressful situations. As a follower in Tango, this is easy to do with my left arm by lifting it off my partner's shoulders and softly laying it back down, and the leader can do the same with his right arm since our connection is through the body. Other muscles you just have to will them to soften.

4. An exercise you can try off the dance floor that's good for you anyway: one at a time, tense each muscle you can in your body as tight as you can, then release it. This helps you be aware of where your muscles are and how to control the tension, but it also relaxes you at the same time! Practice this a few times, especially if you haven't figured out how to just will your msucles to, it's a good way to unwind a little after a stressful day!

5. Finally, give yourself a break. If you are constantly worried about what you are doing, if you're good enough, that it's weird to be this close to someone you don't know, that you look fat in those pants, all that negative energy just leads to more tension. Keep your thoughts positive and just enjoy the experience!

I hope these tips help you to achieve relaxation while you dance, and that you enjoy dancing all the more because of it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Practice like a pro...

This is an excellent post that everyone should read. It doesn't matter whether you're a dancer, or a skiier, or a runner...whatever your sport is, the level of commitment you put into it is so important, and many people do not realize that they are putting in a fraction of the commitment they should be. Please read it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What do you learn from your partners?

I haven't posted here in a while, but I had a thought tonight that I thought I would share. Since we started Tango a few months ago, we haven't had a lot of money for lessons, but I've been very fortunate in that I'm able to learn a lot from my partners on the floor. I think it's a bit harder for leaders to learn this way, and of course there are some things you just have to get from lessons, but it occurred to me tonight that I learn something different from everyone I dance with.

I won't mention names, because I don't want to embarass anyone, but here are some examples. One guy teaches me to not anticipate, because he's very inventive and is always throwing curveballs at me (in a good way!). One guy loves to play with the music in new ways, which teaches me to listen to the music as well as my partner and have a little fun. Another moves back and forth between open and close embrace, so I need to be balanced and make sure I'm on my own feet. Another does a lot of moves, so I learn them. Others just make me feel beatiful and free because they lead so well and get me out of my head so I just enjoy. Or they compliment me, which just makes me feel good. :)

No matter who you dance with, be they a beginner or a seasoned and accomplished veteran, there's something you can learn from the experience. Test the theory--next time you go dancing, try to figure out what you're taking away from each partner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sacramento Dance Venues Part Two: Tango Practica at Step 1

On Wednesday nights, Greg and I really like to attend the Tango practica at Step 1, which is located at 1920 T Street in Sacramento. DJ Mike Bohan plays excellent traditional Tango music (and of course Milonga and Vals) from 9:00 to 10:45, and the cost is just $3.

This is generally a pretty intimate group--between 10 and 20 people each week. The quality of dancing is high, although the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. As is expected at a practica, it is completely acceptable to stop and work on something if you need to, although of course you want to be aware of the people around you so you don't obstruct traffic.

The floor is not large, but there is plenty of room for the size of group we usually have. We have occasionally gotten relatively crowded, but there was still room to dance. The floor is not wood--I think it's some kind of linoleum, so it's a bit hard, but we're only on it for 1:45, so it doesn't bother me. It's pretty smooth and usually clean.

Greg and I try to make this one every week, so I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sacramento Dance Venues Part One: The Station

I thought I'd post a series of quick reviews of the various dance venues in Sacramento. I can only review the places I've experienced, so if I miss your favorite, it's probably because I haven't been there--nothing personal.

Sacramento Dance Venues Part One: Swing Time Tuesday at The Station in Roseville

Start Time: Tuesday NIGHTS at 7:15pm WARM UPS.. CLASS STARTS 7:30, DANCE STARTS 8:15

Cost: $5 for the lesson, $5 for the dance
Location: THE STEEL STATION & DINNER CLUB, 1100 Orlando Ave, Roseville, CA

The West Coast Swing dances have been going on Tuesday nights at The Station for a couple of years now (and were at other locations before that), but Greg and I just started going to them last fall. They are a lot of fun, and they kind of take you back to the roots of the West Coast Swing scene: the bar. It is a nice, clean bar, but a bar nonetheless. There are two dance floors, and the surface is pretty good for dancing. The speed is about right, but the edges of the main floor slope a bit, so you want to stay more toward the middle if you can.

There is a $5 cover to pay the DJ, which is Martin Casillas. He plays a mix of blues and contemporary music, weighted a little more heavily toward the modern stuff. He'll throw in an occasional Night Club or Country Two Step. You are encouraged to purchase something to thank The Station for hosting us--a soda (or something stronger) at the bar, perhaps, or they also have a menu available if you want to eat. You won't get kicked out if you don't, but if the dancers patronize the bar/restaurant, The Station will be encouraged to keep us around.

There is a really nice mix of dance levels at Swing Time Tuesday. The lesson that preceeds the dance is usually a beginner one, but it changes and is sometimes intermediate, so you should check on the website. As a result, there are usually some beginners, some very advanced dancers, and everything in between. Sometimes swing dignitaries will visit from out of town, which is fun to see. Whatever your level, as long as you have a good grasp of all the basics, you should be able to fit in and find someone to dance with. The crowd is pretty friendly, as far as swing dances go.

We don't go every week, just because of scheduling and finances, but Greg and I really enjoy the Tuesday West Coast Swing dances at The Station. Check it out, and ifyou see me there, ask me to dance!

PS: The Station has some kind of music or dancing pretty much every night. Check out their website--I haven't gone any night but Tuesday, but I know a couple who enjoys Fridays, too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More musings about following

Although I have been dancing West Coast Swing for about 10 years, I have only had enough lessons in it to make me a pretty competant dancer, as opposed to a seriously advanced one. I have the right basic style, a good connection, and I follow *most* of what I'm led into. Sometimes I miss, mostly when the music is fast and the guy is throwing a lot at me and I can't process it fast enough...I don't have that automatic ability to follow every crazy thing like some followers do. Anyway, the point is, I have fun, most of my partners seem to as well, and I have a good time when I go out swing dancing.

Last night at Swingtime Tuesday at The Station in Roseville, I had a really good night. I didn't dance a ton, but the dances I got were really good. I was also socializing and helping a student who just had his first WCS lesson, so overall it was a good night. Afterward, I got to thinking and had a conversation with Greg that I thought I would summarize here. In some ways, this also applies to Ballroom and Tango, but I think it's especially evident in WCS.

There's an old saying about WCS that goes something like, "Beginning dancers do the basics. Intermediate dancers do a lot of moves. Advanced dancers do the basics." While I have observed that to be largely true, I've also observed that there's a degree of personal style in that. I have danced with some advanced dancers who seem ot have kind of an "agenda" when they get on the floor--they're really good, and they have some great moves, and they want to show them off. When I dance with them, I generally walk away at the end feeling like an idiot, because I didin't "get" half of it.

Then there's the other kind of advanced dancer. This is the kind that knows how to dress up basics so well that they make you want a cigarette afterward (especially if it's a slow song). They have a style that's easy to adapt to and match, and they dance so *with* the follower that you feel like you're the only girl on the floor. When I dance with a leader like this, I feel like a good dancer. Because they keep it simple, I follow everything, and I'm not stressed, and I have time to interpret the music and really dance *with* them instead of fight for my life. Not that they don't throw in a fancy move or two, but those are spaced out between basics so you get a chance to breathe and process in between. Because I'm followoing well, they give me approving smiles and they seem to enjoy it, too, even though they aren't showing off their whole repertoire.

There are some leaders who never ask me to dance, and I imagine it's because I can't keep up with them. That's fine...they're entitled to dance or not dance with whomever they wish. I'm just saying, there are other dancers just as good who seem to really enjoy dancing with me.

Partner dancing is supposed to be about the partnership. The best leaders make their partner feel at ease, no matter what her level, and don't make her feel like an idiot by dancing over her head or becoming annoyed when she misses a lead. In Tango, they say the best leaders will never let the follower know she missed a lead--he adapts and incorporates whatever she did into the dance so it seems natural. I think that can be done to some extent in Ballroom and Swing, although it's more difficult there because those dances have more structure. He can certainly minimize the mistake in many cases.

Of course, if she belligerantly goes on about her own thing and doesn't follow anything because she's following her own agenda, that's a different story...I'm talking about a follower who's trying her best to really follow.

The thing is, is it really the end of the world if the follower missed a lead? Isn't social dancing about having a good time together? Laugh, smile, make it work. Dance *with* your follower instead of *at* her, and maybe you'll be surprised at the results.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Following: Argentine Tango vs. Ballroom

It's interesting coming to Tango from a Ballroom background. On the one hand, I think having dance experience of any kind gives you the ability to move your body and an understanding of how everything workds, which makes it easier to learn a new dance and be able to just physically do the movements. On the other hand, having that previous experience gives you a sort of prejudice--as a ballroom dancer, my natural inclination is to follow like a ballroom dancer (I'll get into that in a minute). I've seen ballet dancers who come to ballroom who keep their legs a little too straight, turn out too much or at the wrong times, and have difficulty folowing because they're used to dancing on their own. When I started learning West Coast Swing from an actual swing teacher, she told me I had too much body flight...I was used to taking big steps in ballroom, so I'd travel too far for swing. Just some examples.

Here are some observations I've made about the differences between following Ballroom vs. Tango.

  • Ballroom goes by a fairly consistent set of rules. Individuals might have their own styling and their own theories on how to make things work, but it all comes down to the same basic thing. In Tango, there are different ways just of doing the dance: open vs. close embrace, how much the partners lean on each other, a quiet, small lead for small, intimate steps vs. a more definite (louder, in a sense) lead with bigger moves. The lady has to learn to adapt to all these styles. As a beginner, I often get schooled in the "correct" way to dance Tango...and then I go dance with the next man, who corrects me and shows his "correct" way. It can be frustrating, but on the other hand, I am learning a lot and it's fun to get so much variety.
  • In Ballroom, the steps are pretty standardized, so a follower with a decent amount of experience can dance with any man and have a pretty good idea of what he's going to do and how he's going to do it. There are some standards in Tango, like ochos and molinettes (excuse any spelling errors, please), but the follower really has to wait for him to lead every single step, because he might have his own twist on it. This makes for a more intimate, connected experience than Ballroom, where the lady can go on autopilot and get away with it...although she still has to wait and follow.
  • In Ballroom, probably the most fundamental rule of following is that the lady is to continue moving forward or backward until the leader tells her otherwise. She is constantly in motion--even when standing still, she is either stretching into the frame or doing some kind of body action. Her momentum often makes a pattern possible. In Tango, she should take just one step at a time and let the leader tell her where the next one will be. There may be several moments of just silence, where the partners will stand perfectly still and just connect. I like that.
  • In Ballroom, the lady needs to feel every single weight change the leader makes, so she can stay on the same foot. It's a very subtle thing, and I've heard from Tango dancers that they have a hard time following Ballroom because of that. Because, in Tango, the man often does weight changes, or even just embellishments with his free foot/leg, that mean nothing to the follower. She stays on the same foot until she is told to change it. The lead comes from the man's chest, and the movement may be very subtle, but he will literally lead her to make that change. I sometimes still change feet when I feel the man do it, out of habit. I know it's wrong, but it's an ingrained habit that I have to get past.
  • Like in West Coast Swing but perhaps not as much, the lady has a few opportunities in Tango to hijack the lead. This is something I don't know a lot about yet, but I know one place where the man sweeps her foot, and if he allows her, she can sweep him back. She can also take her time to do little embellishments and express the music the way she feels it when he leads certain moves. Not all the time, of course--he's still in charge--but there are those opportunities. In Ballroom, the beat keeps marching on and there really isn't much opportunity for those things...nor is it encouraged. 
That's all I can think of for now, but those were some thoughts I wanted to share. Of course, there are a lot of other differences, like how the music is interpreted, the frame, and how you carry yourselves, but here I wanted to focus on the differences in following technique. Feel free to comment with your own thoughts!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tango musings: The problem of the cabeceo solved

The problem with the cabeceo is that if there is a line of girls sitting together, it's hard for them to tell who the man is looking at. My brilliant DH came up with the perfect solution. Follow these easy steps:

1. Walk down the line of ladies.

2. Place your hand on each lady's head. If you are not asking her to dance, say "duck".

3. When you get to the one you want to dance with, say, "Goose" and do the cabeceo.

This will leave no doubt in anyone's mind who you are addressing.

Seriously, though, it is an issue. When you use the cabeceo, even though you think you have a good eyelock with the person you're inviting, the girls on either side of her might think you're looking at them. If there's any doubt, extend a hand or walk closer so the wrong girl doesn't jump up to dance with you and faces embarrassment when she realizes she's wrong! Please...the followers of the world will thank you.
I have to say, I'm divided on whether I like the cabeceo or not. I think it has its uses, but there is the problem I described above. Additionally, if a girl isn't paying attention or is just too shy to stare at every man in sight, she might miss out on some good dances. On the other hand, it's a good way to avoid being asked to dance by someone you don't want to dance with, because you can just studiously not look at them. For people who insist that it's the only way to invite someone to dance because it's traditional...well, I think that's a little silly. If it works for you and the situation, use it. But if you prefer to just say, "Hey, wanna dance?" I say go for it.
Of course, I've only been dancing Tango for two months, so you can pshaw if you like, but in 15 years of ballroom and swing dancing where most people just ask, I just don't see why some people are so rabid about using cabeceo. Some people in those circles use it without knowing it has a name or tradition. Perhaps in Argentina it's a vital part of the way men and women relate to each other in all situations, but America is different.

Plus, I'm at the point where if I decide to be brave and ask a man to dance, unless he's a friend I feel very awkward using the cabeceo. It implies a level of, "surely, you want to dance with me, and now I am allowing you to." This is not something I can comfortably do with men I dance with often, but I can't bring myself to do it with a stranger or someone better than me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

To follow is to surrender

I had a great conversation with a couple of my Tango friends last night, and I thought I'd talk about it a little bit here.

In our 21st Century world, women tend to be in charge of things. Whether it's their own home or a department full of people at work or even keeping our boss in line because he can't keep his head screwed on straight, we're used to running the show and doing a lot of thinking. When we step on the dance floor, that habit tends to carry over. The leader can't possibly know how to interpret the music as well as he can, or perhaps he's struggling and we want to help....or maybe we're just off in our own world, doing our own thing. Whatever our reasons for subverting the lead from the man, a lot of us do it. Some of us don't realize we do it, because we dance blithely along, unaware of how annoyed the man is because he's trying to lead us but can't. Others, like myself, sometimes realize just a fraction of a second too late that we did something we weren't led to do or missed a lead. Oh, sure, I TRY to follow and let the man be in charge, but I slip from time to time.

So, why can't we just relax and let the man be in charge? For some women, it might be belligerance or ignorance. For those of us who are truly trying, it's a matter of learning to trust the man to be in complete control and surrendering yourself to him. This is true in Tango even more than Ballroom or Swing, because there is even less standardization than West Coast Swing and way less than Ballroom. The man is interpreting hte music in his own way, and even if he uses steps he learned in a workshop with 20 other leaders, he's still doing it in his own fashion. In order for the lady to be truly with him, she has to surrender and let him take her through every single step.

How do you learn that trust and surrender? Saying "just relax and surrender" is like saying "just go to sleep." personally, I can't just close my eyes and go to sleep, and most people can't just relax and surrender. However, unlike learning how to sleep (which may be a possibility, but I kind of don't think so), you CAN learn how to give over and just let the man lead you. However, it's not as simple as just deciding to do it (for most of us, anyway...there are some people who are natural followers who have never struggled with it, and never will).

What it takes is hours and hours of floor time. Lessons are good and helpful, but a combination of lessons and going to dances/practicas/milongas is best. You need the instruction from class, but you also need the practice of just going out there and dancing and not knowing what the leader will do until he leads you into it. You have to keep telling yourself to relax and let him drive. Take deep breaths and will yourself to relax every time you can remember.With Tango, because it's new to me and that makes me tense, I have to do this numerous times in every single song.

They say the leaders have the hardest job, because they have so much to learn and balance. However, learning how to truly follow is just about as difficult, in my opinion, because of the natural habits we have to overcome. However, it can be done with a lot of practice and will--just make sure you remain open to following instead of doing whatever you feel like doing while the poor leader struggles along.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Opening tonight for private lesson

I have an opening tonight for a private lesson at 7:30 at the Dance Corner on Fulton Ave. in Sacramento. Just $50 for one or two couples. Give me a call if you're interested! 916-671-9637