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Monday, October 15, 2007

Teacher's Helper

Well, that was nice.

This Sunday I went to the outdoor afternoon milonga at Golden Gate Park, the last time for me this year. Since I'll be en vacances very soon, I'll miss the remaining Sundays in October.

I'm sad because I really loved dancing in the park. I'll just have to wait in anticipation until next March when it starts up again.

At first, I wasn't going to go at all. That milonga I went to on Tuesday really threw me for a loop, where I pretty much sat around all night. I just figured I'd chill on the dancing until I felt a little less fragile and touchy about it, and wait until after I got back Venice. But I really didn't want to miss my last chance to dance outside in the beautiful old bandshell.

It was cold, overcast: perfect weather for dancing when you know you might get sweaty. The other nice thing about this milonga is that you don't have to dress up. You can wear dance pants and a t-shirt and feel right at home.

In the past, I've had some of my favorite leaders to dance with at this milonga. But this time, not a one was there! In fact, there was almost no one there at all. Roberto and Carolina teach the class, and Roberto is the DJ. Our tiny group just sat around, craning our necks to see if anyone was coming to dance. While we sat, I told Carolina about the milonga last week, and how I didn't dance. I said I figured that never happens to her, since she's a teacher, and she surprised me. She said that happens to her too. Which made me feel better. Not that she doesn't get asked to dance, but that I'm not the only one.

Finally, someone showed up, a beginning leader I've danced with before, and asked if we were having a class. Normally I skip the lesson because I'm dancing with someone, but this time I ended up in the class--as Carolina's "helper" while Roberto played the music. It is strange for me to be at the front of the class like that. Nora used to do that to me to in her beginning classes, and it used to make me really nervous. I never messed up, but I felt like I was being presented as better than I am, and I don't want anyone to think that about me. But Nora said she picked me because she knew I could do what she needed me to, and to take it as a compliment.

But it still makes me feel funny. Carolina was great. She was teaching the leaders how to lead ochos, and from there, how to lead a boleo. She pulled me into a close embrace and led to my left in the cross system. My nose was resting on her cheek, just like it would normally with any leader.

The difference is that this was the first time I was able to dance with a woman, and enjoy it. Her lead was strong and soft at the same time. If she asked me to dance at a milonga, I'd say yes in a heartbeat.

The other little gem of the day was that I danced with a guy I don't get to dance with normally when his partner (girlfriend?) is with him. They only dance together. But she wasn't there this time so he danced with me. He kept saying things like he wasn't good enough to dance with me and he was embarrassed about his mistakes. I told him to stop worrying about the steps in class, and just listen to the music and dance. And when the vals tanda began, he sat down, saying he couldn't do it and he'd have to wait until he got better. But then Desde El Alma came on, and I can't sit that one out. I pretty much dragged him out onto the floor. After a few steps, he took off like a swan. He was great.

At the end of the milonga, I told him not to be a stranger next time. I hope he won't be.

5 comments:

Maria October 16, 2007 at 4:48 AM  

While we sat, I told Carolina about the milonga last week, and how I didn't dance. I said I figured that never happens to her, since she's a teacher, and she surprised me. She said that happens to her too. Which made me feel better. Not that she doesn't get asked to dance, but that I'm not the only one.

That is comforting! I think that when you are a beginner you don't get asked to dance much because you're not very good. However, when you are a more advanced dancer you don't get asked to dance because people are intimidated (just like that guy who was insecure about dancing with you). Ah, the irony!

Johanna October 16, 2007 at 10:07 AM  

The most common exchange in Tango:

She: You're wonderful! Why haven't we danced before?

He: I'm just a beginner. And you're so good. I don't know enough steps to dance with you.

She: It's not the steps, man! It's about the connection.

He: But you'll get bored.

She: I'd rather just walk all night with someone who hears the music and my heart than someone who knows 1,000 steps but doesn't know I'm there.

He: Uh huh.

Psyche October 16, 2007 at 10:07 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Psyche October 16, 2007 at 10:14 AM  

"I felt like I was being presented as better than I am, and I don't want anyone to think that about me."

I completely understand where you're coming from. I sometimes help my teacher when his regular partner's away, which is fine in our usual group because everyone knows how it is, but in other groups I worry a lot that people will think that I think I'm ready to teach. Which, of course, I know perfectly well I'm not. There's quite enough gossip and politics on the tango scene already - I don't want it aimed on me if I can avoid it. I've already had a couple of people being distinctly unpleasant at me about it. Bleurgh. If only we could have the tango without the politics!

But on the plus side, it does make me very happy to know that he thinks well enough of my dancing that he trusts me to help him. So go you! Revel in the compliment.

tangobaby October 17, 2007 at 9:37 AM  

Maria,

Now that you say that, I guess I do remember other leaders saying something similar to me before. Maybe this is a state of Dancer's Limbo.

Johanna,

You mean "uh huh," like "Yeah, right!" If I never did another gancho again, it would not be too soon. Do you think guys read this blog? If so: Guys! Don't worry so much. Just dance with us!

Pysche,

Thank you for writing. I know you're right. I guess being a shy person doesn't help. At least this was a small class.

;-)