Saturday, March 10, 2012

What you see is NOT what you get

If it were only true that what you see is what you get!
When people start dancing tango, they watch the dancers who are the most visually appealing.

This world is a world of wanting life to be so easy as What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWIG). This term came from the computer world when the first word processors actually started showing users a page that would look the same way when you printed it. 

Although a few intuitive and very astute dancers can see dancers who will feel good, this is not the norm. This talented person is never surprised by a wonderful dance from someone who didn't appear to be the stellar dancer that they are.  I pity the person who can guess so well! Most of us cannot know until we actually dance with someone, or at least we are open for a surprise now and then. For the beginner reading this blog:  I am afraid that overly focusing on how you look is a dead-end experience in tango. The WYSIWYG beginner too often gives up because of the time and energy it takes to focus on looking good. This is true in all other endeavors in life I would imagine.

Perhaps we never entirely grow out of the assumption that what we can see is what we should get. So how good is your WYSIWYG radar to tell how another person will feel on the dance floor? My guess is that most think that they are pretty darn good at this. The person who can see how things exactly how the will feel will rarely dance with anyone who will ruin their theory!

If tango where a religion, WYSIWYG is a red flag for religiosity, which tends to breed the need for the right appearance. Some of my most memorable feelings in tango have been from the surprise of the opposites of appearances: The elderly woman who is a treasure, the woman suffering from PTSD from a tragic childhood, the woman suffering from Alzheimer's, and the awkward beginner at a practica who wants to practice volcadas, finds her own grace and she melts into me in a simple walk. What about the guy who once looked awkward and overweight who now is the most musically talented tanguero on the dance floor, but still amazes women who do not expect to be amazed. 

The social element of tango is to hold a person and feel the person inside.  There is a little boy or girl in your partner who wants to play with the little boy or girl inside of you.  Why wait for appearances?

Have you had a tango teacher ask you to find that inner person? Find the rare teacher who focuses on what you bring to the dance by how you feel to others. To hold the person in front of you, be with them entirely, sense their soul--this is a world of quantum physics world of tango, the world of what-you-see-is-NOT-what-you-get.

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Photo Credit:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

GenTANGOman (gentleman)

Off to the milonga.
Being a gentleman does not make you a good tanguero, but it helps.  What is most needed is to be a full-witted man and a gentle man at the same time.  That is a gen-tango-man.

Unfortunately in our society we lose positive terms.  Wits.  What in the heck are “wits”?  Surely you must  know about the negative terms “half-wits” and “nit-wits.” 

A full-witted gentleman I call a “gen-tango-man.”  He knows and practices “tango etiquette.”  He can help a lady in OR out of her coat, but also protects her from evil dancers.  I recommend going to this link on tango etiquette (it is one of the "pages" permanently on the right margin of this blog).   At least you should know the rules before you break them when you are in a foreign culture -- and that is what tango is for most of us.  Most of the woman at the milonga are fairly fluent in tango culture.  Are you?   I am not saying that I am perfect or am the perfect gentleman.   I just try.   I am not the rule maker, but I was interested enough in the science of tango that I put together an overview of ideas on tango etiquette – the rules for men as well as women tango dancers.

You will spot a few gen-tango-men at every milonga.  No one is perfect but a full-witted gentleman starts and finishes accompanying a woman to and FROM the dance floor.   Most men I see outside of Latin America are good at taking her out for a spin on the dance floor, but then dispense with her as if she were a dancing leper after the last song of the tanda.  This is an example of doing it half of the way right – half-witted.

Half-Witted is better than the Nit-Witted man:  The nit-witted gentleman lets her lead him onto the floor.  She runs into my partner or me because she is so happy to have been asked or just is not thinking.  Perhaps it is her fist time out with a Nit-Wit.  It isn’t her fault that HE doesn’t know how to catch my eye and keep her at her side.  Then he drops her like a hot rock after dancing a tanda.  Nit-Wit (inherited from the German influence “Nicht / Wissen”  (“no knowledge”).

Neo-Witted Gentleman:  He need more space.  He has been dancing a lot and has the RIGHT to take up three times more space than anyone else.  He has paid a lot of money for those cool moves.  Back up, gentleman, so the neo-ladies can watch and behold his awesomeness.   You get what you pay for, and now you have a free performance to watch (or cringe at what accidents are about to happen).  I am a drummer, and I love neo-tango as a music genre; however, it also promotes some pretty anti-social dancing.  If you need a lot of room than everyone else, gentlemen, then go with a boom box to the gym and dance at half-time.  This is an excellent venue for you:  Lots of room and lots of eyes upon you.

Cloud-Nine-Witted (sleepy-witted):  These are somnambulant Tangueros (dancers with a sleep-walking disorder).  They close their eyes and dance!  What the hell?  These gentlemen are rare but cause fully awake men horrifying nightmares for those of us who are awake on the dance floor!  Do they wish they were women who can snuggle up and get lost in another’s arms?  Wake up, Cloud-Niners!  You are menaces to the well-being of men and woman alike!  In every case that I have seen this happen, the men (or women leaders) were good dancers.  I imagine they believe they can dance and use acceptable floorcraft in their sleep.  I hope they guy from Frankfurt am Main can read English and this somehow gets to him before he runs into me again.  J

The solution for becoming a full-witted gen-tango-man:  Tango’s first rule of dance is NOT listening to the music and/or to move with grace.  The first rule is to do no harm:   DO NOT HURT ANYONE.  That is not easy on a crowded dance floor full of frail people.  Almost all of us come to the dance floor with some weak point – perhaps an old injury or some genetic frailty.  Men, protect her and those around you!  Women, keep your feet far away from others and only take big steps when they are suggested (marcado) by a full-witted man – a gen-tango-man.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

When Time Stops

When the hourglass lies down, infinity starts.

Ochos Atrás and Infinity

I drew hourglasses with her feet,
And traced our DNA with my feet behind her.
Our canvass was a creaking-voiced dance floor.
From my mental picture, the hourglasses
Contain sand on each side – the past the present.
Then we entered the portal of timelessness.
We were still, waiting for our next move.
When time stopped – past left, future, right.

Time, laid on its side draws infinity’s sign,
The lazy eight which God only understands.
The Biagi background helps me enter
A timeless trance, where each beat
Penetrates the notion of the finite.
Each time we dance we have defied time
And entered the infinite with ochos atrás,
We have painted our symbols of the infinite,
And playfully put time to rest.

The graceful walk traces this, the sign of life.

Photo credits:
Hourglass in the heavens from National Geographic
DNA photo is a Windows 7 background

*Ochos atrás means literally "back eights," a common figure in tango argentino.