This past Saturday's milonga could definitely be classified as a "learning opportunity" for me. There were a lot of unfamiliar dancers from other cities, and more than the usual number of beginner to almost-intermediate dancers (like me). Floor craft was not as consistent as it usually is. Normally, this is my most comfortable, familiar milonga. I know almost all of the faces, if not the names. I've danced with most of the leaders etc. Not so last Saturday night.
There was a short beginner class before the milonga as usual, which gave us the opportunity to get to know one another. Once the milonga started in earnest, I felt I was dancing with beginner after beginner. My usual partners either weren't asking me to dance, or weren't present at all, though a few came much later. It felt like I was having a harder and harder time dancing with anyone. I started to worry that I was looking like I was fresh from my first tango class. That was where the trouble really began. I started to worry more about how I was appearing to dance - than how I was actually dancing.
Soon, I started feeling critical of some of the leaders. Clearly it was their leading and not my following that was to blame. I felt manhandled, pushed, shoved, irritable. I'd been backed into other dancers. Finally, I just sat down. I had a glass of wine. And sulked. As I tried to shake off the pity party, I looked at these gentleman that I had, a few seconds earlier, started to regard as "less skilled dancers". I watched them lead other partners into far more complex steps than I had been able to follow. They looked graceful, generous in their lead, musical.
It wasn't them.
It was me.
It had probably been me all along.
I had carried baggage from one dance to the next, becoming increasingly difficult to lead. Heavy. Even selfish. I had begun to worry about my appearance. By the last new leader I had danced with, I wasn't even offering a truly genuine follow. I blamed being tired, collisions early on, stress. Deep down I was just getting a bit, well... pissy, actually. I tried to think of a classier word - but there you have it. I was being pissy.
So now I was faced with a decision - go home or stick it out and see if it gets better. I've just written a post on staying to the end of the milonga - would I give up now? I had a little "come to Jesus" meeting with myself in the bathroom, freshened up, smiled, and walked out like I was starting over. I danced all the way to the end of the milonga. Unfortunately, it was too late to be gracious to the gentlemen I had not given my best to. So I'll keep an eye out for them at local milongas and hope that sometime I get the chance to give them my best dance.