Austin Spring Tango Festival Recollections


My brain is still too full. The festival, the lessons, old friends, new friends, stress, elation... Too much going on in the little gray cells to pull together many coherent thoughts. I danced Tuesday and Thursday nights, and just couldn't seem to pull together what I learned. In fact just following was challenging. All I could think about was that I should be remembering more of what I learned. Instead, everything seemed bottlenecked - too much information with nowhere to go. Maybe E. is right - I need more time for the things I learned to travel from my brain to my feet.

Austin Spring Tango Festival

The festival was wonderful, exciting, exhausting. I missed so much of it due to illness, but I find that I still got *enough* - enough of what I was looking for, enough of what I was needing... enough. I'm sad to have missed what's been called the "best milonga ever" on Sunday night at Esquina Tango. You can see video of it here.

You can also see/hear the Austin Piazzolla Quintet perform at the Saturday night milonga at Dance Institute here.

And you can see a didactic demo that Somer Surgit and Carol Horowitz did after one of the classes (Weight Shifts, Unwindings, Crossing and Uncrossing the Follower") I attended here.

If you're really bored and have exceptional eye sight, you can see me in a video of another of the festival milongas here.

Private Lessons and more video . . .

I was lucky enough to have back-to-back private lessons with my teachers, Mardi Brown and Stephen Shortnacy of Georgetown Tango, and with visiting teachers, Darryl Gaston and Phyllis Williams, from Dallas.

The private lessons answered so many questions and corrected several things I was having trouble with. They also reinforced the foundation I had been given by my previous teachers, so that was reassuring.

Instead of, "you're doing a,b and c wrong - do this instead," I got, "here's how you can make this more comfortable/more effective/easier on your partner/more connected etc." Nearly all of my private lesson time was focused on the embrace and walking - moving with intention and fluidity, filling the spaces offered by my partner.

The video revealed that some things are getting better (the left foot sickling thing and collecting) and some things will still take a lot more work (lifting my shoulders, dropping my hips etc.)
Even though I'm so happy to have taken part in the festival, I'm glad to have things returning to normal. Smaller crowds, cozy surroundings, more relaxed dances. Hopefully at some point what I learned will start to show in my dance.

2 comments:

Alex said...

When I first started out, and was attending classes & workshops & festivals & privates out the wazoo, I put a lot of pressure on myself to "learn" what was taught, or otherwise incorporate it into my dance.

In my opinion, this is the wrong assumption/approach. There may be individuals who can short cut the process teach someone to become a five year level dancer in only one year. There may be people who can learn like that - and become a five year level dancer in one year. But that ain't me.

I gradually (after beating my head against the proverbial brick wall) came to learn, or came to understand, that if I was able to retain one thing - ONE thing - from a weekend workshop or a private lesson, then I had gotten my money's worth. I was happy.

When I went to Buenos Aires a few years ago - I enrolled in one of Gustavo & Giselle's 6 or 7 day Intensivo Seminarios on Special Topics. Before the trip, I reasoned that it was probable that I would retain nothing from the 7 days. I knew I would retain nothing. I expected to retain nothing. This was probably the wrong/negative approach, the self-fulfilling prophecy approach.

A couple of thousand bucks can apply some pressure to get one's money's worth. But this approach of mine took that pressure off. I did take notes. I did videotape the end of class/element demos of what we had just learned (demos by all the students, not G&G, as they did not allow it).

So here's the crux.

I knew that just by going to Buenos Aires, just by participating in G&G's seminario, just by going through the motions, just by the attempt, the effort, the brain damage, the milongas, the culture, the camaraderie, submerging myself in all that is tango - I knew that it would make me a better dancer.

Not a better dancer that trip. Not at the milonga that night after the day's learning. Not a better dancer by the end of the total 15 days there. Not the next week back home in Aspen. Not at the next Denver Estilo Milonguero Festival. Not the next month, or next fall, or next year.

I knew that the experience would soak into my bones, and then into my soul - eventually. A year? Two years? Longer?

Some day.

Some day, at some point in the future, some of what was taught would gel, a little something would "take" and improve my dancing a bit. My walk, my posture, my whatever.

So, like Elizabeth, I would advise to take the pressure off. Go to the classes/workshops/festivals for now. Eventually you will have reached the point that you don't feel the need to go so much. The teaching and learning will be there, then there will be dancing and learning.

In good time. That is the beauty of El Tango.

(P.S. that was one of the best fests I have been to...very nice energy...very nice...)

Mari said...

Alex - thank you for your words of wisdom. I loved the festival milongas and the practica and the overall great energy. I don't really have any idea what my dance should look or feel like at 1yr, or 2 yrs, or 10 yrs for that matter, so I don't have an expectation or a standard to go by. I try to take things as they come and work on what I can, when I can. When I go to privates, I ask for help on the same things all the time - the embrace and walking. That's more than enough to keep me busy for the next few decades.

Maybe in a few years I'll take one of those nifty boleo classes. lol