A Tale of Two Couples

A very small rant.

In front of my table, along the festival dance floor, danced two couples.  The couple to my right was so compelling that I was grateful the line of dance was moving so slowly. I could have watched them all night. In a pause in the phrase, the leader had no room to move, so he simply rocked her slowly with the music, three times like a slow heartbeat. I could see her exhale against his neck. Waves of emotion rolled out from them. It felt like they were struggling to contain such intense emotion in each elegant, graceful movement. I couldn't look away.  When they stepped again, it was so soft, so smooth, I wondered if she knew she was moving.  Every turn, every step, so deliberate, so smooth, so connected, it made my heart ache a bit to watch them.

When I could no longer see them well, my eyes shifted to the couple behind them. They whirled, tapped, kicked and stomped around and around in only occasoinally contained chaos. They were hitting every beat, and about 3 beats between each beat. Loud, fast. Their eyes staring at the floor in intense concentration, they whirled around taking up every inch they could, forcing couples around to avoid them. One couple wasn't quite fast enough and a stray stiletto swiped the another dancer's foot. The whirling couple didn't notice the other couple leaving the floor. Didn't apologize. Didn't alter their dance at all.

The difference in their dances was obvious. But here's the most ironic, and to me most disappointing, part: the first leader is a teacher, but hired for our festival to dj. The second leader (and follower) were teachers hired to do workshops and privates.

It made my heart sink.

5 comments:

El Ingeniero said...

Some of the Argentine teacher feel the need to impress festival attendees with their physical prowess, I guess. But C&C are indeed great dancers.

tangocherie said...

You beautifully described the difference between "authentic" tango of emotion, passion, and connection, and "heartless" tango of robotic showing off. It must have been an amazing "aha" moment to see them dancing next to each other. Great post!

Mari Johnson said...

El Ingeniero - I think you're right and I admit it is a tough kind of pressure I've recently experienced. To know you are being watched and critiqued. People judge the value of your dance by the only thing they think they can - their eyes. Many teachers feel no choice but to dance for those eyes. I don't begrudge anyone trying to make a living. I only have a problem when what you're doing impacts the dancers around you negatively. I would rather be thought of as a boring, unimaginative dancer, than a hazardous hot shot.

Tangocherie - I admit, I think it was a very defining moment for me. Lately I've been having to make some hard choices about my dance and about what I value most. I can't say whether or not the 2nd couple had heart, or speak to their emotional connection - only that their lack of connection to the people around them was very obvious and resulted in someone getting hurt. I am saddened that dancers who have taught me the most rarely get the recognition they deserve because they dance not to stand out in the crowd and be seen, but to blend into and encourage the flow of the pista. You don't look at them and think, 'wow they must be teachers!' You look at them (ok, well I look at them) and think, 'god, I hope they're teachers.'

Cinderella said...

"But here's the most ironic, and to me most disappointing, part: the first leader is a teacher, but hired for our festival to dj. The second leader (and follower) were teachers hired to do workshops and privates."
In my experience teaching and DJing rarely go together. I have had wonderful dances with DJs because many of them dance for the love of it and for the music, without which we wouldn't have tango dancing in the first place. Many teachers, on the other hand, like you say dance for the eyes of the people watching them dancing. And for making a living. That's why they have to show off. The more eyes they catch the more pupils they attract and the more money they earn.

Terpsichoral said...

I'm with you on this, but I think you are in not in as small a minority as you think. When I post videos of fairly simple quiet 'small' dancing in close embrace on my Facebook they usually get far more likes than videos of more flamboyant performances. Detlef Engel and Melina Sedo, who dance a very simple and small close embrace style are -- like them or not -- probably one of the most popular and successful couples in Europe at the moment. And Ms Hedgehog has some interesting things to say about whether even beginner dancers are especially impressed by flashy moves: http://mshedgehog.blogspot.com.ar/2012/02/what-beginners-want-really.html