When I had only been dancing a few months, I attended two milongas at Fiesta de Tango, held at Austin's Omni South Hotel. It was a beautiful affair. The music was wonderful and the events were well attended. I was told it would be a great opportunity to dance with new people and how exciting that would be. When I got there, all I could do was look for familiar faces. Back then, there weren't too many. I danced with a few people, tried to mingle a bit, watched the performances - but mostly I was too nervous to relax and enjoy myself. Everything felt too big - the floor, the crowd. Too overwhelming. It made me miss my regular weekend milongas. I felt homesick for familiar surroundings and familiar people.
This time, ten months into my tango life, I expected to have an easier time at Fandango de Tango, held by the same organizer, Ricardo Moncada (Learn to Dance Austin) at the same venue. When I walked in with my friend, I immediately looked for familiar faces. I was nervous already. Crowds of people I didn't know. Finally I was able to pick out dancers I knew, especially comforting were the faces of those tangueros I look for at every milonga - my "security blanket" leaders who make me feel treasured and secure on the milonga floor. I actually felt my shoulders relax a little bit.
I danced more this time. Mingled more. Met (and danced with) new people. I was especially excited to dance with a tanguero from California that I hadn't even known would be attending. It was pure luck that he asked me to dance and I recognized him from his picture online. Tango is a smaller and smaller world. Even though this time was easier than the last festival - I still couldn't relax. I forgot everything. I couldn't keep my posture in check. I couldn't keep my shoulders from tightening and pulling me away from my partner. My heels kept catching on the seams on the temporary dance floor. There were so many wonderful things in the evening - dancing to favorite songs with favorite partners - but I still felt home sick. Anxious. Self-conscious.
I'm glad I went, even though the price was steep - $45 for one milonga! The performances were beautiful. I especially loved watching Nito & Elba and Facundo & Christy. Both of those couples exemplified the kind of tango I love to see and want to dance. Graceful, musical, connected, gorgeous. Most of the other performances were beautiful too, of course - very acrobatic, athletic, dramatic - but more like watching modern dance than tango. Beautiful, but not the same. I paid the entrance fee last night mostly to see Nito and Elba and their performances were worth every penny. Watching Facundo & Christy tear up the floor for a fantastic milonga was a wonderful bonus. I wasn't at all familiar with their dancing before this and I was just awed by their talent.
The next festival for me is Austin Spring Tango Festival in March. It's being held at Dance Institute, very familiar territory at least. By then maybe I'll be more confident or at least less self-conscious. Meanwhile, I can hardly wait until Tuesday's regular milonga at Texas French Bread - cozy and relaxed.
(Thank you so much, Eduardo, for the picture and the dances!)
Mari... I think only your comments revealed that you were nervous. I enjoyed the dance. About your blog comments: I agree with your iconoclastic views on tango. You are dangerous! Sure Fandango had some wonderful stage-tango performances. We saw some wonderful dancers who even can dance tango well on a social dance floor, but somehow I think it is sad that we dancers mostly cheer on amazing acrobatics. An embrace is only only for one person. A fly-through-the-air-gancho-parada-arrastre-volcada is for the crowd. It reminds me of the glitz of ballroom -- all of our cheering. I wanted to leave and go eat, but I am glad I stayed. Acrobatics and choreography are interesting, sometimes even moving. I have been known to weep after a performance. But tango is embrace, improvisation and for the person you are dancing with and not the crowd. -- Very respectfully yours, a fellow iconoclast
I was at the event. As for the performances, the crowd appreciated the dancers who know how to put on a good show. There is differences between stage tango and social tango. The good performers like Fernanda Chi and Guillermo Merlo, do understand how to entertain the crowd. Their movements are not for copy cats on the milonga floor. In my opion, whoever can't tell stage from club styles don't understand tango in it's full spectrum. We shall embrace excellent presentaion, chemistry and technique on stage while dancing good social based on codigos of tango.
Anonymous - I would never belittle the contribution of stage tango in its artistry or importance. If it weren't for the touring shows of tango fantasia (especially early on), I am sure tango would not enjoy the wide audience that it enjoys today. And, the performers are all renowned outstanding teachers as well. However you make my point for me:
You wrote: "In my opinion, whoever can't tell stage from club styles don't understand tango in it's full spectrum."
If you go to nearly any milonga in North America you will see plenty of examples of dancers who can't tell the difference on the social floor. There were tangueros sitting next to me trying to figure a way to lead linear boleos during the milonga! My problem is with *only* finding stage tango to be worthy of praise like a "good show", "artistic", "dramatic". So many dancers say that they don't feel like they're really dancing tango unless they're kicking.
Stage tango is its own discipline with its own artistry, techniques and merits. By all means, if one wants to learn it, they should endeavor to do so - but not at the expense of other dancers on the pista. I appreciate both forms and the myriad expressions in between - but I wish that more people would respect that there is a time and place for each. At these workshops and festivals the impression is, intentionally or not, that everything taught there is usable at the milonga. On top of that, this festival had no practicas, so some dancers were trying out their new, barely-practiced steps on the crowded milonga floor and creating havoc for their partners and the dancers around them.
Mark - I'm glad I didn't appear as nervous as I felt - and I'm glad you stayed for the performances too!
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