All entries for January 2006

January 22, 2006

Argentine tango

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I went to tango today for the very first time, and it was a very interesting experience. Largely because I felt I learnt a lot (or rather had my attention drawn to certain things) outside the realms of dance.

The dance itsef is all about tuning in, paying attention, making a connection…all the things Londoners don't do in the day to day commute. Unlike ballroom tango, it's not choreographed and is a much more subtle dance, sort of a sensual walk? I'm not sure that's the right description, but it's amazing to watch two people dancing in harmony that's a result only of cues that the leader is giving with their body, and that the follower can FEEL (as opposed to a visual clue or a recalled step). I'd imagine that people that have been doing it for a fair while can quite literally do it with their eyes closed.

The first lesson (being as were beginners) is all about tuning in to each other's smallest movements: you learn both as a follower and as a leader so you need to know how to give those cues as well. Unlike choreographed partner dances (salsa, waltz etc etc etc), you don't know what's coming next, which I think actually makes it LESS likely that there will be toes trodden on: you have to either relinquish control or, conversley, be very clearly decisive.

Those're the bits that are difficult to explain (although the teacher, Liz, does it very very well). Now for the bits that really fascinated me and made me think!

Firstly, there was a really interesing mix of people there. I was really impressed at some people that had come alone and appeared to be really quite shy. They'd had the guts to leave their comfort zones, not only by being there but by overcoming their blushes and really getting involved in the lesson. Then there was a couple planning to go to Buenos Aires (lessons a christmas present from wife to husband…and perhaps a "pretty please can we go to Buenos Aires" nudge :) ), someone going to Argentina soon and wanting to learn a little bit, some people there out of curiosity (partly, for me) and a mixture of others: I didn't get to talk to everyone about why they were there.

The first task was to partner up with someone, and play "simon says" but without the words: a mirror game. One person was leading and one following. This task taught me that I'm actually quite sensitive to other people's actions and emotions (I think). It was interesting to see how people mirror the leader. Some people seemed to need to look directly at the part they had to mirror (leg/ arm etc), and then think about doing it, whereas some people could just take it all in an reproduce it without too much bother.

The rest of the lesson is the bit that really made me think. In the practice embrace (holding each others shoulders), the aim was to tune in to the other person's movements: to feel when they were moving, which way and on which foot. It was so interesting that whenever the leader (whether yourself or someone else) had even a fleeting thought about moving in a certain direction on a certain foot, by the time they'd changed their mind and made a different decision, the follower would've already responded to a thought so fleeting that you're not even sure if you thought it at all. I'm not sure if this is the same for ballroom style dances. I think it's a good sign though, because it means your partner's connected enough to sense that thought and act on it. It's all about tuning in enough to feel shifts in weight about your axis: this goes back to the no trodden toes! The leader should be able to 'tell' the follower where to move, thus creating a space for their foot.

Another thing I really thought about was tactility: I'm wondering if I might have become a lot less tactile than I ever have been before. Resting my hands on various strangers' shoulders wouldn't have created any panic at all for me before: physical contact was so frequent that it never felt anything but natural. Today it occurred to me how many months have passed by with very little physical contact. Even when I go back to university to see friends, hugging them feels slightly awkward, as opposed to the comforting norm that it used to be for me.

London just isn't a very touchy feely place: a hug takes me by surprise! In the commuter rush, everyone stands rigidly in the hope that they won't touch against anyone else. Even walking in London is like an obstacle course: everyone desperately concentrating on avoiding walking into other people. All this happens in loads of other towns and cities, but it seems so constant in London and is such a negative attitude to perpetuate. I wonder if it's conditioned people to be anti day-to-day physical contact on a platonic level: the odd comforting hug and numerous other slight touches that can communicate more than words ever could…see the link to tango?

January 05, 2006


Partly impressed partly bemused by Preston of the Ordinary Boys entering into the Big Brother house. He's beautiful, but interesting move , don't you think?

January 2006

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