Sunday, September 9, 2007

Aspen Tango

If you haven't already figured it out, I live in Aspen, Colorado and partake of tango (locally) through the Aspen and Glenwood Springs Tango communities.

We had our monthly milonga last night in Glenwood Springs, which coincided with a weekend workshop given by Tom Stermitz (Denver Tango Festivals) of Denver. Tom usually likes to leave early - so I normally DJ after he leaves. Last night, I suppose he was tired, and figured I could handle the DJ'ing just fine, because he didn't show.

I arrived at 8:30, and was trying to pick the lock on the back door of the Masonic Temple (yes, the Masonic Temple), when I realized the lights were on inside and people were busy setting up. For the first hour or so, it was me and one other leader, and about six followers. We finally ended up with about sixteen folks and were fairly balanced, but I was kept pretty busy attending to my responsibilites as a lead in a very small community.

I have actually been going through a state of fairly major flux these past few months (or could it be almost a year?) both in my tango life and my personal/work life. I have vacilated in my desire to dance, mostly because of the lack of good followers to practice with, but also because of lots of bad dances.

As I write this, I recall that it started back in May at the Labor Day Festival in Denver. My daughter graduated from High School that weekend, so I could only attend the Sunday picnic milonga, and then the all nighter. I remember having some fairly unpleasant dances. Mostly due to zero connection, a couple due to extreme apilado by the follower - hanging on me, and a few due to poor choices by me in asking women I didn't know to dance.

Zero Connection::
She danced with her eyes open and I could tell she was scanning the field behind me for other leads to dance with. Lesson Learned:: Never dance with a woman who dances (close embrace) with her eyes open.

Extreme Apilado::
I have actually danced with this California woman before - nice dances. But this time, for some reason, (maybe she was tired) she was hanging on me with what felt like 100% of her weight. I am a big guy, but gawd she was heavy. Most of her weight was on my right arm - this is an ongoing issue for me for some reason. In spite of my attempts to adjust our embrace, she just stayed camped out on me - like some sort of hanging bivouac on the face of El Capitan. My back was tweaked by all this, and I left early in frustration. I think I even decided in that moment to quit tango all together - I reasoned that if I was deriving no pleasure from tango, why continue? It's the old agony vs. the ecstacy issue - I think it's fairly common in the tango world. And, I realize my title "extreme apilado" is not really accurate here...hanging on someone is not the same as "a Gavito" apilado...which is a stylistic choice...

Poor Choices::
I need to be more aware of the level of dance of women before I ask them to dance. If a follower can't execute simple stuff like molinetes (in both directions) and ocho cortados, then I probably shouldn't ask them to dance. Although, there is the "community service dance" responsibility of dancing with less experienced women - which I happily do on occassion - or drop back into if I have not gauged a woman's experience properly - drop back into the connection, musicality, simple walking. I suppose this should not really be an "excuse" for me. I will freely admit - I am one of the worst offenders of dancing with a very short list of women - ultimately I think it has stunted my lead.

Anyway, I got side tracked there...I wanted to talk about the Aspen Tango community...and what it's like to learn tango in a very small and isolated community. You may not realize it, but Aspen is in the middle of the wilderness. They call it a "destination resort". I drove 45 minutes/miles to Glenwood last night to dance...and 45 long minutes back at 2 in the morning. Denver is 3.5 hours away. Santa Fe, where I have been for a workshop and milonga, is the next closest town with tango, and it's a good 6 or 7 hours - and that's when the pass is open. Add an hour and a half in the winter when the pass is closed.

So sixteen last night at the milonga - which I would say is average attendance. A "big" milonga for us is 25 or 30 - which hasn't happened in a while. It will usually coincide with a visiting teacher - Luciano from BsAs or Jaimes Friedgen from Seattle. That number includes pretty much every dancer from Aspen, Glenwood Springs, a few from Grand Junction, Summit County and Denver.

Not that I'm complaining - although it does make the learning process much slower for us - dancing maybe once a month - dancing with the same few partners all the time - it's a nice community, with really nice people.

The gist of all this, is that I had some really nice dances last night...and had "fun"....for the first time in a very long time...and that's what it's all about, right?

Post Script::
Under the "poor choices"...another basic error that tweaks me is the "flying leg ocho"...I can see the woman's leg in my peripheral vision taking a wide swing/trajectory as if I had displaced it, when in fact we are just doing simple here it is ladies...step....collect...pivot...WAIT...step... The "collect" and the "wait" may be only a millisecond each, but they are there... ankles together... just passing briefly by... the "wait" is so that you don't block a lead's opportunity to do something... Luiza (of Pulpo & Luiza) is great about emphasizing not defaulting and blocking the leads opportunities to do something else...

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