Tanguera Escondida returns with more thoughtful and humorous observations on the benefits of practice and a salad with tuna:
A couples months ago I said something truly ridiculous to my tango partner, Klondike.
He had remarked that I’d danced beautifully at a recent milonga with good posture and elegance. I really took this compliment to heart, since he is not one to compliment freely. Usually with tango he’ll say, “You’re putting too much pressure on my back” or “you’re right arm is too stiff” or “You’re bouncing.” He can say this stuff to me because we’re partners, and while it helps me get better, a compliment also goes a long way, inspiring me to improve even more.
I knew I’d felt good at that particular milonga. I wasn’t hungry, I’d had a sip of wine, my legs and abs felt strong. I was really into the music and dancing with my regulars. I felt confident and inspired. But why? Why was I better at that particular milonga? And then, just a few days later, felt wobbly and insecure?
Well, after much figuring, I figured it out, and told Klondike with glee: “I think I was good that day because I had a salad with tuna on it two hours beforehand.”
He stared at me for a beat in disbelief, then guffawed. “Wow, I wish I could just eat a salad and dance well,” he said. “I have to go every single day and spend hours practicing.” He told me he was going to add this story to his repertoire of tango stories, and tell his leader friends.
At that point, I’d began to realize the ridiculousness of my determination. “As long as you don’t tell them it was me who told you that,” I said. “And besides, I had chicken and bread for dinner tonight, 30 minutes ago, so that means I’m going to suck at tango tonight.”
After my embarrassment wore off, I began to think further about why I had danced better than normal. And I think it comes down to practice.
The day before that particular milonga, I’d attended a ladies technique workshop by an incredible Argentine teacher. Her classes are drill after drill after drill, which are my favorite sorts of classes. I don’t have to deal with leaders and can really focus on technique. We practiced the walk, the walk with embellishments, front and back ochos both standing-alone and on the bar, and front and back boleos on the bar. Then, stand-alone molinetes and molinetes with partners. It was a heavenly tango class to me, and the next day, I woke up very sore, but ready to dance.
Maybe this class is what really pushed me to dance better that day. My body was primed from a couple hours of repetitive movements and disassociation. I don’t usually do these types of exercises; I find practicing by myself to be difficult, and there aren’t many ladies technique classes out there. If that particular teacher had one per week, I would be very inspired to attend.
Since that particular class, I took another ladies technique class on the Peninsula, with the teacher once again running us through a series of drills. Basic walking, molinettes, embellishments.
“You feel different,” Klondike remarked later when we were practicing.
And I felt it deep within my bones. I tightened my stomach and straightened my posture. I was careful of where and how I stepped. I tried to remember the technique I learned that very day.
It’s hard for me to practice alone, but I see how awesome these exercises are for getting better. I still don’t practice as often as I should, but I do try to go to the gym and utilize the terrific wood-floored workout room with bars lining the walls. I put in my head-phones, straighten my back, and walk up and down, up and down while men do sit-ups and grunt around me. I tune them out and reach for the bar, where I practice front and back ochos. Then, I put a ball and my shoes on the ground, and attempt to do molinettes around them. It’s not always pretty; I’m often wobbly and off-kilter, but I’m trying.
I know if I keep doing this, I’ll feel the benefit of my practice.
How do you practice? Milongas? Private lessons? Group classes? What works best for you?
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