For reasons that have to do with too much emotional baggage to go into here (I am not a blogger tells all kind of woman), Tangofest has rarely been a high point in my dance year. However, this year, it was fabulous! I'd have to say that it was my most enjoyable tango weekend in a long time.
What made it great? First, I got to dance three different days. Since my son has arrived in my life, I have only been able to go dancing one night of the festival each year. Attending three different days meant that I didn't have to try to fit all my favorite dancers into one night--no more "Oh, see you next year I guess" moments. Second, I am past the "try to dance with famous people" part of my tango experience. I no longer care if Mr. Perfect Tanguero didn't ask me to dance. I danced with everyone who asked me, and also asked complete strangers--and every dance was good to amazing, NO duds and no Boy Scout dances (doing a good deed dances). Third, I did non-tango things in balance with my dancing. What, you did non-tango things??! I spent a lot of time with my son, made dinner with my sweetie, and attended an impromptu Cuban party where we were the only gringos (the "wow, the white girl can bust the Afro-Cuban moves AND speak Spanish!" show). The breaks made me appreciate the tango moments even more than when I just go dancing.
I attended three classes with Charles (thanks, Charles!), each of which gave me new ways to think about tango and tango vocabulary for my teaching. I always attend classes because I think it's important to continue studying tango. I don't think I'll ever get to a place where I know everything about tango.
Musicality class with Murat and Michelle was phenomenal: study with them! Murat does stand-up comedy while making important points about tango. M&M had us doing supposedly simple tasks to the music that made folks cross their eyes and swear under their breath. It doesn't appear to be hard to finish each phrase with a tango close and NOT use it at any point in the dance--until you start dancing and realize you use it all over the place automatically. The same is true for going to the cross ONLY at the end of phrases. The same is true for ocho cortado, although I apparently use this at the end of phrases more than the other moves, because this one was easy for me. M&M concentrated on helping the class find white space in the dance, rather than just mooshing as many moves as possible into the music. In the end, the entire room was moving as one, with no navigational weirdness at all--a new approach to navigation, through music!
The "Unusual ganchos" class with Somer and Agape was also great--I took this because I enjoyed a class of theirs at Valentango last year. Tango 3 has already tried these babies out (I'll post notes ASAP). I enjoyed taking the information I learned from Chicho and Fabian Salas about ganchos, and applying it to leg wraps. I've done leg wraps for years, but the different approach made my leg wraps more subtle in energy, but more obvious to the follower at the same time. Cool! We did double ganchos, leg wraps, and combinations of these. Tango 3's eyes are still crossed, I bet. Somer and Agape are a good team: check out their classes!
Diego Alvaro's class Sunday morning was also useful. He took an easy combination, and then did variations on the theme, always keeping in mind line-of-dance. The three or four variations we worked on weren't all that hard. I wish I could remember the other 10-15 he showed (all at once) while I was the designated follower. Most people in the class were so tired that I don't think even the 3-4 clear variations were all working, let alone the "you can also . . . " demos. I was concentrating so hard on dancing well that I have no idea what we did at that point. Tango 2: we'll work on this stuff, probably next week.
Other people's classes: So far, I've only been hit up by three dancers this week in classes to help them figure out what they learned in classes. I always like the "it went something like this, I think" parts of these explanations, because I wasn't in class, and I get to watch and try to figure out what the combination was. I must truly be a tango geek, because I enjoy doing this forensic tango-ing.
Why I love, love, love to dance with Steven Payne
As usual, Steven was the high point of my weekend. We dance really well together, and I've never had a bad dance with him. Steven pays attention to his follower on such a deep level, that any step that is not going well, gets fixed even before it becomes a problem. I can play with music more audaciously with him than I can with other leads because his intent is so clear, but not pushy, that I KNOW where he's going with the music, and can intersperse my own musical commentary into the dialogue, without messing him up. I know I've nailed it when he makes little appreciative noises, and that makes me tune in even more so, in order to take advantage of those musical moments. On top of that, Steven has a really fun repertoire of moves that do not get stuck in ruts. I don't know what's coming next, but it's also not a rude surprise. I feel elegant when I dance with him, but can also just give myself to the dance completely because I know he is doing the same thing.
STEVEN WILL BE IN EUGENE TEACHING IN NOVEMBER: GO!
One thing I love about festivals is getting to dance with complete strangers, and finding new favorite folks to dance with. Tango chemistry seems to have nothing to do with levels of sleep, dance level, age, or any other factors I can specify; it just IS. I danced with someone from SF who has only danced for a year, but a very tango-obsessed, over-the-top year. Do you know how jealous I get when new folks have opportunities to get that good in one year, when I had to drive hours just to go to a practica? Grr. Anyway, I had fabulous dances with him (he laughed at me for calling them "lovely" so I'm trying to come up with a different word--lovely is GOOD, Miles) all three days I danced, and was informed that I'd been "blogged about" on his blog. I'm fine with being in the top few of his weekend: I don't need to be #1! Anyway, check it out at Tangobliss (I'm apparently Ms. EugeneTango in Portland Day Three and Day Two).