Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Generous dancers

Something a few of my very favourite male dancers have in common is not a particular style or technique, but a great personal generosity in their dance, especially when the woman is not very experienced, or is someone they don't know. (I'm sure lots of women are notable for it as well, I just don't know because I don't dance with them).

One of them was the person who danced a vals with me at my very first milonga and made it seem perfectly straightforward and tons of fun and gave me enough courage to keep on with the classes despite the fool who, fifteen minutes later, persisted with the vague leads, pained looks, and incomprehensible verbal instructions until I could no longer hold back tears.

You dance who you are, up to a point, and I have always assumed it must be a reflection of character. But I don't really know. Even if it is, you probably need a certain level of skill to express it successfully. I don't know exactly which skills are important, but Ampster has written a beautiful piece about that, and the rewards of gaining them.

But I can tell you what it feels like. It feels like a reflection of someone who not only likes women as people, but actively enjoys the idea that we're not necessarily perfect or under control.

I don't ask this quality of everybody's dance. There are lots of ways to be a lovely dancer, that's part of the interest, and this is just one. But if you see that possibility in yourself, wherever you are, cultivate it, because it will be a real contribution to your scene.


Mari said...

Those generous dancers absolutely make a milonga. I know a few men and women who fit that criteria - who meet their partners where there partners are at that time - not where they think their partner *should* be. The excel at making their partners feel comfortable, valued, graceful. They take the pressure off. Remind you to have fun. They reach out to others - new dancers and experienced dancers. Those dancers keep me coming back even when I'm too tired/frustrated/grumpy/disheartened - whatever. They're the heart of tango for me.

ghost said...

In my case, thank Rosie. She spent months getting me to smile while I danced with her rather than a look of intense concentration.

Technically my dancing isn't the greatest, but I have the distinct honour of being one of the few men who can make S and B smile when they dance with me. And to be honest I wouldn't trade that for all the technical skill in the world :o)

Tangocommuter said...

Lovely post. Yes, we need skills, but they shouldn't take the place of generosity.

msHedgehog said...

I think a certain level of skill is a necessity before you can express generosity effectively; and the chance to be generous is certainly one of the things that makes skill a good thing to have. In the same way that the ease of giving it away is one of the useful aspects of money.

ghost said...

Interstingly I was going to argue that it isn't about being generous. I don't feel like I'm giving the woman a handout or anything.

But then I considered Scrouge...

He starts the story thinking only about himself, his wants, his desires.

It's when his heart is open and he able to give freely that everyone is truly happy.

Perhaps that's the distinction? It's a generosity of spirit for it's own sake.

Anonymous said...

True generosity is not just spririt - it translates into action, determination to develop capability.

Being lazy about it isn't good enough.

I find this particularly with followers who fall down on this, expecting the leaders to do all the graft and work, physical and mental. Its a shame because tango only happens when leader and follower meet.

Which is why tango is so magic - when all these factors come togther.

Anonymous said...

Am I being ungenerous if I can no longer be satisfied with beginners or dancers who just don't improve?

Over time I just can't muster enough to make the tango magic happen. For some reason it only happens with dancers who others called "good dancers". I'm not applying that label - its a coincidence but something about them makes it work for me .. and not with the rest.

I don't like the idea of an elite who only dance and experience true tango to the exclusion of everyone else.

What say ye?

msHedgehog said...

@Anon; Well, people have a lot of choice about how much effort they want to put in and how much they want to improve. This is something people do for fun; nobody is a public service and nobody has any obligation to dance with anyone they don't want to. Most people will dance with a mixture of partners in terms of level - but some will mix it up more than others and some will mix it differently at different times, depending on priorities, personality, ability, time available, the reasons why they're there in the first place, context and all sorts of other reasons. At some stages of your development dancing with new partners might be good for you, at others it might not be. On somebody's planet all this may be a problem; not on mine.

In this post I'm not talking about who does or doesn't dance with beginners or with unrewarding partners from time to time; I mean a quality of the dance itself which is still detectable to your partner no matter what his or her skill level.

ghost said...

Some of my favourite dancers are (or were) beginners. Once a week I dance with a particular lady - we pretty much entirely ignore the music and act like a controlled hurricane (I'm careful to make sure there's a fair amount of space on the floor before I ask her to dance). There's very little I can actually lead on her. And yet it's a wonderful experience for me that I look forward to :o) And she's not the only one (though as I say the others at the moment have actually gained skills and aren't beginners any more).

So why do I enjoy dancing with her?! Because she dances. Not well perhaps, but she puts her heart and soul into the dance. And looking back over the dances I enjoy, that for me is the issue. Are you dancing, or are you in your head thinking about technique or the next guy you're going to ask, or how annoying your boss is....? Yet so many people practice or just go through the moves rather than dance :(

I guess the fundamental statement I want from a follower is "I want to dance and I want to dance with you!" And for those few minutes that's all there is.

Caveat - as per one of MsH's older posts I draw the line at being hurt by over-enthusiastic dancers.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
msHedgehog said...

@spammer - must try harder. Deleted.

Anonymous said...

I believe at any level a man can be a generous dancer. It just requires that you dance first of all within your own skill level. Women struggle when a man tries to lead somthing that he himself cannot lead. If a woman does not follow you just accept it and try something else. Of course you should try different things together, but just enjoy the bad with the good. And smile we are supposed to be doing this for fun.

msHedgehog said...

@tangogales, the smile is a big part of it - and very good advice! I think a sense of fun and adventure contributes a lot.