Tango - changing partners

At Tango Fabrika, the instructors always encourage us to change partners every few songs so that we can develop better dancing skills. Not only does it hone my ability to recognize cues, but it's also a real pleasure to feel how each partner has been improving over the last six weeks.

The students are pretty game - except for one couple that stoutly refused to be separated every time it was time to switch.

And then last week, just like that, they changed partners.

When it was my turn to dance with the man, he immediately began apologizing for his lack of skill. I just smiled and reassured him that I'd be patient, and within a few minutes he began to relax. It had never occurred to me that fear was preventing them from switching. But I don't suppose it ever occurred to him how liberating it might be to change partners.

Turns out, he was a very pleasant partner. Didn't step on my feet once. Had a nice touch on my back.

So to push the spirit of courageous improvement a little further, I went to Friday practica with fellow tanguera Jennifer. My goal was to have one partner and to not make a fantastic fool of myself. I got two partners - one was my teacher - and I think I did alright, but here comes a complaint!

Not enough male beginners at practica!

Most of the men in the room were far too advanced to dance with me - choosing instead to dance with more advanced and flambuoyant women. I would love to attend practica but if there are no male beginners to dance with, how will I improve? Although I was left breathless by some of the dancing on the floor, it was a little frustrating to be left sitting so long.



The Double Nod

Have you ever noticed that when two men spot each other on the sidewalk, say, they do this double nod of the head as a non-verbal 'hey'?

I have only ever seen men do this little gesture of recognition.

Do you know what I'm taking about? And more importantly, does anyone know of a documented case of a female successfully pulling off the Double Nod?

I've tried, but it feels clunky and weird. Is there a gene I'm missing?


That feeling

...you know the one? When you feel like you're not good at anything and that everyone is just being nice?

That's the feeling I have today.

Except I'm wary about saying it out loud - if it's true, I don't necessarily want everyone to stop.


Yoga adjustments... yes, please!

I love being adjusted in a yoga class.

Whether it's a refinement of the pose or help in going deeper, I get excited when I hear the teacher padding closer. I'm addicted to the feeling that an adjustment gives. With a refinement, there's the rush of finally achieving a more perfect alignment. With an assist, there's the release of muscular tension that washes over me like a warm wave.

For example, as I have (frequently) tight hips, one of my favourite postures is baddha konasana. The also-called "butterfly" pose always brings a little more space into my body, but the best is on Monday mornings, when I practice mysore at AYM, Jessie will sometimes sit behind me and weigh down my legs with her thighs.

And sometimes, she'll even lay her torso across my back so that I can fold even further through the breath. One morning, I opened my eyes to see that the tip of my nose was some three or four inches from my feet - a feat I cannot accomplish on my own steam.

I resurface feeling blissed out, my eyes open stickily. It's just too good.

That being said, a lot of people really don't like adjustments in yoga class. If one of those people is you, let me know why - I'd love to know.


The small pleasures of winter

*the smell of a cigarette being lit in the deep cold

*taking a short cut to the metro and hearing piano music from inside the Les Grands Ballets

*sliding my feet into already warm slippers

*watching the squirrels nibble on nuts I left in the backyard

*fur-lined hoods

What else?


The 27-28 theory

I have a theory about women between the ages of 27-28. This theory was born of my own experiences at that age, and it was further confirmed with the experiences of almost every woman I know. Not exaggerating here.

So here it is:

Women ages 27-28 undergo a massive shift from the angst-ridden and messy uncertainty of their 20s in preparation for the more focussed and confident 30s. On the inside, it feels like insanity, but if you don't weaken, you begin to discover important realizations bubbling up through the noise.
  • What you really want to do.
  • What you really don't want to do.
  • Who you want to be with.
  • Who your real friends are.
  • How to make your ideal life happen.
  • What's happiness?
  • And how you intend to find it.
As a result: friendships and relationships may morph or come to end, career paths change, attitudes towards your environment are transformed, plans for marriage and children are hatched, bodies begin to reshape, etc.

It's kind of like a second adolescence - but you have better shoes and a little more money.

It's an awful period but it's important work that needs to be done -- survived. As I approach 37, I'm beginning to wonder if there's another shift ahead and what it will mean for who I eventually become in my 40s. Whatever happens, I'll keep you posted.


Feeling tango

When I first started practicing yoga, I mechanically dragged myself through the postures. I was just trying to keep up. Then one day, the practice moved from "surface, automatic" to "interior, organic".

When "the practice" became "my practice", I truly fell in love with yoga.

It's the same thing with tango, yes?

When I first started dancing, there was a lot of intellectualization happening. Since then, I've been trying to shift tango down from my brain and up from my feet to my heart. I've been trying to "feel" tango and I think I'm beginning to approach that line between Like and Love.

Rebote and gancho probably have a lot to do with it. I've never had so much fun learning!

*Photo borrowed from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pforret/


Ballet, oh ballet!

I visited the offices of Les Grands Ballet Canadiens this morning to see an old friend. My mouth was absolutely dry with excitement - many of you know my love of bodies and dance.

As I mounted the stairs towards his office, on the second floor, I saw a flurry of little girls in blue satin body suits and white tights scurrying into their practice hall.

On the third floor, we walked by mirrored rooms where men and women with densely packed thighs bound into the air with pointed toes and arched arms. The beauty of it brought my own legs to a standstill.

OD works in a space just down the hall from the dancers. In fact, while we stood talking outside his office, a male dancer wandered in, looking for someone. I don't think I even registered the dancer's face - I was too enchanted by the rippling of his back muscles as he walked.

There is no point to this post, really. I just wanted to say this: Today, I saw more beauty and it was good. That's all.


Book list for 2010

For 2010, I've decided to keep a list of the books I read. Ed did it, and so did Steve. I like the thought of recording what I've read - to remember which titles I liked, to share favourites with friends and to spark new discussions. I have to remember to add an asterisk to those I really like.

So far, I've read:

*Vincent Lam, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
*Joseph Boyden, Through Black Spruce
*Markys Zusak, The Book Thief
*Claire Holden Rothman, The Heart Specialist

That none of them are deserving of an asterisk is not a surprise. I'm a very demanding reader, so there probably won't be many by year's end. To get an asterisk, the book will have to be stellar from beginning to end.

What is remarkable is that there are already two books that were so boring, I didn't finish them.

When I was younger, I slogged through books - no matter how bad. These days, I've decided that time is too precious to be wasted on books that don't catch my attention within the first 100 pages. To ensure a better reading experience, this week I picked up some sure-to-please writers at the library - Alice Munro and Barbara Kingsolver. Here's hoping for an asterisk soon!



Good class tonight. The women had it easy - we practiced the cross system, so the men were doing most of the work.

And I got praise!

In tango, I do not as yet have a way to know if I am dancing correctly because I can't see myself as I move. I can usually tell if a yoga posture is correct because of my inner alignment, but I haven't learned those cues yet for tango.

Due to a lack of male partners, I danced once with the teacher, Jean-Philippe. I was a little nervous, but I just let myself be carried by the breath. We danced down one length of the room at one speed and then he slowed it down along the second length to see how I reacted to his cues.

The nerves came back as we slowed to a stop, but when he said, "Trés bien" - or very well - my heart soared. As silly as it may seem, getting praise from the teacher helps me to gauge my performance and inspires me to keep going. It helps me to feel hopeful about my improvement.

Even if I'm terrible at accepting compliments, when it comes to taking praise from my teachers, I hungrily eat up their words. Wanting and accepting praise is part of the learning process for me, as much as lectures, constructive criticism, and correction. Given in appropriate doses, it is an essential ingredient for motivation.

So if it's wrong to love praise, then let me be wrong, wrong, wrong!