05 October 2009

Let the Games Begin

Primero, necesito decir que mi amiga O.M. es la mejor: una professora de espanol muy (pero es "very" no "a lot") pacienta, y una persona muy divertida. Sencillamente, la mejor.

So, the term is about to commence! And I haven't really written in a very long time! There's a reason for the latter: I moved rooms. You wouldn't think this would eat up (comer) very much time, but in fact organising the room once you've moved into it and realised everything it's missing takes quite a bit of time. Plus, I had to do a good deal of preparation for my teaching.

Most of that preparation had to do with scheduling, because...I got the job! Yes, I am Study Skills Coordinator (I made them give me a title - I made up the title, too). I do have to give lectures, but fortunately not very many. It's the snuggle work that will take up most of the time, and when I say that what I mean is, It could take up most of my time. Term (as you may have guessed from the first sentence of this paragraph) hasn't even started, and already I've had e-mails from Directors of Studies in several subjects at the college, asking me to see a total of five students - which doesn't sound like many, but given the alacrity with which the e-mails arrived, I get the sense that there are many more round the back. This will be a useful test for me. All my teaching life until now (which is 11 years, if you count postgraduate teaching), I've let the students eat up all my time; I've been a snuggler, in fact. When I got this job, I absolutely swore to myself that I would have supervisions for four or five hours a week. Absolutely no more. I mean to stick to this vow, but I can already feel myself wanting to please them all, fix them all, and thus giving up more hours. I must stand firm.

I did buy a really nice dress, though. Very professional, very good for tromping about heel-clickingly and looking as if I'm on the ball. And, you will not be surprised to learn, I know exactly what I'm going to wear for my first day of teaching, too. And my second. Not my third, though (I have to leave myself something to look forward to).

All told, I now have 18 students, plus this position. This is a lot, but I've arranged my week so that I'll have Monday and Tuesday free. On the negative side, I calculated my remuneration (as we don't say in the trade, but ought to, because it sounds grand), and I'll only be pulling down £2500 for the whole term. That's outrageous exploitation, and I'd be appalled if only I could stop being relieved that I got the work.

Pues, tango. You didn't think you were going to get away without a tedious analysis
of some vital tango topic, did you? When some terms begin, other terms begin, too, so yesterday I had the first day of my intensive intermediate tango class. And it was most interesting. First of all, I got to see my VTTT, and I realised how much I missed him. In fact, given that I can make an intense analytical experience out of anything, I discovered that I missed him in a most curious way. I wouldn't say I had a crush on my VTTT in any way
(although I do admire his hair, which is the kind of hair I sincerely hope my future partner will have; the kind of hair of which Nick Lowe is my original exemplar: premature grey, then white, and lots of it. Look at that hair over there, and in the video*), but I was intensely glad to see him - vastly more glad than I would have been to see, say, someone else I knew from tango. And I think this is because he was a kind of constant in my life for nearly four months, and I'm feeling (as you know) a bit unmoored without that constant: so to see him again, and in a teaching capacity, was to be reunited with a familiar constant. But also, and much more simply, I just plain like him a good deal. He gave me a lot (A LOT), and he's also one of those people who turns out to be vastly more interesting as you get to know him. Such people are actually relatively rare, and hence more valuable. So, well, I missed him. And I was glad to see him.

But that wasn't the interesting part. The interesting part was what he did with his body. Yes, yes, I know how that sounds, but bear with me. In ballet, one of the things that's drummed into you is, "use the floor." At first this makes no sense, since the goal in ballet is to be light. But in fact you very quickly come to see that it makes perfect sense, both for reasons of basic physics (for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction, thank you Mr. Newton, so the more you press down the higher up you'll go) and because it gives you a strong base. If you tendu, exerting pressure against the floor gives you much more control, and hence a much cleaner, more secure, and better placed leg and foot (as the woman in this video beautifully shows). And watching my VTTT demo-dance (demonstrate the dance steps), I realised that he uses the floor very much: he's always going down, and that frees him to be loose in the hips (which he is, very - he's perhaps the only person I could describe as "a groovy tanguero"), and also straight and immobile above the waist (not unmoving, but firm enough to use his chest solely to lead). By using the floor, pressing against it (please note: not down into it, but against it), he frees everything above his knees to operate securely and separately.

In fact, I had just a few days earlier been viewing some video of my FTT, and I had noticed that, almost without fail, he moves his foot at the very last second. Now, this is, partially, a little tricksier (not trickier, tricksier), but that's not surprising, because he's a tricksier dancer. Beats (forgive me if I'm telling you what you already know) have at least three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. This is true of all beats, although depending on the speed of the music the parts can come quickly or slowly. Because a beat is, well, a beat, it pushes us to move as quickly as possible. People who don't know a song, or beginners in dance, almost always move at the beginning of a beat - they're just glad they caught it, and they want to act on it before it gets away. Most people move on the middle of a beat - they're more relaxed. But moving on the end of a beat - that's for the real smooth talkers of dance. If they do it on purpose, they're almost certainly doing it as a way of raising the pulse of their partners or onlookers, because waiting until the end of the beat raises the possibility that you're not going to move at all, or that you can't possibly move well in the time allotted, and that gets the blood going. If they don't do it on purpose - or, I guess, if they do it on purpose a different way - they're doing it for the pleasure that playing with the beat brings them, for the pleasure they get from elongating the moment and from controlling their own instincts (because moving on the end of the beat usually takes great control - we want to move on the middle). Like, I said, the smooth talkers. I don't think my FTT does this solely out of tricksiness, though, because moving on the last beat or not he also often moves as if his foot is nailed to the floor. And this is another way of gaining base and control (indeed, in ballet they also say this, too: "In tendu, lift your foot up only at the last possible second: it's as if it's nailed to the floor"). So, interesting: he's much lighter in his working with the floor, but he works with it nonetheless.

And finally, I noticed something else when my VTTT danced. He taught us a step for leaders, in which the leader, until then stepping at the regular pace and length, suddenly steps much longer, and holds it for longer. No big deal, right? It looks cool, and it's fun to do, but, you know....EXCEPT that the second and third times he did it, I noticed he only did it on the third of the four beats - that is, the second downbeat (tango is, duh, danced in 4/4 time - he steps and waits on the 3 of 1 2 3 4) . And this makes perfect sense. The third beat is the longest beat of 4/4 time: 1 lets you in; 2 settles you down; 4 is your exit. I'm not sure if he knows he does this, and since I've only seen him do it on one occasion (a una vez?) I can't be sure he always does it, but if he does it displays really impressive musicality.

Of course, when I asked him to dance with me at the end he told me my steps were too small and he needed more presence. Argh!

I wish I could be a music critic. I don't think I'd be a good dance critic, because too much of what happens in, say, a ballet performance, enters me non-rationally and non-linguistically (the way a language you know enters your mind). But I don't know music well enough to be instinctive about it, so I think I'd be quite a good critic. And it interests me.

*True fact: thirteen years ago, IFB [Irish former boyfriend] and I went to see Nick Lowe give a free concert, after which he signed cds. IFB, knowing of my adoration for Lowe, urged me to go and get a cd signed. I yearned to go, but refused: I couldn't bring myself to because I was afraid I would be so awed at being in the presence of his excellent hair that I would blurt out something horribly embarrassing.

No comments: