12 December 2009

It's Not a Fling, You Know

Mmmm, I'm so tired, and I should go to bed, because I'm still under the weather, but I HAD to write.

There's this guy at tango; let's call him The Flying Scotsman. He's very well known in the WhereIlive tango community (eye roll), in that everybody hates him. This is first of all because, as a friend of mine put it, he's an asshole. This is a word I very much dislike and actively try not to say, so the fact that I used it will give you some idea of how apposite it is: there is really no other word to describe him. In addition to that, however, he is a terrible dancer - he does, in fact, dance like a train. And the worst bit of it is, he's a teacher.

Now, every tango dancer has of course had lessons from someone, somehow. But the thing about most tango dancers, at least in WhereIlive, is that you can't really tell with whom they've had lessons: they may develop their own style (subject for another post), or they may have no idiosyncracies and simply dance well (or badly), but they don't bear the clear marks of one teacher or another. Unless they've had lessons with The Flying Scotsman.

Twice in two months now I've danced with young men at a milonga - the second time was tonight - and I have instantly identified them as having had classes with TFS (which is to say I guessed, and when I casually enquired where they'd had lessons, they confirmed my guess). They both have a distinctive style: it would be most accurate to say that they are mannered without being skilled. First of all, TFS teaches that the main means of guidance is the hand. This is not true in tango, and it's difficult to convey how both unpleasant and potentially downright damaging it is to have someone pushing you with considerable force here and there in the small of your back. That's bad, but to add insult to injury (literally) he teaches them to cross their ankles and do a "one foot flat, one foot posed on toe" position as the final or resting position of each step. I'm sure the theory behind this is that it looks suave, but in fact it just looks posey and pretentious. Also, when I danced with these men it rapidly became clear that they have no real experience. They're just beginners, but they've been taught all these advanced flourishes. And as a result they're just not much good: you'd have to take them right back to the beginning to fix them.

I cannot conceive of what woman would ever find it enjoyable to dance with these men. I understand that TFS does some quite interesting stuff in his lessons: he talks a lot about posture, and weight and body placement. So I'm willing to believe that there are things to be learned from him, and I'm willing to believe that a woman might find it enjoyable to learn from him, at least when it comes to those things. But to dance with someone who dances like that seems to me not just unpleasant but, even in the short run, painful: the damage to your back muscles would perhaps be small, but it would certainly be noticeable.

I did consider telling tonight's young man what he was doing wrong, but then I thought about how long it would take, and how bad it would make him feel. So I just requested that he be a little lighter in guiding me (by my back).

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