And yes I am on the road again!
Bye bye Budapest! Hello Switzerland!
5 weeks have passed in Budapest. And this post is probably the least about tango!
I had quite some adventures in the end! Like: Having tea in a very eclectic TeaHaz called Zold Teknós (something about turtles!)– decorated with actual teepees and native American paraphernalia. It was a maze of a place, and I can imagine many teenagers escaping here for a quick make-out session in one of the teepees or in a quiet corner behind a giant totem pole! There were over 173 kinds of tea to choose from! Black tea, white teas, red teas, green teas, herbal, etc… Really yummy!
The most fun part about going to this teahouse was the lovely person who suggested it and accompanied me. Her name is Kitty Kiss! What a great name!!! Although Kiss is a popular last name in Hungary I love her name! And she’s a really super nice person too! She has pretty blue eyes and is from outside Budapest. She too is gluten and dairy free so she was immensely helpful in guiding me to some places I had not discovered yet in Budapest.
I acquired a dedicated private student, who with a Russian temperament struggled to clean his tango but also torn by his love for “all the cool moves” he knew. He spent a lot of time quoting other teachers, “X told me to do it this way”, “Y taught me this”, “Z said never do…..” – and I just kept encouraging him to understand the nature of what he was doing – essentially giving him an intensive dose of technique. My desire as a teacher is never to criticize another teacher so I tried to remain calm and as politically correct as I could. I think some things get lost in translation and sometimes, short cuts in teaching are easier than explaining things. I also think that often times the student hears only what they are capable of hearing in that moment.
My unsolicited advice to any young teacher is to get dance students moving – their bodies know… the brain gets in the way….
As for a student learning – my advice is to find teachers you resonate with, ask other students about their experiences with teachers, educate yourself. Often times beautiful performers do not make good teachers. I experienced this first hand in the modern dance world first. I would admire a beautiful dancer – their technique, agility, stage presence – and then I would take a class with them and wonder where that confident person went. In this case, often times professional dancers have trained not to be teachers but to be beautiful dancers on stage in front of an audience as an instrument of a choreographer. And they do that very well. And sometimes they don’t really want to teach either.
I digress. My last weeks in Budapest had some of my students take me to a “Ruin Pub”. Exactly what it sounds like my friends! A dilapidated building being used as a bar. Fascinating places! I actually went to 2! Although my Hungarian is still at pretty close to 4 words (including thank you, nice, and a very useful (not really) mild swear word), and many of my students’ English was limited, we managed to laugh a lot. The recurring joke was that there were 50 words to express almost anything in Hungarian. With 40+ letters in their alphabet and all kinds of sounds that even my years of French è, é, û, couldn’t help me with!
I rode the 4/6 tram almost every day and the stop before mine made me laugh every time. “Tekeshektekesik” – was basically what I heard! How could so many consonants together make a word or sentence? But it was the name of the station along with the announcement of the next stop.
And I really had some more firsts! I tried my first Hungarian stuffed cabbage, which was too rich for me, but I did taste it! Thanks to Viktor! and I finally went to a spa and hung out in pools of different temperatures, to 3 kinds of saunas until I became a prune. The main bath in the spa called the “Turkish bath” was a common pool more or less circular in size with a dome like ceiling, the water was a perfect temperature, the design of the room was so that all the talking sort of merged into one muffled sound but yet quite loud. And those who are dying to know, this wasn’t like a german spa for all those blogs/stories you have read, so swim suits were required!
It is the time for the Christmas Markets everywhere I go and I also had my first roasted chestnut! How did I manage not to have roasted chestnuts before this? The smell wafted from every corner and one of my students bought some for me to try!
The final fun for me in Budapest was performing with my lovely host – Bela. He has been out of town all week so we did not practice at all. I was nervous about this but a lot of our students were at the milonga and the minute Bela and I started dancing I recalled our playful nature. Bela is so good at listening that even when something goes amiss he knows exactly where I am and we both recoup! As I watched the video of our performance, sometimes the recuperating doesn’t quite show through! But I prefer a dance filled with joy from both partners in this case.
I send a quick thank you to the lovely Budapest tribe that made me feel welcome and helped me out a lot during my stay: Bela, Kitty, Krisztian, Zsolt, Viktor, Petra, Robby, Joszef, Arbi, Zsofi, Kata, Judith, Katrine, Ildi and Laszlo from Costa Coffee for making me laugh!
So I am now in Switzerland doing a little exploring, of the area and of the milongas.
Some of you may be asking “what’s your plan?” And I am sorry to report, I still don’t know…. I am on trains and planes and seeing places I never thought I would see, meeting some really interesting people, also seeing how much we are alike… our dramas, our sorrows, our desires….
I am also beginning to see a bit of what is “American cultural identity” – or how they are perceived by some.
I was told by an older student in Budapest, in translation, “you are so free, so individual, you don’t follow”. This was hard for me to grasp at the time as he stared at me with his big blue eyes, I asked him if he thought it was a cultural thing? He said maybe but also individual, that women in Hungary follow. Then recently I was talking to a Swiss born young person who was saying that they wanted to start teaching something specifically in tango, and I said, “just do it”. And he commented that this was an American thing not a Swiss thing. The Swiss way is to study and wish and want and never really do. Interesting perceptions.
I also think it is a bit American or part of American to be positive or maybe that it’s not so uncommon to be able to say in America, be positive or think positively and be ok with it. The pounds of negativity or maybe I should say Kilos that I have had to wade through has been difficult. I think the language barrier has helped a lot! But still, everyone has demons they wrestle with but for how long? And when can you just exorcise them, make a decision and move into your life?
Even though I am surrounded by Christmas markets and music in malls I have sort of forgotten it is Christmas time. I wish all of you a wonderful holiday. I hope that you find peace and enjoy being with family and friends at this time. More adventures for 2016.
I leave you with the videos of Bela and my performances. There will be another more professional version on youtube and Facebook soon….