Monthly Archives: November 2008

Dave Bassett

I had to think long and hard about the title for this post. I did consider “At Last”, or “Traditional”, but in the end I thought, let the credit go to the man who brought this about.

Some of you may know Dave from his work at the Butter Market in Shrewsbury, he has for many years organised Salsa events and has only very recently come to Tango.

He has arrived on the scene with passion and a determination to bring traditional tango to this part of the world, and we now have a regular Milonga playing traditional music.

We first heard about the Lantern at the Upton Magna workshops where we again met Dave. The distance and my shifts make it difficult to attend regularly, but yesterday (Thursday) we made it. It has to be said that the Lantern is not the easiest of places to find and when we finally got there, there was some confusion as to how we get in.

The room was light and modern with the usual plastic chairs around the perimeter. The floor was excellent, a modern beech planked floor highly polished and wonderful to dance on with just the right amount of slip.

A suprise to me, was the fact that most of the dancers were beginners, but nobody was learning figures. Everyone was happy to be able to move around the room and feel the music.

I will definitely be returning, possibly on the eighteenth, but dates are never certain, it all depends how my life goes.

So at last we have a Milonga, traditional tango music, in a nice venue. I hope that this is the start of something bigger, maybe there will someday be a Milonga nearer Wrexham or Chester. I understand the need for classes but for once there is somewhere we can just dance.


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More Reading

I am still ploughing my way through biographical novels, and I thought it was time for some more reviews. so here goes

To the Baltic with Bob: Griff Rhys Jones. Pretty much self explanatory. a sailing adventure with Griff Rhys Jones, well written and a work of comic genius. Another book that I just flew through. If you are into sailing you will enjoy his knowledge and seamanship, if you are into personalities you will love his characters, but even if you are not you cannot help but enjoy it as a travellog comedy and biography.

Spanish Steps: Tim Moore.  El Caminito as seen by a man and his donkey. If you ever thought you have had a bad holiday, then try comparing it with this mans travels across Spain. You will laugh out loud, weep for the donkey, and pray for the imortal souls of any who have not taken the path. In the end all’s well for the donkey

The old Patagonian Express: Paul Theroux. Not just patagonia, but a journey across the whole of the Americas. Agood travel book although for me personally it was more about the characters he met than the places he had seen. Very little on Buenos Aires or Patagonia for that matter, never the less a good read even though not to my personal tastes.

Een spoor van Paardemest: Mariette Meester.  I promise I am not showing off here, even though Dutch is my mothers tongue, I struggled, with a lot of reference to the dutch English dictionary. Written by my cousin, it tells the story of their travels across europe in a gypsy caravan (literally a trail of horse shit). worth viewing just for the pictures.

At one with the sea: Naomi James:  Another great story of the sea, her epic round the world sail, what went wrong and how it all came about. A must for all sailors.

Zen an the art of motorcycle maintenance: Robert M Pirsig. Nothing to do with zen and very little to do with motorcycle maintenance. Tells the story of a mans journey across America on a motorcycle and his quest to know his son who rides with him. The references to motorcycle maintenance are how he deals with roadside repairs, and the way he treats the bike becomes a metaphor for how he deals all of lifes problems. Will leave you wondering “what is quality?”

Still Spitting at Sixty: Roger Law.      “Roger Law, the evil genius behind the mocking caricature puppets of spitting image, unburdens his soul and tells the awful truth of how it all came about.”  ( taken from the back cover, it explains it far better than I could) An enjoyable read, he deals with life with humor and his adventures in Australia will leave you longing to visit. As he is by nature an artist the book is filled with drawings of the characters in his life as well as animals and site around Australia.

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Everything goes wrong

This Monday we did a repeat of what was done at the Upton Magna workshop, but this time I got the chance to do it as a leader. I still had some dificulties as I find constantly changing weight problamatic. While it was a useful excercise, I have never seen anyone doing the valz quite like this, and I think it unlikely I will use it in the dance. Using the basic eight as a turn however can be quite useful, the various parts of the turn can be used independantly, and it is not necessary to always use the back step along the line of dance.

An explanation is in order here, for people who were not at the class. The valz turn involved a one two three similar to the vienese waltz but always leading on the same leg. The basic eight turn, involved starting with the back step along the line of dance, turning into the cross then turning again so that the man is again back to the line of dance. This as I said can be broken down to use in different ways: finishing or starting with a half giro or conita or even just a way to recover if you find yourself facing the wrong way.

Apart from the vals turn I had other problems as well. You would think that the time that I have been dancing that it would all come easily, but this is never the case, there is always something to learn, and a class is always an artificial situation.

In my case after viewing the video of myself, I am making a real effort to keep my head up and my weight on my toes. This has brought about new (old) problems, I danced milonga with Sharon and she was just not getting it, and I find that this was because I am now tucking her under my arm, another bad habit, but one I thought I had cured. Dancing often with beginners it is easy to think the mistakes are always the fault of the follower, it helps to be pulled up now and again.

At another dance Viv and I had the chance to practice a bit of Tango before all the ballroom started. When I did a giro with a lapice, it all went wrong. Cue Viv getting irate and saying it is because I do too much following. Truth was I was trying to stop her tucking under my arm while staying on my toes and keeping my head up. I never was much good at multi tasking. One thing I am good at is knowing when to shut up though….

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El Beso

El beso or the kiss, is one of the most difficult Argentine customs for the straight laced English.

I find as the years go by men more often kiss women acquaintances goodbye, but rarely hello and never ever other men. Is this a result of  a society that has repressed homosexuality for so long, or perhaps the macho society that has for so many centuries conquered the world.

Whatever the reason, contact between men has been frowned apon to the point that when we shake hands with someone we have known for years or even a relative, we stand at least eighteen inches apart.

My first experience of El Beso was when I met my Argentine dance teacher Juan. We had been introduced, organised classes for the next two weeks, and chatted for about an hour, when it was time to go he stood up and moved towards me, I of course stuck my hand out and shook his. I could see a look of suprise on his face.

When he had left Luba explained to me about the kiss, I never kissed my parents let alone strangers.

It took some time for me to get over my reserve and actually kiss another man, now I do it all the time, it just seems natural and in no way sexual. I even kiss men at home although I must admit it is more for the shock effect.

Is contact such a bad thing? When I dance as a follower I can feel that the men are uncomfortable being so close to a man, and in the most part are glad to get away. Next time you shake hands grab the guy with whom you are exchanging greetings and give him a slap on the back. I guarantee that after the suprise he will smile. From the back slapping it is only a small step to a full hug and your heads are side by side. Even if you cannot bring youself to actually kiss, this embrace would be enough for most of our Latin friends.

We are naturally tactile animals and our fear of sexuality and repressed upbringing drives away this desire to touch. If it all sounds just a bit gay, then look at it this way. Since I have learned to kiss men I find contact with women much easier and think nothing of taking a women into a full embrace on our first meeting. I see couples dancing and you could get another couple between them, not strangers, old married couples. I dance with their wives and take them in a full close embrace, although at first uncomfortable they soon learn to like it. Kissing is just a natural extension to the embrace.

The world will be a better place, and we will all be a lot happier when we can all just kiss and hug. Forget Fathers day, and Mothers day giving an insicere present and a handshake Let’s have a national Hug and Kiss day. Who knows you may like it.


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Monday Class

See. I can Follow

See. I can Follow

Last night (Monday)  I was again at the groves, and again there were more men than women. This is a strange phenomenom, it seems to be happening more and more. While I am happy to follow in the class, I am afraid that the men will not dance with me in the practice, which means of course that there are not enough women to go round.

While this is not usually a problem for me, I worry that it may eventually put some men off. Could this perhaps be why there are often more women in the intermediate classes? I do enjoy these practice sessions and am pleased to see more people from the beginners stopping for the late practica. I particularly enjoy the fact very beginners have not yet learned the steps and as such are still open to be led.

Unfortunately I had to leave early as I was up at five and next week I have to work a night shift. So I hope to see you all there in a fortnight.

Some advance warning, I will be taking the class on the 29th December. As yet I do not know what I will teach, I suspect I may concentrate on  leading and following technique, but if anyone has something that they wish to concentrate on, please drop me  a note or comment here.

PS I have just realised that I will be there (The Groves) next Monday it is the following week that I must work. Just shows that even I have problems with my shift patern.


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Reading and writing

Anyone who read my previous blog will already know, the troubles we had buying an apartment, but I have decided that the full story needs to be told.

My literary skills are not great, and so I have saved all my blog entries and am in the process of re writing them (third re write already ). The book grows as the story expands back to our first ventures in Buenos Aires and will of course include descriptions of the many places we visited.

To help me on my way I am soaking myself in as many biographies as I can, hopefully inspiration not plagiarism.

I will quickly review some of those I have read here, and perhaps shine some light on the better ones.

Eric Morcambe by his son Gary. I could not put this down. Perhaps not that big a book, as it was in large print, I managed to read it in less than two days. Every page was filled with either laughter or tears, I cannot recommend this enough.

Loosing my Virginity by Richard Branson. I found his story fascinating and easy to read. I am afraid my wife did not agree and never finished it. I guess it is down to taste here.

A Man Called Cash by Steve Turner. Johnny Cash was there in my years of angst, his songs lifted my when I needed it, he was and still is a hero to me. Shame this book was written as just a series of events, I never managed to finish it.

Spanish Lessons by Derek Lambert. Now this is what I am talking about, the story of one mans move to Spain. This is not only a great story but is well written. I am on my third reading, whenever I need inspiration it is here.

The Motorcycle Diaries Che Guevara. Rethink your views on a revolutionary. I simply laughed all the way through.

The Rocket Boys Homer J Hickman. Although a biography it does not quite fit here, the story of how a group of schoolboys shoot for the stars, and end up at NASA. thoroughly entertaining. I may read this again.

Eva Peron by Alicia Dujovne Ortiz: I could not do a list without this, another piece of hero worship on my part. Heavy going as it is translated from Spanish, but non the less very readable, and even if you now how it ends, it still draws you in.

Winning is not enough by Jackie Stewart: There is much about the life of this great driver that I did not know. Another book that I found hard to put down, and although quite a large book I read it in less than a week. Many will sympathise with perental unease at his choice of career and his quest for safety. A truly inspirational book.


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Sex change?

Sharon’s workshop, with Ruth Zimmerman went realy well. There was a real mixed bag of dancers and that is always dificult for teachers. Ruth concentrated more on musicality and did nothing of the exotic figures we see more and more of. The venue at Upton Magna is realy nice, shame it is not more accesible, but then I suppose it would get more use and not be avaiable for us.

Strangely there were again more men than women, this gave me a chance to take the class as a follower. I always enjoy this, there is a kind of freedom in just doing what is asked. Changing partners caused confusion, women kept coming to me, and I would say I am a woman (amazing what science can do today).

I am afraid however I did put some men off, as not listening to teacher only my partner is not something most men are used to. If they lead it I followed, even if it was not what  Ruth asked. On the rare ocasion that I take a class this is something I try to promote, ladies if your leader is to lead, then you must follow. If he does not do exactly as the teacher has shown your job is not to correct him but to follow.

Tango is a conversation, this does not mean an argument. When the man gives a lead he must give the lady time to follow and, if she wishes decorate. The best way to prove that your leader is “doing it wrong” is to follow what he has led and when he says why did you do that, simply reply because you led it.

The milonga that followed the class also went very well. I am afraid we were not best prepared and had to leave early  for food. I am also afraid we did not thank Sharon and Ruth as we got caught up in conversation as we were about to leave.

It seems that there is now a new venue in Shrewsbury dedicated to traditional tango. Shrewsbury is outside our normal circle, but I will make a point of travelling down there and test it out when I have more details.  I will keep you posted.

I have not yet had any comments, Is anybody out there? I would love to know what you think.

One last thing, I hope to see you all at the Groves on Monday night, who knows I may again get the chance to follow.

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How we Dance

We were asked to Dance at the Birthday Party of Francheska, and Tony, kindly Videoed it.

The filming is excellent, but I am afraid we were rubbish. All my teachers  comment on the same things, but it is not until you actually see yourselves that you realise how bad you are. Juan always says head up feet together, now I realise what he means. It is a shame it took so long to see myself, even though I now know what I look like I will still tell others to keep their heads up, or maybe because I know how bad it looks on me. Apologies for not posting it, I have not been able to post it either on this site or Youtube, as soon as I have sorted the problem I will post  here.

All I would like to say is if you are a dancer, or learning to dance’ get yourself on film. It will be the best learning experience you can have.

For those watching for events, we will be at Northwich Memorial Hall on 22nd November, Ballroom and sequence with Goodtime Combo. we have booked  tables one and two, and already we have fourteen names. If you wish to join us drop me a line we can always book more tables, you can just pay on the night.

I missed Tango in Chester tonight, sadly I have to work for a living. I will miss all my friends there, but I should be in attendance next week.

We will be at the weekly Dance in Ewloe Club dancing to Deryk and Geof on Wednesday. No Tango here I’m afraid, more sort of, grannies get with it. I hope that does not sound derogatory, but the average age is well into the eighties, this is absolute living proof that dancing keeps you young. These people are more alive that most that I know who are half their ages. So if you want to stay young: Come and join the Dance.

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