Monthly Archives: June 2009

Still Frustrated

After a what has been a good period for me, the frustration of being the frustrated milonguero is returning, Despite more venues opening up, the opportunities for me to tango have dried up this week, never the less I got to Chester on Monday though it will be another eight days before I can dance again.

The class started with the usual chaos. I realise that for some (like myself) getting there on time is a problem, but surely some, could arrive on time. So I was in the usual leader then follower then leader again situation before finally being asked finally to sit out. I paid a bit more attention this week; Sharon was doing a giro class, but with a twist. Over the past weeks she has been teaching over led ochos, from here turning into a giro is an easy progression. I like this; it is rather neat and gets away from the back side forward side that is usually taught. It also helps the women from thinking, once I have led a giro then they must finish it.

Interestingly after the class, I was again asked about my lead. “Why do some men stop leading halfway around” my answer is always the same “if you do not feel a lead, then, do nothing”. Some women worry that it makes them appear a bit useless or that they don’t know what they are doing, well to put it simply ladies, if you do not know what you are doing, then that is because the man is not giving you a lead, and they will never learn if you do it on your own.

In the second class I was again to sit out, perhaps I should not have convinced Viv to come with me, at least before she came I could follow. I was however called to demonstrate occasionally, and when the class was over I was fresh and ready to dance.

While I waited I had a chat to Fiorella, who I think runs the place. I am always interested why an Argentine should not dance the Tango. It seems that at the time she was in school it was not taught and with her studies she simply never had the time. She also pointed out her funny ligaments that mean she cannot support herself on one leg; she can however bend her fingers right back. I am sure that this must be some sort of advantage, though I am at a loss to see what.

Sharon again played with the rhythms, this for me is a pleasant change from what I usually see, that is, more and more figures. The class is justified by the amount of people who still have a big problem with the Vals and an even bigger problem with the Milonga.

It is a shame that after the class, so many feel that they have to disappear, there is an hour in which to practice and there is no better way to improve than to just dance. The various rhythms will only be mastered with time and practice, to echo the words of my friend and teacher Jaun “practica practica practica” I am afraid he does not know much English.

It was hot again in The Groves and I noticed a few wilting, I think it is a ploy to make us buy more drinks. In truth I find it hard to believe that they can survive on the little we spend there so any extras must help. They will have to survive without my help the next two weeks as I must work nights, such is the life of a frustrated milonguero.

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Pobre Bob

Work commitments mean I can only attend one tango event this week, so in order to make the most of it we arrive early at the Groves.

As usual people arrive at the class in dribs and drabs, so one minute I am leading the next I am following, but as the numbers settle there is an even number of men and women, so I am cast aside like an old tissue. ( As Luba would say “pobre Bob”)

I sit watching the class with my glass of water, occasionally asked into the centre to demonstrate a move. It works well for Sharon and one time when she needs a follower there is a call from the class for Roberta.

It really is not my week because in the improvers’ class the same situation occurs. Viv often has to sit out and never complains so I suppose there is no room for me to complain either. After all I get my regular dose of tango every week one way or another. I learned a new saying off Jantango “basta la plancha” it is usually said by women who sit out waiting for a man to ask them to dance, often frustrated that some men are sitting down and they cannot get a dance. This is not my case by any means but I get the idea.

There is a couple who were in the beginners who watch the class and I join them to give some tips. Like a growing number here, they have been watching videos, and believe themselves to be at a higher level, I try to explain that you simply cannot learn to tango from videos. I have been to dances (even in Buenos Aires) where there are people who have learned from videos, and it is obvious the minute they step on the floor that they have not been taught.

When Sharon again asks me to demonstrate, I was not paying attention so first she had to explain the move to me, doubling her teaching. And when the call came for Roberta the same thing happened, still it kept us on our toes.

Then I was back to our beginners again, the idea that you can somehow lead by turning your head, is often taken from these videos, and while not the best practice, I advised looking at the woman. This way at least he would not turn his head and leave his body behind.

Soon enough it was practica time again, and I was in my element once more. I tried to restrict myself to three dances with each woman, and I think I managed to get around most of them in the hour we had. As always seems to happen  though I missed doing the milongas with Viv, not  I may hasten to add that there was anything wrong with the women I did dance with, it is just that for me there is something special about doing the milonga with my wife.

So while Viv will be attending the workshops at the weekend I must work nights, so that is my lot on the tango scene for another week. Hopefully I will be back to it next Monday.

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Redemption

I slept little in the car, despite being totally exhausted. Long working hours are taking their toll, so I asked Viv to drive to Shrewsbury. There are just too many roundabouts, junctions and other assorted hold-ups, to comfortably sleep on this journey. Never the less, after having my eyes closed for almost an hour I did feel slightly better when we arrived at The Lantern.

We were greeted again by the girl on reception, then once again we entered the dance room. Music was playing and about half the people were dancing. Not having been here for some time and with the confusion that comes of tiredness I was unsure what was happening.

It was in fact the practice time between the beginners and intermediates. When I realised, I looked round for a likely victim. There was an attractive girl with red streaks sitting talking. I had never danced with her before so I asked her to dance. Almost immediately she started to apologise, because it seems she had only had three lessons. As usual I explained all she had to do was follow, be confident in her movement, and if anything goes wrong leave it to me to sort out, but never apologise. All she was really capable of was walking and ochos, but what she did do she followed very well, a credit to the classes she has had. I led a few back ochos and then a forward ocho, which she seemed to follow OK. Then she said “What was that” she had never done a forward ocho before, but she did it because she had learned to follow. I hope in days to come she does not start learning moves, because if she continues to follow this well she will make an excellent tanguera.

In the improvers we (Viv and I that is) were again split. A shortage of men meant Viv sitting out, but we were doing changes of weight, so not really an issue for the women.

I did cause some confusion through not listening again. As I have said before, there was nothing I could not do; I just have trouble doing it in order. I think Sharon would like me to stand in the corner sometimes, good job she has a sense of humour, though she still admonished me for not listening.

Funny how these classes go, we keep changing partners, but somehow I always end up dancing with the same two or three women. Even though this is supposed to be an intermediate class they are still not much more than beginners and still have not learned to move with the room, so there is a lot of overtaking.

After what for me at least was an enjoyable class, there was again time to practice. I suspect that not everyone enjoyed the class as one or two men chose to sit out, not fully understanding what we were doing or why. Again we come down to this very British desire to learn steps and not the essence of the dance. Hopefully in time they will come to appreciate what tango is all about.

The practice session gave me a chance to redeem myself and dance with one or two ladies I had missed on Saturday, so that by the end every one was happy.

Afterwards we retreated again to The Coracle, to talk soft and explore the deeper meanings of life the universe and tango. There is a new member of staff there and she did not seem to appreciate our late drinking sessions. At about quarter past eleven she walked past the end of our table and gave us a look that said, “if you do not leave soon I will throw you out” needless to say as she did not say anything we ignored her. However five minutes later she started clearing our table, she took Viv’s glass, which she promptly grabbed back, don’t ever touch her cider on pain of death. The crisp packets were next they too had to be grabbed back. I guess it was time to go,as I was tired and was now compelled to drive as Viv had had a drink.

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Dancing the music

The time from our Saturday milonga to the Chester class on Monday seems an age. Of course we have a social dance on Sunday in Connah’s Quay, but these dances have now become just a fill in to the main event.

There is the usual scramble before we depart, ensuring we have the right shoes (I need my heels in case I have to follow). Then we are off again. Outside the Groves we see Katrina on her mobile, I say “hurry up we must dance before the class”. As there is only quarter of an hour before the class starts, I want to have a chance to make things up as soon as possible, but she gesticulates and mumbles something while carrying on with her phone call. That was the last I saw of her that night, what happened and why she did not come in I do not know, I do hope I get another chance to dance on Thursday.

When the beginners’ class starts there is again a shortage of women, so my heels will again come in handy. Some of the men looked rather worried, this is a fairly new group and they would not believe that I was going to dance the woman’s part. As things turned however a couple of women arrived and I could then join as a man.

The problem as always with the early class is that people arrive after the class starts and soon more men arrived, so after a short period sat out I again rejoined as a follower. The guy who had looked so worried was after all soon dancing with me.

Things continued fluctuating throughout the beginner’s class but in the main after this I led.

Something that I always notice is the difficulty that ballroom dancers have with tango. The fact that they are acquainted with the mechanics of motion and are able to move with the music seems to help little. Ballroom dancers lead from the hip and this posture of leaning back is totally at odds with the forward posture adopted by tango dancers. While I acknowledge this is Sharon’s class, her concern is with the whole class and can not devote too much time to one person. Maybe next week I can spend some time with the ballroom ladies and get their posture sorted.

In the improvers class we again worked on the giro, my problem as always is steps, so I have to take care to do the move that Sharon has taught and not just make something up as I usually do, and run the risk of confusing every one.

We also spent some time moving to the music, this is something all the British have trouble with, unlike the Spanish and Argentines, who will move to any music without training and still look better than us. We can learn steps and we can do them to the beat, but this is not the same as interpreting the music through dance. Learning that you cannot do the same thing to Canaro as you would to DiSarli is not something many teachers here put emphasis on, I take my hat off to Sharon for trying, and daring to be different.

As usual at the end we had some practice time. I managed to dance with most of the women, but it was only Sharon with whom I managed to redeem my self for Saturday.

I hope to try again Thursday and catch up with those I have missed.

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Back to Shrewsbury

Buenos Aires is disappearing into the dim and distant past. All the new people I met are just memories, so a chance to tango again is my only salvation. Upton Magna is a small village just south of Shrewsbury, very difficult to reach, but now becoming a regular on the circuit.

Before I start the report I must apologise to those waiting to see Viv’s new hair. As usual with anything new, it takes her some time to get used to it, and tonight there was no way she would wear her new wig. So in the photos is the same old Viv, for now the short bob style stays.

Weekends when I can travel this far are rare, so it is lucky that the weekend milonga coincides with my only weekend off. Tonight Ricardo and Sue are here as guest teachers, unfortunately I could not get there in time for the workshop they did, but managed to catch the back end. From the little I saw they did a good milonga class, shame I missed it as everyone seemed to enjoy it and I think I would have enjoyed it too, I do love a good milonga.

When the dancing started there was a good mix of men and women, but for the first hour or so we ran short of women. The reason was that Viv had her Comme Il Fauts on show. Only one pair was actually for sale, and they were already sold to Evelyn. The idea was that as she takes the same size as Viv, she would have a choice of the four pairs Viv had brought. The trouble was that when they came out, it suddenly became a feeding frenzy, all the women wanted to try them on, whether they fitted or not.

Dave was keeping strict control of the music, nothing but the golden years here, all good stuff, good sound system we even had disco lights. My only criticism was that by now we should be having proper tandas.

The lack of tandas did give me one problem; never knowing when I had danced enough with any woman. I tried to restrict myself to three dances, but most of the time I was not counting and probably did four or five.

Always aware that Viv has come with a partner, it is totally unfair that she should have to keep sitting out. This meant returning to her often especially when just one modern tune was played; I simply had to dance Otras Aires, Milonga sentimental with my wife. Nobody, just nobody does milonga like this, and while I will always go for the stuff from the golden years, sometimes it can be improved upon. Take the best composers and traditional music, but play it with a modern twist, and I believe sometimes something great can come out of it. That was Dave’s only concession to modern music, I have to say I agree with his choice.

Where did the night go? As I danced round the room I looked at the women and noted at least three with whom I had not danced. Ready to ask Sue and the last dance was announced. Few things are set in stone, but La Cumparsita should always be danced with the woman with whom you arrived (yes I know, but we do some things differently in the UK).

So as I danced with Viv I noted that Sharon, Sue and Katrina had not danced with me, and made a note to give them priority next time.

I will see at least two of them on Monday and hope they will have forgiven my oversight by then.

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Deadly Swine Flu 2 (the sequel)

We lived, and so did everyone we know. Perhaps it was all the masks they wore in the airports, or the scanners to check if we had a temperature when we entered a country. Or just perhaps this is just a storm in a tea cup. Despite all this my car was still poorly when we returned and needed an emergency coilostomy. Now after a rest she is up and healthy again.

So car singing sweetly we headed off once again to Chester. We recieved a lovely welcome, people saying how they had missed us. It is something that I love about the dance scene, the way people really show how they feel and are always welcoming.

Unusually I sat out for the beginners and Viv filled in for a shortage of women only coming onto the floor to demonstrate with Sharon. In the intermediates our roles  were reversed. I must again thank Leandra for showing me the move they were doing from last week, and being understanding, that although I could do it, I would probably do it different and confuse all the women. Basically we were doing just a Giro doble, but it had to start the right way as later we moved into a secada.  Of course once we got there I started having fun. Now the women knew what I was doing I could then change things a little, to see if they were paying attention. Of course they all followed beautifully.

After the class we had our usual time to practice, and I did my best to get around all the women, but tomorrow I must be up early, so it was soon time to go. Sharon was having none of it and insisted that as I had just come back from Buenos Aires I must dance with her before I go. So we had a dnce together, unknown to me we were being watched. Those who had joined the class in the last few weeks were delighted to see Sharon dance as a woman for once, so we finished to a round of polite applause. Even though the applause was for Sharon it was still a nice way to finish the evening.

The following morning my emmisions warning light finaly went out, the old SEAT is finally over her flu.

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The Journey Home

We wake up to a filthy day. It is cold wet and miserable, like Argentina is telling us “thanks for coming, but it is time you left”.

When we had showered and done the last of the packing there was still two hours before the taxi was due. We needed to be on the ball, as I had some doubts that the taxista would find our apartment. Most of the phone conversation had gone well except when I gave them my address, it went something like this: “¿su direcion?” “Salguero siete nuebe nuebe” “¿y su piso?” “dos” “¿y departamiento?”  “B” “¿diez?” “no B” “¿ diez?” “no B bravo, bien ” unfortunately she took the last “bien” not as a phonetic, but as confirmation she was right. I could only hope the taxista would realise that there were only four apartments on each floor and try them all.

So with plenty of time left we walked around to my now favourite cafe for some coffee and Lemon Pie. They know me now, but will not show it. You see every time Viv has  come in here she has different hair and I have been in with Sally, today Viv has no hair just a hat. So I am treated with respect, but if they show that they know me, it may confirm I had been here with another woman.

I left a note by the buzzers “Remis, Finch 2ºB. No diez” It did the trick and our man arrive with “que dia” and that was it goodbye Salguero. The traffic to the airport was awful, fortunately our driver knew some rat runs and saved us some time, we arrived with time to spare.

The check in with Air France was as usual faultless. Though with the usual Argentine nonsense we had to pay our airport tax of ar$135.36 this is of course impossible, the minimum coinage being five centivos. The plane was as uncomfortable as an Indian train, but at least we had our cinema screens. I wonder if I should restart my career  as a film critic, I think I saw five films this time. I never slept a wink.

Paris de Gaul airport is huge and a nightmare. We always have some trouble.  Our arrival and departures are supposed to be in the same buildings, and I know when time has been short we have been escorted through with no trouble, but when you follow the signs, they direct you to the bus. Terminal 2E has two entrances, the bus stopped at the first one this being the wrong one, of course, but failed to stop at the next. I tried to explain, but of course, I speak no French. I wrote the number down and as we were the only ones on the bus, we had a nice detour around the airport.

Our next flight was delayed by over an hour. I fell asleep on the plane only to be rudely awakened when it accelerated down the runway.

We never did manage to go out Sunday night. Our daughter visited and did not leave until eight, then by the time we had ordered and eaten our Indian take away it was too late. So I had an early night, the best nights sleep I have had in a very long time.

Right now there is a chill running down my spine. I always tell myself that statistically flying is the safest form of travel. Right now statistics mean nothing to the families of the 228 people  missing on the Air France flight from Brasil.

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Last Tango (in Buenos Aires)

On our balcony we have an inflatable daffodil, just our way of telling the world we are here. This morning I saw a poor confused Argentine bee trying desperately to pollinate it.

I always hate this day, Viv insists on packing and cleaning, I always want to leave it until the last minute. So when Viv lay in bed until twelve and wanted to pack when she got up, I left her to it.

I thought I would walk to Abasto along Humahuaca. I noticed a lot of new building and the odd cafe but really not much new for me along here. When I got to Abasto they were digging up the road with a big digger that had a jackhammer on the front. The noise was terrific, so much so that I nearly missed my phone going off. Sally wanted to meet up so I suggested somewhere around Abasto. She was coming on the subte so we arranged to meet outside Carlos Gardel subte.

Funny meeting a woman alone, in a far off land, so when we met I said “alone at last”. We went for a coffee at a local bar, and talked for some time about our favourite milongas, the people we have met and whether we will actually meet up when she comes to the UK. I said how much I enjoyed hearing her talk Spanish with a Shropshire accent, it appears that Carlos enjoys that as well.

I was starting to feel guilty, as I had left Viv alone too long, so I walked Sally to within a block of the subte and said goodbye. Hoping we can meet again when she comes to the UK.

We had arranged to go with Janis again to Lo de Celia, so we caught the 168 to as near as we could get and walked the last few blocks to her place. The streets here can be dark and threatening if you let it bother you, but somehow the feeling never got to me, until tonight. We turned into Chile, and further down we could hear shouting. Someone was shouting from a window or balcony to two youths in the street. As we got nearer one of the youths ran over to some rubbish near us grabbed some broken glass and ran at the other slashing at him. I said to Viv “shut up, say nothing, stay to my left, don’t slow down and don’t stare”. We walked on to Janis’s place on the next block , and did not feel happy until we were inside the building.

Janis was not expecting us, she thought we would meet at Lo de Celia, but the email had not got through as my computer was packed. She made us coffee while we waited for her to get ready. She was more successful with the coffee this time, as she now had her coffee filter.

In Lo de Celia I had the usual wait outside the ladies while they changed their shoes. I was asked twice if I wanted a table I just  said “espero Janis” the guy nodded sagely.

Sat right at the back, it was OK for Viv and I, but I think Janis had trouble seeing anyone with whome to dance. I feel akward at these times, on the one hand I feel I should ask Janis to dance, but on the other, if she is seen to dance with the man on her table, then no one else will ask her.

Viv was tired after her packing, and she had made an effort to look good, but as usual, when she puts on any sort of eye make up her skin suffers, so we did not last long. We thought it would be a good idea to leave Janis on her own, as she would then get more dances, but she insisted on coming out with us. It was a shame we left so early, because as she reminded me, we never did the chacarera together.

It was the last night, so we forewent the bus, Instead we walked Janis, almost, home and caught a taxi. Almost because just before her house the street went in the right direction and a taxi was going past, oportunities, as we have found before, once missed will not reoccur.

So our Buenos Aires tangoing is over yet again, here’s to the next time.

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