Monthly Archives: July 2009

Cardiff with a blast

The Finches hit Cardiff with a blast, but not as big a blast as the arctic air that seems to have become our summer.
 My first walk to the toilet block involved me getting totally soaked while while my second trip out involved a
lot of waterproof clothing. Unfortunately I do not have waterproof shoes, so that by now both pairs of trainers
I had brought are like damp dishcloths. Viv had the foresight to bring wellies, but I now had to find a new use
for those disposable carrier bags the local Spar likes to give out, Spar socks, whatever next.
We spent most of the first day seeking out the Tango venues we would later be going to, and luckily Barocco Bar where
we were to meet Monday night was not too far for us to walk.

The weather looked like holding out as we prepared ourselves for the night. It is never easy trying to look ones best,
Getting prepared in a tiny campervan, but as usual Viv looked wonderful, and I just looked like me.
Just when we were nearly ready it started raining again. All the waterproofs had to be hastily put on, but just as quickly
the rain stopped again, but we took them anyway. Fortunately, as it was a tango night, Viv left the wellies in the van.

We arrived at Barocca Bar early, with the inclement weather we just took advantage of a good break. There were a number
 of diners downstairs, but the place was not crowded. We bought some drinks and the girl directed us up the stairs.
The whole place has a dark atmospheric feel, with baroc decorations, hence the name.At the top of the wide wooden stair way
we found a sort of balcony affair with curved seating areas and round tables. There was an empty floor space, although not a
large area it would be enough for maybe a dozen couples. So we sat with our drinks and waited.

We were very early so that the wait did seem extra long to us,but by eight no one had arrived. At about quarter past a couple
arrived a small child. The child was adorable but I hoped when the dancing started he would not still be crawling on the
floor. After a couple of minutes the man,huge trainers and a hula skirt of keys, took the woman in an embrace and tried
unsuccessfully to lead a side step. Things were not looking good.

By about eight thirty a crowd was starting to appear and a guy with a computer and sound system was setting it up at the end of
the room.I doubted the ability of the system to fill the room, but I am glad to say I was proved wrong, though I am still
curious as to why they did not use the excellent system that was installed in the place.

For some time no one got up to dance. Viv is always reluctant to be first up, but we did not want to spend the night sitting
down so we led the dancing. There must have been two tandas before any one else got up. It was getting lonely out there.
 Soon enough others started to join us, first one couple then eventually two. When it reached three that was like an avalanche
point and the floor filled.

The standard was good and despite the crowded floor I found it easy to dance here. For me the quality of the dancers has always
been how they deal with a crowded floor rather than the moves that are performed.

Later on I danced with one or two of the other ladies, unfortunately, as usual, not many men chose to dance with Viv, so I had
to restrict myself. I enjoyed those dances a lot. ladies followed well with no antcipation, and if something did not go right
we just smiled and enjoyed the moment.

I hope that they enjoyed the moment as much as I did. Maybe we will dance together again on Friday.

As a footnote, I took some photographs, I do not have the equipment here to publish them, but hopefully I will do a post of just
the pictures when I return to the north.

My thanks to Wetherspoons for the WiFi

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Roberta Rides Again

We are off to Cardiff at the end of the week; we expect to do some tango while we are there, as well of lots of other stuff. I am not sure if I will be able to post while I am there but watch out for the story, life is never dull with the Finches, throw in a thirty year old campervan (OGG1) and the fun should never end.

 

Meanwhile the local scene goes on. We attended The Groves on Monday for another class with Sharon. We had two visitors from Cheshire, Millie and John. I never got the full details, but they have been going to classes with Chris. We attended classes with Chris at Zumbars Oxford Road Manchester with Frank Smith all those years ago. We saw Chris at a milonga in Wilmslow a couple of years back, but otherwise have not seen him for ten years. Anyway I hope that they pass on our greetings.

 

Chester is the only place I have known this to happen, and happen again it did: we had more men than women. Roberta had to return yet again, but even so there was a changing corner for the men. That means there were at least three more men than women, almost unprecedented in a small class. The guys are getting used to me now, which is just as well tonight’s class involved a lot of close embrace.

I think they feel safe with me, as one look at Viv and they are certain where my sexuality lies. Still it is fun to act a bit gay now and again, keep them on their toes. It also reminds me how safe it feels when you have a strong embrace; I can close my eyes without fear. On the other hand when the embrace is loose or sloppy, I feel it necessary to keep looking where I am. If this is the case for me then I am sure it must be the same for you ladies.

 

I have never followed for the ocho cortardo so this was interesting for me as well. There was a lot for me to learn, because despite all the years we have been dancing, following is still a fairly new experience for me. My biggest problem is still hanging on, trouble is when I return to axis I start to take over. Closing my eyes helps, as of course does having the embrace the other way round. Patience is the only thing I need; I have to remember that the amount of classes where I have followed are still very few. I still joke that I am the best woman here, that may not yet be true (OK probably never) but at least I can sometimes help the man with his lead.

We did a lot on musicality; this is now coming up more and more in Sharon’s classes, and shows how the emphasis is changing. Once all we ever got was steps, nothing about the music, now we are getting real tango, not pseudo stage tango, this is good. Only trouble is if the men did not get it Roberta tended to go off on her own, ignoring the man and enjoying the rhythm, not good. I must give her a good talking to..

After the class people were disappearing Viv had to go and grab some to tell them they must practice all that they had done, else all would be lost. Trouble was she was retrieving the men, I was left sitting out. I had to go begging; “please I want to be a man again”.

I spent some time with Viv, just going over what we did the weekend, and I managed to dance with a few other ladies, but all was lost by ten. So we went home for an early night.

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Teachers should dance too

In Thursday’s Shrewsbury class we were joined by an Argentine by the name of Guido. He is I believe on of the men that Carol, from Leeds, brings over to help in her classes, over there on the north east side of the country. She had kindly lent him out to us poorer border people for the night. His class consisted of mainly ocho milonguero, and giro miloguero. Although for Viv and I there was nothing particularly new here, he presented it in a refreshing way that gave us much to think about. While many of the beginners struggled with the basic step, the playful repeats he did gave us something to work on, and left me with a smile on my face. My only criticism was that after the class he was reluctant to dance with any of the students. I think it was his great loss, many of the ladies here have come along at a fantastic pace, a real tribute to Sharon’s teaching. Of course he also missed out on dancing with Viv, she refuses to ask the men, and why should she? After years of putting up with beginners, would it really have been too much trouble to give her one dance? I have been to some classes where the teacher makes a point of dancing with every woman, and even some of the men, after all isn’t that part of it, to show what a good lead feels like? This discussion carried over to The Coracle for our weekly tango discussion. Among other topics discussed was again, the men telling the women where to put their feet. Horror, I was accused of doing precisely this. I suppose in some ways I was, whilst leading a giro I was pointing out where the feet should go, not away from me but in a circular motion, so that I am not pulled off axis. To me it is a mute point, I am not trying to get her to do something I cannot lead, merely to do something better. Still that is how it looks, and I suppose those I criticise could be doing the same thing. Maybe I should just, shut up and dance. We move on now to Saturday and a workshop on social volcadas with Haydyn Brown and Sharon.

Three hours of workshop followed by a Milonga represented good value, and as it was in my free weekend, how could I refuse. It seemed at first we were to do anything but volcadas, but all this was in preparation, getting the legs free and trust in your partner are essentials to a good volcada, but I have to admit, even I did not see where we were going at first. We stared off with some low boleos, low and small, something you could do in a crowded Milonga. This we were to learn later is a way of testing any new partner; there is little point in leading a full boleo or especially a volcada if the woman will not follow. Next we moved on to leg wraps, this was all about positioning, as well as learning something new and exciting. Finally we moved on to the volcadas, what we had all come for (although I suspect that there were those who had no idea what a volcada was). I think that it gave some an advantage; I spent most of the time trying to do too much. We have done volcada workshops before and there was I trying to get lots of lean, and lots of sweep, when all that was required was subtlety. Still I got there in the end and we enjoyed the experience. Some reassurance was needed, a lot of gobsmacked faces around. We have been to many workshops often walking away remembering nothing. It is only by doing them over and over that something sticks. Things do stay there, you just do not realise. Next workshop will seem easier and the one after. There is nothing special about us; we have just done so many. In fact I think sometimes the reason I am able to explain things well, is because I found it so difficult to learn, in the first place.

After a break for food we moved on to the nights Milonga. It was a shame so many had to leave, but fortunately more arrived and we had a good number in the end. Hayden, danced with all the women, just as he should, and Sharon gave us men some rest also leading the women. My moan? There is always one: I danced, I think, with all the women, except Sharon. I always feel it a bit unfair that she has to dance with all the beginners and I usually miss her out. Today though she did dance with Haydyn, it must be nice not to have to look down to her partners for once.

Just for your entertainment, I have included a photo of me taken by Jantango outside The Bibioteca Nacional. This is what you have to do to use a Moble Phone in Argentina.

See using a Cell phone is easy

See using a Cell phone is easy

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Whoosh Bop

Apologies for the poor quote, Sharon has a talent for onomatopoeia, but I have a bad memory.

 The class at The Groves was again running well balanced, with Viv helping, the numbers of leaders and followers was even. I was destined to sit out the class again, not that I was bothered, the last few days had been hectic, what with Shrewsbury, the party, then two nights of other dancing. On top of this I had worked twelve hour days the last two days, and had some serious stair work that day, I just pulled up a bar stool and enjoyed a drink.

Of course when required I was there to demonstrate with Sharon. Tonight looked like becoming another bad one for me however, when asked I stood there willingly and tried to demonstrate an ocho without pivot. Now this would not normally be difficult, but from a standing start and in front of an audience, and tired. Enough of the excuses, I simply had trouble with knowing my left from my right. I redeemed myself later on but for a while there I thought it was going to be another one of those nights.

This ocho is where Sharon described it as a sort of whoosh bop, I love the way she does this, but have had to put my own words in. If anyone remembers exactly what she said, send me a note and I will correct myself.

My rest period did not last long, soon another woman turned up, so I was up for the rest of the class.

In the interval we distributed the rest of Sharon’s birthday cake, I was determined not to take it home again (the healthy eating programme has been going well so far) even the bar staff were persuaded to partake.

In the practica I was again asked about the lead. It is always the women who always ask, “Why do the other men not lead as strong as you”. I think it is a big cultural thing, women’s lib has not fully materialised on the dance scene in Buenos Aires, but here at home we are told to invite the woman. My opinion is, this leaves the women unsure of what she should do, if you take her in a firm hold, she will feel secure, knowing what she should do and be free to relax and look good.

Teachers here, that I really respect, still talk of inviting the woman. I have never yet come across a woman who has said my lead is too strong. This talk of invite confuses the men, they think they must not hold firmly, and sort of wave the hand in a come on motion, or nod the head to the side.

Let’s forget this invite nonsense and go back to leading. Let them know what you want with your body, and just perhaps, you will not have to stop mid floor to explain yourself.

 I was tired so at ten ish we decide to leave, but as Viv went to put on her shoes I was asked for one more dance. When I returned Viv was again dancing, this continued until the end, and so far from having an early night, we were the last to leave.

Not that I am complaining, the ladies and men of tango have made us feel so wanted and loved, that the time we have with them transcends any amount of tiredness I might feel.

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Gresford two, The birthday dance

My second tango of the week was all our own work, we held the Second Gresford Milonga on Friday.

The preparations have been going on for some time: I have finally wired in our mirror ball motor along with some colour changing spots, on-going repairs have been done to the floor (domestic flooring is simply not up to this level of abuse) doors have been removed and generally the place has been tidied. I have been working on my playlist and have included some of the new material I brought back from Buenos Aires, but  I failed to make a printed list, there must be some way to export a playlist to Microsoft word, but if there is, they have not made it simple. This list of preparations of course does not include the work that Viv has been doing, all a mystery to me I’m afraid, although she works very hard, I am after all just a man and could not possibly understand. She does her bit and I do mine, without ever understanding each other, so it has been for nearly thirty five years now, we may not understand, but something must be right.

The day of the great event and I first have to take OGG1 to the garage, and then we are off to the wholesalers. We go about once a month to restock, so we thought it would be nice to have some fresh stuff in for the party. They have some nice cakes and meats that will give the milongueros something to stave off the hunger.

Everyone was told that La Cumparsita would be at seven thirty, and on the dot Dave and Alison arrived. People then started arriving in ones and twos, some were in confusion, because it seems on my instructions I had said “look for the Campervan” of course OGG1 was in dock so there was no van on the drive. I had thought that as most people had been before they would have known where I was. We had another problem as well, I had moved the van and put my car in the garage to leave space for people to park, but I could get no one to park on the drive, they were all worried about being blocked in. This was ironic as later when they went to leave, the cars were parked so close they could not be extricated from the queue.

When Sharon arrived she looked beautiful, all in pink and fluffy with four inch heels, a special effort for her birthday.

The dancing was going well; they were all getting used to the tandas, although it was impossible to stop some dancing the cortina. Then at nine the music stopped, I was mid dance and rushed over to the music system to find what was wrong. All looked ok so I went to the computer, Viv had decided to close the program down, because she had prepared the food, I was not pleased, as this left me with the problem of finding where I had been in the play list.

After the food we had cake to celebrate Sharon’s birthday with the traditional singing of happy birthday to Sharon,

Then we had a special treat: Peter played a tanda on the bandoneon accompanied by Patricia on the guitar. How special, to have live music for my house party, my deep thanks go out to the pair of them. Our cortina was Nat King Cole singing Perfidia en español, Peter, not to be outdone, sang the next cortina for us, also Perfidia en español.

We also fitted in a Birthday dance for Sharon, I still have some educating to do though, as I waited for the cortina to finish, someone was already tapping me on the shoulder, before the dance had actually started. I had to politely ask him to wait, at least until the tango started (or words to that effect)

I never used my camera so have no photos, for this I must apologise, maybe next time I will not be so busy and will have time to record the event. I only took one photo and that was Sharon blowing out the candles.Sharon blows out the candles my apologies for the poor quality, I should have used flash.

For some reason everyone started drifting off early, and by half eleven the party was almost over, just no stamina, we were ready to party the night away, but by one o’clock we had no party goers to celebrate with us, and so we drifted off to bed. We can always clear up tomorrow. At least the weather held out for us, the rain which seems to be almost constant in summer, never appeared. The garden was a wonderful refuge from the dancing and somewhere to sit and enjoy some food and drink.

Now when can we have another?

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Axis

The week started badly as I had to miss the Monday class again, but with more venues now opening up it meant I would be free for the Thursday in Shrewsbury.

Sharon was concentrating on axis this week, and interestingly, we had the men working together and the women working together. We tried various bad postures, just to see how it felt. I think most of us men already had some idea of what it felt like to have a woman lean backwards, or stick her bottom out. However perhaps some of the women who did dance like this would perhaps now have a better idea of what we are up against. This, I hasten to add is not blaming all bad dancing on the women, but just maybe, if we can get you ladies following right, then the men will start learning to lead better.

I had my usual fun, of course, and insisted that I am still the best woman there, I did not get too many challenges on this, sometime I worry.

Numbers were down considerably this week, I know of no reason why this should be, still, those who were there will have benefited considerably from the experience.

In the practica after the class, I did feel that the ladies with whom I danced had improved their posture, leaving me more freedom to lead them into some more interesting moves.

Afterwards, in The Coracle, there were only four, myself, Viv, Dave, and Alison. An indication of the low numbers in the class. Even so we still had a lively tango discussion, where I tried to explain why the tango scene here could never be as good as Buenos Aires. I think, to understand fully, you need to have been there, but part of the reason is the shear population density. For this reason London is the only place that can hope to come close in the UK. Another reason, is the problem getting people off their backsides, the British love their television, Strictly is the nearest any of them get to a dance hall. Unfortunately I know of no answer, I see the problems, but cannot see a solution, we even have a minister for sport, but all he seems able to do is give them more football on television, Kill the TV and give us more dance venues, that should be our clarion call. My only hope is that confusion over the digital change over, may drive a few off their sofas.

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It’s all about the Music

Things are getting good around here, I managed to attend three tango venues this week, and that did not include my regular at Chester on Monday as I was on nights. My wife, who still goes when I cannot, has actually been to tango four times.

Our first trip of the week (together) was to Bangor. This is a twice monthly venue, run by John and Anna. The journey time is about an hour and a half on a good day.  Normally the road (A55) is littered with road works so the time can be doubled or more, but this week we were lucky and had a clear run.

Normally it is not possible to attend because of work commitments, but this week Tuesday was right in the middle of my days off.

It was a real pleasure to meet up again. Anna has not been to Chester since before her baby was born, she has the same trouble we have travelling this distance. There is a class the first Tuesday of the month and a practica on the third. Numbers are down, and so to save on expense this week it is at La Casa de Anna.

Anna had to finish early to attend to the baby, but in the meantime she did somewhat monopolise me. There was some giro practicing and secada practice, I helped where I could, but I was not fully aware of what they had done in their class.

Unfortunately after Anna had gone, the party soon broke up, so we were back on the road home before ten, at least we arrived home at a decent hour.

After nearly seven months it was a joy to meet up again and when John took his revenge for my dancing with his wife and took Viv from me for a dance it was only fair. We finished with some milongas and John took some pictures of Viv and I, thanks to Anna for sending them so soon. 

Our second tango session of the week was our regular trip to Shrewsbury. Sharon was teaching giros again, with the emphasis on coming out at different points. My big problem was trying not to do secadas in the middle, sometimes it is hard to go back to basics, but it would not have done for me to confuse everyone.

The heat and humidity were telling on everyone so the practice session was a more muted affair than usual, and we were glad to get to The Coracle again for a drink.

As usual we had a lively tango discussion again, and the subject came around to women not getting dances. The situation here is somewhat different to Buenos Aires as most of the tango groups are formed with people who have all had classes together, but still some women do not get to dance. My feeling is that not having tandas means the men tend to circulate less, so that some women can monopolise the men and the men are embarrassed to leave them. If there is a natural break with a cortina then there is no embarrassment, you do the tanda and then sit down. Next tanda you choose a new partner, and if you do not enjoy this partner, you at least know how long you will have to dance together. We also had a discussion about the music; dancers who do other dances have difficulty understanding why I am so choosy about the music I will dance to. I learned many years ago, a type of show tango, and because it was about the moves and routine, we could do it to any music. The music was not important, we did our thing. After many years of salon tango, you learn to interpret the music, the music becomes more important than what you do on the floor, and in time, if the music does not lift you, then the dance itself becomes worthless. I tried but could not make them understand, only years of listening and dancing to the greats can make you understand.

 

Our third session of the week is a return to The Groves in Chester. Just starting on the last Friday of the month is a regular milonga with Anthony. We arrived early; with the hot weather parking by the river is at a premium, so I wanted to be sure to get a spot.

The room was not ready yet so we sat with a drink and waited. I was overjoyed to see Bill who was here with his wife (sorry forgot her name, my memory gets worse) Bill spends half the year in Palm Springs, and we used to meet regularly in Wilmslow, but have not seen each other for at least a year, probably much longer.

The dancing in general was good and I managed to dance with most of the ladies, but once or twice I had to sit down. The music was not inspiring me, this group was mixed and while some were happy to be doing their ganchos and lifts in the centre of the room, for me if the music was not right, I would rather sit it out. That is not to say I spent the whole evening sitting down, when there was traditional tango playing I was never short of a partner, but I still do not understand why when there is so much good tango out there people feel the need to be clever with the music.

We again had to leave early as I am up at five the next morning, I cannot complain as only five years ago I would be lucky to get one tango outing in a fortnight. The sudden increase in tango in this area is largely due to the efforts of Anthony, and for this I am grateful, but (isn’t there always a but) I wish he would share my passion for the tango greats. Tango for me is all about the music, we dance first with  our ears, the feet move only in response.

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