Monthly Archives: August 2009

Sally and Carlos Wow them

I know it’s the same old story, but I was tired again. Up at five and a twelve hour shift takes it’s toll, When we go to Shrewsbury there is no time for a rest, so I have tea, shower, change and we are straight out again. I am not a good passenger, especially in my own car, but Viv drove as at least it would give me a chance to shut my eyes for half an hour. We had to stop for fuel in Oswestry and when we get to Shrewsbury I had to direct Viv through the town, so my period of rest was short and disturbed. Nowhere near the fifty minutes that the journey has taken. Never the less I got some refreshment and felt slightly more human by the time we arrived.

We are late and there is not much pre class practica time left, so I got straight in and danced with a couple of women. Soon enough Dave took centre stage and announced the class was starting. Sally and Carlos have again graced us with their presence and they joined along with everyone else.

Tonight Dave was explaining to the class about the structure of tango music, and how it is arranged into eight walking beat phrasing. We do little actual dancing, it is more about moving to the music and pausing so that we can move off again on the first beat. When we changed partners Carlos seemed to understand enough of what was going on to be happy changing along with the rest of us. I think he enjoyed dancing with all these new women and they certainly seemed to enjoy dancing with him. As he understood the music already so getting a handle on what was happening in the class was not such a great problem for him.

Many teachers in this country teach the basic eight, and miss the whole point by not linking it to the musical phrasing. Rather than walk, for some of the time, I did the basic eight occasionally with those women who were comfortable with it. Not constantly but it gave them some idea of why it exists.

After the class we returned to the practica, and again I saw Carlos happily dancing with as many women as he could. When it was Viv’s turn she accepted with relish and was lost back in Buenos Aires for a while.

The better leaders tend to avoid dancing with Viv in the class for the same reason I do; we come here to help the beginners so there is little point in dancing together, still the chance to dance with someone straight from Buenos Aires is not to be missed.

I meanwhile was busy dancing with as many as I could, but again I could not pass up a chance to dance with Sally, we even got a couple of milongas in just for good measure.

Sally has come to the UK to celebrate her parents golden wedding anniversary this coming weekend. She has been asked to give a demo in front of a hundred people, so being the kind people we are, we said she must have a practice in front of a group of friends first, just to warm up.

Rather than try to do something too showy, they elected to dance as they normally do, hopefully this will show the world what real tango is. Every one here was impressed but despite me shouting otro they did not do an encore. I look forward to the hoards of people coming to the lantern after Saturday wanting to learn tango as it is danced in the milongas after being wowed by Sally and Carlos.

After the class we again retired to The Coracle, my tiredness completely forgotten, the dancing had again lifted me out of my torpor.

Once there the conversation again revolved around tango and the music. Carlos was sat, again looking baffled, unable to grasp anything that was said, so I thought I would ask him what he thought of Gales. This would be a good opportunity to practice my Spanish skills. He said it is totally different from Buenos Aires, the city is crowded and noisy, where as Wales is open green and quiet.

 He asked about my home and if that is also different from my apartment in Buenos Aires, so I told him about my bungalow and little garden. One thing I had to put him right on was the weather; he said it gets really cold in Buenos Aires in the winter. We were there in the “big freeze” in 2007 and I told him I was amused by people wrapping up and rushing out to take photos of the snow, he looked shocked when I told him about how the snow would come up to first floor level at our old house in Gwynfryn. I did not know the word for snow plough and neither did Sally, I guess they have never had a need for such a word.

I am afraid I cannot carry on too long in Spanish, I am not a great linguist and struggle, but it was good to get some practice before my next visit.

I had a secret chat with Sally as well, I hope I am OK to let it out here as I expect her to announce Saturday night her intention to get married. There will be, I know, a mountain of bureaucratic problems for them in Argentina but I wish them all the best and I am sure that they will be happy together. I know the others would also have wished them well if they had known.

Soon we had to go, everyone here would be tucked up in their beds long before we get home, and it had been a long day. We will not see Sally and Carlos again before they return so we kissed and wished them well and said we must meet again in October. Carlos reminds me a lot of Juan but at least we were spared the tears at our parting, I love the Argentine way, the hugs, the kisses, the way that they wear their heart on their sleeve sometimes though it is just a bit too much although it is always nice to know they care.

7 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Can we have some women please

We arrived early for our second visit to Stanley palace. Sharon and Eric were already there but otherwise we were the first to arrive.

I had some time to explore this fine old building. The room we are in now had traditional beams up the walls with white plaster between. A huge wooden beam stretched across the fireplace, reputed to have come from one of the ships that used to dock at the old Watergate. The ceiling is also beamed but stretching from the fire towards the stairs is something more modern looking, I suspect that some steel has been built in to preserve the structure and this has been boxed in.

The wide staircase in the far corner turns ninety degrees after six steps and follows the wall up to the top. Above here is a gallery leading to another room above our dance room, wood panels divide this from the gallery and a Steinway grand lays waiting for someone to bring it to life. I am tempted to tickle the ivories, but I lack the knowledge or talent to do it any sort of justice.

Behind the gallery is a double wooden door with a sign telling key holders to use only in an emergency, but despite my curiosity I am unable to find out more.

The whole building has a feeling of another age, and I wonder if we should be using it as a dance venue or just admiring something that has stood for so long. This is believed to be the most haunted house in Chester, it certainly is the right setting, I could well imagine Ann Bolin walking down the gallery with her head tucked under her arm. Thinking like this I return to our dance room just as the music begins.

More people soon appeared, Paul, Graham, Ralf. Things were not looking good on the women front, soon there were six men and Viv. Even if Roberta made another appearance the numbers would not tally.  A couple arrived, but that did little to redress the balance, we desperately needed some women.

At one point I even tried dragging some off the street but to no avail. Sharon was desperately thinking how to alter tonight’s class to suit just leaders. Luckily just before the class started some women finally arrived and we had a quorum. Roberta would be needed but the numbers would at last tally.

I had worked hard in the garden and was tired and not relishing following tonight, but this is the arrangement we have, so I carried on.

Women seem to be always late in Chester and after half an hour another arrived, meaning I could finally sit down. I perched myself in the kitchen hatch where I could watch all the proceedings, looking like a garden gnome it amused the dancers.

Sharon was trying to teach the cross in cross system, with double time on the cross and also when the man changes weight. This caused some confusion for the less experienced, I do enjoy the way that Sharon can make light of the errors so much so that I sat there smiling sniggering and laughing all through the class.

Nobody took offence, I never intend any, but sometimes my mirth is misunderstood, it is a credit to the whole group that we just enjoy the good, the bad, and the ugly in equal measure. When I am dancing, I am often known to break into laughter, some ladies think that they must have done something wrong, but for me the joy comes when things go right, as well as when things go wrong. I gave up apportioning blame years ago, if something fails try again, if it fails a second time do something else, enjoy the moment, we dance for pleasure, we dance with each other, and if someone is watching, then they must enjoy it for what it is or ignore us, the dance is not for them but us.

So now I am the audience, and so I beg you, do not think my laughter criticism, I merely enjoy the moment with you, this is not schadenfreude, nobody is in pain, hopefully everyone enjoys the dance as much as me.

My time as audience is not to last, Elena arrives late and so I take her in to the room and hope I can quickly bring her up to the rest of the class. I enjoy this too, giving a bit of help to a beautiful young lady is one of my greatest pleasures.

Once again I had arrived tired and fed up, not looking forward to the night, and once again I ended up enjoying myself immensely. The music, the other dancers, and especially Sharon lift me to a place I would never get to on my own. I think that tango should be prescribed for anyone with depression. The curse of the modern age could be eliminated if everyone left their televisions and just came out dancing.

The practica carried on until eleven thirty. When I am not working the next day I make a point of staying until the end. A few others also stayed the distance, but unfortunately the women were soon all gone. Viv was not unhappy with this situation as she got to dance every dance, whereas I will sit out allowing others to practice. Nobody was interested in Roberta now the class was over. I guess dancing with a man is OK in class but never socially.

4 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Roberta learns a lesson

We turned off the inner ring road in Chester, and looking to my right noticed only one car in Linenhall street. It is little known even to those who live here that there is unlimited parking for about five cars within the city walls. My father had worked in the next building, and that has given me an insight not usually given to those who do not actually live within a block of here.

The problem is how to get to it: halfway down the street I turn left into a street littered with parked cars limited to half an hour. About twenty yards further on I turn right again into an alleyway barely wide enough for my car. So tight I had considered folding in my mirrors first, but I managed to squeeze through without incidence. At the top there is a tight turn then free parking, oh the joy of local knowledge.

We leave the car and head across the road to Stanley Palace. We have returned here after a couple of years, happy to be back. The room is quite small and we have no bar, but there are no drunks to disturb us and we have no audience to put off the beginners.

Stanley Palace is a beautiful building over four hundred years old, a beacon in black and white standing incongruously amid the modern buildings that line the inner ring road. Inside, at the moment, is a disaster, the upstairs ceiling had collapsed and the repairs were underway. No simple nailing up plasterboard allowed here, lath and plaster had to be used, after all this is a grade two listed building with a unique history. If you want to know more about it go to http://www.stanleypalace.com/tudor%20building.htm  The room in which we are to dance is relatively unaffected by the work, although Sharon did have to put a lot of talc down as the floor had no slip.

As people start arriving it is clear that we are not going to have enough women again. More men arrive and we only have three women (not counting Sharon)

A tall guy called Peter arrived, I had seen him occasionally at the Groves but knew little about him, other than he danced well. Roberta was in full flight, some men still were not comfortable with the close embrace, but I simply cannot feel where they want me to be unless I am close.

In between dances I noticed that I stood with my hand on my hip, quickly I altered my stance to look a bit more macho. I love the feeling of being led, but that is as far as I go, I am definitely a woman’s man.

When it came to my turn to dance with Peter I shut my eyes and let him lead. I found myself doing things I have never done before. I am not sure what I was doing I just flew around the room. Later we did something that involved us both being off axis and it just did not work for us. It is something I have often thought of doing with total beginners to get them to feel dependant, but the two of us were not comfortable off axis, so that for whatever reason it did not work. Unfortunately he seemed reluctant to dance with me after this. I know I can be a lump but my following has only ever been with beginners and I welcome a chance to improve. I will never be a great follower, but to pass on my experiences best I have to know how it feels from both sides. I did persist and get some more dances with him; I will get better with time.

When the class was over I watched Peter dancing, he had the ability to get the beginners to do things I never could, it left me curious.

We had to leave early as I was off to work the following morning so we moved into the other room to change our shoes. Peter joined us and we talked for a while, I never got all his history but he knew all the milongas in Buenos Aires and had been going there and taking lessons there long before us. He knew dance teachers we had never heard of and all the area around our apartment.

The reason we did not see him regularly was that he was up on business, again I did not have time to question him further, I must rely on Viv to extract more information at a later date.

 I have just recieved the link to the photos that Sally took at Shrewsbury, from the post “Sally comes to Shrewsbury” Go here to see them http://www.flickr.com/photos/sallycatway/sets/72157622055524424/

Check out Carlos and his red baloon, just ignore the idiot doing an Eric Morcambe inpersonation. some nice pictures of Viv’s shoes as well.

2 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Old Freinds

Pressure of work is delaying my posts, so let me apologise for the lateness of my posting before I start. There are a number of posts due but they must wait until I have time.

The drive to Pant is mainly large straight roads, the first part dual carriageway until we join the A5. This section past Gobowen and Oswestry is where the A453 and A5 are the same road, and as such is usually heavily trafficked. I was not in a hurry, we had left in good time and I was free to enjoy the trip even though we had travelled this way earlier in the day when we had danced in the street. After Oswestry the A5 splits away and the A483 becomes a more picturesque country road. Pant is only about three miles further on, an old English village with fine old houses hanging precariously from the hillside, next to more modern abodes that have been built with little regard to cost. A modern single story community centre sits to the left of the road next to an old fashioned red telephone box and opposite the well stocked village shop. In the foyer is a memorial to the war dead that makes the place look more like a cemetery, but the place is otherwise bright and welcoming. From the windows you can look out to the hill opposite where someone has carved owls and other statues out of old trees. Sharon was busy preparing the room when we arrived, we were early and able to help sort the food, fill the tea urn and set the tables. Others were arriving while we were busy and all waded in to help.

Sharon still had to man the desk as people were arriving and wanted to pay, so I was surprised to hear some familiar voices from the front. I peered out through the hatch and there at the desk was Atilla our old teacher (old as in from the past not aged) and Margret one of my favourite partners from Wilmslow. They soon came to help in the kitchen, always a favourite spot, and we had a chance to catch up on old times. Margret is now helping with the class, and she tells us has finally persuaded her husband to take up tango. I was glad of this news for two reasons; firstly we always need more leaders, but purely selfishly I did not want to loose Margret, as we loose so many women because there husbands got fed up of them being out every night on there own.

When the music started I danced the first tanda with Viv, as is only right and proper, but this was going to be a busy night for me. So many women, so little time, just as well it would not give me time to go back into the kitchen. (still trying to loose weight)

The next tanda I determined to dance with Atilla. I have an irrational fear of dancing with her, I suppose because she was teacher for so long and I feel all the time that I must be doing something wrong. I need not worry she knows the place for teaching is not the milonga and would never pull me up while on the dance floor, but still my insecurity makes me worry.

Atilla accepted my invitation graciously and stood up as I came to her table. She is of Chinese origin. Although she has the look she is very tall and stands well over me even without her heels. Early thirties about six foot slim and elegant, she is striking and cannot enter anywhere unobserved, even when she is not known, but here she is known as the best tango teacher in the northwest and I know if I lead anything and she does not follow it is my fault.

We dance a wonderful tanda (well for me, I cannot speak for her) but soon it is over, and I congratulate myself on overcoming my foolish fears. Next I chose Margret, she also is very tall, I have never understood why the best men are short and fat while the best women are tall and slim, maybe it is just my perception. Flowing shoulder length brown hair, slim with an ever present warm smile, we dance off across the floor. Very soon though she is complaining, It seems that she can hardly stand the floor is too slippery. She is happier after scraping her shoes and we finish the tanda with a flourish.

As the night wore on I hardly sat down, I of course returned to my wife often, why again not many men chose to dance with her I do not know, but I had too many women with whom I had to dance. I suspect I smelled like an old tramp by the end, I was sweating so much but no one complained.

When we finally left the kitchen was full, so we were able to leave the domestics to others this time. I was exhausted but happy and thankful to have danced again with some old friends, and appreciative that they had travelled so far for us. Atilla asked if we would be at any of her weekends, but unfortunately all of them are on weekends when I am working, such is the life of a frustrated Milonguero. We may yet meet again in the winter though, heres hoping.

2 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Dancing in the street

The pavements in Oswestry are very good,, hard, and concrete, but level and reasonably smooth. We had been asked to give a demo outside a shop, we were confused. We thought it was some sort of health shop or maybe sustainable products, but it turned out to be a tatoo and piercing studio. The show was not even for this shop, but a fancy dress hire and buy shop up the road. It was just hosted here because of the area of pavement in front.

We had expected to find many more tango dancers here but when we arrived there was only Sharon and a man who attends Gobowen. Things were not going well, the PA system would not work and the crowd were dispersing. Just when we thought it would all fall apart the sound came on and we had a fashion show, times gone by. There was everything from Fred Flintstone and Betty to Roman gladiators.

When the show was over it was time for the break dancers. It was now near the time when we should have been on, it looked like everything was running late, and no other tango dancers were about to arrive. A guy in a purple suit stood in the centre doing break dance stuff and trying to sound like an LA black guy. This was good, at least they would not be too disapointed when we came on. Don’t celebrate too soon! The guy runs classes for kids and soon he had a teem of children doing their stuff, and they were good, very good. A couple of older lads joined and they had a “baddle” they did handstands and head spins, that russian kicking thing. It was all too much for the guy from Gobowen, he did not want to perform now, but that would have left Sharon without a partner “just walk” we said “nobody will know the difference, but he was not for joining us.

There was another fashion show before our tango event, I think everyone was looking for an escape route, but I had put my suit on and Viv was dressed up for the show. Nobody was going to belive we were just casual wachers.

Sharon managed to get a lady from the shop to agree to join us. So at least there were four of us. When we started the guy from Gobowen agreed to do one dance with Sharon, Viv and I did our best to draw attention away from the now struggling Sharon, especially when she was joined by the lady from the shop. She had never had a tango lesson in her life,.

After a couple more dances, we swapped partners, trying to look good with someone who had never danced before was difficult, but she was game. Then we had some milonga, I danced with Sharon, but it was difficult, she had street shoes on and could not move well, but we gamely did our bit. For the next tune I wanted to dance with Viv, but she would have none of it, Sharon by now had had enough, so left totally partnerless, I had no alternative but to retire.

The salsa dancers were after us, and they too were having problems, only four of them turned up as well. Actually it looked quite good doing rueda with just four people.

Viv would not join me with them. Sharon had to go and get the hall ready for the night, so we all just dissapeared, to get ready for Saturday nights Milonga.

1 Comment

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Sally Comes to Shrewsbury

A big warm welcome was given to Sally Blake at the Lantern. Sally for anyone who does not know is the writer of The Sallycat Way (you can link there from my blogroll). She brought Carlos along with her, who proved extremely popular with the ladies. Unlike some he had no airs about him and was happy to dance with all the beginners, in fact he was getting a bit too popular everyone wanted to dance with him, poo, what about me?

I jest of course there are more than enough ladies for a few more Carlos’s, I never missed out, and it was nice to have some more experienced dancers there.

The class, when it stated, had just about even numbers, just one extra lady. That allowed Sally to sit out and enjoy the show. She took a number of pictures, hopefully they will appear soon on her blog.

Sharon did her balloon class again, always entertaining and great fun. I worried about Carlos, from time to time he looked puzzled, not really understanding what was going on. I had no real need to be concerned, as Sally also noticed his confusion and came out to explain what was happening in her Shropshire castllano. (Shropshire Castillano, something that Carlos and I both love, the way that Sally speaks Castillano with a Shropshire accent. You don’t get much of that in Buenos Aires)

When the class was over we had the usual practice time. I had had a tango with Sally before the class so I made my usual effort to get around as many ladies as possible. Nice to see Carlos doing the same, and many of the men inviting Sally to dance.

Towards the end I put in a request to Dave for some milongas, so I finished the night doing milonga with Sally. While we danced round she commented, what was in my head as well, that the last time we had done this was in Club Fulgor, where there had been much less room.

We retired again to The Coracle. Some have commented that perhaps we should just miss out the dancing, then we would have more time to socialise here. This is not something I would agree with, but it gives an idea of how the group has gelled. As we sat and discussed tango at home and abroad Carlos just sat there cradling his balloon understanding little of the noise these english were making, just looking enigmatic.

We had more that the usual sitting around drinking. I think the presence of Sally and Carlos brought a few more over, even Sharon Joined us. But in time we had to leave, I never look forward to the long drive home, but it has to be done.

We said all our goodbyes. Sally unfortunately cannot get to the milonga on Saturday, so we probably will not see her again before her return, but we have promised to meet up again in Buenos Aires on our next visit.

4 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Gate crashers

Some pictures of Barocco Bar

Why is it that we always feel like gatecrashers when we tango? Wherever we go we seem to be in someone else’s party. I have to say, in general we are well received. I did notice some resentment from the locals at Glorias Argentinas “why are these two extranjeros at the great mans table” but in the party itself we are always welcomed.

So last week we sort of gatecrashed the birthday of Xenia at Barocco, there was no cake or free drinks, but we were happy to celebrate with someone we had only just met.

I had thought no more of this until we arrived again at Barocco bar. We stood at the bar trying to order drinks. A couple were there who seemed to be ordering rather a lot. The girl asked “how many glasses?” I just assumed that they were ordering wine for their table.

Graeme appeared at the bar, people came and started congratulating him. Somebody came and said “it’s the Mister P where is Mrs P” slowly it was dawning on me that something special was happening.

Upstairs I noticed that there was a tray of Champagne flutes, and while we danced the girl from the bar brought up an ice bucket with Champagne. The music was stopped the champagne poured and a toast was proposed to the newly engaged Xenia and Graeme or was it Graeme and Xenia. So now we are looking forward to gatecrashing the tango wedding and have told them, we are now tango friends and must be invited.

Again I have found that when you meet someone through tango it is like you have been friends for years. So I would like through this medium to wish Xenia and Graeme all the best and a long and happy life together.

There were less people here tonight, so that it really did feel a bit intimate, still I shouted out the toast, as if I had known them all my life, and it was good champagne, so it would have been a shame not to make the most of it.

The floor was a trfile sticky but liberal amounts of talc soon cured that. So we danced away until about ten thirty. Xenia was just too popular tonight, so I missed dancing with her, but did get a dance with a young lady from Meols, There must be a limerick in there somewhere, she no longer lives around here but returns occasionally to visit family. I have offered my services in getting her to some tango next time she returns, lets keep the party going.

Anyway about ten thirty the music became more electronic, and while I have no prejudice against electronic, I enjoy listening but not really dancing to it, so we said our goodbyes and headed off into the rain again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Tango Edge

My socks are red, so are my shoes. It appears that the colour on Spar carriers is not fast, certainly not so in almost constant torrential rain. To be fair we did have some let up, that allowed us to go exploring on the bikes. There is a lot to see around here, and the campsite is right in the centre of things.During one of our shoping trips I found some Regatta waterproof shoes, and these have proven to be a real boon, not only in keeping my feet dry, but also free of red dye.
The Chapter House Arts Centre was to be our next Tango venue, not a difficuly place to find, as it turned out,but quite difficult to reach from where we were. We had three journeys there on our bikes, even the local postman could not direct us to it, eventually we used the GPS and a lot of instinct. When we finally figured it out, it was less than a mile and almost a straight line. It may be a man thing not to ask directions but after my experience of local knowledge, I think I should trust my instincts more not less.
So on Friday after what had been a good day, we had managed four hours on the bikes without rain, we showered and got ourselves ready to go out. Of course, just as we were ready the rain started again. Viv was in a panic about her wig getting wet and she insisted on wearing her wellies to the Tango, but in the end decked out in our waterproofs we headed off to the Arts Centre in good spirits.
We arrived at the new temporary entrance, and there was a beautiful sign that proclaimed Tango Edge. Of course once inside we headed off in the wrong direction, to be sent back time and again until we found the room. There were signs to the tango but somehow we always missed them. Viv went off to the toilet to make herself beautiful, while I changed my shoes and waited for her.
Our arrival was as usual miss timed, we had intended to just arrive for the improvers class, but we were here at the start of the beginners.
I quite enjoyed a bit of walking backwards and some basics. One should never forget the basics and only by going over and over the basics will the dance become better.
The teacher in this class is called Xenia, the sort of name that makes you think of sword wielding female warriors, not tango dancers.Far from the warrior princess she was slim, blond and slightly built,with a happy smiling face, and she looked like she thoroughly enjoyed what she is doing.
She obviously had not remembered us from Monday as when she began the improvers class, she asked about our experience. Like all good teachers, she did not want absolute beginners in the intermediate class. Once I had reminded her who we were she then remembered us from Monday.I forgot to mention in my last post, it was her birthday last Monday and we had a birthday dance for her, so of course she rememberd me more than Viv.
Despite some in the class not quite getting what was being taught it was very enjoyable. The levels of the students are always diverse and I well understand the difficulty of organising a class of this nature, some get it some do not. The main thing is that everyone enjoys it, that after all is why we tango. We do not come to be misserable or stressed, so it was good to see so many happy faces.
After the class there was more time to practice. Viv was determined to foist me off onto the beginners again, but I had my eyes on one or two of the more experienced ladies.
I did my bit with the beginners of course, it is great to be able to pass on experience to them, it lifts my ego,and makes me feel good, but the more experienced ladies here were a joy to dance with. I led voleos secadas leg wraps anything I threw at them they followed. I was in heaven, and because the class had involved some double time stuff, and to give us time to practice it,we had more than the usual amounts of milongas. I danced a tanda with Xenia, but not much with Viv. She did however get more dances tonight, I think taking part in the class has broken the ice a bit with the men.
Soon it was time for us to go and we said our goodbyes, disappeared to the toilets to get ourselves ready to brave the elements again. Before Viv was ready I heard the sounds of Francisco Canaro coming from the dance room. I simply had to return, to leave whilst Poema is playing is not an option for me.
We did of course leave afterwards, the midnight hour was fast aproaching and the path to the campsite is dark. I now look forward to Monday and more of the same.

2 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga, tanagalesa