If you are a certain age and English (I do not know if this applies to Scotland and Wales) you may remember a time when there was only one radio in your school. This was located in the headmaster’s office and every day at eleven the teacher would come in with a large board with feet and a speaker in the centre. This would be plugged into the wall so that we could all listen to the BBC.
Sad the things you remember, Racheal Percival, Marjorie Eele and especially William Appleby, the presenters of “Music and Movement”. We would all sit or stand doing dance like movements all at the directions of these wonderful presenters. Sadly these days are long gone along with the light service on which they were broadcast.
Thursday night and the beginners were allowed for this occasion to stay with the intermediates. We were lined up on either side of the room and recreated “Music and Movement”. My side of the room were instructed to move to the rhythmical music while on the opposite side they moved only to the lyrical.
Roles were reversed and everyone suddenly started to feel the music. When we coupled up we were instructed to dance with someone of our own level so that it did not matter that we had so many beginners.
So we were asked to just dance to the music as we had been doing, it looked not too bad to me, but stuck in the body of the class it is difficult to tell. Next the ladies were asked to do what they felt to the music. Although hard leading from the front and difficult for the men to follow everyone coped well. The class moved much more slowly when the women led, there was more emphasis on the lyrical, less rushing around, dare I say, more feeling. So next we were asked to discuss with our partner what we had done and then cooperate and do the next dance.
We changed couples and repeated the exercise; still the men do not get it. When asked they say “when we do some thing lyrical the music has already changed”. This of course is why we need to know the music, and why we need the traditional tango that follows a pattern. We men are simple creatures, keep the rules simple and we can follow them. Introduce complex tunes, mix up the rhythms and we are unable to cope.
So what have we learned?; when it is lyrical, slow it down; know the music, really know the music; and when we slow it down and feel the music the ladies love it.
I have the feeling that some like to make Tango something complex, foot positioning, the embrace, posture, all must be just so. Of course the embrace is important, posture likewise, but everywhere I go now I see people who are getting in an advanced state of stress over a dance. We dance for enjoyment, few classes I have been to have been this much fun and few if any have so reached what tango is all about.
Back at The Coracle we discussed this, how we had thirty people now moving to the music, dancing with each other and yet the room moved in a big wave, not creating gaps nor log jams, simply because we were listening to the music.
I am afraid I got a bit passionate when the subject of teachers came up; it seems after a very short time everyone thinks that they can teach tango. I hear it all the time in classes; beginners try to teach other beginners who have had one less class. Someone who went to a workshop now has all the techniques to teach what they have learned and after less than a year people rush off to set up their own classes.
To be good enough to teach takes a long time, or as in Sharon’s case a lot of work. To teach Argentine tango without knowledge of Argentina is a falsehood and, apart from one notable exception I know of no one who does it well without that knowledge.
I was sitting on the radiator while this went on, and I cooled down when I moved, but my feelings remain the same, I know those who can teach, those who have the knowledge and those who have the experience, and as such I know those teachers with whom I would not take a class even as an assistant. We left it at that, even those who sympathise with my views cannot fully understand without knowing Buenos Aires so there was little point in pursuing it any more, there will always be those who dance tango and those who know tango, I like to think that I may one day become one of the latter but those who have never visited the city of tango never will know tango.