Monthly Archives: January 2010

Get out there and Dance

After A Hectic Weekend I was of course straight into a week of work, never one to let that stop me, I followed a twelve hour day on Monday with Tango with Sharon and Tuesday was followed by Salsa with Clan Cuban.

After this of course I was into nights and there can be no social life when you work nights, well maybe the odd Tea dance, though those rarely fit into my schedule.

I start to wonder at this point why so many people cry off, saying “I have had a busy day”. I am not trying to set myself up as anything special here, but is the dancing not supposed to be fun?. Do we carry on because we need to learn something? Is it drudgery, something we must do? When you get to the end of a long day, when you have worked hard and just want to relax, there should be something there for you to look forward to.

For me dancing satisfies this need. The Salsa, which I still find difficult, can cause me some stress when I am tired, but I know that dancing, any form of dancing, will make me feel better than slouching in front of the tele .

When you get to the stage we are at with Tango, it becomes like walking along in the park. There is no need to think you can relax in a very gentle exercise, to great music and best of all with a beautiful woman in your arms.

I know that for most people in this area, they are not yet at that stage or anywhere near, but believe me, it will come, and you will look back with regret at those nights you spent with the tele and think “I could have been here so much sooner”

I still spend my work days like a zombie, but then I work to live, not the other way around. If I had to give up dancing to carry on working, then I would be looking for another job.

So another week has passed and Friday was spent for the most part in bed after nights, and there being nothing on anywhere, I was up only a short while before going back again. With the aid of some alcohol I managed to catch up with most of the sleep I had lost.

I am not like the great politicians of our time, I cannot survive on four hours sleep a night, I need to catch up. I catnap a lot, if I come home from work and have a spare hour I will sleep for an hour, shower then head out. Often not in the best shape, but you only get one life, make the most of it, get out there and dance.

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A Hectic Weekend

From the beginning of the year it has looked like this was to be a very flat weekend. The number of social clubs stopping their weekend dances is growing, the reasons are many, but the ageing population of these events along with the unwillingness of the punters to support the bar, has made many unviable. Committees are looking for better ways to raise revenue, and unless we attract more people into social dancing, and get them to spend at the bar these dances will finish.

Suddenly, at least for this week though, things changed, the untimely death of Frank Smith and his memorial dance, along with finding out about The Salsa Inferno party, and getting a place at Sharon’s workshop and salon, it changed from a flat weekend to something quite frantic.

As I have already reported on Thursday at Shrewsbury, I will start with the Friday workshop with Hayden. The main theme was about changing weight and of course playing with the weight. We would get a lot out of this, as it gives me something more to play with while trying to interpret the music. Somehow though for me it became more about giros, let me explain; among my many faults, I fall back onto my heels when I rotate, and of course I was doing this again.

It looks to me always as if the woman is moving into my space; this cannot be the fault of the woman as every one does it with me.  Both Sharon and Hayden looked at my giro but some how the answer was not obvious.  Later when we were working on something else I had one of those eureka moments, it was me stepping into the ladies space, how I have never noticed this before I do not know, now hopefully another of my longstanding faults is finally vanquished.

There was time for a nearly three hours practice later, and I was able to try some rapid weight changes to a milonga beat, and practice my now perfected giros. We could do with more people coming for the after class Salon but I am sure in time word will get out there, and we will get more than just a couple of women adding to the twelve already there.

We arrived home shortly before midnight, and I had a chance to catch up on some sleep. The continuing run of late nights was starting to tell, so I allowed myself an indulgent lie in the next morning.

During the day I had a call from Steve asking if there was any dancing on anywhere. There was no social dancing that I knew of, except that I had heard that Salsa Inferno had a party at Theatre Clwyd. We made arrangements to pick Steve up and decided to go to an event of which we knew little and expected to know no one there.

The first person we saw when we arrived was James from Chester tango and Salsa. As we sat down, more and more people arrived that we knew. There were people from Tango Bangor, Chester, Liverpool, and people we had not seen for years. Salsa Dan was there with his wife, I managed a dance with her along with a few women who know me from tango. Most would not believe that I was no good at salsa; I soon put them right on that.

We had a fabulous night, hardly any dancing, but loads of catching up; even Gilbert was there, an old school friend of our daughter’s. I admit to having some sneaky fun videoing him trying to salsa. I have no intention of showing this here; it is for my daughter’s amusement only.

After the dance we finished up at Steve’s, and as usual did not leave until late. We needed to be up by ten to have time to travel to Prestbury, so again I had not enough sleep.

So Sunday morning up, showered and ready we set off for Prestbury and Frank’s memorial dance. We got a little lost as we turned too early for the satnav but as we U turned to go back, there in front of us was the Longfield Suite, I guess you could say that it found us.

The room itself was beautiful, it had a gleaming wooden floor, polished to perfection and of a size I have rarely seen. At the far end a huge stage already set with the instruments of Frambuesas, slow tango music had wafted us from the bottom of the stairs and now I was ready to dance.

Again, although not unexpectedly this time, there were numerous people from my past, we sat with Ann and Les, but I spent more time catching up with others around the room than dancing.

I had a lovely dance with Carol from Leeds the first I think we have had outside Buenos Aires. The tanda was Pugliese and while Carol loves his music and knows him well, I find it difficult to dance to so I promised Carol another dance later. To my shame I never made it, I hope she will forgive me, and I have told her we will dance again in BsAS.

The list of people we met is huge so I will not mention all of them, but I must mention Attilla, her last dance I think before her impending delivery, we wish her well, and though it was short I enjoyed my dance, a second milonga would have been too much with less than three weeks to go, so I had to let her sit down.

Frank would have been pleased I think, that we gave him such a good send off. I cannot finish without sending my thanks to the organisers, Frank’s family, Frambuesas, and anyone who helped, and not forgetting everyone who turned up. All these people know each other through him, and just seeing how many people now tango in the UK because of him is an inspiration.

As a footnote there were donations collected for the British Heart foundation, when I know how much they raised I will let you know.

After the milonga, of course, we still had our usual Sunday evening salsa class with Clan Cuban, just to finish off the weekend.

Then it was off to bed again so that I could be up for work in the morning at five.

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Conflicting Advice

Advice given to beginners can often seem conflicting, just the advice we give about embrace and how we hold our arms can be enough to drive you to distraction, so sometimes it can be prudent to limit what we teach, and if you like, drip feed the information. Sometimes this is seen as a way of making the classes last longer, or extracting more money out of the students. Often when I give advice, I am told “but I have been told the opposite is true” I try to explain that it is more about subtleties, but only time and experience can truly teach.

The beginners class in Shrewsbury is a great success again, we arrived there to see a huge number of new students. (it is the second week, work again kept me away for the first). We did not take part in the first class as we arrived late, but as we watched I was impressed with the standard that was already being achieved.

In the interval I took a few of the new women for a walk around the room (two weeks and you could not expect much more). Those I took followed well and picked up on my changes of cadence with a good feel for the music. As I gave advice on posture and following, I was asked “how do I know from all the advice I am being given what is good and what is bad” My answer is simple, and although not definitive, it will help. If someone tells you to step here or to put your leg there, them they are not teaching you to tango, if however they help you with your posture, show you how to respond to leads and just follow, then that for me is what tango is all about.

An example: I was dancing with one of the intermediates towards the end of the evening, I led something (can’t remember now what it was) she said ” that was awful”(meaning her following) “can we do it again” this time I was not so good, so we did it again. Apart from the request to do it again, and the cheer at the end when we got it right, there were no other words spoken. Never did I say “you should be there” or “put your foot here” we learnt with our bodies. Tango is a two way conversation, body on body. In the milongas in Buenos Aires, the conversation ceases when they dance, only the bodies talk.

Anyway for the second class I was sent to the back room with the beginners. We had four couples stay on and I had a chance to work with them, and perhaps give them a bit of Bob’s philosophy. At one point I stopped the class, all the ladies were smiling, THAT is what we want to achieve. You do not dance salon tango for the audience, Men you have a beautiful lady in front of you, if she looks anything less than beautiful on the dance floor, then that is your fault. Why would you care what the people sitting around think of you? You have been given, a gift, an honour, and a pleasure this wonderful woman is allowing you to dance with her enjoy her time and make dammed sure that she enjoys it as well. If you cannot lead something or your lady cannot follow it, do something else, we teach in classes, not on the dance floor.EVER.

Some conflicting advice again here; one guy was taking very small steps, so much so that when he led me I could not feel where he was taking me, now it seems Dave had told him when doing double time to take small steps and now I was telling him to take big steps. You can see how confusion arrises. I belive we resolved this one, but I would say to all who go to classes, when you get conflicting advice, Ask. More often than not it can be explained, and the more you understand the explanations the better will become your tango.

 We had a good crowd in The Coracle again, conversation ebbed and flowed. It seems I am missing out on some Facebook friends, I have since put that right, but I still find it hard to understand why anyone would want to contact me via Facebook, there is this blog, all my friends know my email address, you can even find me on google if you try hard enough. There is so much rubbish on there that it took me two hours to respond to one message yesterday, and my wife is complaining that I spend too much time on the computer as it is. Rant almost over, just to say I have turned my email notifications off, so if you try to get me on Facebook I probably will not respond. My Email however I check fanatically.

 OK another rant my spell check has just come up with this 

Reword lady

Bias words and phrases may express gender, ethnic, or racial bias. These can turn people off. Bias-free language has the same meaning and treats people with respect.

Replace lady with

  • woman

YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING!!  If I wanted to show bias or lack of respect, I can do a lot better than this.

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One tired Milonguero

Twelve hour shifts and Tango never did go well together, so I arrived at Saturdays milonga not in the best condition to dance. As usual we arrived early to set up Viv’s shoe stall and help where I can in the setting up.

The dancers arrived slowly at first as I warmed myself on the wall heaters. When there were ladies to dance with, they either danced with their partners or disappeared to look at the shoes. My rest did not last long though, soon enough I was up dancing and from then on there were just too many women.

My heart was not in it however and when I danced with Sharon she complained that I was sleeping on her. (I must qualify this as I have been taken to task before; it was not really a complaint just my way of saying she noticed I was not totally there)

Then a milonga came on and I was alive again, the music always lifts me and can drag me out of the deepest stupor. I whisked Viv around the room and for around nine minutes I was lost in the music.

A tanda of DiSarli was what really finally brought me alive, Sharon has spent all the money she has made from the milongas on a new sound system and now it was really paying dividends, suddenly it sounded like we are in Buenos Aires not some village hall in Shropshire and I am grateful for a little taste of heaven.

It was nice to see everyone sticking to the line of dance at last, and I never saw anyone trying to teach on the dance floor, it could be because I was semi comatose but I suspect that everyone is finally understanding the difference between classes, practices and milongas. I did however see the odd case of kicking as someone tries to execute something they saw on you tube and has no idea how to do properly. I let it pass this time as every thing was going so well and you can only change so much at once.

I think I managed to get around most of the women there, but again for those I missed, I probably could not even see you through my haze, so please accept my apologies.

After two weeks of appalling weather I was surprised that more did not turn up, I think that there were perhaps two dozen there, the hall could accommodate easily three times that amount. Personally I was desperate to dance after the amount of dances that have been cancelled, so that even though I was tired I needed my fix. Dancing is my drug of choice and I was getting serious withdrawal symptoms. You need only look at my dance diary                       01 January 2010  and see the amount of red text to see how many nights we have missed.

By the end of the night I was really in no fit condition to drive home, but I had enjoyed myself and yet again I have to say that those who missed it really did miss a great night.

My thanks to those who helped Sharon pack up, as I said; I was in no condition to help.

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Frank Smith 1932-2009

I am saddened to report the death of another milonguero, Frank died while on holiday in Spain on December 30th. He was our only link with Tango when we returned from Spain in 1997. His class was held upstairs in Zumbars every Wednesday and it is a testament that all those in his early classes went on to form their own classes, and spread tango further around the North West.

He spread his knowledge and time freely, often picking up dancers along his journeys. As well as the time he spent teaching us he often ran us to Leeds, for the classes and milongas there. With our new commitments to Buenos Aires and the Chester Tango scene, we had lost touch recently, but have never forgotten how Frank helped us on our way.

It is a great loss to us all that he has departed, but at least he died as I am sure he would have wanted to go, Dancing.

R.I.P  Frank, I hope that all the angels will be dancing before we join you.

Frank’s daughter Gail has set up a website in his memory:  www.fsmithgs.co.uk

Also more on Frank here:    http://yohlg.free.fr/tangoyorkshire/?id=frank

There is to be a Tea dance in memory of Frank Smith on Sun 24 Jan 13:00 – 17:00

at  The Longfield Suite, off Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester M25 1AY

The event is open to all and is free, however contributions (suggestion of £10) toward the cost and donations to the British Heart Foundation are encouraged.

Franks daughter Gail, son-in-law Phil and grandaughters Amy and Eleanor will be attending, so lets all try to be there.

Live music by Frambuesas,
DJ Yohann,
Tea at 2.30pm

To help with catering, You must RSVP by Thursday Jan 21st  to   frankteadance@yahoo.com

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Another Tango year begins

Not the first tango of the year but it is time to come out of the torpor and write some more tango notes.

As I think I mentioned, Sharon has decided that we are the link Chester Tango  needs to Buenos Aires. Not that we are great experts, but most people in the UK tango scene have never been, and those that have, have been maybe only once or twice (I accept that there will be exceptions here, generalisations are never perfect). So Sharon sees it as a great asset to have a couple who actually own property in the city of tango. So this week we had some of our pictures arranged around the room for people to comment on and ask questions about.

The beginners class started as usual with too few women, so Bob was left out. Then as more women arrived it would have been unfair to send Viv out so I joined the class as well.

When we later decamped to the other room, I had three couples all keen to learn more. I am under strict instructions not to push them further than the class, but we  worked on posture and finding the woman. I remember many years ago when we first learned ballroom dancing our teacher said that part of his job was marriage counselling, so here was I trying to convince two new dancers that there should be no culture of blame here, we need to work together on the lead, tango is a conversation that carries on for years. Sometimes we get it sometimes not, but it is as important for the woman to let the man know where she is, as it is for the lead to be positive. We all play our part and if things do not go well, blame will not improve things. I recognise something of ourselves in this couple, the tension is common in new dancers, and I think shows a desire to go further, certainly the third degree I got about how long I had been dancing, where and when we started tango and how much time we spend in Buenos Aires, shows a definite desire to learn.

Of course now it was a good time to promote my pictures, La Glorietta excited the most comments as usual. The questions never stopped it is great to see that we are stimulating interest in Buenos Aires.

On the subject of Buenos Aires (and tango as well). I read this article from Janis Kenyon http://jantango.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/pedro-alberto-rusconi/ and decided it was so good that I copied it and brought it with me for people to read. It stimulated more interest than  could have imagined, so that now I have emailed a copy out to friends. I now thanks to Janis have a copy of the original letter, and am busy translating it as best my spanish will allow.

Looking forward to Saturdays Milonga at Pant see 01 January 2010 for details. I will of course post about it as soon as I can afterwards.

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It isn’t just the weather

Moving away from tango for a bit, I thought a few words about general dancing were needed here due to the low attendances we have been getting.

Those of you who watch my dance diary will have noticed there is an absence of events that have been filled in. I cannot be held responsible if the people running these events do not let anyone know what is happening.

Anyway right up until the end of the year we pestered the committee at Ewloe to give us future dates, so that when we fought our way through the snow-covered roads this Wednesday the only reason we knew that there was a dance on was because we had seen Roy Peters and Geoff Shone at Saltney Social Club before Christmas. (They were also performing at Ewloe Wednesday night).

So it came as little surprise that when we arrived only one other couple were there. Our friends Doreen and Ralf also turned up but that was it. The committee blamed the weather for the poor attendance, maybe that had some effect, but if no-one knew it was on, is it any surprise that nobody came?

We had a great night with our personal band “all request Wednesday”, and of course we had to get up for every dance, it was afterall our requests. As we left Roy told us he would be on in Llay British Legion Saturday. I was horrified because Llay is no longer a regular event, nobody knew it would be on and they will simply not advertise.

I would be on nights Thursday and Friday so I could not get to any other events to spread the news. Come Saturday, and we told Steve it would be on so he would come with his wife. The only others we could contact were Joan and Eric, so we elected to give them a lift.

So how many were there? yes thats right, six. Had we not braved the snow on Wednesday there would have been none. Dances just cannot continue like this.

We made a fuss and managed to reach a guy called Tom who is in charge of entertainments at Llay. It seems he is constrained on how he runs the venue, the committee will not let him organise regular dances, but the room can be booked.

A long conversation ensued and we may well have a solution. I am not yet in a position to give further information yet, but I am hopeful we can arrange regular dances in the future. Watch this space for an exclusive………

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Happy 2010

Christmas this year has been somwhat of a let down. You see with Christmas Eve and New Years Eve falling on a Thursday, those running Wednesday dances saw little point in running them. Thursdays usual of course were cancelled. Twixmas is always a bit flat, but at least we still had the Salsa. Of course the first Sunday one will not be on as they struggle to find a new venue while The Groves is Closed. Saturday 2nd there is no dance anywhere and I am struggling to get people to pass me information about  any venues.

There have been some high points of course. The twixmas Salsa was great fun and we would have stayed longer had our daughter not been home. It would have been unfair to expect her to sit home alone after travelling up to see us. We had a workshop with the Chester Tango, to work on how we would move on, now that we have a group of dancers with some experience. You see up until now they were all beginners and had no experienced dancers to look to. So now when we have a total new intake, we hope to not go down the route of other tango scenes where there is an elite clique. Any way I think it went well and look forward to a thriving community.

On the high points I leave until last Steve Sound who has as usual been my saviour over this Christmas period. The usual Christmas Eve dance at Ewloe was a bit down in number, I think that the bad weather put many off, but Steve worked hard to lift the night, and I am sure that those who missed it would have been sorry.

It has now become something of a tradition that on my birthday we travel with him to The Lion Hotel in Cricieth, where he entertains the Christmas crowd there. We enjoyed a meal and Steve’s unique style as he tries to revive an almost dead crowd, but you know, before long they were all singing along and dancing the conga. OK there was almost no strict tempo and definitely no tango, but it was lively and fun, and it knocked spots off the rubbish that was on the television.

Finally we move on to New Years Eve. We arrived at the venue at mid day to unload all the gear and set up the stage. Life was made a little difficult as The Blood Transfusion Service was in the hall, and we had to set the stage up blind,so to speak. Happily the finished earlier that expected so that at just before three we could open the curtains and see our handy work. Then when the caretakers had finished sweeping out, all the tables could be set and at four thirty, all that could be done was done, the caretakers went home and so did we.

We returned again at seven, Steve had already been here half an hour. Viv set up here shoes and I stood by the door trying to look like I could stop anyone intent on trouble. Happily non came, but the place soon filled with our capacity crowd and at eight Steve Sound was off into action again.

Where did the night go? I always think it is a sign of a good night when it passes too quickly. We had an even mix of ballroom and sequence dancing so every one was happy, we even had a ballroom Tango. I asked Steve to play this as I know that dancing schools teach it and that they never get a chance to practice. We weaved around them doing Argentine tango as best we could to strict tempo music, and I am sure it was appreciated, because surprisingly the floor was full.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few of the final night of the year, and may I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.

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