Monthly Archives: April 2010

It’s all about attitude

Some of you may remember my tentative introduction to Jantango, I was fearful of meeting another American lady; you see my experiences were not up until then good ones.

I keep reading about ladies stuck on the peripheries, they look out onto the dance floor and because of the conventions of tango, simply do not get to dance.

A few years ago via my old blog I came into contact with another American Lady, I found that I agreed with all the things that she said and wanted to exchange ideas. Imagine then my surprise when I wrote and was just rewarded with a torrent of abuse. I met this lady later and tried again to be friendly only to be given the cold shoulder. Every time I see her I get the same snub, I live in hope that one day she will see the error of her ways and we can be friends.

I see her in milongas regularly, looking sour faced and nobody dancing with her. She writes about all the people she dances with but this is not the case, whenever I see her she is looking miserable and I might say others report the same thing. She has the wrong attitude to attract men to dance with her.

A number of times recently it has appeared on the Blog scene about why men choose certain women to dance with and not others. I have seen a few good answers here http://sallycatway.com/?p=2537 and here http://jantango.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/a-matter-of-attitude/. But for me the total answer is about attitude.

Another woman who appeared on the scene was old enough to be my mother, yet I loved dancing with her, she was light on her feet, I enjoyed dancing with her, but more important to me (yes I know I am shallow) she let me know she enjoyed dancing with me. Yet she believed that no one wanted to dance with her because she was too old.

On the scene near me is perhaps one of the most beautiful women I know, she is by all accounts a very good dancer and young to boot. She looks down her nose at anyone who she thinks is not up to her high level. I can honestly say, I have never asked her to dance.

One of the problems that the more mature lady has is a belief that we men are only looking for the young and beautiful. Maybe in some cases this is true, but far from always, so they sit there with a long face and wonder why someone maybe not as good or not as old is getting more dances.

I have simple advice for the ladies, and yes it is true that as a man my needs are shallow. Smile look as if you want to dance and tell the man he is wonderful, you will be surprised at the out come. I believe that as a leader my job is to make the woman happy make her look beautiful and keep her safe. If at the end of the dance she tells me I have done a good job, I am lifted, and believe me there is nothing comes back as fast as a compliment. So suddenly you feel good as well, it will show on your face and soon the men will be queuing up to dance with you.

There are men out there who take joy in picking holes in your tango, smile at them and just let it ride (no I can’t do it either but try) because when they are queuing up to dance with you, then you can choose to leave him out next time. And remember it is difficult to criticise a woman that every man in the room wants to dance with.

I take other blogs often as my inspiration, and there is a running thread here http://londontango.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/how-did-tango-bring-out-the-bitch-in-me/ all about why women are left on the sidelines and we men choose certain women. The biggest thing that comes out to me is a comment about so called intermediate women who “know the steps” I have come across one or two of these in my time, truth is you cannot know the steps, not with me anyway, because I don’t know what I am going to do next. That depends on a number of things; the music, the dance floor, other dancers, and whether what I led last was followed.  You see, if something I led was not followed, I do not stop and lecture the woman, it could be her fault it could just as easily be mine. The point is at that point I must adapt, alter what I am doing and make the woman believe that everything I led she had followed. Basically despite what I have just said, any failure to follow is down to me. This though cannot happen when I have a follower who knows the steps and that is why very often I will choose to dance with beginners, they accept what I am doing and believe that I really know it.

I know Who is faultless?  Not me I have thousands of faults, but you are not going to put them right, here and now on the dance floor, neither am I going to correct yours so we just enjoy the dance and in this way we will all improve.

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Arguments 2

Well I asked for it and I got it. I want to thank John for his very comprehensive answers; obviously he has thought deeply about the subject and is not just answering at an emotional level. So I think that it deserves a good answer.

Tango, it is true is a dance that evolves with time and as I have also said, no two milongueros do the same dance.

Exploration has its value, without it the dance will just become fixed and in the end we will just have a boring set of steps. There must however be rules, ok we can stretch the limits; rules after all were made to be broken.

Where we seem to be disagreeing is on the definition of Nuevo Tango. Let me be quite clear, Nuevo has time and again been defined by teachers and aficionados as a style designed to be cinematic, it must by its very nature be danced open and large, because to be seen, is its raison de etre.

Talk of Fantasia as a different style I think is pointless, Fantasia is show tango, Nuevo is designed for the cinema, I think differences are largely academic.

Modern tango does not need to be either large or choreographed. If you talk of dancing the music, following the line of dance and connecting with your partner, then you are not talking of Nuevo tango as I mean it. This I think is where we differ in opinion, a good tango teacher will incorporate all these things in the dance, whatever he/ she calls himself, but if you learn to dance socially you are not learning Nuevo.

John spoke of teaching in Chester; I did not quite follow his meaning, so if I do not answer him fully perhaps he could comment again. (Please do any way). 

At one time (to my knowledge anyway) there were four teachers offering Argentine tango in Chester, and the range of their teaching shows the confusion that there is; We had one teaching from a ballroom syllabus, one teaching pure choreographed fantasia one teaching salon and one who did not know which side of the fence he sat on. There may well have been others who I was not aware of and I am sure there will be others to come.

Of the London scene I know little, except what I have read. I was last in that scene in 1997 so I suspect it, like everywhere has changed somewhat, hopefully for the better.

Tango in the UK is starting to come of age, of that I have no doubt. The quality of the teachers has improved a thousand fold since we first started in the ninety’s, there are still poor teachers out there and there are good ones, just how anyone new to this will know the difference I cannot tell you , I just hope it does not take them too long.

The problem of course is that for many in Buenos Aires, tango teaching is seen as a way out of poverty. There is no qualification or other way of telling if any of these “teachers” actually can teach or even dance tango at all. I have seen some very poor teachers who come from Argentina, and just because they are from Buenos Aires does not mean the know tango. In saying this, I truly believe that the reverse is not true; you cannot know tango without knowing Buenos Aires.

That is where I draw my knowledge from, I don’t claim to be the best tango dancer in the world, but the time I have spent there has at least equipped me to be able to tell when things are not right.

So while it is, I think, necessary to have at least been to milongas in Buenos Aires this alone should not be taken as a sign of good teaching. Likewise whatever the teacher, do not accept a whole sequence of moves as true tango. Tango is an improvised dance; it is basically a folk dance, a dance of the people, a social event. When it becomes performance orientated it is no longer tango.

You cannot say that Nuevo is bad dancing; anything that gets people out and away from their televisions has to be good, but Fantasia should not come into the milongas. There are places where this can be danced and places where they social dance, mixing them up only causes bad feelings.

So in summary, while I agree with everything John said about teaching, I cannot agree on the definition of Nuevo. What you consider Nuevo is tango with a modern twist, not what is defined as Nuevo by all the experts (or by me though I do not claim to be one of the experts). Of course we could get into a very similar argument about who are tango experts, on this I note the wikipedea definition of Nuevo Tango, which states it is anything from the eighties onward and not a style at all….. (A North.American article by the way not Argentine)

If you accept this definition then I suppose I must agree with John, this I of course is the dichotomy, as there is no written definition we will always argue about it. Perhaps I should replace the word Nuevo with fantasia in future.

Finally I have to say I like and enjoy the company of both John and Anna whenever we meet, I hope that no one thinks our on line arguments mean we are not friends.

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Arguments

Regular readers will know that I do tend to poke a little and provoke an argument. I do this because I know that many long held opinions are not held through a logical argument but simply because that is the view we have always had or because of some principle or other. I have even been known to start an argument with an opinion that is contrary to my own, just for the sake of debate.

Debate, you see, can be a useful way for us all to question our own beliefs, because if we are not challenged we simply believe that our views are right. In this way lies extremism.

So I welcome any comments that challenge my views, as much, if not more than those agreeing with me.

I see it often on forums, someone has their views challenged, and because they have no real argument they resort to insults and threats. For me, at least, this is the point where the argument is lost. The beauty of forums of course is that, unlike face to face arguments, you can go away and research every answer before you reply. This should mean that the arguments there, are more thought out and fact based, yet time and again I find myself insulted and threatened. Not that this bothers me at all, after all the other beauty of forums is that you are largely anonymous. I just wonder why anyone would feel the need, unless of course their arguments are so weak to start with (and maybe their intellect as well) or they just cannot be bothered to do any research.

I carry on with the forums because I enjoy the cut and thrust, also I like poking fun at people who express views on something of which they have little or no knowledge. There will always be those who think that they can bully the rest of us into accepting their views, but the amount of people who come back with solid and well thought out answers gives me hope.

So because I get so few comments that contradict me, I thought that I should spend some time on one that does: Anna, I am sure will be happy to enter debate with me, but feel free if anyone else wishes to come in.

I first learned to tango in a very showy way. The dancing we did looked good to anyone not in the know, and we were taught that you could tango to anything, if you were any good. It took two tango festivals and a fortnight in Buenos Aires to convince me of the error of my ways. A routine, however well danced cannot be a good reflection of musicality, and what we did was pure routine.

Whenever we see anyone who dances “Big” or in the Nuevo style, they have little or no regard to the music. There are good reasons, of course. Firstly, if you dance to just anything, the music is unpredictable, unless you know it very well you cannot know when it will change cadence. Secondly when you are dancing big, every move takes time, so that by the time you realise that the music has changed you are already doing something not fitted to the music.

I have no doubt there are people that dance well in the Nuevo style, but usually they know a particular tune very well and only do their bit to a limited repertoire.

I know people who love to dance to Pugliese, the early stuff I can cope with, but later music is too Avant Garde for me. The people who love it listen to it avidly and know its every change and mood. This is fine because they know it well they can dance it. Me? I can’t cope, that is a failing on my part of course, but for me there is so much unexplored music from the Golden Age that I can live with that. I will leave Pugliese for now, and may be in time I will be familiar enough, who knows some day?

There is much confusion about Nuevo, in close hold, milonguero style you cannot see very much of the participants and almost nothing of the lady. That is why Nuevo was invented, the open style and big moves are specifically designed for the cinema and stage for the participants to be seen. Much of what we see masquerading as Nuevo is just anti social dancing, not done for the stage, but someone trying to show off to an audience who are just not interested, or some poor woman who is struggling to keep up with some very poor leading.

If you want to be seen, dance Nuevo. If you want to show off dance Nuevo. But are we not dancing for our own pleasure, for the pleasure of our partners, the joy of the music and just for three minutes of stolen bliss? Don’t ruin the moment by caring what others may think, feel the mood, forget steps, just drift away to the strains of some of the best musicians who ever lived.

And finally, if you disagree with anything I say, or just want to provoke debate, please comment, surely Anna is not the only person out there who occasionally disagrees with me.

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Visitors

Many will have heard me rant on about moves people and how their tango disrupts social tango and often makes more than just their partners uncomfortable. We know that their style of learning is different and they do not learn the basics of the lead and follow.

Sometimes though what we know is challenged, our basic beliefs are proven wrong and we are driven to question what we have always known.

We had some visitors to the Shrewsbury class, they did what I often do, search out what tango is around the places we visit. They were holidaying not too far away and decided to visit The Lantern and see what tango was like in Shrewsbury. The man of the couple was an absolute beginner and so was exiled to the back room to have some intensive technique in walking and leading. For a change the numbers allowed me to stay with the main class and see what they were all learning. I had a chat with our visitor, and it seems she had come from classes that were nothing like ours, they learnt moves and little technique, but I thought that in the interval I would take her round the floor and see how she performed. I admit to being pleasantly surprised, she followed well and as I slowly upped the level, at no time was she phased.

As I have often said, women follow instinctively and I am sure that this is in part what was happening, but also I think that, despite everything, there must have been some element of lead and follow in her other classes. Our tango worlds may not always sit happily together, but, as has been proven, we can cross the divide happily, provided we remember where we are at any given time.

I do wonder though if it would be quite so easy to cross the divide for a man. My first steps in tango were all about moves, my routine based tango stayed with me through most of my formative years of salon tango. I never lost it until I went to Buenos Aires, then in two intensive weeks of dancing my tango changed forever, and my routine was lost.

No matter how hard I tried I could not recover my routine. I could not even remember how we started. I think that now, as I try to dance the music, I am unable to arrange my moves in a pre arranged order, routine simply will not fit to the music, the music dictates.

I would love to hear from men, can you go from Nuevo to salon easily? Have others lost their routine when faced with hours of salon tango? And more importantly can any men survive in both worlds?

After the class we had our usual meeting in The Coracle and had further options to explore the differences in our tango worlds. One thing that still surprises me is that women actually prefer a gentle simple dance; they do not get bored with doing the same thing, longing for more and more complex moves. When you dance the music, that decides what you should do and the way you mix up the moves and alter cadence can make even very few moves feel like an interesting dance.

We men all do it; we worry that, maybe, that was one too many ochos, or is she getting bored with not enough moves. Yes even me, we also see good dancers and think “I could not possibly ask her to dance” We all have our own crisis’ of confidence, we men have fragile egos, in this way tango is much like sex; women have complex desires but a man prefers the woman who just tells him he is great in bed or on the dance floor. 

So while I can bang on that there is no need to do more and more complex moves, and you must dance the music and the women will love you for it, the women must play their part and tell us that this is what they want, or we will just go off and learn more moves just to try and please you.

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Easter Weekend

You may wonder what a weekend spent with a crowd of Ballroom and sequence dancers has to do with tango, and on the face of it you would be right.

Go to any Club de Barrio in Buenos Aires and it will be populated with people who can remember the war, people who having had a full and long working life are not ready to just sit down and put their feet up. My generation and often those much younger is full of people who are just too tired for life, want nothing more than to sit and be entertained by the TV.

So when I had the chance to spend a weekend with people who possess more life force and energy than your average ninja turtle, of course I jumped at it. The whole weekend at The Queens Hotel Llandudno was organised by Steve Sound and we were glad to help out. It gave Viv a further opportunity to sell some more shoes and me a chance to hone my DJ skills.

Of course there are those who say this is not proper dancing, but when I first started it was all I could get without travelling halfway across the globe.  I am not making excuses here, I still enjoy it, just as in the tango scene there are women who will wait all night just for one dance. They are grateful and always when I dance with them they make me feel king of the hill. My dance journey has taken me on many routes and I do not regret a single one of them and refuse to accept that anyone who bothers to get out and take life by the horns instead of sitting at home having entertainment done to them is doing something that is not quite the real thing.

So as we arrived in The Queens Hotel and tried to settle in Viv spoke to one of our ladies about her shoes. Unknown to us there was to be that afternoon a Tea dance downstairs and the lady who runs it was sitting listening in, she came over and invited us to display in her dance. Not wishing to miss a selling opportunity Viv willingly agreed.

During the ongoing dance she only sold one pair of shoes but made some valuable contacts for again. The thing that struck me most of all though was that here we were in a pure sequence dance, where they learn anything from one new dance to three every week. OK this would never do for me, I have to work for a living, but I heard time and again the words “they don’t do proper dancing” Where will it end? Ballroom dancers say “sequence dancers do not dance properly” sequence dancers say “social dancers do not dance properly” tango dancers say, well you get the idea. Are we not all out just to enjoy ourselves and I say “make it too exclusive and you will kill it”

Despite the scowl, I am enjoying this

So I have just had a weekend of improper dancing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Right now I am quite knackered, we were up until well after midnight every night putting the gear away, then up at eight for breakfast. No time to rest preparing the afternoon dance and it’s too fuzzy to remember what else, but hey it was fun, and if you can see how close this is to what goes on in the city of tango, accept it and go with the flow then you can come along and enjoy the ride with me.

Hopefully we will be in Wilmslow this Thursday as Andreas and Genoveva will be teaching there, I have not seen them since Salon Canning when their class was disturbed by my phone and problems buying my apartment. I am sure they will be as keen to hear how things went as we will be to hear about their twins.

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Reports of My Death

 Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.

Just read this and it sort of prompted me to write.  Reports of our demise

My wife returned to line dancing after a break of many months, and was offered sympathy at her loss “loss what loss?” it seems that reports have emanated from the local pub that I had passed away, where these rumours came from I have no Idea. I dismissed them as mistaken identity.

Until, this week I received a letter from my Building Society addressed to The Executor of my estate. Things were now getting serious. Of course my first call was to the insurers “If I am dead, can I have my life insurance money?”

It appears I am not “that” dead.  The head office had got mixed up about five years ago when my mother died, but how this tied in to local rumours I have no idea.

Two unrelated (it seems) events came together in one week in a way that scared the hell out of me, still having re-risen for easter I am now a bit of a celebrity and will be dancing the tango of the undead tonight in Shrewsbury with anyone who’s nerve will hold.

Healing sessions and worship are to be arranged soon.

BTW. I have just seen the date, this is all true, it is not an April fools joke.

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