I do not often take classes in tango, there is a reason; it is not that I think I have nothing to learn, nor is it because I think I am too good. No, it is more about a belief that there are few basic steps in tango and once we have mastered them, the trick is to use them in many different ways. The best way to do this (for me anyway) is to just keep dancing and the possibilities open out as the dance progresses. (New stuff appears also out of mistakes, so we should never write off errors but learn from them as we go).
Often in classes we see the same stuff just packaged differently, every body looking for an edge, something that makes their class a bit different. In the end more advanced dancers just get bored and beginners confused.
So having said all that, we turned up for a workshop with Andrew and Carole at The Croft. I had spoken to them at a previous Milonga and seen them dance in Buenos Aires. They could talk the talk, now I wanted to see if they could put it into action.
We started with some pretty basic stuff, line of dance, feeling the music, lane discipline, that sort of stuff. It all looked good to me. We talked of the embrace, how we dance for each other and not the audience. I was enjoying what he was saying, because it was re enforcing all the things that I also say and it is always good to hear a different perspective.
Then he got very interesting; He talked about what happens at a Milonga about the cabeceo and how the man should go to the ladies table and how to lead her to the floor. Now many years ago, I leaned the basic eight, it was taught as if this was the dance, nobody said “this is only a teaching method” nobody said that we should not be learning sequences and it took me years to break out of the habit. Bear with me here, there is a point.
It seems that in days of yore, stage dancers in looking for a way to teach tango to the masses, saw something akin to the basic eight in the milongas and used this as a training aid and it all came about from the cabeceo:
So the man walks over to the ladies table, the invitation is accepted and the embrace is joined. Now in a happy place, but not yet on the dance floor and with the man looking out. You see at this point there is nowhere for the man to go but back, tables are in the way and without breaking the embrace and dragging the woman onto the floor the man can do nothing but a back step. Once on the dance floor but facing out, the obvious next step is to the side along the line of dance. From here turning into the salida to face down the line of dance the next obvious (not the only of course but the most often used) step is into the cross. You do not need to go into resolucion of course, but now you can see where this is going, and how the basic eight got its origins. My mistake and that of my teachers (all those years ago) was believing that the back step should be against the line of dance and that this pattern was repeated. Now at last I had some clarity in what were after all my first experiences of tango.
I have, of course paraphrased what Andrew said, no doubt there are some errors, but to me at least, some things are now made clear. We did more of course and some of the vocabulary of tango that has mystified me was also explained, but the simple things are what I remember most.
What followed the class were some wonderful tandas, and when Andrew asked what we would like, we asked for some Canaro. Now I do not know if he reads this or if he just knew, but next came Poema and we just had to dance.
I have to thank Andrew Carole and of course Jo for a wonderful evening. The music and ambiance were as close to Buenos Aires as I have been in this country. I especially want to thank Carole for the dance, although I still struggle with the musicality of Pugliese. Why is it whenever I get the best dancers I always get the difficult music? Must be Murphy’s law again.
I caught some of the end conversation between Jo and Andrew and if I read it correctly there should be a return milonga. Soon? I hope.