Monthly Archives: January 2011

Music? What music?

The trouble with spending all my money on tango is, It means that sometimes I have to make compromises. This is the case with cars, I run an old Triumph herald, which does not see the road this time of year because the salt would eat it in holes in seconds; I have a Suzuki Cappuccino, which at seventeen years old does not show her age, but is not the most practical of cars, so our nine-year old Seat Leon is our main mode of transport.

This can cause problems as it did this week, when the starter motor failed. A visit from the AA man, a tow to the local garage and two hundred pounds lighter we were too late to get to the workshop at Croft.

We arrived towards the end of the workshop and Andrew invited us to join, but as we were late and had not paid, I thought it best to decline. what little I saw of it followed the same sort of pattern we had seen from him before; this is how they move in Villa Irquiza, and navigation techniques for a crowded floor. I like Andrews style because he says the same sort of things I do (only better) and tries to bring a bit of Buenos Aires to our part of the world.

I wonder though if he gets frustrated, as the dancing started, with wonderful music, all golden age, D’Arienzo, DiSarli, Canaro etc, the dancers all seemed to revert to figures. There were a lot of people here that I did not know and perhaps they were just beginning their tango journeys. I wonder though, where they are learning what they do, I saw ganchos by the dozen, boleos and sentadas, non properly led and the music was totally ignored, I even saw one couple carry on past the end of the music in order to finish their move.

Andrew won’t thank me for saying this but I saw his face screw up in agony at the sight of a dozen ganchos mid floor in the midst of a beautiful D’Arienzo track.

I have been accused before of becoming Victor Meldrew, so I temper my observations with a smile, knowing as I do, that most of these people are not only new to tango but have yet to experience the joy of dancing in the capital of Tango. Hopefully they will learn in time and whoever is teaching them just moves will realise the error of their ways.

I’m afraid the trials of the day were taking their toll on me, and when I danced with Carole I was not at my best, and I did a couple of my moans mid dance. I just hope she knows that it is not a reflection on her or her dancing. I am my own sternest critic and would not dream of criticising any woman I danced with. I know though that my moans are often misconstrued, it is just me rethinking what I am doing that sometimes come out as a sign of disapproval, this is not a mistake (see last post) but a look at how I can redirect my energies to lead differently.

So I ask again for forgiveness from all the women out there who belive that I complain on the floor, it is just me being self-critical. (or critical of the guy in front doing ganchos and boleos)

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Arrogance?

Not for the first time I have been accused of arrogance, maybe at other times it is justified but this time it was just because I had not been totally clear. You see someone had said something about not being able to see our mistakes in the Tango. My reply was that we do not make mistakes. This is not because we are perfect or even because of much practice, no; you see if the dance is totally improvised, then how can you make a mistake.

There is also this belief that if I lead and she does not get it, then that somehow is also a mistake, but this is not the case either. Tango is a conversation, I can lead, but I must wait to see where she ends up before I give the next lead. It is true that a really great lead will always get the response he wants, but true greats are few and far between.

So I must make each move as it happens and so the dance is dictated, by the music, by others on the floor, and by the response I get from my follower.

I cannot claim as Carlos Copes did, that “If she blinks I have led it” I am not, or ever could be that good/great/arrogant (choose your own adverb). What I will never do though is use verbal commands on the dance floor; the most I have ever done is request either more or less weight or an adjustment of posture, from a beginner.

We must have done something right last time, as we were asked to give a repeat performance at the Lache afternoon tea dance. This time I was more organised with my music and we managed to do a bit to some live music as well. Charles played us some Viennese waltz on the accordion to which we attempted some tango Vals.  Those who know will realise that although the tempo is the same, tango vals differs somewhat from formal Viennese, still it went well enough and everyone seemed pleased with the result.

To me the best compliment I had, was that we appeared relaxed and seemed to enjoy ourselves. As tango is a dance that is supposed to be for your partner and not something you do for an audience, I could think of no higher praise.

Talking about enjoyment takes me back to last Saturday and what was supposed to be a latin evening. These nights are just a bit of fun with some sequence dancing thrown in for good measure. This week however Marie Louise threw in some Argentine tango, I am not usually a big fan of this sort of thing, as most people here do not realise the difference in the music or its importance. But this week we had some fabulous tracks and some wonderful dances, I danced to more good tracks than I have at some of the, so-called, milongas in this country; so a vote of thanks to Salsa Wales for an excellent dance and what was unusually a the start of a three night run of tango for us.

First we had the salsa night, then Otros Aires, and then we followed this with our usual Monday practica. We shot ourselves in the foot somewhat though with Otros Aires; we had advertised it so well with our practica people, that most turned up in Prestiegne and then were too tired to come to Gresford. We still had a few who came to us instead and one brave soul who came to both. (She does not want naming here for some reason, but gets thanks just the same).

Now we are into another week of tango famine I’m afraid, no practica next week as I have to work nights. We still have next weeks Croft milonga to look forward to though before we then have a run of six practicas without break.

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Day of the Dead

Some how we never get to see the things we most want to, this has been the case with us and Otros Aires. They played in Buenos Aires the day before we travelled over and then they came to the UK for a tour while we were in Argentina.

That was two years ago so I was pleased to learn through facebook that they will be again touring the UK this week. The venues are spread far and wide across the country, but one is within driving distance at a place called Prestiegne on the mid Wales border. (No I have never heard of it either) nor have I any idea how they secured such a prestigious international Act.

I phoned up hoping to make a reservation and all they did was take my name, no payment was required at this point. I spread the word among my tango friends but could find no one who would share the journey so we set off in my little two-seater Suzuki, to the sound of Tanturi on the stereo.

The journey went well enough apart from ending up trying to drive through the centre of Bishop’s Castle, so we arrived early. We looked around the village and rejected the pay and display car parks leaving Suzy on the street just down from The Assembly Rooms.

The village itself was pretty enough but deserted on a Sunday afternoon. So we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. The Radnor Arms Hotel looked good and we had friends staying there, but they would not serve food until after six, too close to the start time we thought. Across the road we saw The Royal Oak; “food served during licensing hours” it said, this looked promising.

As we approached it all looked just a bit local, the smokers were all assembled outside the door and inside looked packed.  Once through the door it was no different, football was on the TV and the crowd were shouting abuse at the ref. We asked if food was being served and the friendly landlady told us we could go through to the dining room where it would be quieter. As we sat there we could still hear the locals abusing the ref, the staff and each other, every other word was a profanity but with such good humour, we just listened and enjoyed. The accent was pure midshires, not Welsh as you would expect. In truth though this area has changed from Welsh to English so often that you could not define the people as either. One of the bloodiest battles of Owain Glyndwr was fought not far from here The battle of Pilleth and it is remembered in many of the place names.

I ordered the steak and kidney pudding and Viv the lasagne. I must admit to feeling guilty, the pudding was so big we had to evict the two farmers who were living on it, the portions were enormous. I think that this place normally caters for farm labourers, not travelling tango dancers so by the time we had finished we were stuffed.

The trouble was we still had two hours to kill before the show started, so when asked if we wanted desert, we said “ok but take your time”.

The landlady timed it just right, just as I was thinking “I wish I had not said that” our deserts arrived. Trouble was our puddings were as big as the main course, I had sticky toffee pudding, complete with mountain goats and yodeling maidens, Viv had Banoffee  pie with ski lifts and a couple of mountaineers.

Now we were truly unable to move and sat for another hour listening to the locals abusing each other and occasionally wandering through apologising for disturbing us.

So we had coffee to finish, a pot arrived that we managed to get three cups each out of yet still it was not empty.

Whatever happened the rest of the night we had had an excellent feed, plus unequalled entertainment just listening to the locals.

We paid and wandered out into the night, still with time to kill, we wandered over to the road and into The Radnor Arms again. Inside we bumped into two of our tango girls, they complained that they could not find any staff and were off to have their picnic in their car.

After a long wait at reception we got the room number of our friends and paid them a visit. We lost track of time talking and laughing and so we had to rush to get to the Assembly Rooms before the start.

The room looked tiny, a group of our friends had colonised the four chairs by the door and the girls were sat on the opposite side of the room. Along the back wall was a stage affair on which some were sitting and others standing, but mainly people were just standing. Viv found out there was a bar in the far corner so I bought some drinks and we deposited our coats on the backs of friend’s chairs.

The anticipation was electric and we were not disappointed, they started with one of their new numbers, but no one seemed to be ready to dance.

Next they did a milonga, this was too much for me and I had to drag Viv up, because I simply cannot sit down for a milonga.

As we danced around the room the locals started to move, but not in a tango way, it was more like “Dawn of the dead”. They shuffled forward with their arms by their sides, rocking trance like. One guy, grey beard down to his waist, check shirt and jeans, stood rocking holding a beer bottle with a glazed look in his eyes. I looked at the others and they all had this same glazed look.

They shuffled ever onward and I decided that it was the duty of the tango dancers to stop them taking over. “The zombies must not win” so we danced around them breaking them up and driving them back. It was us against the zombies to the strains of Milonga Sentimental. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIZj1m-rt1c

Perhaps they had got into the wrong concert, maybe they thought that this was “Thriller” I do not know for certain, perhaps a priest would arrive and they would all disappear.

The room was small and it was a real challenge dancing around the zombies and the nuevos, but the music just lifted us to new levels, we could win despite the carpeted floor.

The music was fantastic and we danced our socks off until they finished and we clapped and screamed and I shouted “otra otra” until they gave us an encore.

At the end we bought Otros Aires’ third CD “Tricota” and got it signed. For some reason the pianist wrote “Peron not dead” on my CD, I have yet to figure that one out, perhaps it was a response to my dodgy Spanish, maybe Peron was one of the zombies.

When we finally stepped outside all the zombies had somehow vanished into the night, there was no blood on the walls, and there was an eerie silence.

The tango vampires were yet again victorious against the undead.

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Tango Breakfast

I must be careful how I phrase this, but I really did not relish going to this tango ball. The style of teaching is totally different to what I am used to and I suspected that the music would be avant guard to say the least.

It was a long way to travel and would involve a late night, still we were in a period of tango starvation and we knew that the room was large so there should be room to dance around all the Nuevo dancers, and as I was going with low expectations I could not be disappointed. It was time to break the tango fast.

We arrived slightly early and watched some of the class, even though the cost included the class we preferred to give it a miss. Lots of open hold and arm leads would never be my thing so we had a drink and waited.

I never expected to really enjoy what was coming and I suppose that helped, but truly I actually enjoyed myself. The music was a great mix of classic tango and modern interpretations. It has been said that I am anti anything new in the tango world, well the music that was played proved that wrong. There was a tanda of pure electronica in the middle, but I am not complaining that would be really churlish, after all, the rest of the music was excellent, and all the nuevos here were in the majority,.

Early on there was a tanda of Pugliese but I quickly realised that this was not Pugliese playing, unfortunately I never found who the orquesta where. Maybe Colour Tango? I asked the organisers but it was too late in the night so I never found out.

I enjoyed myself and danced with many women most if not all enjoyed dancing close, but I did have to ease my embrace slightly for one or two, still it is all experience. I have however one criticism; the same one as always, what is wrong with the men? The men probably outnumbered the women by about fifty percent, yet they were often sitting down when women were waiting to dance.

Viv did not get a dance unless she went up to the men and asked them herself. Of course she soon got bored with this and that truncated my evening somewhat.

Many years ago it was with this same group that we received criticism for always sticking together, but fair is fair, if nobody will dance with Viv (and she has after all brought a man with her) then why should she sit alone waiting?

We followed this a couple of days later, with our first practica of the year and again I was not expecting much; I had one reply to all my emails and was expecting one other, both men. As eight o’clock passed the two men arrived, then nothing.

At about quarter passed a regular couple arrived helping me out just a little. Then we were rescued by the arrival of two women and for once we were even numbered.

My artist of the night was D’Arienzo as I think his catalogue is great enough that he can stand alone. Unfortunately I kept getting requests for Otros Aires, though, it was my own fault, as I had told everyone that we were going to see them this Sunday.

Coming, soon my report from the Assembly Rooms Prestiegne and how we finally got to see Otros Aires.

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More on close hold

New Year is a good time to relax and enjoy the company of friends. We had been at a party, where we danced in the New Year. After we had helped to pack away we drove over to Chester where we had been invited by Tom and Kwai of Clan Cuban

I think it was meant to be more dancing, but we had arrived late so we just sat drinking and talking dance. As you will by now gather from this blog, I can talk a good dance, even if I do not actually dance it that well.

Talk inevitably got onto close hold and what Tom calls the choo choo hold. I think Tom finds it useful as a means of conveying, not only the move but also the lead. Kizomba despite its similarities is quite different to Tango and the way the embrace must be allowed to open is more akin to Nuevo tango than the more traditional tango I love.

Still though, this practice embrace can have its uses in tango teaching, but only as a means to an end.

I can see no benefit in teaching a class the whole time in practice embrace and then telling them to dance close hold. If you want to dance close hold, then the only way to learn is to learn in the embrace.

Tom, who has been teaching some time now comes up with a lot of things that I find useful for tango, even though, as yet, he does not dance it. One thing we talked about was the problems with close hold, and the difficulties people have with it.

I am not quoting anyone here but the ideas have sprung from the conversation that we had, so I will offer credit for them, but any blame (if anyone should choose to disagree) should all be upon me.

British men have a problem holding women. Not a sexual problem, but to hold a woman very close in a non sexual way, I think is alien to them. So when they first come to close hold dancing they are uncomfortable, to get that close is seen as something sexual. This is transmitted to the women, who will see it as either being too fresh or just creepy.

We all need time to adapt. The men need time to get comfortable and to not get aroused. The women need time to relax and understand that this is just a warm comfortable place to be, and most of all we all need to understand that this is nothing to do with the mating game.

Only by spending the whole class in close embrace with several partners can we ever become more used to this. I honestly believe that it is harder for us men to adapt, why? I do not know, but women seem to me to be more comfortable in close bodily proximity than men. This is why; I think women are more able to dance together than men, and why it has taken so much persuading to get men to dance with me.

So I believe that once we men get comfortable with the close embrace the women will just melt into our arms, and what joy this can bring.

Women who find the close hold uncomfortable, I believe have their views coloured by dancing with men who themselves are not comfortable. Men who are not comfortable are so because they have never experienced a true embrace and uncomfortable women will not give it to them.

So it is up to those of us who have spent time with tango and other close dances to share our knowledge and joy with others.  When the world can all enjoy a hug and a smile, when a man can embrace a woman with a love that is not sexual and we can all take to the dance floor with a joy and a desire to share with our partner a love of the music, then I think we are well on our way to peace and nirvana.

Finally can I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year? Felicidades y Prospero Año Nuevo a Todos.

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