Most life changing events happen after a birth or a bereavement.In my case my life as a dancer started after the death of my Father.
I first started dancing in 1994. My Father had died the previous year and despite my mother still being alive we had been left a small amount of money. I was into sailing at the time and wanted a new dinghy, however as my Father always loved his holidays and out of respect for him we decided instead to have a Christmas break.
We booked a Hotel in Cyprus, little did we know at the time that winter holidays are almost exclusively the realm of the, let me say, more senior holiday maker. The hotel we stayed in was wonderful with a full entertainments program, but most of the entertainment consisted of dancing, something we had never done.
I was transfixed, every night, there were people, some of whom were older than my now deceased Father, who were dancing like Fred Astaire, and the thing that was keeping them young looked like the dancing.
By the time we returned home I think I was already hooked. I searched the local papers for a dance school. It was difficult to find a class to attend regularly as I work shifts, but I managed to find a Class that if we missed one we could have a Private lesson the same week. Despite all my efforts our teachers thought that I would never dance, but we persevered anyway.
By the following Christmas we could now almost hold our own on the dance floor, and we decided to return to Cyprus to surprise them all. Although they did some of the ballroom we had learned, we were surprised to see that at least half of the dancing was sequence. Which we had not learned, and so we were again disappointed, but at least we were on the floor occasionally, and we had made a start.
The following year we looked for sequence classes whilst still continuing with our ballroom. Our ballroom teacher was not pleased, he did not think very highly of sequence dancing, but we were learning for us not him. So we carried on learning the two until two years later when sadly Ken (our sequence teacher) died prematurely at just sixty.
We did not return again to Cyprus, the cost of travelling at Christmas was just too high, and I think now after so many years the old crowd will be mostly gone, but I would like to think that they would have been impressed at how far we have come.
About this time we discovered a Tango teacher in Chester. As we were now more capable and used to the mechanics of movement, we quickly progressed and soon we were wowing them with deep dips ganchos, Baridas, just about every move going, we had an awesome routine. The problem was, I could dance only with Viv and she only with me, there was no real lead. We thought this was tango, we were soon to learn that is was not.
In 1997 we booked a holiday with Danceholidays.com. We longed to share our love of Tango with other like-minded dancers. We were to attend the Sitges Tango Festival and dance with some of the greats. We had great expectations of what we could achieve there and believed we would be dancing as we had been doing, just better.
We watched bemused as couple after couple danced counterclockwise around the floor just like ballroom. This was our assessment to decide which classes we should attend and what we had seen up until now was nothing like our “on the spot” Tango.
Not unduly worried I would just have to adapt my routine so that we were moving around the floor. We danced for the instructor, and I thought we had done pretty well, but after we had done our piece the instructor said “very good, but it’s not Tango you will have to go with the beginners”. I was gutted, but he said that what we had done is choreographed, Tango is pure improvisation.
In the beginners class we learned that Tango is not routine, I also had to learn to lead and Viv to follow. Next I learned the basic eight (isn’t that a routine?) We got the hang of it and at the nightly Milongas we managed to dance despite the crowds. The teachers impressed us by doing a show at one of the Milongas and looked fabulous even though they danced with people with whom they had not danced before.
We met a nice couple there, Paul and Annette Holman, who put us up in their home the following week. Tango is the only community I have ever known where people put trust in complete strangers just because they dance Tango.
While we stayed with them they took us to all the London dance venues, and we had classes all over. I still did not get this Giro thing everyone was doing it, and it was assumed we knew what they were talking about.
When we returned home, we now needed some proper Tango, and found a guy called Frank Smith 1932-2009 in Manchester. After this we attended classes with Atilla Ting in Knutsford and Wilmslow, and workshops with more dancers than I can fit in here, but the ones that impressed us most came from this exotic place called Buenos Aires.
We have now danced in Sitges, Manchester, Northwich, Knutsford, Wilmslow, at the first Amsterdam festival in 1998, Barcelona, Madrid, London, Bylaugh Hall, but more recently we have travelled to Buenos Aires.
We first visited Buenos Aires in 2004, we were on a personal guided tour. The whole thing was a rush, there was so much to see and do. The guide we had took us to a different Milonga every night, classes almost every day, city tours, and out to an estancia. We came home exhausted, but with a determination to return and revisit what we had liked best at a more leisurely pace.
We returned again, and really enjoyed the city, at a more leasurely pace, but decided that this was enough, and after a tearful departure looked for somewhere else, cheaper, to holiday. We tangoed in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, but nothing compared.Twelve months later we again returned.
I loved Buenos Aires so much that I have returned there over and over, and we have now bought a place in Almagro.(Hopefully this will be the subject of a book if I can get it published). I have a huge list of friends there, whether they feel sorry for us or they really are that gregarious I will leave to others to decide. We now return at every opportunity and keep in touch with numerous people via email and skype whenever I am home. As can be seen from the photo above, they love a party too, I think that there were nearly thirty people at Viv’s birthday.
In Buenos Aires you can dance all day every day, on a good day there will be a choice of dozens of venues. On a bad day only three or four.(very rarely this few as I learn more, I find more venues, hidden sometimes only a couple of blocks a way) The choice is usually more about the people who attend, more than it is about the venue. For instance The Sunderland Club is just a basketball hall, brightly lit with little atmosphere, but it is very popular as the quality of the dancers is exceptional. This may be because it is out-of-town and not frequented by the touristas. But in truth it is very difficult to know why one venue attracts good dancers and another does not. (again as I learn more, I discover it is more about the DJ and his musical choices, the best know the music inside out and can build a tanda without reference to playlists or reference books)
Many times I am asked what is about dancing that I love. It is always difficult to say why you like a particular thing, but for me the greatest thing is what it has done for my popularity. I cannot overstate what it does for my ego when a woman asks my to dance or complains when I have missed her out. I will never win Come Dancing and I still feel like a beginner when I arrive in Buenos Aires, but here in the northwest suddenly everyone wants to dance with me and I love it. As can be seen from my posts there are enough things that stop my head getting too big, but whenever one lady asks for another Bob dance my heart is lifted and all the cares of the world are forgotten.
We still visit as often as I can afford, still amassing more friends as you can work out who from the posts, but what I am really waiting for is the day I retire. There will be a debate about how long we stay in Buenos Aires and how long at home, but you can be sure I will spend a lot more time in the city of Tango than I do today. My free time usually allows me to return around May, the time that this blog has been up and running does not allow for many trips to be chronicled but you can share my experiences in Buenos Aires if you go to Entries Tagged as ‘Argentina’. Please comment, what you all think is important to me and maybe with your suggestions my writing will improve.
After our next visit in 2006 I started doing a bit of DJing. At first I had little understanding and not a great deal of music. Never the less I had regular practicas at our house and the crown seemed to enjoy the atmosphere. Over time I have built up a huge collection of music, and just when you think I have every Orquesta out there we find out about a new one.
On our visits to Buenos Aires I am tested on my knowledge of the music and Orquestas, gradually over time I get to know them. I also scan the stores for more. There is always some music I do not have and I enjoy returning with my new finds.
Over time I have been asked to DJ at various events, they come and they go, but you can always ask where I may be next.