Tag Archives: Chester

Of Mice and men!

You can only do so much planning, in the end, luck and experience decide how your day will go.

I knew it was a tight schedule, to do a demo at a tea dance right after a night shift, but the way my shift worked out it was the only way. The crowd at The Lache had repeatedly asked us, so we had said that as a Christmas special we would give a demo. I will be working when they have the Christmas dinner so this week was my only chance.

We had practiced,carefully chosen the music and then saved it on a CD-RW. I had spent a lot of time over the music, I wanted something more exciting like D’Arienzo, but as we had milonga and Vals I agreed with Viv and we instead went for the beauty of Poema and Canaro, for the Vals it just had to be Pobre Flor and Alfredo DeAgelis, while for the milonga we again chose Canaro  and Reliquias Porteñas. 

Our clothes had been carefully prepared and were waiting on hangers in suit bags. All the preparations done Viv had moved everything into the car, all I had to do now was get up and showered. Waking from a night shift is never a pleasant experience but with half an hour to get out, I showered shaved had a sandwich and we were soon out on the road.

We arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, just time to do a sound check and set up ready for people to arrive. (although I cannot get here regularly, Viv has become part of the crew and collects the entrada and gives  out the raffle tickets).

I put my disc in the machine, then disaster, “no disc” I took it out again and tried it in the other tray “no disc” cleaned it, tried again “no disc”. Tony tried the disc I had given him with tango tracks on, that played fine, but I could not make him understand how this would not work for us. Quite apart from now wanting to dance to Poema, his disc had no Vals or milonga on it. There was no choice but to rush home and get the originals. This of course meant I would get no warm up dancing done and quite possibly miss the tea, still it had to be done.

As I left the A483 exit, I had a sudden panic; Viv had locked the house and I did not have the keys. Fortunately though she had thrown them in the tray in the car, so panic over I set about finding the discs. I do not normally use the discs, as all my music is now on computer and I simply play from lists. It took me some time to find what I wanted and then had to choose another milonga. At great risk of receiving a speeding ticket I arrived back with five minutes to spare.

The most difficult part now was letting Tony know which tracks to play as we now had three separate discs. All went well until Pobre Flor, the D’Angelis CD was a double disc and I had given him the wrong one, it took three attempts to get the right track. It was my mistake but I had at first blamed Tony, he, fortunately is so laid back, it never bothered him. Everyone seemed to enjoy it even though it was not like Strictly, but Viv had left the following introduction on the tables:

During the tea break Bob and Viv will perform a small demonstration of Argentine Tango.

The type of tango you may have seen on “Strictly” is called Show Tango. The couple are taught a routine which they then practise over and over until it is perfect. This type of tango is not generally danced in Argentina, except in shows for tourists.

The type of tango Bob and Viv dance is called Salon Tango, which is purely an improvised dance, no routines are ever learnt, Bob makes it up as he goes along and Viv has to follow. Viv never knows what Bob is going to do next (unfortunately Bob doesn’t know what he’s going to do next either). This is the tango that is danced in the clubs in Argentina.

I got a lot of questions like; do you really not know what you are going to do next? and of course, How does she know what to do? By now you, of course know the answers, but one for which I did not know was; What is that funny thing she does with her fingers, is it some kind of communication? I was asked this more than once. I guess it must have been nerves, though  I never noticed when we were dancing, Just something else for us to work on I suppose.

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Anthony

Those who know me will attest that I am not a fan of facebook, but it does have its uses. When you can filter past all the dross about farm worlds and kingdoms, and how Suzie is changing a nappy and Sam is drinking a beer, there are some good ways to keep in touch.

So I ignored my normal reticence and set up a group for our Gresford Practicas, not that many who come actually joined. What I can never understand though, is why people who have no intention of coming still join the group. Yet sometimes it can re-ignite old friendships.

So it was that Anthony (who used to teach tango in Gobowen and Chester) got in touch with me via the group.

We had a long exchange of messages and eventually I was able to accept his invitation over to see him and his boat.

We set off on a glorious day and I was happy to be able to take my little sports car down a fast and bendy A525 with the roof off. The final road to Overwater Marina is still new and dusty and at quite low speeds I was able to provoke my little car into going sideways leaving a cloud of dust behind us. As you can imagine, by the time we arrived I had a grin from ear to ear.

We walked up to the reception area, with the intention of using the toilets and then having a coffee before seeking out Anthony. Things never go as planned though, as we walked through reception Alex was working at the desk. We greeted each other warmly and she said she would phone Anthony to say we were here.

After the now obligatory greeting we were given the grand tour of the Marina and also the lovely boat Equinox. My personal taste is for off shore vessels, but the standard of interior trim was exceptional, and I could imagine this being a very comfortable home.

Back at reception we sat for nearly two hours talking over coffee, catching up on old times and new. The subject came up, of course, of his leaving Chester and Gobowen tango. This is not a subject for discussion here, but in light of recent events, you can guess which side I would declare on, but I will, for now, keep my council. For now there is little hope of an Audlum tango scene emerging. Although I understand Anthony and Alex’s search for a venue did make all the local papers, it is too small a town to sustain a tango scene yet and Equinox does not have enough floor space for a practica.

The corporate stuff they do still goes down well, but as is the way of these things, too infrequently to sustain them permanently. Anthony is working in IT and Alex still doing keep fit stuff, on top of this the work at the Marina pays the rent and keeps the wolf from the door. They both look contented with their lot, living on a boat looks like a stress free existence, but as I told them “The first twenty years of Marriage are the worst” so after two and a half years they should be fighting like cat and dog, instead they looked very happy. There must be something in the water.

Before we left we managed to extract a promise to visit out little practica and to stay in touch, then it was time for another fun drive home, with the roof on the car this time.

After living in a tango desert, I will always be grateful to Anthony for bringing tango to this area, it is a shame it all ended in animosity, because I still believe that, like myself, all he ever wanted was a flourishing scene here.

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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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Second Bangor Tea Dance

It had snowed all night, but it was not heavy enough to stop us. We had arranged to take Katerina with us, and I had joked to Viv that if she tried to cry off, she should tell her it is far worse in Siberia.

We had allowed plenty of time and as we travelled along the A55 we realised that we would be quite early, so against my instincts I tried to drive slowly, but we were still three quarters of an hour early outside Penrallt Baptist Church. We still had a parking place to find, but this would not take long.

As we turned the first corner we passed Sharon walking up, she had not yet arrived herself.

When we got in my first job, as always, is to make Viv a coffee (hang on, wasn’t it me doing the driving?)  Anyway, Sharon was in a state of stress and not ready for us. She must have snapped at me because she apologized for it, rather sweetly later. I honestly never noticed, it must be because I have lived all my life in families full of women. The thing is I know I am of little use at times like this, so I made the coffee and got out the way, and ate the sandwich Viv had made me for lunch.

All the usual Bangor crowd soon arrived, along of course with Anna and John, always great to see these two, their energy is what I think keeps Tango Bangor going, along with them they brought Leo, who sat there happily googooing.

When the class started there was the usual excess of women so Viv was let out holding the baby. I don’t know who looked the most happy Viv or Leo.

This did not last though, as the class struggled to do double time to a Vals beat (there are a lot of absolute beginners here) Leo got fed up with a substitute mother and decided he wanted the real thing back. This sort of ruined my first dance with Anna, but I know my place in this pecking order.

As usual after the class everyone stuffed themselves with cake, and it was hard to drag anyone away from all the lovely food to dance. It also makes it very hard for me, still struggling with my weight, though I admit to partaking of the odd crumb or two. Ok a big slab of chocolate cake and coated end of the chocolate Swiss roll. Somehow I always seem to drop a pound or two whenever I fail, so I am not too upset at my lack of discretion.

Soon enough we were all dancing, one or two of the first timers were a bit nervous as I took them on the floor, but I was gentle with them. I find it incredible here that people who have never danced before will stay and enjoy the social afterwards, and the men will actually ask the women to dance. There is hope out there with our student generation.

Bangor is unusual in the dance scene, in that as it is a University Town the crowd tends to be much younger than in say, Chester or Shrewsbury. Although they are, or maybe because they are younger they are full of enthusiasm and lacking any inhibitions. The fact that Viv and I are so much older seems to worry them not at all.

A great time was had by all and I am saddened to see that I must work the next one on 6th March, it was a good run but as any shift worker will tell you, you grab these things when you can.

On our drive home I was able at last to unleash the horses, that is, until the snow again pulled the traffic into another disorderly queue, with my wipers battling against the rising spray.

We had to get home you see, because we were out again at Ewloe social club that evening, for the Finches the dancing never ends.

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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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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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