Tag Archives: classes

Por Una Cerveza

We tried again to buy an occasional table today. After wandering around the shop again we just ended up taking measurements. I guess it has to be just right or not at all. Perhaps we will try again tomorrow because this is turning into an epic.

The internet is a handy thing; I looked up La Continental and found all the restaurants that they have in Buenos Aires. This made it easy to pick somewhere to meet Janis close to Lo de Celia and the E line for us. We wanted to have a quiet meal together. Well it would have been quiet but for the kids party upstairs, the traffic outside and the garbage disposal teams who for some reason were hounding us today.
When Viv an I arrived the waiter got confused because we only wanted coffee while we waited for our amiga.
Then he got more confused when Janis came and we ordered the drinks, yes, the whole beer bottle was for me. So he then had to go back for Viv’s drink, while Janis sang Por Una Cerveza. Please would all Carlos Gardel fans accept my apologies, it was a spur of the moment thing. Our waiter did it all in good cheer though. He was even quite amused by the fact that I could not find my money and then asked if Janis had running shoes on.
It has got quite cold now and we are, as usual, unprepared. You see our apartment is so warm as it is north facing. So when we go out we never expect the cold. Our walk down Entre Rios with Janis involved much huddling up and when we left her by Lo de Celia we all but ran to the subte. At least underground it is warm.
I have never used this subte before, so I asked the nice policeman which way is el centro? I knew we wanted to go the opposite direction, but he didn’t. So he chased after us and I had to tell him we wanted Boedo.

Our class was again stressful. I think joining a group class was always going to be difficult as they are going over things that they have done before but we have not. I think it warmed me up though because I never felt the cold on the walk back.
Having eaten out once we did not feel like stopping in Murilla again so we just carried on. My idea was to buy a beer in the supermarket and drink it in. Neither of the local supermarkets was open, it must be some sort of Chinese conspiracy. The kiosco across the road did not sell beer either. So we tried for dark chocolate, to make a submarino. Nope! either that or no entende. Either way hot chocolate was out as well.

I must also apologise to our neighbours, Viv decided to put the washer on when we returned. We did not realise how noisy it would be. Sorry!

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Medrano and boxes

All the walking and dancing is taking its toll, so we are looking for an easy night tonight. There is a new milonga only three or four blocks away and we thought we would check it out.

Even though it is on a different street, it is near enough to La Catedral to be a back entrance, so on our explorations today we thought we would just check. When we found it, it was very close, but I was satisfied it was not the same building. The organizer was standing outside putting up a poster, so we asked him about tonight. It got confusing when Viv asked if it was Nuevo “We opened in August” he said.  So instead I asked if there was any electronic. He explained that they have live music, some demonstrations and almost exclusively traditional music.  So let’s see what happens tonight.

We walked further down Medrano and we found many furniture shops. Finally we found a headboard, we will have some way to carry it, but it is just what we want. We had to leave a deposit as I did not have enough money on me, but it will be finished (as in coloured) by Friday when we can pick it up.

Towards the far end, or beginning, depending how you look at it, we found a shop that dealt exclusively with plastic boxes. You would think that with so many different boxes there would be something that we wanted but not this time. We walked to Easy on Rivadavia and found a box that was just what I wanted. When we went to the check out a woman barged in front of us and stuck here purchase in front of the checkout girl. Viv was fuming, I must be getting docile in my old age, the old me would have thrown my box at them and stormed out, instead I just shrugged my shoulders.

We saw a “sevicio de lunch“ on the way down but never saw it on the way back, so we walked to Corrientes and Delicity where we bought some tortilla, pan and some bottles of pomello. Then it was short walk back to Plaza Almagro, one of our favourite spots to just sit. We finished the afternoon eating, drinking and reading in the late afternoon sunshine.

When we got back we panicked, we had not measured the headboard. I called the shop it was good chance to practice my telephone skills and fortunately I did not have to try and tell him it was no good. My fears were unfounded; it would be a perfect fit.

Philippe was calling round for a catch up, so it was good chance to try “cooking” the Argentine way. We went to Coto and bought a cooked chicken a bow of chips and some batatas fritas (fried sweet potato).  Philippe provided some Champagne and we had a chance to try his new glasses. We also drank some quilmes negra. Champagne maybe alright for the French but we know what we like.

Talk went on and Philippe was interested in the new venue we would be trying, so he said he would come there with us to check it out.

At the door he had a long talk with the doorman, he is looking for lessons and this would be ideal as they have a tango class and a milonga class before the Milonga starts. We said our goodbyes and he was off into the night.

Now we come back to Argentine ish time; the guide said it opened at 2000 the advert said 2030 we were there at about 2220, but still it had not started. At least the entrada was only twenty pesos good value in these inflationary times. The organizer said to sit anywhere and he would arrange the tables when the class was over. We did not have to wait long and we had an excellent table right at the front of the floor. While it operated as a milonga, it was ok. A very young crowd, so we would not get dances with locals here, still we had come for a quiet night so that was ok.

Before long , the live band came on and unfortunately it was not to Vivs  taste. It was all more or less cancion and it was a bit on the disorganized side. They would have a demo then the floor would be open, then another demo. We kept getting trapped on the far side of the floor. After one of these occasions someone had taken my chair. Now there is a golden rule “In the milonga you are given a seat for the night, it is yours alone” I looked around for a replacement and fetched it from the back of the room. I dropped it for effect, knowing it would create a stir. It did, the lady on the next table came over apologizing profusely.

Well we wanted a restful night and we got one. It was entertaining watching all the dancers trying to outdo the demos on a crowded floor. The woman on woman dancers who did not have the power to stop people pushing them out of the way and the Tango singer who kept telling jokes that went way over our heads. We did not get a lot of dancing done and we only had a short walk home.

I think this will not be one of our regular haunts, but, maybe if we are tired again one night, we may be back.

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Something Has to give

Well I am not complaining (maybe a little about work) but with all the calls on my time, in the end, something had to give.

So this Thursday we missed our regular social dance at Saltney Social Club. It  was a shame , but with having people here until seven-thirty and not yet eaten. It was nearly nine by the time we were ready to go out. For those who do not know, it goes something like this; Eight thirty, start dancing, Nine thirty break, Ten start again and eleven finish. We would have missed the first half completely and for just an hour of dancing, well I could not be bothered.

We had had a good day of classes here and some tango practice of our own, so we were not devoid of dancing all together. But by the time it was all over we were probably too tired anyway. So I finished off a bottle of Bailey’s and we had an early night.

We got some tango in over the weekend though. We had arranged to take our caravan to a local Rally that was mainly about dancing. Local, really is the word here, it was across the road from my workplace.  They had asked us to give them a demo on the Saturday night, so only too pleased, I agreed.

We had the opportunity to practise in the afternoon, so we knew the floor and what we could do. Viv, who really is coming out, spoke to them about what tango is and why it is so different from Strictly Come Dancing. We gave them a Tango (Champagne Tango, Di’Sarli) a vals (Pobre Flor, De Angelis) and , my favourite milonga (Yo Soy de San Telmo, Di’Sarli, again). In the end they gave us rapturous applause and everyone seemed to enjoy our little demo.

Hopefully we can get a  few converts from this sequence crowd, if not, at least they now have an idea of how they tango in Buenos Aires.

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Beginners?

When do we stop being beginners? Can we ever stop learning in tango? When do we become advanced enough to teach?

All these questions I am constantly asking, and I am afraid I have yet to come up with a definitive answer. I myself have been dancing tango for more than ten years, nearer fifteen. The fact that I cannot even put an answer on this, I think, shows what a protracted journey it has been for me.

Even after all this time I still feel like a principiante when in the crowded and well organised milongas in Buenos Aires. The porteños have tango in their blood and understand that there is more to this dance than steps, or even the dance itself. They learn the music first, how to move to it comes only with time.

Yet here in the UK, I see people who take six months of classes and then think “I can teach this”, I see ballroom teachers whose only experience of tango is from a book, teaching steps and choreography, and I see DJ’s who think that it is clever to put something on other than tango (after all it is four-four time).

I am moved to write this after comments about people learning steps, who are considered to be no longer beginners. To be more than a beginner you need to immerse yourself in the music, you need to feel the hearts and minds of the greats like D’Arienzo or DiSarli and you need to be acquainted with the milongas of Buenos Aires.

So to me those who learn routines and dance steps will always be beginners. People who learn to dance this way cannot know the joy of a pure improvised tango and until they do they will not understand.

I have seen people who have learned steps come to Buenos Aires and stand confused and unable to move in the milongas. They take a step from their routine and find that they cannot make the next; they find themselves barged and pushed to the centre where they can do less harm. Unless they are prepared to start afresh they will leave disillusioned and look elsewhere for their dancing experience.

While I am happy to teach what I know and pass on my experience, I still lack much of the knowledge needed, even after all this time and as others will tell you, I still have trouble identifying the music.

I see tango watered down all the time, as more and more people come onto the scene, all wanting to make a buck from the new sensation. The only person I know of who ever became rich through tango was Francisco Canaro, and much of that was from cheating his fellow musicians. Nobody is ever going to become rich teaching tango in the UK, the most we can hope is to cover our costs.

To teach tango here for any other reason than the love of it, is cheating yourself and your customers.

The other great “mistake” I see is teaching for its own sake; how often in this country do we get a milonga without a workshop first? We see three or four hour classes with half an hour of practice. To my mind this is all about face, when we go to Buenos Aires we will take maybe one or two classes, but dance three or four hours a night, every night. That is a ratio of about ten to one, hours dancing to hours in class.

You will never become a better dancer by listening to someone talk, the only way to improve you dancing is to dance and dance some more, then go back and just have your dancing fine tuned a little each time, then dance some more, (In the words of one of my dance teachers “Practica, Bob, practica, practica, practica”).

You could, of course, just keep going and learning steps, but then you will be learning something else, not Tango.

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Andrew and Carole

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.

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Blame Culture

I blame the teachers, the women blame the men and the men blame the women.

Why do we do this, constantly tell each other what we think their faults are?

Tango is a conversation between a man and a woman, I ask you to step here (with my body) and occasionally you will not hear, then my job is to find you and try something different, not accuse you of not following.

If I speak and you do not hear, then surely I need to speak louder or just rephrase what I say.

When we first step onto the floor with a new partner, we must first learn how to conduct this conversation with each other, then we must find the level at which we are working and then we must listen to the music.

What we should never do is that step I learned last night with someone who has no idea about what is to happen and we have no real idea how to lead it and then blame our partner if it does not work.

Do you recognise this scene? “I wanted you over there” “but I don’t know what you want me to do” “Just put your foot there and I go this way” and on it goes.

This is not Tango, I am sure that the women hate this. The dance floor is for pleasure, not teaching, and who says you are teaching it correctly anyway?

I too am guilty of trying new moves on the dance floor, but, importantly, if the woman does not get it, I will try my hardest to not let her know, because if my lead were right she would have got it. Of course I do not always succeed and I get apologies from the women, what I really want is to be able to lead the ladies to do something they have never done before, for them to enjoy the dance with me and to simply be. I do not want apologies, learn this if nothing else “It is not your fault” when we talk with our bodies the tongue will only get in the way. The reason we have (usually) three dances together, is so that we can learn to communicate and, hopefully, by the last dance move in unison.

We learn tango here, by rote, we learn moves, never do we allow the men free movement and simply teach them how to lead. So we learn a new move, some get it quicker than others, so every other person in the room becomes teacher. Some confidently believe they know what they are doing; tell their partner the wrong move who then passes on to the next, to be told something different. Is it any wonder that some become so confused that they give up in frustration?

Many years ago I spent two weeks learning nothing but Ganchos, we were just beginners yet all the women in the room, who had been dancing longer than me (ie most of them) tried to bully me and told me I was useless. It nearly killed my tango off there and then. Yet when I danced with Viv it simply worked. I believe this was because we understood each other and how we moved. The women in that room did not understand (neither did I at the time) and had never been taught, that before we learn a move we must first learn how to communicate with each other.

Every tango is different, just as every tango dancer is different, so why do teachers strive to make us conform? Of course there are rules, but do we all need to have our arms in exactly the same place or do ochos in exactly the same way.

Constantly changing partners is something else that breaks this bond. I am not saying we should dance with the same partner all night, but I am willing to bet that almost every one of you has struggled with some move, with a particular partner and just at the point where you think you will get it you hear “change partners”. Sometimes we need a little longer to find each other and discover what a move holds, but reticence to change partners is seen as a weakness, when in fact occasionally it is exactly what every one needs.

I believe that this is just a ploy to make us spend more money, the more complex the moves the longer it will take to learn them, the more stylised the pose the more we can be manipulated to believe that we need more coaching. This goes on until we get the ridiculous situation where here, classes outnumber actual dances ten fold.

I could (if permitted) attend a class almost every night of the week and yet be lucky to get more than two dances a month. The danger is that we forget why we dance. Dancing is a social event a chance to meet other people to have contact and just enjoy. If you just want more night classes try flower arranging at least then there can be no one to blame but yourself.

We have developed a culture that gives free reign to the Tango fascists, I am sure you have all been subjected to the perfect dancer, who can do no wrong yet every thing you do is hopeless. It has happened to me, fortunately I have been dancing long enough now to be able to turn the tables, but I can well understand how newbies can be intimidated.

There is only one answer to these people “shut up and Dance or leave the floor”

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Apologies

The problem with writing anything on the web is once it is said there is no turning back. It seems that I have said something to offend, nobody will tell me exactly what, but drawing from what has been said to me, I think it is this:

But apart from a bigger better scene I would like it to be more authentic; this is not to say there is a problem with the teachers we have, but only someone who regularly visits Buenos Aires can claim the label “authentic” and I know of only two other places in The UK where this is true.

If I appear to have said that there is anything wrong with the teaching here, or in any way offended anyone, then I sincerely apologize. I owe a lot to both Sharon and Atilla and would not want to suggest that either there is anything wrong with their teaching or that I could do a better job.

What I do want to do is to supply a bit of Buenos Aires feeling, I had hoped I could continue doing that in the present classes as well, my bridges now unfortunately are burned so that will not happen, I just hope that we can continue to be friends.

We are none of us perfect and I know my writing can at times be misunderstood, that is my problem, I know. But what I always ask is, if anything offends, or is in any way inaccurate please comment or email me (address in contact) and I will try to redress the problem.

I will of course continue to write in my own way, some will enjoy it, others hate it, and most will probably ignore it. But one thing I want to emphasize, I never mean to cause offence and I have been known to pull a whole post just to keep the peace.

So I say to any of my readers “don’t get angry, get even” OK not even just tell me what bothers you and I will try to put it right.

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