Tag Archives: dance

Tango in an age of Covid

We now live in an age of restrictions and cancelled events, so I thought it about time I gave my take on it all.

We had arranged our annual trip to Buenos Aires to coincide with the returning to Europe of the ship Costa Pacifica. These return trips are usually cheaper as they are classed as re positioning cruises. People had talked of “The Virus” but dancing every night in BsAs we gave it little thought. Even when we told people and they said we would get “El Virus” we thought little of it. We were off on a cruise for the first time in our lives, and we were going to enjoy ourselves.

The story of our eventual disembarkation you can find here 23 March The Journey Home. The whole story is told in blogs from 3rd March 2020. We came back to a world without Tango.

We set ourselves schedule where we wold clear the room and tango Tuesday and Sunday and sequence dance Wednesday and Saturday. Of course by the time we had decided to do this we had not sequence danced for almost a year. We had forgotten so many of the dances we had to refer to youtube in order to do them again.

Later on we started hiring Pulford Village Hall just for us to dance. It was in somewhat of a state as they were using the time to do essential repairs. We could not organize a dance due to the restrictions, but with just the two of us, we assumed we were within the rules and harming no one.

And so we managed to get some dancing, but little socializing. The local walking group was not meeting and the only interaction we got was in the shops.

Until we moved onto the next stage.

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Like falling off a bike

Or was that just like riding a bike? I can never remember.

We returned to our first sequence dance tonight. I had no trouble remembering the dances. That was the easy bit. The hard part was not kissing everyone. The great British stiffness is always in evidence here. You may shake hands, at a safe distance, of course. You may, if you know them really well, kiss the wives, but kiss a man, and you are going to get into a fight.

So once we started dancing it was just like riding a bike, once you are in the saddle, it all comes naturally. The first dance we ever learned was the Waltz Kathrin, so you would think that would be easy, but that was the only one where I went wrong.

Another thing it was hard to cope with was the fall in numbers. Ewloe has always been an older crowd, but we were shocked at how many have died since we left in November. Bruce had fallen off a ladder and ended up in hospital, I said it was better than falling off his perch, not realising at the time how many had.  Then there was Ron, we missed his 90th birthday, in January, and I still say he does not look a day over 89.

So I say goodbye to some old friends, in no particular order, Derrick, Eric, and Dave.

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Missing you all

It comes always at this time of year. I sit for hours reading my old blogs. Not just any, you understand, no, I read all the blog entries from my time in Buenos Aires. As I read each entry I am transported back for just a short while to the city of tango again.
Viv never really understands why I put everything down while we are there, but for me it is therapy. When I am missing the place most, all my experiences are there for me again. The more that I write the more I have to read in the times when I start to really miss the place.
All the characters are there and all my friends. Jantango is on almost every page. Pericles makes at least one appearance a trip and the wonderful people from Villa Crespo who attend Fulgor are there twice a week. Luba and Philippe, Juan and Mariela, Jose and Lili along with their dog Ochi, then there are all the milonga organisers and staff who always make me welcome, the list goes on.
I am sure I have missed someone out, but it is now the middle of the night and I should be working, so if it is you please forgive me.
All the idiosyncracies of the Argentine system that infuriate Viv (and even me at times) are there in the blog along with all the things that make me love the place as well.
This will be my longest time away now since our first trip, but I look forward to being able to spend much longer in our second home after next year, so the wait will be worth it. In the mean time I have things to do here, work to attend, walks to do, dances to go to and trips away in the caravan.Not forgetting, of course, our practicas and the now famous Gresford Tango.
It all brings colour to our lives, but nothing stops me missing you all and I cannot wait to see you again.
Hasta pronto.


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The Shame of a purist

There are rules in Tango. I believe they are there for good reason. This I suppose makes me a purist, some have even said a fundamentalist, but I stick to my guns. The Cabeceo or nod, is there so that Jonny foreigner is not embarrassed by being refused a dance and then having to do the walk of shame back across the floor. We do not dance to Cancion, because the tempo changes to suit the singer, not the dancer. Most of all we do not dance tango to non tango music, because it does not speak to us in the same way, and anyway, it’s just not Tango. These are the rules I stick to and the things that make Tango unique for me.

Sunday night was the fortieth anniversary of the day Viv and I met. I had struggled to find some suitable way to celebrate. It seems everywhere that was around then is either shut for good or just on a Sunday night.
In the end I elected to hire the services of a great local artist johnnydevents.co.uk and arranged a bit of a do at the local, The Red Lion Marford. He would be performing hits from the 70s to celebrate the era in which we met and married. By eight there was no one there, but then suddenly they arrived in droves. I had asked John to start at eight but he decided he would delay for half an hour while everyone settled.
OK, it was a strictly not ballroom night, but we did get in a few jives and there was a great deal of “chair dancing” especially for the “Time Warp”. It was a truly great night and Jonny D never let us down.
For his last number he did a special request “Yesterday Once More” an old Carpenters number that has a bit of special significance to us.
At this point there was a demand for the organiser of this fine evening to get up and dance. Now I am always eager, but Viv got up somewhat reluctantly. The question is, what do you dance to Yesterday once more. It ain’t Cha cha, or Rumba, not waltz, so I decided I would just do social Foxtrot around the room.
When I got up, I could not feel the quick quicks, the tempo was all wrong, so I just defaulted. We danced Tango, Tango to pop, fortunately there was no one there who would notice.
Jonny D performed beautifully. I swear there was a tear in Bob’s eye. You may think he is just an old softy, but I say it was tears of shame of the tango purist.
That’s my story and I am sticking with it.


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Ian and Claire

Sometimes you have to break your own rules, rules made for good reason but reasons change. Such was the case with Ian,he wanted to dance for his wedding.
The rules of Tangobob state that the basics must be learned first, nothing is routine based and the woman should not know what is coming and anticipate.
When someone wants to dance a demo with no previous and only a few weeks to achieve this, the rules needed a complete rethink.
OK the basics had to be learned, but there was no time to refine or perfect them. A routine of sorts was devised, basic though it was, it had to be kept simple as there was simply not enough time to learn anything complex. Then there was the ending, if Ian missed it then sure enough Claire was going to do it anyway.
My biggest worry was that it would all fall apart in the middle, I never really expected the leg wrap to work at the end. They had the music “Vals de Verano” by Alberto Cuello they just had to learn how it finished and hopefully all would be ok.
Most tangos are about lost love and sorrow, so I thought that this best suited the situation. Viv wanted “Mi novia de ayer” “She was his girlfriend now she’s his wife” I’m afraid she did not quite get the meaning. Truth is though I prefered the tune, but even though most would not understand the significance, I could not let them dance to my girlfriend of yesterday.
Anyway I have filmed it and I think that they did very well, let me know what you think (please be kind). Maybe, just maybe we will have some newcomers to tango.
We at Gresford Tango wish them all the best in their life ahead and I promise the dance was much better than Claire seemed to think it was.


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We were trying to get in touch with Jantango about timings. Americans and British have a different idea of what constitutes lunchtime, but we were unable to communicate by normal means. In the end we sorted it out via email but communicating this way takes forever.

When that was finally done,I needed to sort out my phone. So thinking it was just a matter of credit I set off to the local kiosco for some credit for my phone. Now I don’t know if my pronunciation has improved or if life in the kiosco has improved, but the sour faced man who usually serves me and refuses to understand had a smile on his face today. So I asked him “tienes credit, para Personal Light” “Si $20 o $30” he replied. That all went rather too well for my liking. In the Finch day it can only be good for a very short while.

Things started to go wrong when I tried to put it on my phone; The pre-recorded message came at me with machine gun speed, I just managed to pick out “press 1” as it came to me in a hail of Spanish. More machine gun talking then it stopped so I put in the key number. From the next deluge of Spanish all I understood was “disculpe” no mention of my $20. So I hung up and tried again, with the same result. One more try before I throw the phone out of the window, it never got to the press one. Now getting really annoyed I tried again, it all went swimmingly then “Disculpe”.

Obviously I was missing something, but I could not listen in while pressing buttons. Then I remembered I had Viv’s headset with me and it would fit my argentine phone. I did nothing different this time but it all worked fine. I guess technology knows when it is beat.

We set off to Jan’s place and waited for the 168. Funny things these 168’s all the same number but two different routes. Viv was pleased to see one coming our way, but upset when it turned off before it got to us. This was on the other route so was of no use to us.

So we waited, and after about 15 minutes a 168 came towards us. Everyone stood with their hands out, but the driver was not interested and drove straight past. Nearly half an hour passed before we finally got our bus.

We had to squeeze on, it was so tight that Viv’s bag got caught in the door and she could not move until a helpful gent extracted her. Progress was painfully slow Corrientes was a logjam. It took close on twenty minutes to reach Pueyrredon, we could have walked here in half the time it had so far taken us. Fortunately it speeded up a little then, but the whole journey had taken us about seventy minutes.

We had a lot of catching up to do when we arrived all helped along with good food and quilmes. Along with discussing the relative merits of aluminium and aluminum, polystyrene and styrofoam, and nappies and dypers. (dont ask). Time just flew and we were soon heading out again into the city streets.

We walked up to Jujuy. For those who do not know Jujuy is a continuation of Pueyrredon, these streets cut across the city and all the subway lines that run out from the city centre. In their great wisdom the city elders decided to build a subway line down this street, sort of an outer ring road subway. The first stations were opened last year and it now runs from Parque Patricios in the South right through to the B line. Whether they intend it to carry on to the D line or not I don’t know, but we are only interested in the B line for now.

The new station was beautiful and looked clean to me, although not to Viv’s house proud eyes, It was a great way to get across the town, even at this hour it was almost empty and we were at Corrientes before we knew it. In hindsight we could have walked from here as the subway on the B line was crowded at this hour, but we still felt more comfortable than we had on the bus earlier and it was certainly a quicker passage along the length of Corrientes.

Being Thursday we are off to Fulgor again. The numbers are down to a painful level and I asked one of the ladies I danced with if she knew why.She just rubbed her finger and thumb together in the international sign for money. This is not the first milonga I have seen with reduced numbers. I guess the economic situation here is really hitting home.
Viv is slowly warming up at last, we danced about three merengues and even a couple of cumbias. We did the chacarera again and we did it to Chacarera del Violin, some of you may remember dancing to this at Casa Gresford, or maybe not, but it is the tune that we use when we teach.


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Market Day

Inflation is hitting us quite hard, on top of all the extra expense of the first day. We also had to buy extra stuff while our cases were missing, so I thought today we would have a low spend day.
Viv’s answer? San Telmo market. I was not sure how this was going to work,go to the market and spend nothing? but long years of marriage have taught me it is better to go along with it.
We travelled down by subte again, and it was a chance to charge up my sube card. Somehow I knew this would happen “la tarjeta no funciona” the girl said. Looks like another trip to sube card central. I think it just times out with not using it.
Actually the trip worked quite well. We passed a lovely clothes shop and I realised that it is good not to carry my credit card with me.If it is good enough then we can return, if it is not worth the extra journey, then it simply is not worth it.
We wandered around the market stalls looking at all the tat. At the corner was a guy playing guitar. I watched fascinated, Viv said we should stop for a coffee. The cafe here had seats outside so we sat in the sun drinking our coffee and listening to great music.
Conversation moved to the arts, as it tends to in these situations and we discussed Van Goch. Viv said that after his lover left him he lost himself in his music. Now I am no expert, but I never knew he played. Perhaps we should tell someone. This could be the scoop of the century. Of course we fell about laughing. I got the feeling los locos extranjeros were disturbing the peace.
On the way back the boleteria was closed, so like everyone else we jumped the gate. This saved us another $5. So not a bad trip out, despite costing $40 for two coffees. It only cost us $45 we had some sun and a good laugh.
As it it Sunday we are off to Club Fulgor again and we set off for Villa Crespo. When we arrive we are once more welcomed, by the organisers the staff and most of the punters. Hailed once more as principe de Gales and even Maestro I feel like part of a family.
Viv is not fully warmed up yet, and although we managed a little cumbia she is not one of the locals tonight. We did do our first Chacarera though. It takes her time, but she will get there.
The numbers seem down to us, although most of the regulars are still here. One of my favourite old dears is missing, and I am unable to find out where Norma is tonight. I hope she turns up Thursday.
Just like at home, in a dance filled with locals of a certain age, they all start disappearing an hour before the end. So by Eleven thirty we were the only ones there. Ah! well time to trudge home to bed.

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Fit to dance?

Now I have never been a natural athlete. Even now when I am probably the fittest I have been for twenty years, you would not call me athletic.
There is however a fitness associated with dancing. It is a fitness unlike any other, it involves the way we hold our bodies up, the ability to move in a way unlike any other and a degree of flexibility that involves completely different parts of the body.
It must do us a lot of good though. Have you seen how many octogenarians are still dancing? It keeps them fit and active and it is not unusual to see men in their nineties still cutting a rug in Buenos Aires, and making us relative youngsters look positively pedestrian.
Recently we have had a new student here at Gresford, a tri-athlete no less. Now I know I would be a mess if I ever tried running swimming and cycling in quick succession, so obviously he is far fitter than I am. Never the less at the end of an hour’s lesson he is reduced to a sweaty mess. He says he never realized it would be so hard.
It does my ego some good to think someone who is so fit cannot keep up with me; I am tempted to say “keep up pussy” but then he may just challenge me to a triathlon in retaliation. Perhaps it is best I keep my mouth shut.

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A word that should be in the lexicon of English. Touchaphobia is a condition that blights the majority of the peoples of these isles. I have no idea why this should be but it is an indisputable fact.

When I attend dances there is a real reluctance to just get close. I see old married couples dancing as if they are frightened of catching some disease. Most of them have grandchildren, how they ever conceived is a mystery.

When I try to teach tango, I often find the women struggling to escape. To have someone so much in their space is an athema to them. They do this with their partners so to be this close to others is just too much.

To give an idea of what is expected I will often dance with the men. This gets a whole new reaction. A man being this close to another man, urgh!

As a child I barely touched my parents, we never kissed, we never embraced.

But you know it can be overcome, there is a cure. Tango eventually brings us all around.

Now I can hold a woman in my arms without any self consciousness. I can kiss strangers; I have even been known to kiss men when in Argentina.

The passion that comes with Tango, the love that comes from the Argentine people, will get to even the most touchaphobic in the end.

But to reach this nirvana we must dance close, pure milonguero style tango. It is no use pacing around the room with enough room to drive a bus between you. No good saying “I do Nuevo” and leading with your arms, and it will not do to step away to give your lady space to do an ocho. Once we dance in close hold, this is where we stay. You will get comfortable with it, we did, and if I can overcome touchaphobia anyone can.



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Felizes Pascuas

The heavy storm laden weather seems to be over. Today we woke to bright sunshine, and although sunny it was cooler. Perfect spring weather, except, of course, it is autumn here.

We had some sorting to do, everything needed to be cleared out of the corner where our new desk was to sit. Once that was out of the way we set out up Salguero to fetch it. Viv was worried about the weight and if we could carry it, but it was only a block away so I could see no problems.

As we walked up the street there was a distinct lack of shops open, we had forgotten that this was Good Friday we hoped that our furniture man had not. When we got to his shop the shutters were up but the door was locked. We stood for a while thinking that maybe he had not yet got around to opening, but we could see him inside working. There was not a sign of him opening so we knocked on the door,

He turned, so we knew he had seen us, then carried on. I have not mentioned before but he almost blind, his one good eye passes two inches from any document he wants to read. The he scans it one word at a time. So when we persisted, I think he had not recognized us until he came to the door.

We have come for our desk I said in my broken Spanish, “si” he said but wasn’t it Saturday. I gave him our receipt which he put under his scanner. He looked worried when he realized he had said today and then with typical porteno verbosity he started talking. I managed to get “polished” out of his words and “a couple of hours”. So we said “si si no problemo” but he carried on talking. We got “three o’clock” and something about wheels, still not fully understanding he started writing Guardia Vieja. Now I think I understood so we said Salguero Jeronimo 799 and gave him our phone number. He was kindly offering to deliver it for us.

We left it at that and returned to get ready to go out for lunch. We were to meet Pericles again today, it has become somewhat of a ritual, we meet for lunch when we arrive and coffee when we leave.  But before this Viv wanted to visit the Avon Shop.

As I have said before they do things differently here, no door to door salesmen, so Avon have shops, better in a lot of ways but it gave us a long walk. Of course it’s Good Friday so it is closed, at least we now know where it is.

After a two-hour lunch with Pericles for once it is us that is in a hurry to leave, our furniture man was bringing our desk. I was not overly worried as no one on Buenos Aires is ever no time, but still we had to go.

Pericles walked with us as far as Corrientes and we left him with a warm goodbye and hugs. We carried on down Salguero and I could see someone with a trolley just crossing Humahuaca. We were late and the poor guy had gone to our apartment and was now walking back. We turned him around and off we went again. “En Buenos Aires ninguna es temprano” I said he replied “Es Pascuas” as if Easter made any difference, but we had broken the ice.

I had always found this guy a bit distant but not it appears I had broken the ice. He was chatty and jokey as we struggled to get the desk in the lift and friendly and helpful as we put it in its new home. When I let him out of the building he left with cheery “Adios” so I said “muchisimas Gracias” he screwed his face up for a moment in deep thought “sank you erry much” he said. I have always liked the furniture he makes; now I like the guy as well.

A much later one tonight, we are off to Sin Rumbo in Villa Urquiza so unusually we were still in the apartment at nine o’clock. Outside a huge noise erupted, at first I thought it was just another over enthusiastic youth demonstrating the power of his car stereo, but it got louder. Then we thought someone in an apartment opposite was having a party, but it sounded more like the radio. (We heard talking). I stepped out onto the balcony and could see no sign, so I went to the bedroom and opened the blind to look up Salguero.

There in the street below was a car with huge speakers on the roof. Behind this was someone in a loin cloth carrying a cross followed by Roman guards. The guards were haranguing the crowd that followed carrying candles. After a few minutes they slowly moved on and we could hear them in the distance as they continued their own particular celebration of Easter.

We caught our bus out to Villa Urquiza then walked the few blocks to Sin Rumbo. The guy outside was having trouble understanding that we had no car to park, but soon we left him confused and went inside. Now normally I do not make a reserva, it is just too difficult on the phone, but tonight we had been ask to, to make sure we got a good table. Well we ended up further from the dance floor than when we did not make a reserve. Still I found it interesting watching the curtain at the entrance. It finished about a meter from the floor and it always looked like the legs were coming in first. I got free viewing of every well turned ankle and killer heel before their owners saw me.

Too far from the floor and too late at night we set off at one thirty for our collectivo home.

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