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Luck or design?

It has been said that I am lucky to have a place in Buenos Aires.
Well it could be said I have been lucky: I chose my career path not really expecting to do any more than my parents. That is to have a family some day and a place to live. Ambition did not really kick in until much later.
So I never really pursued qualifications, more than the basics needed to do my job. As such I sort of cut myself off from any promotion possibilities.
I would have been content with social housing as well, but my then girlfriend was having none of that. She was not going to live in the area I was born in and she was not going to be satisfied with a council house.
So even before I married I had started to chase the money. In my first few years of marriage that is what I did, I chased the cash. This was, of course not the way to have a happy career, so in 1979 I took a decision that changed my life and took a job that looked attractive for its own sake. This involved quite a cut in pay and it was strictly no overtime.
Then the 80’s (The era of greed, remember?)kicked in suddenly not only did I enjoy the job, but the pay was now good and the overtime limitless. This period set me up for the future. We bought a big house in the country, got our daughter through college and I got myself financially stable.
When our daughter flew the nest it was time to throttle back. The crazy shift system I was now on ensured that I was on the highest rate of pay in the area, but left me with little time to do the things that I really wanted. The only way I could use the free time I had was to change my hobbies and have a wife who was not tied to a job.
So we danced, we had holidays abroad, but now the family income was reduced. I am not complaining, life had been good to me and so had luck, but when it came to visiting Buenos Aires it hammered my finances.
So the decision to buy in Buenos Aires was not taken lightly. In order to take the time off we needed we had to become a single income family. To finance the deal I had to sell everything of value, and we even traded down the house.
Again don’t think I am complaining, I am happy with my lot and am looking forward to my retirement with glee. But for anyone who thinks that it is only luck that gets you what you want, think again.
We all need luck, but if you really want something, sacrifices are necessary. If you are not prepared to make the sacrifice, then perhaps you really did not want it that much.

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When Dance Styles Clash

I have often said that the most difficult people to teach tango are those who already dance. Jivers and Salsa dancers use their arms and Ballroom dancers adopt a posture that really does not fit with Tango.

You can, of course reflect that back and say that tango dancers have a posture that does not fit in with ballroom dancing. This was the case with me this week.

We attended a new venue where they were learning Ballroom as it should be done. Unusually though for a ballroom venue it was very sociable, in that it was the norm to change partners (normally Ballroom Dancers only dance with their partners). John and Julie had done a great job in teaching ballroom and some sequences. My problem though was that every lady I danced with clashed legs with me. It was, of course, my problem, not theirs. They had learned the correct posture for Ballroom Dancing, Me? I now dance everything like Tango.

Still I never got any complaints, just the odd “Oh”.

So I must thank Jan for putting on a superb dance, John and Julie for teaching them all and everyone there (old friends as well as new) for making it such a great night. If I can fit it in with my crazy working life I will definitely come back.

As for the old friends, many were surprised to see us (The Tango Couple) dancing ballroom and the “new” sequences they had learned. Those of you who look at my what’s on page will realize we do much more than just tango. Life here at the edge of the civilized world is hard for a dancer, stick to just one style and you will be very deprived. We have, of course, been doing other dancing long before we found tango and the only way we can dance every night is to keep on doing it. (At least until we get back to Buenos Aires).

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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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You never Can tell

Well our Halloween event came and went. As often happens we thought it was going to be a disaster, with all our regulars away or injured. We had everything set up but were expecting no one. Even our regular friendly neighbour was away and unable to attend.

Quarter past eight arrived and there were only three of us, then, suddenly they all started arriving, all our friends from the past and irregular visitors.

Things were going well and then we got the trick or treaters. Perhaps we should have all gone to the door and given them a trick, but the blood soaked corpse that met me at the door was just another of our old friends. He had brought with him a birthday girl and two bottles of sparkling wine. OK so lets party.

I have just one complaint however; Viv was still cleaning up blood a week later.

In the end we had a dammed good night and for once some stayed for La Cumparsita (even though I had miscalculated somewhat and it was twenty minutes late).

We had a similar story last week, all the regulars could not attend but we still ended up having a great night.

It just shows, you can never tell. On a normal week we have less than a third of our dancers turn up. We have come to rely on the same few people coming every week, but somehow when they cannot be here others turn up as if by magic.

My pessimistic view that we will be all alone somehow never happens, but by the same token, they never all turn up together. Each week we have a manageable group, somehow, just enough for a party but never too crowded.

Just for a change I organised the music in milonga format. It posed quite a challenge organising the sheets to announce the oquestas but it was worth it for some variety.

The cortinas of “Thriller” and “monster mash” went down well as did “The Adams Family” and “Munsters”. These were all changed for last week but some, who have not been to a milonga before were puzzled by Nat King Cole in the midst of tango music.

Hopefully now educated they will return for more milonga fun, or even come with us to some far flung dances as we venture out to distant pastures.

You just never know.

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Good people

I danced with the lovely Carole last week, and as usual, when I dance with such a beautiful dancer, I was a bit nervous. Now at times I simply did not know what I was doing. Carole, however always seemed to know. I have this at times even with Viv, so how do you women always know what our intention is? Is it an instinct? Or is it something you learn in tango?

We men dance away, and when we reach a certain level, it becomes a given that the ladies will follow whatever we do. We need to take care of this, of course. It is not always a given. At some point, we could become so vague or indecisive that the lady will take over and just do her own thing; this happens all the time to me, by the way, when I try to salsa.

 

Back to last weeks dance. I am still not sure if I was taken to task or given a vote of thanks. You see some time ago I wrote a blog about this milonga, I wrote it with the full intention of never going again. I later met Jo in Wilmslow and she definitely took me to task.

I have the greatest respect for Jo, she came straight to me and told me that she did not like what I had written and said we should talk about it. She never held a grudge and has helped me see how far I should go. Not only that, but she took on board what I had said and she would, in future vet all playlists at her milonga.

So now there I was at last weeks milonga being thanked (or taken to task) for writing that blog and setting in motion the events that now allowed Andrew and Carole to regularly host this wonderful event.

Well, I cannot take any of the credit, for what is after all a great milonga. It is all down to Jo, Andrew and Carole. I am just a blogger, who stirred things up a little. You three did all the work.

 

So a week later we returned to the afternoon dance. It was a different DJ and a different feel. Still we enjoyed the afternoon although we did not stay for the “fish and Chips” afterwards. I find it a bit heavy on my stomach and the grease does me no good at all. Viv has had me on a low fat (low everything) diet for so long now, that I have lost my tolerance.

On the way out I joked that I would be slagging off the DJ here, he responded that he did not care as he does not read blogs. I was worried by this, as I still have memories of the last time someone said this to me. People do care; we all care what is thought of us. So if anyone reads anything here they do not like, tell me, comment, email, or confront me if it is that bad. I am not an ogre and have been known to pull a whole post when asked.

Who knows after a confrontation things could turn out as well as they have for Jo and the Croft milonga.

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The dance goes on

My work pattern has moved on, so for the next two weeks there is no practica on a Monday. This constant change in my working week is the main reason we do not do a regular class. I am also working right across the weekends so for now tango is almost non-existent.

Still we still have our private classes, and that brings some tango dancers to Gresford, and of course, Viv and I can still practice whenever we feel like it.

This does not mean we are devoid of all dancing; the local social dance scene flourishes during the mid-week. Ewloe and Saltney Social clubs offer a hearty welcome, even if sometimes we have to leave early for me to get my beauty sleep.

Steve sound runs the odd dance of his own as well, but these days I am not that disappointed when we have to have the odd night in.

All these social dances mean we will never lose our ballroom and sequence dancing, but they have been known to throw in the odd tango just for us.  Viv hates being the floor show, but for me it is just a chance to dance, even if the music is just a facsimile of Argentine Tango. There is a time for explaining and a time to put on a brave face and just get up and dance.

This does not mean I am going soft, just that these people will never be tango dancers, so while they will never understand how important the music is to us, at least they can see something of the social tango we do and how it differs from stage tango.

But of course this will never be enough for us, so we look forward immensely to the next practica on 19th September.

 

Just before I left for work tonight, I put on Kevin J Thompsons CD “Ballroom Dancing”. I cannot over emphasise how much he is missed on the circuit. If ever he thinks about again performing around here or even (transport me to heaven) reforming Sounds Easy, there will be and eager audience waiting. Anyone who enjoys dancing music should have a copy of his CD it is simply wonderful.

Kevin you were and still are peerless.

 

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Success?

How do we measure success? I have many talks with my neighbour about this. Success in life is not necessarily about how much you earn or the fame you achieve. It is more about how happy you are with your lot and how you make others feel.

So, how successful is our little practica? Well we certainly do not achieve great numbers, I make no money on it, and as far as I know its fame only spreads as far as my members and this blog.

The numbers thing is, I suppose subjective, but bear in mind that should we ever get higher numbers, indeed if everyone on our books turned up, we would become a victim of our own success. That is, my home would no longer be able to host the event, we would need to find a new venue and the price would inevitably go up.

Money or fame was never the objective, all funds are spent on refreshments and I could not cope with the tax implications of any profit. So why do we run it and more to the point why do people come?

For me just to have somewhere to dance and not to have to travel for once, meaning that on a night where I have to get up the following morning at five I can fall straight into bed.

But for others there reasons are many: For some it is the mere fact that it is small and intimate means that they can come and dance without ever becoming the floor show. For others it is that they can dance and practice without first having a class, and for yet others it is just a social event where the food, drink and conversation are more than just lubrication for the dance. For the true enthusiast of course it is that I am making an event as close as I possibly can to a true Buenos Aires experience. This alone justifies the time and effort that Viv and I put in.

The range of dancing experience in our visitors is huge, from decades to just a few lessons, yet we all just enjoy the dance. We have a rule that we stick to just two orquestas and that we all now who is playing, but nothing is set in stone. We have thrown in a bit of salsa, kizomba, meringue and have even been known to have a chacarera interval; you see the object of the exercise is for people to enjoy themselves. Not forgetting of course our cinema night.

The only fly in the ointment of all this is that I have to work nights. There are two weeks coming up where we will not be there. This has always been the reason we do not run classes, students do not respond well to long breaks. Still after this we will have an almost unbroken run to Christmas (only 14th November when I am on nights).

So what do you think? Success or not? I know what I think.

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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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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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Praise indeed

I have just recieved the following Email.

I feel humbled by such praise, but I thought I must pass it on.

Hi Bob,

I am writing to inform you that The Life of a Frustrated Milonguero has been featured on Guide to Art Schools’ list of the Top Tango Blogs, found here: http://www.guidetoartschools.com/library/best-tango-blogs. We hand-picked a list of our favorites and outlined the unique reasons why we love them. What a story! I just read “All About Me” and your story and history of how you came to be a dancer is both fascinating and inspirational.

I would really appreciate your feedback on our list. We have created a badge that you are welcome to use anywhere on your site. It is a great way to let your readers know you have been recognized. You will find it at the bottom of the list. Simply copy and paste the provided HTML snippet from our page to any place on your site.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
Cate Newton

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