Tag Archives: follower

Pant Milonga

I think word is getting out there.  It cannot be just the season, and the cold weather surely would have put some off, yet the numbers were up. Perhaps it was the offer of free bubbly to those who came with some sparkle, maybe it was Viv’s shoe collection, or maybe just maybe finally people are hearing what a good night we have when we all dance socially and in line of dance.

We arrived early to set up the shoe stall in the little side room. Viv added a little sparkle to the table in keeping with the season, but Sharon had arrived even more early, so there was little for me to do to help. (actually nothing, but I like to sound useful)

Soon we were into the dancing and it was just a whirl. I barely had time to breath between partners and Viv who complains that at other milongas she sits out too much said that she never sat down. She did have the odd break to attend to her shoes, but it left me needing to make an appointment to dance with her.

We still however get the odd one who tries to teach on the dance floor and I am afraid I was rather rude, poking someone in the ribs and saying not on the dance floor. Although many will recognise my frustration, I do realise that had that been me, I would have been incandescent with rage. The guy in question seemed to hold me no grudges, so I feel somewhat humbled.

I enjoy dancing with the beginners, they carry no baggage and will not try to do ganchos just because they think that is what I want.  I do not try to teach on the dance floor, but sometimes a total beginner will say to me “I am a beginner and do not know what to do” I always give the same instruction “always move alternate legs keep your body in front of mine, and let me worry about where your legs are” when things go wrong, as they inevitable will with a total beginner, I pass it off as my fault. Of course they don’t belive me but why ruin an enjoyable dance with retributions. This is supposed to be fun, classes are for learning, milongas are where we relax and enjoy.

Battery problems mean I did not get as many photos as I would have liked, but here is a selection, hopefully I can add more if people send them to me.

We finished with a birthday celebration for Dave, is he really almost exactly a year younger than me? Must have had a hard life. Obviously Alison does not look after him as much as Viv looks after me. Perhaps I should count my blessings more.

As always your comments are welcome, good or bad except for Dave who I have permission to insult with impunity. ( BTW  I only insult people I like, those who I do not like just get my killer stares).

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Endings

If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

 OK not that sort of endings, but the sort where you finish a dance as if you meant to, not where did the music go? And not, is it ever going to end? Good dramatic endings of course depend on knowing exactly when and how the music will end. This can only be achieved if you know the music very well, or the music follows a traditional pattern. Of course if it is traditional and you know the tune as well, then there can be no excuse for not finishing well.

Part of the Shrewsbury class this week concentrated mainly on endings, and we stopped over and over, looking at ways in which we could end dramatically and with style. For me though, it is the way that the music ends which will dictate how I finish, so that listening to the music and knowing it, is the most important part. I did practice all the endings I could think of, including my Bogart impersonation, and of course I had a chance to try some new endings as well.

The class started badly for me, I sat at the back with Dave talking tango as usual. Unknown to me there was no beginners and no intermediates just one long class, so as we talked I had missed some of the point. Dave and I were asked to join in as there was a shortage of men, and I had to ask what we were doing. Keep up Bob. We all did our own dance, and being me, I did lots of secadas. Sharon now directed us to lead the woman to do the steps we had done. This was an exercise in leading, as the women had not been taught the steps we were doing; we really had to lead it. Boy! Did I give myself a hard task, not one of the women wanted to come straight at me, and they made every effort to avoid me. As I have pointed out here before tango is about illusion and the most difficult part was to get them to do almost nothing, so I got no displacement and too much activity, I guess it did not look good. Fortunately this was only an exercise and would not be repeated in the dance, it gave me some food for thought though.

Things were not going well for Bob the expert, tonight, still they could only get better. A session of no side steps was next. Dave said something and Sharon said “does anyone else not do side steps?” Fool that I am I came to Dave’s defense, and my reward was to be told to do little else but side steps. It was all good practice but again I had made a rod for my own back. There are only so many things that you can do with a side step and very soon I was drying up.

So it was with relief that I set off for The Coracle again. Back in the bar I can talk tango and sound like an expert, without having to do too much. Again we hit on the subject of dancers who just do moves, no feeling no real lead and no musicality. So now we have a new name for them, they do stuff, so now they are “stuff dancers”

On Monday I was back to my confused sexuality, numbers were more or less even and I could start the class as a leader. When another man arrived I could stand out and watch, we were revising the back ochos, so I was not missing much. I was soon allowed to re-enter the class when another woman arrived. Realizing perhaps that I was not getting much out of it and Ali, who had returned, wished to lead Sharon suggested that we change roles. Now I suspect that Ali works out and may well be strong for a woman, but I know that as a man I am not the lightest of followers and was very conscious of the fact that I can sometimes give just a little too much weight. She seemed to cope well, but I think was as glad as I was when I moved on. Not let me hasten to say that I did not enjoy dancing with her. As a follower she danced well with me, and as a leader she also did well, the problem is with me, I do not carry my own axis well as a follower and prefer to lean against someone bigger. (I did think to say big men, but that sounded just a little gay).

Too soon again it was time to leave; I need my beauty sleep if I am to get up at five, but will be rested and ready before Saturday’s milonga.

If you enjoyed this, leave a comment. If you did not enjoy it, leave a comment.  All opinions are valued and without them I will only get bitter and self opinionated

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Roberta learns a lesson

We turned off the inner ring road in Chester, and looking to my right noticed only one car in Linenhall street. It is little known even to those who live here that there is unlimited parking for about five cars within the city walls. My father had worked in the next building, and that has given me an insight not usually given to those who do not actually live within a block of here.

The problem is how to get to it: halfway down the street I turn left into a street littered with parked cars limited to half an hour. About twenty yards further on I turn right again into an alleyway barely wide enough for my car. So tight I had considered folding in my mirrors first, but I managed to squeeze through without incidence. At the top there is a tight turn then free parking, oh the joy of local knowledge.

We leave the car and head across the road to Stanley Palace. We have returned here after a couple of years, happy to be back. The room is quite small and we have no bar, but there are no drunks to disturb us and we have no audience to put off the beginners.

Stanley Palace is a beautiful building over four hundred years old, a beacon in black and white standing incongruously amid the modern buildings that line the inner ring road. Inside, at the moment, is a disaster, the upstairs ceiling had collapsed and the repairs were underway. No simple nailing up plasterboard allowed here, lath and plaster had to be used, after all this is a grade two listed building with a unique history. If you want to know more about it go to http://www.stanleypalace.com/tudor%20building.htm  The room in which we are to dance is relatively unaffected by the work, although Sharon did have to put a lot of talc down as the floor had no slip.

As people start arriving it is clear that we are not going to have enough women again. More men arrive and we only have three women (not counting Sharon)

A tall guy called Peter arrived, I had seen him occasionally at the Groves but knew little about him, other than he danced well. Roberta was in full flight, some men still were not comfortable with the close embrace, but I simply cannot feel where they want me to be unless I am close.

In between dances I noticed that I stood with my hand on my hip, quickly I altered my stance to look a bit more macho. I love the feeling of being led, but that is as far as I go, I am definitely a woman’s man.

When it came to my turn to dance with Peter I shut my eyes and let him lead. I found myself doing things I have never done before. I am not sure what I was doing I just flew around the room. Later we did something that involved us both being off axis and it just did not work for us. It is something I have often thought of doing with total beginners to get them to feel dependant, but the two of us were not comfortable off axis, so that for whatever reason it did not work. Unfortunately he seemed reluctant to dance with me after this. I know I can be a lump but my following has only ever been with beginners and I welcome a chance to improve. I will never be a great follower, but to pass on my experiences best I have to know how it feels from both sides. I did persist and get some more dances with him; I will get better with time.

When the class was over I watched Peter dancing, he had the ability to get the beginners to do things I never could, it left me curious.

We had to leave early as I was off to work the following morning so we moved into the other room to change our shoes. Peter joined us and we talked for a while, I never got all his history but he knew all the milongas in Buenos Aires and had been going there and taking lessons there long before us. He knew dance teachers we had never heard of and all the area around our apartment.

The reason we did not see him regularly was that he was up on business, again I did not have time to question him further, I must rely on Viv to extract more information at a later date.

 I have just recieved the link to the photos that Sally took at Shrewsbury, from the post “Sally comes to Shrewsbury” Go here to see them http://www.flickr.com/photos/sallycatway/sets/72157622055524424/

Check out Carlos and his red baloon, just ignore the idiot doing an Eric Morcambe inpersonation. some nice pictures of Viv’s shoes as well.

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Still Frustrated

After a what has been a good period for me, the frustration of being the frustrated milonguero is returning, Despite more venues opening up, the opportunities for me to tango have dried up this week, never the less I got to Chester on Monday though it will be another eight days before I can dance again.

The class started with the usual chaos. I realise that for some (like myself) getting there on time is a problem, but surely some, could arrive on time. So I was in the usual leader then follower then leader again situation before finally being asked finally to sit out. I paid a bit more attention this week; Sharon was doing a giro class, but with a twist. Over the past weeks she has been teaching over led ochos, from here turning into a giro is an easy progression. I like this; it is rather neat and gets away from the back side forward side that is usually taught. It also helps the women from thinking, once I have led a giro then they must finish it.

Interestingly after the class, I was again asked about my lead. “Why do some men stop leading halfway around” my answer is always the same “if you do not feel a lead, then, do nothing”. Some women worry that it makes them appear a bit useless or that they don’t know what they are doing, well to put it simply ladies, if you do not know what you are doing, then that is because the man is not giving you a lead, and they will never learn if you do it on your own.

In the second class I was again to sit out, perhaps I should not have convinced Viv to come with me, at least before she came I could follow. I was however called to demonstrate occasionally, and when the class was over I was fresh and ready to dance.

While I waited I had a chat to Fiorella, who I think runs the place. I am always interested why an Argentine should not dance the Tango. It seems that at the time she was in school it was not taught and with her studies she simply never had the time. She also pointed out her funny ligaments that mean she cannot support herself on one leg; she can however bend her fingers right back. I am sure that this must be some sort of advantage, though I am at a loss to see what.

Sharon again played with the rhythms, this for me is a pleasant change from what I usually see, that is, more and more figures. The class is justified by the amount of people who still have a big problem with the Vals and an even bigger problem with the Milonga.

It is a shame that after the class, so many feel that they have to disappear, there is an hour in which to practice and there is no better way to improve than to just dance. The various rhythms will only be mastered with time and practice, to echo the words of my friend and teacher Jaun “practica practica practica” I am afraid he does not know much English.

It was hot again in The Groves and I noticed a few wilting, I think it is a ploy to make us buy more drinks. In truth I find it hard to believe that they can survive on the little we spend there so any extras must help. They will have to survive without my help the next two weeks as I must work nights, such is the life of a frustrated milonguero.

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Pobre Bob

Work commitments mean I can only attend one tango event this week, so in order to make the most of it we arrive early at the Groves.

As usual people arrive at the class in dribs and drabs, so one minute I am leading the next I am following, but as the numbers settle there is an even number of men and women, so I am cast aside like an old tissue. ( As Luba would say “pobre Bob”)

I sit watching the class with my glass of water, occasionally asked into the centre to demonstrate a move. It works well for Sharon and one time when she needs a follower there is a call from the class for Roberta.

It really is not my week because in the improvers’ class the same situation occurs. Viv often has to sit out and never complains so I suppose there is no room for me to complain either. After all I get my regular dose of tango every week one way or another. I learned a new saying off Jantango “basta la plancha” it is usually said by women who sit out waiting for a man to ask them to dance, often frustrated that some men are sitting down and they cannot get a dance. This is not my case by any means but I get the idea.

There is a couple who were in the beginners who watch the class and I join them to give some tips. Like a growing number here, they have been watching videos, and believe themselves to be at a higher level, I try to explain that you simply cannot learn to tango from videos. I have been to dances (even in Buenos Aires) where there are people who have learned from videos, and it is obvious the minute they step on the floor that they have not been taught.

When Sharon again asks me to demonstrate, I was not paying attention so first she had to explain the move to me, doubling her teaching. And when the call came for Roberta the same thing happened, still it kept us on our toes.

Then I was back to our beginners again, the idea that you can somehow lead by turning your head, is often taken from these videos, and while not the best practice, I advised looking at the woman. This way at least he would not turn his head and leave his body behind.

Soon enough it was practica time again, and I was in my element once more. I tried to restrict myself to three dances with each woman, and I think I managed to get around most of them in the hour we had. As always seems to happen  though I missed doing the milongas with Viv, not  I may hasten to add that there was anything wrong with the women I did dance with, it is just that for me there is something special about doing the milonga with my wife.

So while Viv will be attending the workshops at the weekend I must work nights, so that is my lot on the tango scene for another week. Hopefully I will be back to it next Monday.

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Good bye from Roberta

Sharon’s new beginners are coming on well. I joined the class as some of the ladies struggled with The Cross. I do not know the answer, but I think it is very difficult to learn when the man cannot lead and the woman has not yet learn to follow.  Perhaps more, more advanced dancers should join the beginners and help, this would bring them on faster and increase the pool of good dancers. But anyway I do not want to seem critical, all the ladies I danced with were coping well as this was for some only their first lesson, and at best their third.

In the improvers, again there was a shortage of women, and so Roberta had (his/her) farewell dance with the men. I shall be away now for three weeks, and I think the next class I can attend in Chester will be 6th June. Oh how those men will miss me! But seriously tonight we were doing secadas, and I am afraid some men have yet to grasp walking in cross, never mind displacing the weight.

I felt Sharon’s wrath again as I tried to explain, while she was talking. Fortunately she is a teacher first, and while she dealt with it at the time, she bears me no grudges. I think now that it is coming together, but my ability to show anyone what to do is restricted when I follow, I close my eyes. Again this is something we often ask the women to do, but for me it is doubly important, as soon as I can see, I try to lead. I did occasionally just reverse rolls however just to show how it should feel.

Everyone is expecting great things to come back from Buenos Aires with us, but for me it will just be a humbling experience. As I have said often before, the level and quality of dancing in Argentina far outstrips our small community here.

I will not follow in Buenos Aires and I will dance mainly with Viv, but hopefully, now our apartment is ours, we will have time to take in some classes this time.

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Confused

Not with the dancing, but about gender:

Monday was a strange day and not best suited to good tango. When I am in work I work a twelve hour day. Monday was no exception in that I worked until six. The difference this week is that the company are making some decisions around the credit crunch, and so we had a meeting to discuss our responses. I did not leave the plant until six thirty, only to be met with a horrendous traffic jam.

The traffic lights at the exit to the industrial estate had decided that they were not going to allow anyone to leave. So after a record shower, shave,  change, and eat my tea, we finally arrived in Chester at seven thirty five. (honestly I never broke the speed limit once).

Time now to calm down and enjoy. As published in my monthly list, this was to be a single class doing milonga. When everybody had paired up again there was a shortage of women. Roberta had to come to the rescue again.

People drifted in all through the class, it appears that no one had paid much attention to the schedule that Sharon had posted. This meant that soon I was sidelined again, then I was a follower, then sidelined, then a leader. This continued throughout the lesson. Finally I finished the class with Shirley, a nice way to finish.

We continued on with a practica until it was time for me to go home to bed. As always I enjoy dancing with all the women, but also it is nice to feel how they feel when I am following, it gives my dancing a whole new outlook.

Befor I finish, I must mention Patricia, she has just had a major operation. When Peter (her husband) arrived for his regular bandoneon practice, almost everyone gave him their good wishes. Anyhow it seems she is through the operation and on the road to recovery. We all wish her well and look forward to her return to tango.

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Deserted

OK so the title is over dramatised, but it was the best way I could think to describe that Viv has gone to Bournemouth for the week, to visit our daughter, and so I have had to find ways of amusing myself that are not that different from when she is here. So I am on the lash for a week (at least when I am not working).

In the Monday tango class I was again Roberta, as without Viv we had too many men again. This is fine by me, I can work on my following technique and at the same time help the men a little with their leading.  One thing I noticed this time, is that often when the man is intent on his next move they do not allow time for their follower to collect before they are trying to lead the next move. I got some odd looks when I did not follow, but they were more understanding when I told them I needed time .

I think that this is one of the problems with beginner classes that have no experienced dancers in them. Both partners are unable to get it quite right, and of course neither knows why.

Usually on a Wednesday, we head off for Ewloe Social Club to dance to Deryck and Geoff, this group is mainly couples, and I would not have much oportunity to dance. So for this week I decided to make a return visit to Gobowen.

It is a fairly small group of more or less even numbers. So when Sharon repeated what we had done Monday, I had the chance to do it all over as a leader. There was nothing new to me, but I have to admit, I still find it difficult to dance a set sequence on it’s own in a class. Some of the ladies were not happy that I wanted to dance into the move, and would not do it as a routine. They soon however got into my way, after all, their job is to follow.

Unknown to me, I think the maximun that any of them had had was ten lessons, and they had never come across anyone like me before. Once I was aware how inexperienced they were I was a bit easier on them. I was however impressed with all of them, I am not sure whether it is to their credit or Sharons, but praise is due to all.

After the class there was the usual practica, and we danced until just before ten, when the strain of the working day and being up from five AM finally got to me, and I left for bed. I did have one unusual request before I left; I was asked to dance as a follower because some one wanted to see. Never the shy and retiring type I was happy to oblige and let Dave lead me around the floor.

Next week I will have to miss the Monday Class, but hopefully, we both will be at the Lantern on Thursday and I can return the The Coracle to complain about the alcohol free beer. (see previous post)

By the way, I am still free tonight (Thursday) any suggestions?

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Feast and Famine

Life as a dancer forced to work for a living is never smooth. some weeks go by without opportunities, and then like this weekend, there is not even time to catch up with my writing.

I have just come back from a weekend dancing in Blackpool. It was advertised on this site under February, but it will take it’s own posting. I have many photographs to post, all of which need downloading, editing, and generally touching up,  so for now I must leave that subject until I have more time.

Being off midweek allowed me to attend the Shrewsbury tango again, and enjoy the good company that is always there.

Dave has asked me to comment on the fact that it is a team effort that keeps the place going, and I am happy to do this. The efforts of all the people there are what makes it such a great venue.

This week Sharon was unable to attend, and we had the return of Mishka. Mishka was one of the originals and it was a welcome return for her. She is doing little teaching at the moment, as she prepares a home for her forthcoming Marriage. We all wish her well and look forward to the nuptial Milonga.

As usual Sharon had left instructions as to what was required. Valz was the order of the day, and the class were shown how to do a Valz turn. In the end there was not enough time to complete the turn on both directions, and I got completely confused, did we learn the end of the first turn or the beginning, and all the first? There was nothing for it but just to do the whole turn in both directions and hope that the ladies could follow it. It is to the credit of the way that they have been taught, that none of the ladies had any problem following me.

I love this place, such a shame that I cannot attend more often.

After the class, the usual group reconvened at the Coracle. Viv was adamant that we should have a rain check, as we had a busy day next day, picking up Steve’s wife, going to the dentist, and finally driving to Blackpool. The good company however was irresistible, and as soon as we got in the car she changed her mind. So we finished another great night with a drink.

One of my regular readers from Argentina (I don’t want to name drop but if she asks I will name her) has told me that she is coming over later in the year, Dave has greeted this news with excitement, and we are all hoping that she will attend a special Milonga in  her honor. ( this is sort of an invite, I hope she agrees to come)

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Another night at the Groves

Monday saw the usual class at the Groves, the numbers here are now balancing out well, and so my services as a follower are no longer needed. Sad really I was starting to quite enjoy the feeling, but as Viv is now coming as well, if there is a small shortage, she of course will be the first to step in. This was the case last night and I was left on the sidelines, but not for long:

A new guy had arrived, and was not ready to join the class, as in the weeks since this term had begun the level had improved significantly. So my job for the night was to try and bring him through the basics. Not an easy job as the space by the bar is limited. Anyway I had him doing basic walking and changing weight, just about managing, and not minding the fact that he had to lead me.

Soon however another lady joined the class, which left Viv free to help. Now I could see more clearly what was happening, and we could get the feet right.

One of the most difficult things for new leaders is the belief that the ladies feet will not be there when they step. We worked on getting him to walk straight in both parallel and cross again no problems. Soon the class was over and I have left him with some exercises to practice. His progress was excellent and hopefully after next week he will be ready to join the class.

Again in the intermediates, I was left out. I cannot complain it allows me to better observe what is happening, and in this case there was a new guy who I had not seen before. He grabbed Viv to be his partner and as the class progressed I watched fascinated as he led Viv through manoeuvres that were no part of the class, and afterwards he again grabbed Viv for the practica.

There is no room for me to be jealous, in fact it is nice that she has had a chance to dance with someone who is not a beginner. While it is OK for me, I can lead things that the beginners have not done before, for Viv most of the time she just ends up walking and doing side steps.

We never did find out who this guy was, but I hope he will return.

Things are looking up, now we have some more advanced dancers and new ones joining all the time.

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