Tag Archives: giro

The not so fabulous Bob Finch

“A respected tango dancer and teacher”; and “the fabulous Bob Finch”, were just two of the plaudits that hailed my arrival at Stokies Tango Dojo. Already a little nervous at taking a full class of students of whom I knew nothing, this did little to calm me. Could I Live up to the hype? Would my lesson plan hold out? And more important, would I fluff it?

They were a wonderful bunch and in the end we all enjoyed ourselves, but things never went quite as I expected.

It was supposed to be a group of fairly mixed students but mostly with some experience, what I got was seven very experienced dancers, three men and two women who had never danced at all and about eight or ten who had been dancing about six months.

I started with the basic close hold, with little effort we achieved what was required and soon we were ready to move just a little turning the body and feeling the lead. It soon became clear that this simply would not work; with help and suggestions from the more advanced dancers we split the class. All the beginners moved to the far end of the room to be coached by the better dancers in how to walk.

This left me with a group of about five couples to work with. I think and hope we all had an enjoyable time, and that they now have a bit more understanding of how to dance close hold.

We worked on the basic ocho and giro trying to break it back down to just pivots and steps, slowing everything down and keeping it simple. For some it was not quite enough, but I really needed to keep it simple because after such a short time, most were not ready to stretch it too far. More to the point though, I wanted to emphasise that in a crowded milonga there is little room for fancy steps and there is a constant need to change the way we are moving when someone gets in the way. The women also enjoyed this feeling that they had time to execute their moves and were not rushed, as I made the men wait until the pivot was complete before they made the next move. The women were also instructed to wait; it was no good the men taking their time if the women went ahead and finished the ocho on their own. To reinforce the point I asked the men to sometimes not finish the ocho but do something else halfway through, pointing out that we never actually lead an ocho, only pivots and sidesteps.

There were some misunderstandings about what we were trying to achieve, and I had some problems controlling the class. Just as well they were adults who wanted to learn, I would probably have completely lost control if this had been a group of teenagers, still I wasn’t a bad teacher for an electrician.

I left them with a few tricks of my own; a giro with a twist, and an ocho doblé as a taster just in case I am ever invited back.

In the end though, I think I learned as much about teaching as they learned about tango and hopefully everyone left happy. More importantly, there were some beautiful moves being done and everyone left with a smile on their face.

I half expected though to be told never to return, so I was more than happy to receive one or two thanks later. So I would like to say here “Thanks for having me, it was a pleasure”.

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Teachers should dance too

In Thursday’s Shrewsbury class we were joined by an Argentine by the name of Guido. He is I believe on of the men that Carol, from Leeds, brings over to help in her classes, over there on the north east side of the country. She had kindly lent him out to us poorer border people for the night. His class consisted of mainly ocho milonguero, and giro miloguero. Although for Viv and I there was nothing particularly new here, he presented it in a refreshing way that gave us much to think about. While many of the beginners struggled with the basic step, the playful repeats he did gave us something to work on, and left me with a smile on my face. My only criticism was that after the class he was reluctant to dance with any of the students. I think it was his great loss, many of the ladies here have come along at a fantastic pace, a real tribute to Sharon’s teaching. Of course he also missed out on dancing with Viv, she refuses to ask the men, and why should she? After years of putting up with beginners, would it really have been too much trouble to give her one dance? I have been to some classes where the teacher makes a point of dancing with every woman, and even some of the men, after all isn’t that part of it, to show what a good lead feels like? This discussion carried over to The Coracle for our weekly tango discussion. Among other topics discussed was again, the men telling the women where to put their feet. Horror, I was accused of doing precisely this. I suppose in some ways I was, whilst leading a giro I was pointing out where the feet should go, not away from me but in a circular motion, so that I am not pulled off axis. To me it is a mute point, I am not trying to get her to do something I cannot lead, merely to do something better. Still that is how it looks, and I suppose those I criticise could be doing the same thing. Maybe I should just, shut up and dance. We move on now to Saturday and a workshop on social volcadas with Haydyn Brown and Sharon.

Three hours of workshop followed by a Milonga represented good value, and as it was in my free weekend, how could I refuse. It seemed at first we were to do anything but volcadas, but all this was in preparation, getting the legs free and trust in your partner are essentials to a good volcada, but I have to admit, even I did not see where we were going at first. We stared off with some low boleos, low and small, something you could do in a crowded Milonga. This we were to learn later is a way of testing any new partner; there is little point in leading a full boleo or especially a volcada if the woman will not follow. Next we moved on to leg wraps, this was all about positioning, as well as learning something new and exciting. Finally we moved on to the volcadas, what we had all come for (although I suspect that there were those who had no idea what a volcada was). I think that it gave some an advantage; I spent most of the time trying to do too much. We have done volcada workshops before and there was I trying to get lots of lean, and lots of sweep, when all that was required was subtlety. Still I got there in the end and we enjoyed the experience. Some reassurance was needed, a lot of gobsmacked faces around. We have been to many workshops often walking away remembering nothing. It is only by doing them over and over that something sticks. Things do stay there, you just do not realise. Next workshop will seem easier and the one after. There is nothing special about us; we have just done so many. In fact I think sometimes the reason I am able to explain things well, is because I found it so difficult to learn, in the first place.

After a break for food we moved on to the nights Milonga. It was a shame so many had to leave, but fortunately more arrived and we had a good number in the end. Hayden, danced with all the women, just as he should, and Sharon gave us men some rest also leading the women. My moan? There is always one: I danced, I think, with all the women, except Sharon. I always feel it a bit unfair that she has to dance with all the beginners and I usually miss her out. Today though she did dance with Haydyn, it must be nice not to have to look down to her partners for once.

Just for your entertainment, I have included a photo of me taken by Jantango outside The Bibioteca Nacional. This is what you have to do to use a Moble Phone in Argentina.

See using a Cell phone is easy

See using a Cell phone is easy

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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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Running and Walking

I was not able to attend the Monday class this week. Viv made me go to work on my bike so that she could have the car. She is a bit laconic about the class, so I cannot report much, other than it seems for once  the numbers must have been more or less balanced, as she spent some time sitting out.

We returned to Shrewsbury again, and as usual I did my best to spread myself about (Tango Slut). Again I spent a lot of time explaining to the ladies how to do a good giro. So much depends on them doing it well, and every time I got a good sidestep I would reward them with a nice secada.

The need to keep the feet down was the theme of Sharon’s Class, great fun was had trying to keep bits of red paper under foot. Later I had the opportunity to point out how keeping the feet down gave the opportunity for many beautiful moves.

Later in the Coracle we had a lively debate on moves. While some felt that they were being deliberately held back, I do not think my argument was convincing enough. Tango, unlike other dances does not rely on set piece moves, the basics all need to be in place, then and only then can some improvisation take place.

The move under discussion needed a giro step executed well before it can be performed, and my view is that the level we are at at the moment is not yet high enough.

I recalled our first real tango in Spain many years ago. A lovely couple (who later invited us to their home, just because we tango) complained that they had walked to Madrid and back in the class. They were having the basics driven into them, even though they taught classes in London.

In the end I think that there is no real answer to those who think they can learn moves. Only time will show them the error of their ways. We all start off wanting to move like Copes and it takes years before we realise that it is not the moves, but the way we move that makes the difference.

Tango, the only place where you learn to run, before you realise you cannot walk.

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Another Gobowen Milonga

Another good tango week for me, after Mondays class in Chester (see another good class) I am able to get to the Shrewsbury class and attend the Gobowen Milonga. But first Shrewsbury.

The beginners class followed the form of Mondays class, so I was able to be more than usefull to the beginners. When we arrived Sharon split us up and we joined a couple who were having trouble. Amazing how a bit of double time really shows up when someone has not quite grasped the basics. We spent some time with our partners, not changing with the others until they had finally got it.

Later in the class the followers were taught to stop the leaders if there was a problem, while the leaders then had to think on their feet and change direction. There was a moment of comedy when changing partners and Viv became my partner. Knowing that this should be no problem to me she was positively awkward and stopped me at every opportunity. Sharon then went through the Milonga etiquette again and reduced the room size. As I was actually allowed into the class this time, I enjoyed getting the ladies to do lots of giros and ochos in a confined space, freed from the constraints of a lesson.

The improvers class was again about the ocho cortardo, numbers balanced with Viv in the class, so I was free to go and join the beginners. One or two ladies were having trouble with the giro and I was happy to help out.

Some who were fairly new had problems with the posture, this is not a quick fix, hopefully I will be able to spend more time with them in the future. If your tendency is to stand in a certain way, it simply cannot be changed just by saying stand straight with your weight on the balls of the feet, it just has to be re enforced over and over.

Afterwards we again retired to the Coracle for a drink where I had a chance to complain to the management about the alcohol free beer.

 

Saturday we saw another Gobowen Milonga, it was unfortunately a short night for me (up at five and the clocks went forward) so again I must offer my apologies to those ladies I missed. The numbers were again up and it is starting to look almost crowded.

Sharon had again made the place look very inviting and there was a fantastic range of food on offer.

My thanks to Sharon for putting on a great Milonga and to  the ladies who I danced with, as always you all made me feel very special.

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The First Gresford Milonga

As I said in my previous post, this has been a particularly good tango week for me.

First there was Chester on Monday(see previous post) then I was able to attend Shrewsbury on Thursday. We arrived later than usual again, but we were there in good time for the mid class practica. Mischka was taking the class again and we did some interesting things with the Giro.

It seems now to be the highlight of the night when we all reconvene at The Coracle. We were determined not to stay too late as we had a lot to do the following day, but as these things go we did not leave until ten to twelve.

As we pulled out of the car park the local police just happened to be passing in the opposite direction. Suprise, suprise they turned around and followed me. Obviously I was stopped and breathalysed, when they asked if I had ever been breathalysed before, their eyes lit up when I said that I had been done three times. They now thought that they had a serial drink driver on their hands whereas it was obvious to me, that I meant that I had been breathalysed three times.Anyway I have a complaint for the landlord of The Coracle, the meter actually read ZERO. I know I only had mild shandy, but I would have thought that there would have been some alcohol in it.

Finally this week, we have had the first Gresford Milonga, I will not say too much about it. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I would however like to give a big thank you to those that came and made it a huge success and overcame their superstitions. It was after all Friday 13th and when Sharon arrived there were thirteen people here.

We ended the evening with some Cumbia. With the music and the disco ball, I thought for just  a moment that I was in Club Fulgor, Ecstasy. Finally we did some Chacarera, somehow it never fitted the music, but there was so much flouncing by the women and stamping by the men, who cared? it was enjoyable mayhem.

Sign on the door courtesy of : Alfredo F Martinez, filete Porteno. Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires. E-Mail martinezalfredo@yahoo. com

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Basic eight and more

OK so last night I took the Chester class. I had planned to do something about the lead and the embrace, but Sharon had asked me to go over the basic eight in preparation for the coming year.

There was one guy who was fairly new, but in general everyone including the new guy was very soon doing the eight with no problems. We went on to make it a seven, leaving out the back step, but this was never going to fill two hours.

I decided to ask if anyone had anything they wanted help with, and everyone either said ochos or giros.  We spent some time going over the steps of the giro, until someone asked the killer question “if tango is improvised then why do we learn steps?” it was as if I had planted the question. Now I could break the moves down into their basics and show that any ocho or giro could be started or finished at any point. The lady must wait for each lead, because the man may not go the way they think he will go.

I then gave them something of a demo; I chose a fairly new partner and asked her forgiveness for what I was about to do. I played Poema by Canaro, I think one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.  I then proceeded to ignore the music and do every move I could think of, it was horrible, she hated it, and every one could see that she was struggling.

I apologised again and asked how it was for her. Now I asked for a second chance, Poema again, but this time I listened to the music, we did nothing but walk, but changing speed and direction as the music dictated. She was happy, we looked good, our audience enjoyed it and I did not even lead an ocho.

I set the class back to their tasks, telling them not to lead just giros and ochos but fill in with walking and feel the music. I picked my drink up as my mouth was dry and when I turned back everyone was dancing, not as in a class, not practicing , but just dancing.

At this point I gave up teaching and just left the music on. I no longer had a class, but a group of Tango dancers.

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