Tag Archives: improvers

Still on Holiday

As I prepare to head off for Shrewsbury again, I realise it is a week since my last post. Viv has kept me busy for nearly a fortnight now, and stopped me spending too much time in front of the computer. Although busy at home and in the garden, there has been plenty of time for dancing.

On Friday we had the technique class with Hayden at Pant. It seemed to go down well, but everyone was exhausted afterward and few stayed long for the practica. Saturday and Sunday are still reserved for our social ballroom and sequence dances, but Monday we were back at Stanley Palace for our regular date with the ghosts. I think they are getting a bit heavy footed as the floor was being rained on by small bits of plaster. Perhaps Anne Boleyn dropped her head when walking the gallery or maybe some duelists of old were still fighting it out, who knows, but they were quiet while we were dancing anyway.

Our beginners are getting the hang of the cross, even managing to know the difference when I just walk on the outside. They were left to it in the other room with Viv as we were a man short for the improvers. More secadas were on the menu for tonight and I was enjoying myself. Sharon was not going to let that continue and insisted in a practice hold, to stop the men leading with their arms.

My problem is that when I do not have the embrace my left shoulder drops back, the very thing we are trying to avoid, so with the practice hold I am not a happy bunny. I did not realise why this is happening until Wednesdays I will say more on this in a while.

We continued the mad dance week on Tuesday, by heading off to Manchester and the afternoon tea dance at the Trafford Centre, free parking, free tea and coffee, free raffle, and a free dance with a four piece live band, what more could you ask?  Well free petrol, OK, you can’t have everything. We rushed back to Chester afterwards, a Quick meal, then off to Salsa Classes.

Wednesday, we decided to go back to Gobowen for Sharon’s tango. Now that Deryck and Geoff have retired there is nothing to keep us, so we will go as and when the mood takes us now. Sharon continued with the secada scheme, and again I was cursed with the practice hold. Now though I think I have found the answer, I simply hold my arm up as if I am in the embrace. It looks a little odd but it works for me.

At  The lantern, on Thursday we continued again with the much of the same. This is not so much drilling, as there is a different crowd at each venue. There are not many who will travel to all three, even I cannot normally manage. But it works well as if you miss one venue, you can go to another and keep up with what is happening. Anyway Shrewsbury is about the after tango drink now. We simply cannot think of travelling that far and not going to The Coracle.

Tonights discussion soon moved on to matters tango, and we had a lively debate on contra posture and dissociation. One of us is missing something, I won’t say who said what, I will simply pose the question; Is dissociation contra posture? or is contra posture moving the body and legs together, but in opposite directions, and dissociation moving the body and legs separately? Viv ended up screaming with laughter as Dave and myself walked up and down The Coracle demonstrating dissociation and contra posture. At least we kept the locals amused.

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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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Dancing the music

The time from our Saturday milonga to the Chester class on Monday seems an age. Of course we have a social dance on Sunday in Connah’s Quay, but these dances have now become just a fill in to the main event.

There is the usual scramble before we depart, ensuring we have the right shoes (I need my heels in case I have to follow). Then we are off again. Outside the Groves we see Katrina on her mobile, I say “hurry up we must dance before the class”. As there is only quarter of an hour before the class starts, I want to have a chance to make things up as soon as possible, but she gesticulates and mumbles something while carrying on with her phone call. That was the last I saw of her that night, what happened and why she did not come in I do not know, I do hope I get another chance to dance on Thursday.

When the beginners’ class starts there is again a shortage of women, so my heels will again come in handy. Some of the men looked rather worried, this is a fairly new group and they would not believe that I was going to dance the woman’s part. As things turned however a couple of women arrived and I could then join as a man.

The problem as always with the early class is that people arrive after the class starts and soon more men arrived, so after a short period sat out I again rejoined as a follower. The guy who had looked so worried was after all soon dancing with me.

Things continued fluctuating throughout the beginner’s class but in the main after this I led.

Something that I always notice is the difficulty that ballroom dancers have with tango. The fact that they are acquainted with the mechanics of motion and are able to move with the music seems to help little. Ballroom dancers lead from the hip and this posture of leaning back is totally at odds with the forward posture adopted by tango dancers. While I acknowledge this is Sharon’s class, her concern is with the whole class and can not devote too much time to one person. Maybe next week I can spend some time with the ballroom ladies and get their posture sorted.

In the improvers class we again worked on the giro, my problem as always is steps, so I have to take care to do the move that Sharon has taught and not just make something up as I usually do, and run the risk of confusing every one.

We also spent some time moving to the music, this is something all the British have trouble with, unlike the Spanish and Argentines, who will move to any music without training and still look better than us. We can learn steps and we can do them to the beat, but this is not the same as interpreting the music through dance. Learning that you cannot do the same thing to Canaro as you would to DiSarli is not something many teachers here put emphasis on, I take my hat off to Sharon for trying, and daring to be different.

As usual at the end we had some practice time. I managed to dance with most of the women, but it was only Sharon with whom I managed to redeem my self for Saturday.

I hope to try again Thursday and catch up with those I have missed.

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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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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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Another good Class

I am finding the strain of long shifts harder all the time. I have worked shifts for more than thirty years, and far from getting use to it, I just feel like hell at the end of a block.

So it was yesterday, my zest for life all gone, snapping at Viv, and just not wanting to do anything. I cannot even work out my shifts anymore, I said I would miss this Monday, but I was wrong. All the same when it came to head off to Chester, I did not feel up to it, but I went anyway.

Numbers were well balanced for the beginners, and for once Viv had to stand out. We progressed further on the ocho cortardo, or as it was called when I first learned it , ocho milonguero. Within seconds of staring the class all my cares were forgotten, a room full of beautiful women all wanting to dance with me I was in heaven.

Sharon wanted to get people into the milonga state of mind, and so she reduced the room size and enforced lane discipline. She gave a good speech at the beginning about not trying to lead some thing new in the milonga and never teaching on the dance floor. I don’t know if I embarrassed her, but I broke into applause, this is my pet hate.

While the room was reduced, it gave me a chance to take one lady aside who was having difficulty. I thought we were doing quite well but occasionally she would cross behind, Leandra pointed out that she was leaning back (thanks Leandra) then it all became clear, because she was so small and she wanted to see if I approved she was looking up. (I am not exactly Mr Big myself but she was tiny). Once that was out of the way things went very well.

In the improvers class we did more on the cortardo, now it was more like the way I was first taught by Roberto Canelo all those years ago. I was having fun ringing the changes, but soon the class was over. By the way if anyone wants Roberto’s contact details in Buenos Aires, I will happily provide them.

We danced on until ten thirty, by which time I had enjoyed myself no end and forgotten completely about work.

I beg forgivness, I almost forgot: Many congratulations to Anna on the birth of Leo. My best wishes go out to John and Anna, see you in five years after you get your next good nights sleep.

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A good week

Despite having to work nights mid week, this week is going to be a wonderful tango week for me. I am able to get to Chester and Shrewsbury as well as organise a dance at last at our home.

Because I have to work, I arrived later than usual at Chester this week, meaning that I missed almost all of the beginners class. However when we arrived we were able to step in, as there were two men without partners. One lucky guy got Viv while the other had to make do with Roberta. Still beggers cannot be choosers and now everyone got a dance, and at least they got to change quite soon. I suspect now that some of the men actually prefer dancing with Roberta, although they would never admit it.

When the beginners class was over, Sharon told me she had a new starter who needed some private tuition, always eager to show off I agreed to take her to one side. The improvers were doing the sandwich which would have given me no trouble and the numbers were now even again.

In the space of an hour I tried to get in as much of the basics as I could. Our new beginner struggled with the cross, just about managed the ochos, but seemed to have the stance off almost imediately. To be fair much more time needs to be spent on just walking, getting her weight on one foot and onto her toes would have helped the ochos no end, and the lack of a toe lead was making the cross difficult.

I think she did very well considering this was afirst time and there was so much to cover. Actually if I had realised she was not coming back until the new beginners course starts again I would not have tried to cram so much in, I just hope she does her homework of ochos, and comes back for the next course.

Very soon to come: a report on Shrewsbury and the first Gresford Milonga

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Shrewsbury with a whoosh

As stated in my last post, I have two tango venues this week. It is not often I get this opportunity, so I must make the most of it.

The beginners class started with everyone doing ochos. Men find this particularly difficult. (I blame the shoes) It gave the men a chance to see how much time is needed to complete, and hopefully illustrated how the pivot needs to be finished before you make the lady step.

We went on to do walking ochos, again with the emphasis on allowing the time and space necessary. As the class went on I could see great improvements all round, everyone looked more relaxed and at ease with the steps.

When we moved on to the improver’s class, the numbers were balanced, so neither Bob or Roberta were needed. I disappeared into the practica room to give some of the struggling beginners the benefit of my experience.

I spent some time with one lady who had not been coming long, she still struggled with the ochos, but as I broke it down and told her to get her balance after the pivot before she tries to step. She was soon ochoing like a good un.

After half an hour or so she had had enough and left me to rejoin the improver’s class. Alison had also rejoined so this meant I now had a follower. Sharon was teaching the whoosh again, and again as I had missed the beginning, I was struggling.

All was well in the end as I had a bit of a private lesson. I was doing the classic beginners thing of just making it too complicated. Just goes to show, good as you think you have become, we all relapse now and again.

Back in the Coracle my private struggles were commented upon, I need to be kept reminded that despite most of the dancers around these parts being beginners, I am not so great. Buenos Aires will bring me down again with a thump.

Next week is the first ever Gresford Milonga. I am sorry I cannot invite everyone, while Gerald Grosvenor may live down the road, I only have a small bungalow.  However if you read this and feel particularly put out that you were not invited. Tough!

Seriously we may be able to fit in one or two more, so we are looking only for those who really want to attend. If we are sucsessful we may try fitting more in next time, hopefully in the summer when we can throw the doors open.

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Two in a Week

Another Monday Class gave me another chance to shine only I didn’t (more on this later)

We are back again to there being more men than women in the beginners class, and so Roberta made another appearance. This is getting more rare these days as numbers are more or less evening out. Viv helps to make up the numbers of women, and of course if there is one too many men I can just sit out. So it was nice to do a bit of following again.

I have come in for some criticism from Viv, she says I am too heavy on the men. I think she forgets that as a follower I am just a beginner, also I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is better to know where your follower is, that to be trying to find them. Still criticism noted, I will try to be lighter. (maybe loose some of that belly)

In the improver’s class, Sharon introduced something I have not done before. Sharon loves to do double time stuff, and so we did an ocho followed by a double time rock and then what she called a whoosh. All very nice, and as I was partnered up with the lovely Shirley I had no problem at all.

Sharon on seeing others in difficulty split us up. So what happened then? well Shirley went on to do it perfectly every time, and me, I could not even work out what I was supposed to be doing.

It would be all too easy to blame the women I danced with, but Tango is a conversation, and if they are not understanding my language, then I guess I need more vocabulary.

In the end I went over it again with Viv and it is back there again. We must see what happens Thursday night.

Yes I am getting two bites of the cherry this week, Tango Monday and Thursday. I will also get two (three, watch for post) goes next week, another month and I will be on my summer hours, which means a virtual end to Shrewsbury for six months except for one or two occasions.


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