Tag Archives: musicality

The teacher is not always right two

I get comments these days that are more like posts than comments. I am not complaining all comments are welcomed, good and bad, but I like to reply to them all. So for the second time I must do a post in reply to a comment.

I received a comment from Jantango in Buenos Aires Teacher is not always right and feel again that this deserves more than a quick answer.

I remember the first time I was at a milonga in Buenos Aires it was at Confiteria Ideal in the afternoon. We had been taken there by our guide for the trip, who educated us about the codigos where to dance and how to cope with what was a totally alien environment to us.

We fell out some time later, which was a shame, as I think she gave us invaluable information for times to come, and although we are no longer in contact I would gladly recommend her to anyone visiting for the first time.

She had the sense to bring us early, when the place was less crowded. This allowed us to get a feel for the room and to get up and dance in the time when people were still coming in.

So how does this relate to the comment? Well no teacher I had been too had ever been to Argentina, none of them knew the codigos, none could tell me how to cope.

As more people came to the milonga, we found it more and more difficult to move, and for some reason, I had yet to learn, and we were always in the middle of the floor.

We had couple of days of this before our first dance lesson. We had been signed up with a guy called Roberto Canelo. He was not milonguero in the true sense of the word, more a stage dancer. In his early days he had been embarrassed at his local club, Club Almagro by being asked to leave the floor and watch how the true milongueros did it. He soon learned how to navigate the floor and move to the music not just doing steps, so now he passes his knowledge on at his tango school. Nothing of this was known to me, of course, I was just passed to an Argentine who taught tango, and of course to me the fact that he was argentine was all that mattered to me at the time.

With him we learned to dance milonga, how to cope with a crowd how to navigate the floor, and importantly to me, why I always ended up in the middle. He told me that old milongueros will dance to the outside of the room, taking any space left to the right, forcing any principiantes into the middle. So now I must learn that as well as protecting my partner I must defend my right hand side, I do not let anyone into this space, it is mine alone. With this knowledge I can gloat at the show dancers, principiantes and yanquis who populate the middle of the floor. He learned all this by going to the milongas, he already was a great dancer, but could not cope with the milonga floor, not until he had experienced it himself and had the coaching of other milongueros.

So when I learn that a great show dancer with years of experience could not cope at a milonga, you should not be surprised that I greet with horror the thought that people who have less than two years tango experience want to teach. You should also not be surprised that I will not go to any teacher who has never visited a Buenos Aires milonga.

Too many spend their time learning steps. In the UK we learn boleos, ganchos , baridas, but rarely do we learn about the music. What we need to do is listen to the music, as it changes cadence, we need to be aware and change with it.

Often in beginner’s classes, we are so intent on learning that our movement’s bare little relationship to the music, this is Ok for beginners, but as we get more proficient we should be dancing to the music not just doing moves in spite of it. Go to almost any milonga in Europe and you will see them; they do all the moves, awesome routines, fancy footwork, but no musicality.

In the northern hemisphere we need to learn that dancing is not about moves, this is not Strictly, it is social dancing. Tango is the music as much as it is the dance, if you do not feel the music then you are not dancing tango. The music needs to be in your mind and in your soul. If you spend all your time learning more and more moves, you miss the point, your time would be better spent listening to the music, and trying to get to know the artists.

And don’t even think about getting me back on the subject of DJs playing non tango music.

Again all comments are welcome, good or bad. If you disagree tell me why, wealth of experience comes from exchanges of ideas not monologue.

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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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You Tube ?

When I noticed a lady getting kicked in the practica, I of course intervened. A secada is supposed to be a replacement; there is no force attached, and definitely no kicking or pushing. Now our perpetrator replied that he was not doing a secada, but something he had seen on you tube.

Of course this was not tango and I told him so, his reply was that this was a tango guy doing it. I was getting nowhere here and this as I have often said is not my class, so for now I let it lie. I hope he will not try this again, words will have to be exchanged we cannot have the ladies kicked.

This brings me to another subject altogether; It seems that for some You Tube is a legitimate teaching device, I think that this is wrong on two levels:

Firstly; anyone who has tried to learn any type of dancing from videos, discs, or the net will have found eventually it does not work. Your screen will not pick up your faults. You may well assume something is correct and nobody will be there to put you right. Tango uniquely is more about musicality, posture, and a conversation between leader and follower. How on earth can anyone hope to learn this on their own, what you see in tango is mostly an illusion, we invite our followers to move and make the world believe we have moved them with our feet or whatever, see this on you tube and of course you will believe the illusion and try to copy. You tube does not teach you how to lead, how to stand, or how to move.

Secondly and even more importantly, the internet is democratic. Anyone who happens upon this blog that does not know me, only has what I say here as evidence of who I am and what I know. This applies to the internet in general, anyone can put almost anything (decency aside) on to you tube. I could put a film on there telling the world of my financial qualifications and my answer to the world’s financial crisis; would you all close your deposit accounts on my say so? Would you sell me all your gold for a pittance just because I was on Youtube? I think not, but for some reason anyone who posts videos of tango is deemed to be an expert. Some may well be, others not, but the one thing all these videos have in common is, you cannot learn tango from them.

I can’t make Shrewsbury this week, so the normal lively debate from The Coracle will have to go unreported. My next post may have to wait until I have something more to say without the Coracle chat I will be short on ideas. Of course if anyone wants to suggest a topic, I am sure to have an opinion.

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Filed under milonga, Tango