Tag Archives: ocho

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”.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Tango

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

Redemption

I slept little in the car, despite being totally exhausted. Long working hours are taking their toll, so I asked Viv to drive to Shrewsbury. There are just too many roundabouts, junctions and other assorted hold-ups, to comfortably sleep on this journey. Never the less, after having my eyes closed for almost an hour I did feel slightly better when we arrived at The Lantern.

We were greeted again by the girl on reception, then once again we entered the dance room. Music was playing and about half the people were dancing. Not having been here for some time and with the confusion that comes of tiredness I was unsure what was happening.

It was in fact the practice time between the beginners and intermediates. When I realised, I looked round for a likely victim. There was an attractive girl with red streaks sitting talking. I had never danced with her before so I asked her to dance. Almost immediately she started to apologise, because it seems she had only had three lessons. As usual I explained all she had to do was follow, be confident in her movement, and if anything goes wrong leave it to me to sort out, but never apologise. All she was really capable of was walking and ochos, but what she did do she followed very well, a credit to the classes she has had. I led a few back ochos and then a forward ocho, which she seemed to follow OK. Then she said “What was that” she had never done a forward ocho before, but she did it because she had learned to follow. I hope in days to come she does not start learning moves, because if she continues to follow this well she will make an excellent tanguera.

In the improvers we (Viv and I that is) were again split. A shortage of men meant Viv sitting out, but we were doing changes of weight, so not really an issue for the women.

I did cause some confusion through not listening again. As I have said before, there was nothing I could not do; I just have trouble doing it in order. I think Sharon would like me to stand in the corner sometimes, good job she has a sense of humour, though she still admonished me for not listening.

Funny how these classes go, we keep changing partners, but somehow I always end up dancing with the same two or three women. Even though this is supposed to be an intermediate class they are still not much more than beginners and still have not learned to move with the room, so there is a lot of overtaking.

After what for me at least was an enjoyable class, there was again time to practice. I suspect that not everyone enjoyed the class as one or two men chose to sit out, not fully understanding what we were doing or why. Again we come down to this very British desire to learn steps and not the essence of the dance. Hopefully in time they will come to appreciate what tango is all about.

The practice session gave me a chance to redeem myself and dance with one or two ladies I had missed on Saturday, so that by the end every one was happy.

Afterwards we retreated again to The Coracle, to talk soft and explore the deeper meanings of life the universe and tango. There is a new member of staff there and she did not seem to appreciate our late drinking sessions. At about quarter past eleven she walked past the end of our table and gave us a look that said, “if you do not leave soon I will throw you out” needless to say as she did not say anything we ignored her. However five minutes later she started clearing our table, she took Viv’s glass, which she promptly grabbed back, don’t ever touch her cider on pain of death. The crisp packets were next they too had to be grabbed back. I guess it was time to go,as I was tired and was now compelled to drive as Viv had had a drink.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga, Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, Uncategorized

Back to the grind

The Christmas and new year festivities are over, and along with most of Britain, I am back to the daily grind.

Mondays Tango class saw a new influx of beginners, and judging by first impressions, we could have a whole new crowd joining this wonderful world.

Also among these new arrivals was Viv, she has agreed to attend Mondays, if I let her go to line dancing on a Tuesday, more of this later.

The basic class went well, nothing but walking so far, but it was a challenge just to stop everyone swaying, salsa style. Confidence is always an issue for the men, just believing that the woman will not be there when you step, but all this will come in time.

The intermediate class consisted of a lot of walking in cross. A nice move changing sides with a half ocho. I am afraid this confused some people, and they could not get out of the ocho once they started. This is not my class, so I must be careful, but never the less, I did get some satisfaction when a guy who was having particular problems, finally got it.

The numbers were more or less balanced, now that Viv had joined the class, so this left me free to watch and help where I could. Roberta only appeared when Sharon needed to demonstrate a step. So we have the strange sight of a man being led by a woman. (this would never happen in BsAs).

A nice thing that has happened now is that people are staying from the beginners to practice at the end, hopefully this will continue. If the group continues to grow, I may yet fulfill my dream of having a local Milonga. We plan to soon have a house party as a starter, watch this space.

Back now to Tuesday, no tango I am afraid, just ballroom and sequence, at Flexis in Acrefair. As Viv has gone to line dancing, and released me (for the night only) I can now dance with all the local ladies, unfortunately, this week they were rather thin on the ground, so I was limited to just two. Still it was a good night, shame on those of you who missed it.

2 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Dance Venues and Schools