Tag Archives: salsa

Good people

I danced with the lovely Carole last week, and as usual, when I dance with such a beautiful dancer, I was a bit nervous. Now at times I simply did not know what I was doing. Carole, however always seemed to know. I have this at times even with Viv, so how do you women always know what our intention is? Is it an instinct? Or is it something you learn in tango?

We men dance away, and when we reach a certain level, it becomes a given that the ladies will follow whatever we do. We need to take care of this, of course. It is not always a given. At some point, we could become so vague or indecisive that the lady will take over and just do her own thing; this happens all the time to me, by the way, when I try to salsa.

 

Back to last weeks dance. I am still not sure if I was taken to task or given a vote of thanks. You see some time ago I wrote a blog about this milonga, I wrote it with the full intention of never going again. I later met Jo in Wilmslow and she definitely took me to task.

I have the greatest respect for Jo, she came straight to me and told me that she did not like what I had written and said we should talk about it. She never held a grudge and has helped me see how far I should go. Not only that, but she took on board what I had said and she would, in future vet all playlists at her milonga.

So now there I was at last weeks milonga being thanked (or taken to task) for writing that blog and setting in motion the events that now allowed Andrew and Carole to regularly host this wonderful event.

Well, I cannot take any of the credit, for what is after all a great milonga. It is all down to Jo, Andrew and Carole. I am just a blogger, who stirred things up a little. You three did all the work.

 

So a week later we returned to the afternoon dance. It was a different DJ and a different feel. Still we enjoyed the afternoon although we did not stay for the “fish and Chips” afterwards. I find it a bit heavy on my stomach and the grease does me no good at all. Viv has had me on a low fat (low everything) diet for so long now, that I have lost my tolerance.

On the way out I joked that I would be slagging off the DJ here, he responded that he did not care as he does not read blogs. I was worried by this, as I still have memories of the last time someone said this to me. People do care; we all care what is thought of us. So if anyone reads anything here they do not like, tell me, comment, email, or confront me if it is that bad. I am not an ogre and have been known to pull a whole post when asked.

Who knows after a confrontation things could turn out as well as they have for Jo and the Croft milonga.

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We all fall down

Well, my proud boast that I have never lost a lady yet is dead. It did not happen in tango, I hasten to add, but still I am in disgrace.

It all started with Viv saying “It is all getting too serious, we should have some other music”. So we decided to do a Club Fulgor and have a “Tropical” section in the middle.

I chose a variety of music, Cha cha, Salsa, meringue, just something lively to ring the changes.

We had takers for the cha cha, but no one for the meringue. So Bob the hero got up and said “I will show you”. “Just step, one, two, three, four, and I will lead you around”. It all went very well until; I had the lady behind me and spun her around. Her shoe flew off. She lost balance and I attempted to keep hold.

I suspect I saved her from injuring her wrists by keeping hold of her arms, but it did nothing to save her from the fall. Then ignominiously I crashed down besides her.

Fortunately we did not have a big crowd this week, so my embarrassment was not too great.

Fortunately we have not joined the litigation culture and we had a good laugh about it, but meringue is off the play list for a while.

Today we compared bruises, well I kept mine hidden. I am not exactly a Chippendale and my bruise is in a place reserved for Vivs viewing only.

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You can dance to anything (of Course)

Those who know me from the tango world probably do not realise that we are very active in other dance scenes as well, and it is amazing how the difficulties encountered in one scene cross over to others.

We have known that for years “sequence dancers” get bored with social dancing, and try to introduce all their new dances to social events. This causes all sorts of frustrations to those who choose, because of time constraints or just can’t be bothered, not to learn a new dance every week. There is an obsession with learning more, where does this idea come from, that the best dancers know more moves (or dances)?

(almost) Anyone coming into dancing now is inspired to do so by shows such as “Strictly”. What we do cannot be compared, but it is worth a look at what they do; They learn a minute and a half routine, they learn it well, They practice it until it is perfect, then they practice it some more. The judges do not look at how many dances they can do, but instead look at how well they do the dance they are performing at the time.

The same should be true of those of us who are not performance dancers. We dance for our own pleasure and the pleasure of our partners, but we try to do it the best we can. I see “sequence dancers” who know all the routines, but they will never be dancers. I see old dancers who simply never learned a sequence yet they dance with a grace and musicality that I could never aspire to. I know which camp I would prefer to fall into, although, in truth, I probably fall somewhere in the middle.

The other area of difficulty that seems to be the same is the music. We dance Jive and rock and roll, not the best in the world, but we get by. We dance Rumba, although these days our ballroom Rumba has taken a back seat to the sequences we know. So WHY, do they insist on playing Rock and Roll and announcing a Rumba? To me this is as bad as what they keep trying to do to Tango, and I always leave the floor.

Dance to what ever you want, enjoy the music, just keep moving . That after all is what it is all about, but every musical genre has it’s dance moves.  They were designed to match the music as it was written, this was done by people much better at this than you or I. So what makes us think we know better, and  can re-write musical history?

Sod this I am off to salsa, at least so far they have not tried to do that to a Paso Doble or Bosa Nova………..

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Whores and Dockers

Every where we go to tango in this country I seem to be from some lower order. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have some sort of inferiority complex. I am a manual worker, working class, and never aspired to be more. I am happy with my lot in life and do not get intimidated by academics or high thinkers.

This is not my point, my point is; why does tango only seem to appeal to scientists and ballerinas? Are we making it too complicated?

I have many friends who are professionals and academics, they struggle boldly to keep tango alive here, and I would not knock them or try in any way to stop what they are doing. We need go getters; people with drive, there would be no tango here without them.

I wonder though, what about the workers? (Sorry just a bit of 1970s humour) We get all sorts of people in Salsa and the older crowd that we have for tempo dancing comes mainly from the working classes, but in tango it is almost all professionals, doctors, scientists, and university professors.

Tango is a dance for whores and Dockers not ballerinas and scientists, it is a folk dance, a means of socializing, and let us not forget, in the early part of the last century, it was the only way men could get close enough to a woman to touch (unless they paid of course).

Tango in The UK and Europe has, because of the isolation of Argentina, developed its own life. The one or two teachers who learned in Buenos Aires passed their knowledge on to others who went on to teach other teachers, and so on. What we have been getting is a watered down version of the truth.

This new truth then develops its own life and those of us who try to bring what we have learned back are told that what we do is not right. After all how can all these teachers, professionals, be wrong? It must be me who is wrong.

Fortunately in recent years things have been changing, but slowly. Long distance travel is more accessible, and as people travel they see the world as it really is, not some second-hand version.

There is no professional qualification for tango teachers, this is understandable when you consider what I said, “this is a folk dance” but people assume that because someone is taking a class then they must know more about tango. This is not necessarily true, it may or may not be, the only way you can be sure is to visit Buenos Aires yourself and make a judgement on what you have seen. Be careful though, there are many there as well, who will take the tourista dollar and teach you whatever you want, whether it be salon, Nuevo, or just show tango. The milonga is the only place to see tango as it should be, but be sure to get away from the tourist traps, because all you see there are more tourists.

When I first learned tango it was as a sequence of moves, we learnt this way for years no lead at all, and not until I went to Spain in 1997 did I learn different. Even then, what I had learnt did not totally change the way I danced, two weeks in Buenos Aires changed every thing, I forgot completely my old routines, and I learnt to walk for the first time (tango walk of course, I had not lived my life sitting down). That was six years ago, I have seen many changes in the way tango is taught since in the UK, but still there are many who just want to learn moves and routines.

All the high kicks look complicated and difficult, but as someone who learned that way first, I believe that there is far more skill in the more simple looking salon style than anything you see on the stage. (Tango Passion excepted).

There are those who say that you only need to walk to the music. Well I disagree (you’d not expect less from me now would you) you need more; you need some sense of the way we move as well as a sense of rhythm. Some basic moves like ochos and giros, because in a crowd you have to do something other than stand still. But in saying all that this is nearer to what tango is all about than many a teacher will try to show you. There are many men whose heads are so filled with moves and rules that they are barely able to move. They freeze to the floor unsure what they are to do next and when they “lead” something it does not work, so that they have to explain to the woman what they wanted. If there is space, and you can lead it, almost anything is ok, but if you cannot lead it, do not stand in the middle of the floor telling the woman she is doing it all wrong. This is not what women want, they want a flowing dance, to be comfortable in the mans embrace and to enjoy the music. Ladies tell me if I am wrong.

So what I am asking for is something less cerebral, I am asking for more feeling and less show. Dance for the woman, dance with the music and with the room, but NEVER EVER dance for the audience. I promise you one thing if you do this, the women will love dancing with you, you will enjoy dancing more, and surprisingly the audience, if there is one, will appreciate you more as well.  OK that was three things; you get three for the price of one here.

Again if you disagree with anything I have said here, please leave a comment, or even if you agree. What others think matters to me, I have spoken for the ladies here, am I right?

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Get out there and Dance

After A Hectic Weekend I was of course straight into a week of work, never one to let that stop me, I followed a twelve hour day on Monday with Tango with Sharon and Tuesday was followed by Salsa with Clan Cuban.

After this of course I was into nights and there can be no social life when you work nights, well maybe the odd Tea dance, though those rarely fit into my schedule.

I start to wonder at this point why so many people cry off, saying “I have had a busy day”. I am not trying to set myself up as anything special here, but is the dancing not supposed to be fun?. Do we carry on because we need to learn something? Is it drudgery, something we must do? When you get to the end of a long day, when you have worked hard and just want to relax, there should be something there for you to look forward to.

For me dancing satisfies this need. The Salsa, which I still find difficult, can cause me some stress when I am tired, but I know that dancing, any form of dancing, will make me feel better than slouching in front of the tele .

When you get to the stage we are at with Tango, it becomes like walking along in the park. There is no need to think you can relax in a very gentle exercise, to great music and best of all with a beautiful woman in your arms.

I know that for most people in this area, they are not yet at that stage or anywhere near, but believe me, it will come, and you will look back with regret at those nights you spent with the tele and think “I could have been here so much sooner”

I still spend my work days like a zombie, but then I work to live, not the other way around. If I had to give up dancing to carry on working, then I would be looking for another job.

So another week has passed and Friday was spent for the most part in bed after nights, and there being nothing on anywhere, I was up only a short while before going back again. With the aid of some alcohol I managed to catch up with most of the sleep I had lost.

I am not like the great politicians of our time, I cannot survive on four hours sleep a night, I need to catch up. I catnap a lot, if I come home from work and have a spare hour I will sleep for an hour, shower then head out. Often not in the best shape, but you only get one life, make the most of it, get out there and dance.

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A Hectic Weekend

From the beginning of the year it has looked like this was to be a very flat weekend. The number of social clubs stopping their weekend dances is growing, the reasons are many, but the ageing population of these events along with the unwillingness of the punters to support the bar, has made many unviable. Committees are looking for better ways to raise revenue, and unless we attract more people into social dancing, and get them to spend at the bar these dances will finish.

Suddenly, at least for this week though, things changed, the untimely death of Frank Smith and his memorial dance, along with finding out about The Salsa Inferno party, and getting a place at Sharon’s workshop and salon, it changed from a flat weekend to something quite frantic.

As I have already reported on Thursday at Shrewsbury, I will start with the Friday workshop with Hayden. The main theme was about changing weight and of course playing with the weight. We would get a lot out of this, as it gives me something more to play with while trying to interpret the music. Somehow though for me it became more about giros, let me explain; among my many faults, I fall back onto my heels when I rotate, and of course I was doing this again.

It looks to me always as if the woman is moving into my space; this cannot be the fault of the woman as every one does it with me.  Both Sharon and Hayden looked at my giro but some how the answer was not obvious.  Later when we were working on something else I had one of those eureka moments, it was me stepping into the ladies space, how I have never noticed this before I do not know, now hopefully another of my longstanding faults is finally vanquished.

There was time for a nearly three hours practice later, and I was able to try some rapid weight changes to a milonga beat, and practice my now perfected giros. We could do with more people coming for the after class Salon but I am sure in time word will get out there, and we will get more than just a couple of women adding to the twelve already there.

We arrived home shortly before midnight, and I had a chance to catch up on some sleep. The continuing run of late nights was starting to tell, so I allowed myself an indulgent lie in the next morning.

During the day I had a call from Steve asking if there was any dancing on anywhere. There was no social dancing that I knew of, except that I had heard that Salsa Inferno had a party at Theatre Clwyd. We made arrangements to pick Steve up and decided to go to an event of which we knew little and expected to know no one there.

The first person we saw when we arrived was James from Chester tango and Salsa. As we sat down, more and more people arrived that we knew. There were people from Tango Bangor, Chester, Liverpool, and people we had not seen for years. Salsa Dan was there with his wife, I managed a dance with her along with a few women who know me from tango. Most would not believe that I was no good at salsa; I soon put them right on that.

We had a fabulous night, hardly any dancing, but loads of catching up; even Gilbert was there, an old school friend of our daughter’s. I admit to having some sneaky fun videoing him trying to salsa. I have no intention of showing this here; it is for my daughter’s amusement only.

After the dance we finished up at Steve’s, and as usual did not leave until late. We needed to be up by ten to have time to travel to Prestbury, so again I had not enough sleep.

So Sunday morning up, showered and ready we set off for Prestbury and Frank’s memorial dance. We got a little lost as we turned too early for the satnav but as we U turned to go back, there in front of us was the Longfield Suite, I guess you could say that it found us.

The room itself was beautiful, it had a gleaming wooden floor, polished to perfection and of a size I have rarely seen. At the far end a huge stage already set with the instruments of Frambuesas, slow tango music had wafted us from the bottom of the stairs and now I was ready to dance.

Again, although not unexpectedly this time, there were numerous people from my past, we sat with Ann and Les, but I spent more time catching up with others around the room than dancing.

I had a lovely dance with Carol from Leeds the first I think we have had outside Buenos Aires. The tanda was Pugliese and while Carol loves his music and knows him well, I find it difficult to dance to so I promised Carol another dance later. To my shame I never made it, I hope she will forgive me, and I have told her we will dance again in BsAS.

The list of people we met is huge so I will not mention all of them, but I must mention Attilla, her last dance I think before her impending delivery, we wish her well, and though it was short I enjoyed my dance, a second milonga would have been too much with less than three weeks to go, so I had to let her sit down.

Frank would have been pleased I think, that we gave him such a good send off. I cannot finish without sending my thanks to the organisers, Frank’s family, Frambuesas, and anyone who helped, and not forgetting everyone who turned up. All these people know each other through him, and just seeing how many people now tango in the UK because of him is an inspiration.

As a footnote there were donations collected for the British Heart foundation, when I know how much they raised I will let you know.

After the milonga, of course, we still had our usual Sunday evening salsa class with Clan Cuban, just to finish off the weekend.

Then it was off to bed again so that I could be up for work in the morning at five.

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Men with big feet

This week we had some hints and tips for dancing to Pugliese. Now my views on Pugliese are well known, I don’t like dancing to the later tunes although I do enjoy listening to them. That said we were dancing to the early stuff and the strong rhythms and changes of pace gave us an enjoyable interlude.

One of the things we were doing was a very slow cross. Dave was asked to demonstrate with Sharon, it looked good. ( I reckon they had been practicing) However somebody noticed that Dave’s forward step moved out slightly, he said it was because he had big feet. Now you know what they say about men with big feet? Yes, they wear big shoes. Still it gave us some ammunition for some ribald comments later in The Coracle.

When these ribald comments arrived I did notice a wry grin on Alison’s face, is there truth in the rumours I wonder? The talk as usual revolved around tango, and the music. A comment by Dave I think deserves more exploration “The music is not an optional extra” The porteños dance because they love the music, and when I see people dance here to non tango, I wonder; how can you say you love tango without a love for the music? If it is a desire to become like something from Strictly, then this is not the place for you. Sex on the dance floor? Well I have news, in all my years I have only met one woman who was looking for a boy friend. There have been one or two romances, of course, but these are the exceptions. Those women who come alone usually have a husband or partner at home, and are just out for the social buzz. I seem to be popular with the ladies here (something new for me) I think that they are secure in the knowledge that I am very married, and look for nothing other that a good dance. The growing popularity of Line Dancing proves my point, there is no opportunity to get together there, so it ends up predominantly women, salsa likewise, you are together barely long enough to exchange names. Tango is the only dance where you socialise with a partner long enough and in an environment where you can get to know each other. So we meet and dance, enjoy each others company and the closeness of our bodies, safe in the knowledge that we will leave separately and that the relationship is just on the floor, nothing more..

 But what about the music? I hear you ask (go on ask me). It has to be enjoyed, women often close their eyes, not just so that they can follow better, but to better enjoy the music, I believe. If a man does not feel the music, does not move with it and just enjoy, then the woman cannot possibly respond well. Again as we danced to Pugliese great pauses happen and a lady with whom I was dancing (herself not much more than a beginner) commented that she loved the way I slowed down with the music. Come on men, this is not rocket science, to move with the music, to feel what the composer was saying, this is dancing. Dancing is not throwing her in the air, doing great big voleos or ganchos, trying to impress with your huge repertoire will just frustrate her, let her know that you feel the music, now that will impress.. It has taken me years to come to this conclusion. Years when teachers taught me moves, years when I learned kicks and flicks, and years when women probably hated dancing with me. Years wasted in not understanding why we dance, love is on the dance floor, for three minutes you love the woman you are with, but she will never know unless you also love the music you are dancing to as well.

Seems my post about the Shrewsbury Tango Rent a Mob has been taken too seriously. We had a very robust debate about the name. It looks like people do not like the Mob Idea. We had various suggestions as to what it should be called, and I thought it was just a joke, Is the world ready? I ask myself.

It had to happen one day, work and dancing just do not mix. Some times when I am not working there is not a venue anywhere where we can dance, this Saturday our friend Steve was performing at Llay British legion, another great artist Bill Dennis was performing at Ewloe, hard choice, but they were trumped by a milonga at Pant, Three venues where we could go. So where did we end up? I came home from work and fell asleep, not waking until quarter to nine. By the time I would have showered, changed, and driven there, it would have been time to come home. So for the first time I failed totally on a Saturday night. Viv did not wake me because she said that I needed it, she was right, of course, but I still missed the dancing, the music and all the three-minute romances.

I hope to make it up Monday night.

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