Tag Archives: Shrewsbury

Visitors

Many will have heard me rant on about moves people and how their tango disrupts social tango and often makes more than just their partners uncomfortable. We know that their style of learning is different and they do not learn the basics of the lead and follow.

Sometimes though what we know is challenged, our basic beliefs are proven wrong and we are driven to question what we have always known.

We had some visitors to the Shrewsbury class, they did what I often do, search out what tango is around the places we visit. They were holidaying not too far away and decided to visit The Lantern and see what tango was like in Shrewsbury. The man of the couple was an absolute beginner and so was exiled to the back room to have some intensive technique in walking and leading. For a change the numbers allowed me to stay with the main class and see what they were all learning. I had a chat with our visitor, and it seems she had come from classes that were nothing like ours, they learnt moves and little technique, but I thought that in the interval I would take her round the floor and see how she performed. I admit to being pleasantly surprised, she followed well and as I slowly upped the level, at no time was she phased.

As I have often said, women follow instinctively and I am sure that this is in part what was happening, but also I think that, despite everything, there must have been some element of lead and follow in her other classes. Our tango worlds may not always sit happily together, but, as has been proven, we can cross the divide happily, provided we remember where we are at any given time.

I do wonder though if it would be quite so easy to cross the divide for a man. My first steps in tango were all about moves, my routine based tango stayed with me through most of my formative years of salon tango. I never lost it until I went to Buenos Aires, then in two intensive weeks of dancing my tango changed forever, and my routine was lost.

No matter how hard I tried I could not recover my routine. I could not even remember how we started. I think that now, as I try to dance the music, I am unable to arrange my moves in a pre arranged order, routine simply will not fit to the music, the music dictates.

I would love to hear from men, can you go from Nuevo to salon easily? Have others lost their routine when faced with hours of salon tango? And more importantly can any men survive in both worlds?

After the class we had our usual meeting in The Coracle and had further options to explore the differences in our tango worlds. One thing that still surprises me is that women actually prefer a gentle simple dance; they do not get bored with doing the same thing, longing for more and more complex moves. When you dance the music, that decides what you should do and the way you mix up the moves and alter cadence can make even very few moves feel like an interesting dance.

We men all do it; we worry that, maybe, that was one too many ochos, or is she getting bored with not enough moves. Yes even me, we also see good dancers and think “I could not possibly ask her to dance” We all have our own crisis’ of confidence, we men have fragile egos, in this way tango is much like sex; women have complex desires but a man prefers the woman who just tells him he is great in bed or on the dance floor. 

So while I can bang on that there is no need to do more and more complex moves, and you must dance the music and the women will love you for it, the women must play their part and tell us that this is what they want, or we will just go off and learn more moves just to try and please you.

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Reports of My Death

 Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.

Just read this and it sort of prompted me to write.  Reports of our demise

My wife returned to line dancing after a break of many months, and was offered sympathy at her loss “loss what loss?” it seems that reports have emanated from the local pub that I had passed away, where these rumours came from I have no Idea. I dismissed them as mistaken identity.

Until, this week I received a letter from my Building Society addressed to The Executor of my estate. Things were now getting serious. Of course my first call was to the insurers “If I am dead, can I have my life insurance money?”

It appears I am not “that” dead.  The head office had got mixed up about five years ago when my mother died, but how this tied in to local rumours I have no idea.

Two unrelated (it seems) events came together in one week in a way that scared the hell out of me, still having re-risen for easter I am now a bit of a celebrity and will be dancing the tango of the undead tonight in Shrewsbury with anyone who’s nerve will hold.

Healing sessions and worship are to be arranged soon.

BTW. I have just seen the date, this is all true, it is not an April fools joke.

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Second Bangor Tea Dance

It had snowed all night, but it was not heavy enough to stop us. We had arranged to take Katerina with us, and I had joked to Viv that if she tried to cry off, she should tell her it is far worse in Siberia.

We had allowed plenty of time and as we travelled along the A55 we realised that we would be quite early, so against my instincts I tried to drive slowly, but we were still three quarters of an hour early outside Penrallt Baptist Church. We still had a parking place to find, but this would not take long.

As we turned the first corner we passed Sharon walking up, she had not yet arrived herself.

When we got in my first job, as always, is to make Viv a coffee (hang on, wasn’t it me doing the driving?)  Anyway, Sharon was in a state of stress and not ready for us. She must have snapped at me because she apologized for it, rather sweetly later. I honestly never noticed, it must be because I have lived all my life in families full of women. The thing is I know I am of little use at times like this, so I made the coffee and got out the way, and ate the sandwich Viv had made me for lunch.

All the usual Bangor crowd soon arrived, along of course with Anna and John, always great to see these two, their energy is what I think keeps Tango Bangor going, along with them they brought Leo, who sat there happily googooing.

When the class started there was the usual excess of women so Viv was let out holding the baby. I don’t know who looked the most happy Viv or Leo.

This did not last though, as the class struggled to do double time to a Vals beat (there are a lot of absolute beginners here) Leo got fed up with a substitute mother and decided he wanted the real thing back. This sort of ruined my first dance with Anna, but I know my place in this pecking order.

As usual after the class everyone stuffed themselves with cake, and it was hard to drag anyone away from all the lovely food to dance. It also makes it very hard for me, still struggling with my weight, though I admit to partaking of the odd crumb or two. Ok a big slab of chocolate cake and coated end of the chocolate Swiss roll. Somehow I always seem to drop a pound or two whenever I fail, so I am not too upset at my lack of discretion.

Soon enough we were all dancing, one or two of the first timers were a bit nervous as I took them on the floor, but I was gentle with them. I find it incredible here that people who have never danced before will stay and enjoy the social afterwards, and the men will actually ask the women to dance. There is hope out there with our student generation.

Bangor is unusual in the dance scene, in that as it is a University Town the crowd tends to be much younger than in say, Chester or Shrewsbury. Although they are, or maybe because they are younger they are full of enthusiasm and lacking any inhibitions. The fact that Viv and I are so much older seems to worry them not at all.

A great time was had by all and I am saddened to see that I must work the next one on 6th March, it was a good run but as any shift worker will tell you, you grab these things when you can.

On our drive home I was able at last to unleash the horses, that is, until the snow again pulled the traffic into another disorderly queue, with my wipers battling against the rising spray.

We had to get home you see, because we were out again at Ewloe social club that evening, for the Finches the dancing never ends.

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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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Conflicting Advice

Advice given to beginners can often seem conflicting, just the advice we give about embrace and how we hold our arms can be enough to drive you to distraction, so sometimes it can be prudent to limit what we teach, and if you like, drip feed the information. Sometimes this is seen as a way of making the classes last longer, or extracting more money out of the students. Often when I give advice, I am told “but I have been told the opposite is true” I try to explain that it is more about subtleties, but only time and experience can truly teach.

The beginners class in Shrewsbury is a great success again, we arrived there to see a huge number of new students. (it is the second week, work again kept me away for the first). We did not take part in the first class as we arrived late, but as we watched I was impressed with the standard that was already being achieved.

In the interval I took a few of the new women for a walk around the room (two weeks and you could not expect much more). Those I took followed well and picked up on my changes of cadence with a good feel for the music. As I gave advice on posture and following, I was asked “how do I know from all the advice I am being given what is good and what is bad” My answer is simple, and although not definitive, it will help. If someone tells you to step here or to put your leg there, them they are not teaching you to tango, if however they help you with your posture, show you how to respond to leads and just follow, then that for me is what tango is all about.

An example: I was dancing with one of the intermediates towards the end of the evening, I led something (can’t remember now what it was) she said ” that was awful”(meaning her following) “can we do it again” this time I was not so good, so we did it again. Apart from the request to do it again, and the cheer at the end when we got it right, there were no other words spoken. Never did I say “you should be there” or “put your foot here” we learnt with our bodies. Tango is a two way conversation, body on body. In the milongas in Buenos Aires, the conversation ceases when they dance, only the bodies talk.

Anyway for the second class I was sent to the back room with the beginners. We had four couples stay on and I had a chance to work with them, and perhaps give them a bit of Bob’s philosophy. At one point I stopped the class, all the ladies were smiling, THAT is what we want to achieve. You do not dance salon tango for the audience, Men you have a beautiful lady in front of you, if she looks anything less than beautiful on the dance floor, then that is your fault. Why would you care what the people sitting around think of you? You have been given, a gift, an honour, and a pleasure this wonderful woman is allowing you to dance with her enjoy her time and make dammed sure that she enjoys it as well. If you cannot lead something or your lady cannot follow it, do something else, we teach in classes, not on the dance floor.EVER.

Some conflicting advice again here; one guy was taking very small steps, so much so that when he led me I could not feel where he was taking me, now it seems Dave had told him when doing double time to take small steps and now I was telling him to take big steps. You can see how confusion arrises. I belive we resolved this one, but I would say to all who go to classes, when you get conflicting advice, Ask. More often than not it can be explained, and the more you understand the explanations the better will become your tango.

 We had a good crowd in The Coracle again, conversation ebbed and flowed. It seems I am missing out on some Facebook friends, I have since put that right, but I still find it hard to understand why anyone would want to contact me via Facebook, there is this blog, all my friends know my email address, you can even find me on google if you try hard enough. There is so much rubbish on there that it took me two hours to respond to one message yesterday, and my wife is complaining that I spend too much time on the computer as it is. Rant almost over, just to say I have turned my email notifications off, so if you try to get me on Facebook I probably will not respond. My Email however I check fanatically.

 OK another rant my spell check has just come up with this 

Reword lady

Bias words and phrases may express gender, ethnic, or racial bias. These can turn people off. Bias-free language has the same meaning and treats people with respect.

Replace lady with

  • woman

YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING!!  If I wanted to show bias or lack of respect, I can do a lot better than this.

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More Pant Photos

My Thanks to Mike for sending me more photos of the Pant Milonga. By the time these were taken many had left, but we still have all the old die hards here.

I want to initiate The  Tangogales award for services to dance right here. It will be awarded on a purely random basis, and the decision of the judge is final (that is me).

The winner is Geoff Shone, drummer with Sounds Familiar.  I have hassled and pushed the organisers of many venues for next years dates, two weeks of the year left and nobody has yet given me any dates. Geoff quite independently has got me the dates for the first six months at Saltney Social club. Well done Geoff.

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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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