Tag Archives: Stanley Palace

Life moves on

My life in the tango world moves on, getting ever better. The Monday class at Chester is growing into a strong community, and Viv and I now have a definite job to do. Maybe this is not why we started but it gives us a sense of belonging and it is always nice to feel needed.

We now arrive quite early at Stanley Palace, despite it being a working day, the joy of being involved somehow overcomes any need for a sleep. Anyway it is not a late night so for these few days I can survive on five hours. While Sharon gives some private tuition I set up my music in the second room and Viv sets her stall for collecting the money.

When the beginner’s class starts again we have too few women, I have said this before, but I still find it strange that Chester is the only place where the men outnumber the women. First Viv is called to help out, then so am I, Roberta rides again, but not for long. Soon we have some more women arrive and we have even numbers, then another and it is goodbye to Roberta. 

I return to the other room as more dancers arrive, I can play some music for them, and make tea. (Charperson now is it). I also now collect the money as well. Actually the music has to stop as the class spills out into the other room. The class has got too big now for any move to be practiced, so the better leaders move out to create more space. At least this gives me a chance to see what is happening, until they move back that is.

In the intermediates I am again banished, but like last week I have a number of the beginners to coach. I enjoy this part of the evening, everyone wants to soak up as much as they can, and I get to be the big man. (This is Great for my ego).

Our French lady is back, I enjoy it when she says “so you do not move yourrr ips” I enjoy it so much I tell her to say it again, but she tries to sound more English. I have to tell her not to loose the accent, it sounds so sexy.

Again we have a number of new comers, and again the standard is amazing, if we keep this up we will need bigger premises. A lot are staying for the practica as well which is a really great sign.

A few start to congregate in the kitchen, tea and coffee are on offer. While they danced I made sure that there was hot water, but now I have my chance and I am not about to waste it. I dance like crazy with as many women as I can until Viv drags me off, telling me I must get up in the morning. Still it was nice while it lasted.

I cannot make Shrewsbury this week and there is no tango the weekend, hopefully though we are in for a couple of weeks of quite intense tango. If I cannot go to Buenos Aires then I fully intend to make the most of my time off.

On another point some of you may remember my post https://tangogales.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/new-friends/#comments where I first met Janis Kenyon in Maipu 444; it was to have been a birthday celebration of an old milonguero called Alito. Well I had news today from Janis that Alito was thrown out of his place that night and has lived on the streets since then. This is no life for an 80 year old and my heart goes out to him. Unfortunately that is all I can do, offer my sympathy. We are not out there and I have no place to offer. Hopefully Janis will keep me informed, even though I don’t know him personally, he is a kindred spirit, and we don’t wish to loose another old milonguero. Perhaps now that Tango has been declared part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations, grants will be available for descasamiento milongueros. We live in hope.

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Como El Beso?

OK maybe not entirely like El Beso, but here in the UK we have become accustomed to plenty of room to move. The concept of having to dance with the room is hard to grasp when you have acres of space. We simply do our own thing because there is always room to manoeuvre. El Beso for me is the ultimate in crowded milongas, you barely have room to breathe, so if you do not keep up with the room you will be pushed, barged and constantly overtaken. In El Beso you keep up with the room or you leave frustrated, since there is no middle ground. I remember well my first time there; I would have one dance, and then have to sit down while I tried to work out what was happening. I nearly gave up tango, I simply could not cope, I needed the space we have at home. It took me nearly four years before I had the courage to return there and I still found it difficult, we had seen fairly crowded floors in Amsterdam but not like this and certainly never in the UK.

 

Tonight for the first time I saw the new intake at Chester, it seems the work done by Ralf, Viv, and of course Sharon, had paid off. The room at Stanley Palace was filled to bursting. I think the lack of space worried one or two, but I am hoping that starting this way that they will learn from the beginning how to handle a crowded room.

Viv and I were exiled to the back room while the class was on, Viv collected the money and I helped any dancers who had a particular problem. It was only the second week of this beginner’s course so there was little we could do in the main room anyway, but it would have been nice to see how they performed.

Once the beginners were finished and the intermediates started we then had a number of the beginners with us who were willing to stop and practice. Again the main room was too crowded for us to join the class, but we were happy taking the new intake through what they had learned. One or two were having difficulties and were glad of a bit of one to one, others who had done a bit here and a bit there were confused. The messages from tango teachers can seem contradictory and, in a full class it is sometimes difficult to make the message clear. Of course I am no better; I just hope I have not further confused them. We talk of contra movement, yet keeping the body taught, then we talk of keeping tension in the arms yet leading from the chest, these things and more are difficult for the beginner to grasp. I tell them that they cannot be expected to be great tango dancers in their first weeks; after all it has taken me more than ten years to get as bad as I am.

When the class was over I had my chance at last in the main room. It was the first time ever for me in England that I danced with an American, a French lady, a German lady, as well as of course English and Welsh, all in the same night. We are quite cosmopolitan now, we have crowded rooms, and people from all over the world, and they said it would not last.

The dancers appeared to be coping well with the lack of room, some had of course been to our Gresford milonga so were used to it, others had only got their experience in the class, never the less it pleased me to see people moving with the room. There was, of course, the inevitable overtaking. This was after all a practica so there was some stopping when things went wrong, but in the main the movement was good.

All that is left to say is that I hope no one is put off by the lack of room, anyone learning in this environment is well set up to visit the great milongas in Buenos Aires. Many who visit from the UK are intimidated and never return or see little of the real milongas, I would hope that any from Chester would now relish the opportunity and move like a porteño.

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Can we have some women please

We arrived early for our second visit to Stanley palace. Sharon and Eric were already there but otherwise we were the first to arrive.

I had some time to explore this fine old building. The room we are in now had traditional beams up the walls with white plaster between. A huge wooden beam stretched across the fireplace, reputed to have come from one of the ships that used to dock at the old Watergate. The ceiling is also beamed but stretching from the fire towards the stairs is something more modern looking, I suspect that some steel has been built in to preserve the structure and this has been boxed in.

The wide staircase in the far corner turns ninety degrees after six steps and follows the wall up to the top. Above here is a gallery leading to another room above our dance room, wood panels divide this from the gallery and a Steinway grand lays waiting for someone to bring it to life. I am tempted to tickle the ivories, but I lack the knowledge or talent to do it any sort of justice.

Behind the gallery is a double wooden door with a sign telling key holders to use only in an emergency, but despite my curiosity I am unable to find out more.

The whole building has a feeling of another age, and I wonder if we should be using it as a dance venue or just admiring something that has stood for so long. This is believed to be the most haunted house in Chester, it certainly is the right setting, I could well imagine Ann Bolin walking down the gallery with her head tucked under her arm. Thinking like this I return to our dance room just as the music begins.

More people soon appeared, Paul, Graham, Ralf. Things were not looking good on the women front, soon there were six men and Viv. Even if Roberta made another appearance the numbers would not tally.  A couple arrived, but that did little to redress the balance, we desperately needed some women.

At one point I even tried dragging some off the street but to no avail. Sharon was desperately thinking how to alter tonight’s class to suit just leaders. Luckily just before the class started some women finally arrived and we had a quorum. Roberta would be needed but the numbers would at last tally.

I had worked hard in the garden and was tired and not relishing following tonight, but this is the arrangement we have, so I carried on.

Women seem to be always late in Chester and after half an hour another arrived, meaning I could finally sit down. I perched myself in the kitchen hatch where I could watch all the proceedings, looking like a garden gnome it amused the dancers.

Sharon was trying to teach the cross in cross system, with double time on the cross and also when the man changes weight. This caused some confusion for the less experienced, I do enjoy the way that Sharon can make light of the errors so much so that I sat there smiling sniggering and laughing all through the class.

Nobody took offence, I never intend any, but sometimes my mirth is misunderstood, it is a credit to the whole group that we just enjoy the good, the bad, and the ugly in equal measure. When I am dancing, I am often known to break into laughter, some ladies think that they must have done something wrong, but for me the joy comes when things go right, as well as when things go wrong. I gave up apportioning blame years ago, if something fails try again, if it fails a second time do something else, enjoy the moment, we dance for pleasure, we dance with each other, and if someone is watching, then they must enjoy it for what it is or ignore us, the dance is not for them but us.

So now I am the audience, and so I beg you, do not think my laughter criticism, I merely enjoy the moment with you, this is not schadenfreude, nobody is in pain, hopefully everyone enjoys the dance as much as me.

My time as audience is not to last, Elena arrives late and so I take her in to the room and hope I can quickly bring her up to the rest of the class. I enjoy this too, giving a bit of help to a beautiful young lady is one of my greatest pleasures.

Once again I had arrived tired and fed up, not looking forward to the night, and once again I ended up enjoying myself immensely. The music, the other dancers, and especially Sharon lift me to a place I would never get to on my own. I think that tango should be prescribed for anyone with depression. The curse of the modern age could be eliminated if everyone left their televisions and just came out dancing.

The practica carried on until eleven thirty. When I am not working the next day I make a point of staying until the end. A few others also stayed the distance, but unfortunately the women were soon all gone. Viv was not unhappy with this situation as she got to dance every dance, whereas I will sit out allowing others to practice. Nobody was interested in Roberta now the class was over. I guess dancing with a man is OK in class but never socially.

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Roberta learns a lesson

We turned off the inner ring road in Chester, and looking to my right noticed only one car in Linenhall street. It is little known even to those who live here that there is unlimited parking for about five cars within the city walls. My father had worked in the next building, and that has given me an insight not usually given to those who do not actually live within a block of here.

The problem is how to get to it: halfway down the street I turn left into a street littered with parked cars limited to half an hour. About twenty yards further on I turn right again into an alleyway barely wide enough for my car. So tight I had considered folding in my mirrors first, but I managed to squeeze through without incidence. At the top there is a tight turn then free parking, oh the joy of local knowledge.

We leave the car and head across the road to Stanley Palace. We have returned here after a couple of years, happy to be back. The room is quite small and we have no bar, but there are no drunks to disturb us and we have no audience to put off the beginners.

Stanley Palace is a beautiful building over four hundred years old, a beacon in black and white standing incongruously amid the modern buildings that line the inner ring road. Inside, at the moment, is a disaster, the upstairs ceiling had collapsed and the repairs were underway. No simple nailing up plasterboard allowed here, lath and plaster had to be used, after all this is a grade two listed building with a unique history. If you want to know more about it go to http://www.stanleypalace.com/tudor%20building.htm  The room in which we are to dance is relatively unaffected by the work, although Sharon did have to put a lot of talc down as the floor had no slip.

As people start arriving it is clear that we are not going to have enough women again. More men arrive and we only have three women (not counting Sharon)

A tall guy called Peter arrived, I had seen him occasionally at the Groves but knew little about him, other than he danced well. Roberta was in full flight, some men still were not comfortable with the close embrace, but I simply cannot feel where they want me to be unless I am close.

In between dances I noticed that I stood with my hand on my hip, quickly I altered my stance to look a bit more macho. I love the feeling of being led, but that is as far as I go, I am definitely a woman’s man.

When it came to my turn to dance with Peter I shut my eyes and let him lead. I found myself doing things I have never done before. I am not sure what I was doing I just flew around the room. Later we did something that involved us both being off axis and it just did not work for us. It is something I have often thought of doing with total beginners to get them to feel dependant, but the two of us were not comfortable off axis, so that for whatever reason it did not work. Unfortunately he seemed reluctant to dance with me after this. I know I can be a lump but my following has only ever been with beginners and I welcome a chance to improve. I will never be a great follower, but to pass on my experiences best I have to know how it feels from both sides. I did persist and get some more dances with him; I will get better with time.

When the class was over I watched Peter dancing, he had the ability to get the beginners to do things I never could, it left me curious.

We had to leave early as I was off to work the following morning so we moved into the other room to change our shoes. Peter joined us and we talked for a while, I never got all his history but he knew all the milongas in Buenos Aires and had been going there and taking lessons there long before us. He knew dance teachers we had never heard of and all the area around our apartment.

The reason we did not see him regularly was that he was up on business, again I did not have time to question him further, I must rely on Viv to extract more information at a later date.

 I have just recieved the link to the photos that Sally took at Shrewsbury, from the post “Sally comes to Shrewsbury” Go here to see them http://www.flickr.com/photos/sallycatway/sets/72157622055524424/

Check out Carlos and his red baloon, just ignore the idiot doing an Eric Morcambe inpersonation. some nice pictures of Viv’s shoes as well.

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