Tag Archives: Strictly come dancing

Something Has to give

Well I am not complaining (maybe a little about work) but with all the calls on my time, in the end, something had to give.

So this Thursday we missed our regular social dance at Saltney Social Club. It  was a shame , but with having people here until seven-thirty and not yet eaten. It was nearly nine by the time we were ready to go out. For those who do not know, it goes something like this; Eight thirty, start dancing, Nine thirty break, Ten start again and eleven finish. We would have missed the first half completely and for just an hour of dancing, well I could not be bothered.

We had had a good day of classes here and some tango practice of our own, so we were not devoid of dancing all together. But by the time it was all over we were probably too tired anyway. So I finished off a bottle of Bailey’s and we had an early night.

We got some tango in over the weekend though. We had arranged to take our caravan to a local Rally that was mainly about dancing. Local, really is the word here, it was across the road from my workplace.  They had asked us to give them a demo on the Saturday night, so only too pleased, I agreed.

We had the opportunity to practise in the afternoon, so we knew the floor and what we could do. Viv, who really is coming out, spoke to them about what tango is and why it is so different from Strictly Come Dancing. We gave them a Tango (Champagne Tango, Di’Sarli) a vals (Pobre Flor, De Angelis) and , my favourite milonga (Yo Soy de San Telmo, Di’Sarli, again). In the end they gave us rapturous applause and everyone seemed to enjoy our little demo.

Hopefully we can get a  few converts from this sequence crowd, if not, at least they now have an idea of how they tango in Buenos Aires.

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Profesionals?

It was always going to be hectic, too many things to do in too short a time. It all started when Viv was asked to help at the WI. At first it was “teach them some simple Line dances” then it became “you could do some tango as well” Trouble is, how do you do a demo of Salon tango to people who’s only experience of Argentine tango is Strictly Come Dancing.

So it soon became a talk, and then a demo, after that it was a simple case of leave the line dancing to Viv.

Our day started late (because of a night shift the night before) with a practice, our small dance room gives us only enough room to warm up. If we had a choreographed routine, it would either not fit here or it would be lost in any decent sized room. So we warmed up and Viv worried that I would miss out all our best moves. For me though it is better that I just relax, nobody knows all our moves and they probably would not care.

Viv was also worried about the music, she changed her mind daily. I had to put my foot down on Saturday and say “whatever we choose today, that is it” In the end we settled for Champagne Tango By Carlos DiSarli, Corazon de Oro and El Portenita by Angel Vargas. I wanted Café Dominguez, but Viv did not like the talking at the start. I held it in reserve anyway.

We also had to rearrange the music systems. The speakers from my power amp are large, to say the least, so in order to save space they have taken over in the dining room. They look less conspicuous when in use and my usual speakers can be hidden away.

Everything had to be restored to working order for the night’s practica after the speakers were removed, so there was much cable pulling and reconnecting to be done.

Finally, with everything set up at home and all the show gear in the car we set off for our venue. When we arrived they were already setting up the tables in a ring around the room. “We thought you wanted the middle of the room” they said. Trouble was, with the sound gear on the stage, set at a volume we could work at, the people at that end of the room would have the backs of their heads blasted off.

They were very accommodating and soon things were arranged to please us. Next problem was the floor, it was a school hall you see. There was a tile missing in the middle, that was bad enough but worse there were two Comme Il Faut heal size holes in the floor. I figured out that these were bolt holes for the wall bars when they were swung out.

We needed a practice to find ways of avoiding the obstacles. Finally set, we then waited for the crowds. A few of the ladies came over and asked some awkward questions “are you the man who teaches on Tuesday?” “Do you teach in the church hall?” It took me some time to realise, they thought I was a line dance teacher. The Suit, tie and Oxford shoes should have given it away. Line Dancers wear jeans and boots, and I had no hat or sixguns.

Viv gave a very good talk, with me interrupting where necessary, hopefully the ladies of Rossnesni WI now know the difference between salon and show tango. They were very attentive, and even had a few questions for us afterwards.

Our demo went off well, as always I forgot some of our signature moves, but we kept it moving and stayed with the music. So in my eyes anyway, it was a success. The ladies seemed to enjoy it and thanked Viv profusely when she finally left.

Me? I had to rush off, someone to pick up for the practica and I had one very helpful neighbour, who was attending the house, in case anyone arrived early. Anyway there was no point in me being late as well.

We had a great practica, numbers were up and just one extra female. Viv finally managed to arrive in time for a last couple of dances.

So we had another great practica, enjoyed thoroughly our demo and on top of that we were rewarded for our efforts.

I guess that now make us professional Dancers. Bookings are now being taken.

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Summer Tour

It was never going to work. The plan was to attend the Friday Milonga and then decide if we would do any workshops.

The rule was that if you want to attend any workshops with Tangk you must first do beginners. Having done tango for almost fifteen years and due to work commitments it is unlikely I would ever get back, I could see no point in doing a basic class. We felt sure that as we knew the organisers and some of the teachers that there would be no problem getting into an advance class, but first we had to get there.

This was our problem, I was working until six on Friday morning, and then I had to hitch up the caravan drive three hundred miles. After this I had to set up base and then go out dancing. I was up early enough, but the drive took it out of me. We arrived and set up camp by about seven-thirty, but I was spent by now and so we had an early night.

In the morning we had an early call from the guy who collects the money. As we paid him he said “can I see your membership card” so I showed him my card and he said “this is a Caravan Club card” I looked puzzled “we are The Camping and Caravan Club” he said. Have a look at the flags, both red triangles with something in the centre.

Ignore the background, that does not appear on signs

As Viv said “you never hear anyone mixing up The AA and The RAC” Still the guy was ok and let us stay.

 

So we never got to any workshops but we did get to a couple of Milongas. We were only in the New Forest for five days so two nights tango was a good ratio. Saturday night was the best for me, all traditional, arranged in Tandas and very social.

We had other things to do during the days and on the following nights, catching up with our daughter was the primary concern, so all in all we left happy.

From here we set off across the Severn to Cardiff. It was a shorter journey, I had a good night’s sleep, so arrived much less stressed. Also we knew this site from our camper van days, we could just relax. Things were not altogether smooth though; recent rain had left the site muddy, so we were forced to go in search of a groundsheet for the awning. Viv was not at first happy with our situation, but she soon settled in.

We managed some tango here, as well. There is a regular Tea Dance at Morgans Town. We have never made this one before and we had some confusion about times. When we had been there no more than an hour they called “tea” I decided that we would just make the most of the time and keep dancing. When I did check it out there was an awesome amount of food. I did partake of a little, but I had promised Viv a meal out.

I think the organisers were a bit taken aback when we left just after seven, but we had decided to eat out and were surprised it was still going on. We had expected it to finish at six (it finished at eight apparently). Next time we will have a better idea of what is happening and will stay to the end, but for now we were hungry.

A little geography is in order here; The Halfway is about a hundred yards from our campsite, walking. In the car it can take about ten minutes. The menu in the window said that they did Fish and Chips, what had got this into Viv’s head I don’t know, but I was easy with it. I dropped her at the door said “order the drinks and food and I will park the car” I was not about to be denied a pint or two.

I arrived back at the pub, where Viv said “you will have to pay for the drinks” she had come out without money; on top of this they stopped serving food at eight.

Now I did not fancy walking back for the car and I already had one pint in front of me, so inappropriately dressed and with dancing shoes on we set off in search of food. It looked like rain and we had to walk to Canton before we found a Weatherspoons. Now we hear mixed reports, but you know, when you want food they are always there. No fish and chips but we had my favourite “All day Breakfast” delicious.

When we came out it had indeed rained, but we must be very righteous because the sun shone upon us as we walked back, well fed and merry.

Monday saw us return again to Barocco bar for Tango Edge. Again we were welcomed as old friends and I had the chance to kiss the bride as Xenia had married Graeme this year. Wonderful music and a real atmosphere, it is just a shame that like so many places we know that I can get there so rarely. We stayed right to the end and had a mini adventure walking back along the river in the dark.

Our final destination was Iron Bridge; we were not expecting any dancing, but five days of exploring all the fabulous museums. I was not disappointed in the passport it was worth every penny and we filled five days actually failing to see the last museum (The clay pipe museum). Viv got her fish and chips finally in the Victorian village, cooked in real lard.

A small town in the middle of the Iron Bridge heritage site, Maidley is almost completely new. Almost everything has been wiped out, cleared and replaced with modern buildings. I say almost but in the middle is The Anstice Memorial Workmens Club & Institute, a piece of tradition in the midst of modernity. And apparently the oldest working mens club in existence. http://www.madeleylocalhistory.org/buildings/anstice.html

We came out of Tescos loaded with shopping, and I just wondered. Two guys were outside the door having a smoke and generally abusing each other as good friends often do. I walked over and asked “do they have any dancing here?” they answered me in the affirmative “ay they do Foxtrot and that on a Saturday night, I call it Zimmer frame dancing”

We did some checking and found that indeed there was a dance that Saturday. So we turned up not knowing quite what to expect, but ready to accept whatever we got.

What a revelation, the crowd were indeed old but not aged. The first dance was a Waltz Catrine, the first sequence we ever learned (rarely danced now in these parts); great start. There were, of course, one or two we did not know, but this far from home, not as many as we would have expected. They stuck strictly to the fifty percent, half ballroom half sequence, and do you know? These Zimmer frame dancers had me sweating even though we were doing less than they were.

They played a ballroom tango (yes I know I’m a hypocrite) but there were not many on the floor and it was La Cumparsita. Afterwards people were coming to us all the time “We loved your Tango”. We tend to worry that people expect Strictly, but I suppose social dancers the world over realise that there is a difference.

In the second half they played another tango and nobody got on the floor, I guess it was Show time. I suppose it must have been that because we left the floor to much applause.

The people here were lovely even the steward of the club came to welcome us and beg us to come back. If you are ever in the area I can heartily recommend the place; live music, beautiful building, friendly people and welcoming staff, what more could you want?

All too soon and it was time to return home. I had a pile of email and I needed to tell people about our practica.

Two regulars cried off for family reasons and with little notice I expected a poor turnout. Just shows, you never can tell. A private class one other and that looked like my limit, then the bell started ringing, people just kept arriving.

We ended up with record numbers and I just could not bear to send them home at eleven (even though I had to be up at five in the morning).

When they finally all left Viv said “that was a bloody good night” I agree.

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Of Mice and men!

You can only do so much planning, in the end, luck and experience decide how your day will go.

I knew it was a tight schedule, to do a demo at a tea dance right after a night shift, but the way my shift worked out it was the only way. The crowd at The Lache had repeatedly asked us, so we had said that as a Christmas special we would give a demo. I will be working when they have the Christmas dinner so this week was my only chance.

We had practiced,carefully chosen the music and then saved it on a CD-RW. I had spent a lot of time over the music, I wanted something more exciting like D’Arienzo, but as we had milonga and Vals I agreed with Viv and we instead went for the beauty of Poema and Canaro, for the Vals it just had to be Pobre Flor and Alfredo DeAgelis, while for the milonga we again chose Canaro  and Reliquias Porteñas. 

Our clothes had been carefully prepared and were waiting on hangers in suit bags. All the preparations done Viv had moved everything into the car, all I had to do now was get up and showered. Waking from a night shift is never a pleasant experience but with half an hour to get out, I showered shaved had a sandwich and we were soon out on the road.

We arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, just time to do a sound check and set up ready for people to arrive. (although I cannot get here regularly, Viv has become part of the crew and collects the entrada and gives  out the raffle tickets).

I put my disc in the machine, then disaster, “no disc” I took it out again and tried it in the other tray “no disc” cleaned it, tried again “no disc”. Tony tried the disc I had given him with tango tracks on, that played fine, but I could not make him understand how this would not work for us. Quite apart from now wanting to dance to Poema, his disc had no Vals or milonga on it. There was no choice but to rush home and get the originals. This of course meant I would get no warm up dancing done and quite possibly miss the tea, still it had to be done.

As I left the A483 exit, I had a sudden panic; Viv had locked the house and I did not have the keys. Fortunately though she had thrown them in the tray in the car, so panic over I set about finding the discs. I do not normally use the discs, as all my music is now on computer and I simply play from lists. It took me some time to find what I wanted and then had to choose another milonga. At great risk of receiving a speeding ticket I arrived back with five minutes to spare.

The most difficult part now was letting Tony know which tracks to play as we now had three separate discs. All went well until Pobre Flor, the D’Angelis CD was a double disc and I had given him the wrong one, it took three attempts to get the right track. It was my mistake but I had at first blamed Tony, he, fortunately is so laid back, it never bothered him. Everyone seemed to enjoy it even though it was not like Strictly, but Viv had left the following introduction on the tables:

During the tea break Bob and Viv will perform a small demonstration of Argentine Tango.

The type of tango you may have seen on “Strictly” is called Show Tango. The couple are taught a routine which they then practise over and over until it is perfect. This type of tango is not generally danced in Argentina, except in shows for tourists.

The type of tango Bob and Viv dance is called Salon Tango, which is purely an improvised dance, no routines are ever learnt, Bob makes it up as he goes along and Viv has to follow. Viv never knows what Bob is going to do next (unfortunately Bob doesn’t know what he’s going to do next either). This is the tango that is danced in the clubs in Argentina.

I got a lot of questions like; do you really not know what you are going to do next? and of course, How does she know what to do? By now you, of course know the answers, but one for which I did not know was; What is that funny thing she does with her fingers, is it some kind of communication? I was asked this more than once. I guess it must have been nerves, though  I never noticed when we were dancing, Just something else for us to work on I suppose.

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On Strictly & Anne Widdecombe

I know I have some readers not from the UK, so bear with me here; Strictly come Dancing is a TV programme here in the UK where they take non-dancing “Stars” and pair them with a dance professional and then compete for the ultimate title of winner of Strictly Come Dancing. At least that is my take on it.

Now as I am out dancing most nights and even when I am in I watch little TV, I have so far managed to avoid every episode of this circus.

This weekend however I had to work Saturday and Sunday night, so Viv was home alone with just the television for company. She, like I, had been badgered to watch “you should see xx’s tango”  is often the cry, so this Saturday she saw Patsy Kensit and Robin Windsor’s Tango, note I missed out the word Argentine. See for yourselves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsSubO8qlCw 

Every cliché is there; The Chair, The hat, the stiletto’s even the six o’clock shadow, but what is not there is a single thing that is real AT. There is no lead, no connection, no feel for the music and more importantly what about the music; “I’m sorry”, but OMG you should be, at the risk of repeating myself, ask any Argentine what tango means to them and to a man they will either talk about the great musicians, or they will say it is all about the touristas. You don’t get much more touristy rubbish than this. Is it beyond the ability of the great BBC to play some actual Argentine Music?

OK so now I was close to kicking the computer across the room (I watched t the next day on youtube) then Viv told me to watch Anne Widdecombe and Anton DuBeke doing a Rumba,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Goc36SOdKIA Now I am hooked and I am posting my colours to the mast “Anne Widdecombe to win Strictly”

So why? you may ask, well here goes. First of all, forget the “fact” that all these stars are novices, that is utter rubbish, although some are, most have been to some sort of fame academy in their youth. Although trained as something else, anyone who knows anything about these places will tell you that they always cover a wide range of stage skills, acting, singing and dancing. So the novice dancer argument is out of the window, except of course for one aging Parliamentarian.

So we have  professional dancers, leading some one who has at least some basic skills except of course for poor old Anton DuBeke. Now I have been around the local dance scene for over fifteen years and have come across many Annes but few, if any Patsy’s. I would not dream of putting myself in Anton’s league, but can still understand his predicament. Anyone can look good with a good dancer on their arm but to lead someone like Anne takes real skill, so let me hear it for the most skillful man on there.

Now Anne has taken so much flack, from the judges, the audience and the public. How does she respond? with great good humour. She never takes herself too seriously and although you can see she really is trying, she smiles through it all.

Can I say here and now “Anne Widdecombe, I never liked you politics, but you are never the less a STAR, and if you win I for one will be cheering”

Strictly was never about the dancing, if it were then Come Dancing would still be on the TV. No it is a popularity contest. You choose who you would most like to win, wether or not they can actually dance. Ask yourselves, who gets the standing ovations from the audience and who alone has revived a program that was dyeing on its feet.

Now lets hear it “Anne Widdecombe to win Strictly”

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Happy 2010

Christmas this year has been somwhat of a let down. You see with Christmas Eve and New Years Eve falling on a Thursday, those running Wednesday dances saw little point in running them. Thursdays usual of course were cancelled. Twixmas is always a bit flat, but at least we still had the Salsa. Of course the first Sunday one will not be on as they struggle to find a new venue while The Groves is Closed. Saturday 2nd there is no dance anywhere and I am struggling to get people to pass me information about  any venues.

There have been some high points of course. The twixmas Salsa was great fun and we would have stayed longer had our daughter not been home. It would have been unfair to expect her to sit home alone after travelling up to see us. We had a workshop with the Chester Tango, to work on how we would move on, now that we have a group of dancers with some experience. You see up until now they were all beginners and had no experienced dancers to look to. So now when we have a total new intake, we hope to not go down the route of other tango scenes where there is an elite clique. Any way I think it went well and look forward to a thriving community.

On the high points I leave until last Steve Sound who has as usual been my saviour over this Christmas period. The usual Christmas Eve dance at Ewloe was a bit down in number, I think that the bad weather put many off, but Steve worked hard to lift the night, and I am sure that those who missed it would have been sorry.

It has now become something of a tradition that on my birthday we travel with him to The Lion Hotel in Cricieth, where he entertains the Christmas crowd there. We enjoyed a meal and Steve’s unique style as he tries to revive an almost dead crowd, but you know, before long they were all singing along and dancing the conga. OK there was almost no strict tempo and definitely no tango, but it was lively and fun, and it knocked spots off the rubbish that was on the television.

Finally we move on to New Years Eve. We arrived at the venue at mid day to unload all the gear and set up the stage. Life was made a little difficult as The Blood Transfusion Service was in the hall, and we had to set the stage up blind,so to speak. Happily the finished earlier that expected so that at just before three we could open the curtains and see our handy work. Then when the caretakers had finished sweeping out, all the tables could be set and at four thirty, all that could be done was done, the caretakers went home and so did we.

We returned again at seven, Steve had already been here half an hour. Viv set up here shoes and I stood by the door trying to look like I could stop anyone intent on trouble. Happily non came, but the place soon filled with our capacity crowd and at eight Steve Sound was off into action again.

Where did the night go? I always think it is a sign of a good night when it passes too quickly. We had an even mix of ballroom and sequence dancing so every one was happy, we even had a ballroom Tango. I asked Steve to play this as I know that dancing schools teach it and that they never get a chance to practice. We weaved around them doing Argentine tango as best we could to strict tempo music, and I am sure it was appreciated, because surprisingly the floor was full.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few of the final night of the year, and may I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.

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Bangor Tea Dance

It must be hard to run a tango scene in a university town. You advertise, work up a good crowd, teach them to be good leaders and followers, then they get their degrees and move on. Anna and John have my admiration for this. We may not always agree about the music, but I will always love coming here and dancing with Anna.

Despite having an 80th birthday party to go to, we could not miss the workshop and tea dance that they had arranged in Bangor.

Saturday started out filthy, rain and mist, almost no light. Even at a good pace it would take me an hour and a quarter to drive. We decided to take the SEAT my little Suzuki although economical would not be a good drive that low down in the rain. When we arrived at Bangor I was glad, the narrow streets offered almost no parking, and when we found a spot, I was not sure what condition I would find the car in.

So suitably stressed put we arrived in Penrallt church hall a beautiful stone building with ornate wooden ceilings. Greeted by Sharon as a long lost friend (Well it was over 36 hours) and then Anna and john. Of course I also greeted little Leo, can I adopt him as my grandson??  

Sharon did a milonga workshop. She kept it very simple, but I thought it good, that as most of these were very new beginners, they were getting an introduction early to milonga, so hopefully they would not learn to fear it. After a few stragglers arrived the numbers evened out and Viv stayed on the sidelines to help Sharon.

I was very impressed, most of the ladies here had never danced milonga before yet they followed me well.

All too soon the class was over and it was time to attack the cakes. I tried hard to be good, honestly. I am getting close to my target weight, but every time I think I may achieve it I am surrounded by vicious cakes, all determined to make me suffer.

Anna had promised to save me, but Leo was taking up her time, still I did not do too badly.

I got those dances with her eventually and most of the women at some point. I did leave one woman standing when Lola came on; I said that I would return to her when it was over. I don’t get this, why is everyone suddenly playing Lola? I believe that it was played on Strictly, but that will never make it a tango. It is four four time, but it does not even sound tangoish. I am threatening a screaming fit next time it is played.

OK  Sharon played (apart from Lola) all traditional tango, I suspect someone requested it, and lets face it we are outside our realm, keep a low profile.

All in all we had good time, some even said they may come to Chester, certainly all seemed to have a flair for tango, and young people who would spread out across the UK may well start tango scenes all over the country.

More power to you Tango Bangor.

 

Some carried on dancing but for some the cake was too much.

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