Tag Archives: Strictly

The Shame of a purist

There are rules in Tango. I believe they are there for good reason. This I suppose makes me a purist, some have even said a fundamentalist, but I stick to my guns. The Cabeceo or nod, is there so that Jonny foreigner is not embarrassed by being refused a dance and then having to do the walk of shame back across the floor. We do not dance to Cancion, because the tempo changes to suit the singer, not the dancer. Most of all we do not dance tango to non tango music, because it does not speak to us in the same way, and anyway, it’s just not Tango. These are the rules I stick to and the things that make Tango unique for me.

Sunday night was the fortieth anniversary of the day Viv and I met. I had struggled to find some suitable way to celebrate. It seems everywhere that was around then is either shut for good or just on a Sunday night.
In the end I elected to hire the services of a great local artist johnnydevents.co.uk and arranged a bit of a do at the local, The Red Lion Marford. He would be performing hits from the 70s to celebrate the era in which we met and married. By eight there was no one there, but then suddenly they arrived in droves. I had asked John to start at eight but he decided he would delay for half an hour while everyone settled.
OK, it was a strictly not ballroom night, but we did get in a few jives and there was a great deal of “chair dancing” especially for the “Time Warp”. It was a truly great night and Jonny D never let us down.
For his last number he did a special request “Yesterday Once More” an old Carpenters number that has a bit of special significance to us.
At this point there was a demand for the organiser of this fine evening to get up and dance. Now I am always eager, but Viv got up somewhat reluctantly. The question is, what do you dance to Yesterday once more. It ain’t Cha cha, or Rumba, not waltz, so I decided I would just do social Foxtrot around the room.
When I got up, I could not feel the quick quicks, the tempo was all wrong, so I just defaulted. We danced Tango, Tango to pop, fortunately there was no one there who would notice.
Jonny D performed beautifully. I swear there was a tear in Bob’s eye. You may think he is just an old softy, but I say it was tears of shame of the tango purist.
That’s my story and I am sticking with it.

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The teacher is not always right two

I get comments these days that are more like posts than comments. I am not complaining all comments are welcomed, good and bad, but I like to reply to them all. So for the second time I must do a post in reply to a comment.

I received a comment from Jantango in Buenos Aires Teacher is not always right and feel again that this deserves more than a quick answer.

I remember the first time I was at a milonga in Buenos Aires it was at Confiteria Ideal in the afternoon. We had been taken there by our guide for the trip, who educated us about the codigos where to dance and how to cope with what was a totally alien environment to us.

We fell out some time later, which was a shame, as I think she gave us invaluable information for times to come, and although we are no longer in contact I would gladly recommend her to anyone visiting for the first time.

She had the sense to bring us early, when the place was less crowded. This allowed us to get a feel for the room and to get up and dance in the time when people were still coming in.

So how does this relate to the comment? Well no teacher I had been too had ever been to Argentina, none of them knew the codigos, none could tell me how to cope.

As more people came to the milonga, we found it more and more difficult to move, and for some reason, I had yet to learn, and we were always in the middle of the floor.

We had couple of days of this before our first dance lesson. We had been signed up with a guy called Roberto Canelo. He was not milonguero in the true sense of the word, more a stage dancer. In his early days he had been embarrassed at his local club, Club Almagro by being asked to leave the floor and watch how the true milongueros did it. He soon learned how to navigate the floor and move to the music not just doing steps, so now he passes his knowledge on at his tango school. Nothing of this was known to me, of course, I was just passed to an Argentine who taught tango, and of course to me the fact that he was argentine was all that mattered to me at the time.

With him we learned to dance milonga, how to cope with a crowd how to navigate the floor, and importantly to me, why I always ended up in the middle. He told me that old milongueros will dance to the outside of the room, taking any space left to the right, forcing any principiantes into the middle. So now I must learn that as well as protecting my partner I must defend my right hand side, I do not let anyone into this space, it is mine alone. With this knowledge I can gloat at the show dancers, principiantes and yanquis who populate the middle of the floor. He learned all this by going to the milongas, he already was a great dancer, but could not cope with the milonga floor, not until he had experienced it himself and had the coaching of other milongueros.

So when I learn that a great show dancer with years of experience could not cope at a milonga, you should not be surprised that I greet with horror the thought that people who have less than two years tango experience want to teach. You should also not be surprised that I will not go to any teacher who has never visited a Buenos Aires milonga.

Too many spend their time learning steps. In the UK we learn boleos, ganchos , baridas, but rarely do we learn about the music. What we need to do is listen to the music, as it changes cadence, we need to be aware and change with it.

Often in beginner’s classes, we are so intent on learning that our movement’s bare little relationship to the music, this is Ok for beginners, but as we get more proficient we should be dancing to the music not just doing moves in spite of it. Go to almost any milonga in Europe and you will see them; they do all the moves, awesome routines, fancy footwork, but no musicality.

In the northern hemisphere we need to learn that dancing is not about moves, this is not Strictly, it is social dancing. Tango is the music as much as it is the dance, if you do not feel the music then you are not dancing tango. The music needs to be in your mind and in your soul. If you spend all your time learning more and more moves, you miss the point, your time would be better spent listening to the music, and trying to get to know the artists.

And don’t even think about getting me back on the subject of DJs playing non tango music.

Again all comments are welcome, good or bad. If you disagree tell me why, wealth of experience comes from exchanges of ideas not monologue.

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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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Memory Lapse

The Chester class moves ever on, the quality of the students gets better and better, but my memory doesn’t. The numbers were again about even, only requiring one extra lady. This meant of course that Viv was needed so I stayed to take the money. As the more advanced students arrived I simply could not remember any names. All the more embarrassing because there were ladies who I dance with and enjoy dancing with, who I really should remember. I have never had a good memory for names and faces, but as I get older it seems to get worse. All I can do is ask forgiveness, and maybe do my talking on the dance floor. While we waited Eric asked again for some extra coaching, always happy to oblige, though I wonder what anyone looking from outside would have thought of these two men moving in close embrace.

Had a few more beginners stay this week for a bit of intensive Bobing. It is nice to see that they are stopping on. I know from my own experience that once a class is over, students tend to be forgotten about and so wander off, because they do not want to hang around and wait for a chance to practice. I hope that I can fill the gap for them and entice more to stay until the practica. Our beginners are now able to join the practica and enjoy some dancing, as the room is quite small they are able to get a feeling of what a real milonga would be like and give me a small reminder of how to move in a crowded place again.

 

It seems that the same people appear wherever we go; it must simply be that there are people who go out and do something and those who do not.  We have started taking Salsa classes again, and every time we go we meet someone from our past. This week again we met someone with whom we danced many years ago. He has continued in other places and our paths have not crossed for ten years, yet here we again meet, all of us still dancing. What is really amazing is, that he lives so close, has danced continuously, yet our paths have not crossed for so long. People still tell me that there is nowhere to go; I guess that they just do not look past their television screens. There must be enough to do out there when two people who live so close can go out every night doing the same things and yet not meet for ten years.

I hear yet again over six million people saw Strictly Come Dancing this week, the shame is, we can’t get even one percent of them out into dance floors. Perhaps if it were not shown as such an exclusive pastime, with exotic costumes and personal training that would run into thousands, one or two would realise, anyone can dance.

Anyone can. When I started, our dance teacher said to Viv “he will never be able to dance” now some may still agree with her, I may never be Fred Astaire, but with time and commitment I think I have made quite a journey. I enjoy dancing, women enjoy dancing with me, you won’t see me on strictly, but I have what I want; fun.

I will keep plugging this message, over and over, you do not need to be the greatest dancer in the world, to enjoy it, but you will feel on top of the world when you do it.

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Axis

The week started badly as I had to miss the Monday class again, but with more venues now opening up it meant I would be free for the Thursday in Shrewsbury.

Sharon was concentrating on axis this week, and interestingly, we had the men working together and the women working together. We tried various bad postures, just to see how it felt. I think most of us men already had some idea of what it felt like to have a woman lean backwards, or stick her bottom out. However perhaps some of the women who did dance like this would perhaps now have a better idea of what we are up against. This, I hasten to add is not blaming all bad dancing on the women, but just maybe, if we can get you ladies following right, then the men will start learning to lead better.

I had my usual fun, of course, and insisted that I am still the best woman there, I did not get too many challenges on this, sometime I worry.

Numbers were down considerably this week, I know of no reason why this should be, still, those who were there will have benefited considerably from the experience.

In the practica after the class, I did feel that the ladies with whom I danced had improved their posture, leaving me more freedom to lead them into some more interesting moves.

Afterwards, in The Coracle, there were only four, myself, Viv, Dave, and Alison. An indication of the low numbers in the class. Even so we still had a lively tango discussion, where I tried to explain why the tango scene here could never be as good as Buenos Aires. I think, to understand fully, you need to have been there, but part of the reason is the shear population density. For this reason London is the only place that can hope to come close in the UK. Another reason, is the problem getting people off their backsides, the British love their television, Strictly is the nearest any of them get to a dance hall. Unfortunately I know of no answer, I see the problems, but cannot see a solution, we even have a minister for sport, but all he seems able to do is give them more football on television, Kill the TV and give us more dance venues, that should be our clarion call. My only hope is that confusion over the digital change over, may drive a few off their sofas.

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Must Read

I just read this article, and thought everyone should read it.

http://news.aol.co.uk/get-fit-minister-going-strictly-mad/article/20090207215758810607238

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