Tag Archives: UK

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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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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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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Salon Dandi

Getting a comment from New Zealand, has prompted me to comment further on one of my photos. In moments of boredom I may well tell the story of all of them, but for now just the one.

It was our third visit to BsAs, and by now feeling that we knew the place, we were not averse to giving others the benefit of our knowledge. I had also come with a pocket full of money, in the vain belief that I could buy a place here.

During our second week Luba went into panic “I have double booked” she said ” I have two people coming, Keet and Ann, and I only have a single room left” All things work out well in the end, Luba went to her sisters and let the Colombian girl stay in her room, leaving the two singles free.

In due course Ann and Kieth arrived (forever now to be called Keet), they came together but not as a couple. Kieth said “I am just a body guard”. Both English but now living in New Zealand, the only other common denominator is the dance classes they attend in NZ.

Ann and Keet

Ann and Keet

They took Tango lessons with Juan, did touristy things all day, and at night we showed them the milongas.
Salon Dandi (us in the foreground)
Salon Dandi (us in the foreground)

So this is how we ended up together at Salon Dandi. I have precious few photos of us dancing together, so I am grateful to Ann for taking some of us, one of which I have used on our business cards. Ann went on to see more of the world while Keet flew back to NZ.

Ann spent some time in the UK and came to visit us, unfortunately I had to work all the time but, hey that’s what pays for me to go to BsAs.
My search for property had gone completely wrong, and with only three days left in Argentina I had all but given up hope. It was Ann who set me off again on what was to become an ultimately successful quest. She pointed  out an advert in The Buenos Aires Herald for Pericles James (see link) without whos help and guidance I do not think that I would ever have succeeded.
Incidentally, how many spotted Roger and Mirta, also in the photo?

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