Thursday, 24 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The Meaning of Tango: The Story of the Argentinian Dance by Christine Denniston.
One of my favourite books on tango - I still read it all the time! She covers the history, technique and basic steps (with diagrams). The history section I found really interesting and the technique section has been unbelievably useful. She has a wonderful way with words!
A Passion for Tango; A thoughtful, Provocative and Useful Guide to that Universal Body Language, Argentine Tango by David Turner.
My other favourite book – I could write a whole post on this book (and probably will someday). This was a great book to get when I was first beginning as David writes in a really down-to-earth manner. Originally constructed from his own class jottings, it reads very much like someone’s crib notes. Great introduction (and still useful now) – completely demystifies tango for the nervous beginner.
Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien by Brian Turner.
A good account of how an American goes to BA as a financial journalist and finds himself caught up in the tango world. Also good to hear the author’s interviews on Tango Tales.
The Tango Singer by Tomas Eloy Martinez (fiction).
I am currently reading this so can’t say much at present. Reads in the wordy, Latin American style, would be helpful to have read some Borges (I have not but will be soon).
Aleph Bravo Tango by Dyv Saraza (fiction).
On my Christmas list.
Kiss and Tell by Marina Palmer.
Billed as SATC meets BA tango. Heard a lot of negative comments (see Amazon) but then there is a film with Sandra Bullock in 2011 so I might give it a go soon.
Gotta Tango by Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz.
From the authors of the useful website Planet Tango partly an instruction manual (with accompanying DVD) I think I came to this a bit late and wish I had got it in my early newbie months. A good introduction.
Tango Zen: Walking Dance Meditation by Chan Park.
When I first started tango, I thought this book looked a bit 'new age-y' but now I can completely believe that this might be something that I could get in to. Also on my Christmas list.
Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson.
On my ‘to read’ list. Details the history tango history, witha specific focus on its African roots. Sounds good as I’m starting to enjoy candombe a bit more and my tango history is pretty sparse.
Tango: Lets Dance to the Music by Joaquín Amenábar
Explaining tango music to non-musicians. Launched last year to various good reviews. He is apparently doing a new workshop in London in the new year (Jan 2010) and considering I have no musical knowledge at all (Quavers are crisps to me!) it sounds very useful.
Anyone got any more ideas?
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
I’ve been a bit quiet lately, as I’ve been completing a tango marathon (in my language, 6 days on the trot of tango classes/milongas!) I am now thoroughly exhausted, have incredibly sore feet but feel that I am now so tangoed out, I won’t mind not dancing for over THREE weeks (ie: the average Xmas break for tangueras not in London for the festivities - LOL).
Anyway, my marathon included a number of Christmas Milongas and so here are a few milonga etiquette thoughts:
What I especially like at a milonga:
- Leaders who escort me to the side of the room after a dance. If I’ve been totally absorbed in the dance, I may be slightly disorientated and it is pleasant to have a guide rather than start walking halfway across the room and then realising my drink is on the other side and having to do an about face.
- Tangueros and tangueras who introduce me to their friends, we all want to meet more people!
- Men who bring a change of shirt/t-shirt for those occasions when it gets a bit a sweaty inside.
- If I’m chatting with someone (leader or follower) and someone asks them to dance, then I appreciate the courtesy if they acknowledge me/ask if I mind if they leave rather than leaping up without a backwards look.
- Good dancers who dance with inexperienced dancers in a non-patronising manner and don’t make them feel out of place (a good dancer can have fun with anyone! and you did ask ...)
What I dislike at a milonga:
- Leaders who approach me, do not say a word and then HOLD OUT THEIR HAND to dance. You are not a mysterious stranger come to whisk me off my feet – say the WORDS!
- If we happen to bump into another couple (regardless of fault) leaders who do not acknowledge the other couple, especially the follower who may have been bumped and is certainly not to blame.
- If I happen to clash heels or jar another couple while dancing, the leader who grips me harder and zooms off, not allowing me to acknowledge the bump unless I physically man-handle myself from their grip.
- Leaders who decide to ‘teach’ me a move on the dance-floor – now is not the time to proportion blame and demonstrate how a move should be done.
- Dancing half-heartedly if you dislike a particular song - I’d prefer it if you just cut it short.
Things I’m unsure about at a milonga (opinions welcome!):
- Is it rude to make eye contact/catch the eye/smile at a friend when dancing with someone else. It seems a bit formal to say yes but on the other hand, isn’t it quite disrespectful to my partner if I’m looking over his shoulder and looking ‘outwards’ rather than ‘inwards’ into the dance?
- What to do if a leader asks me to dance when I know the friend next to me was hoping they were coming over to dance with them?
- If I’m dancing with an unknown leader, can I tell them I don’t like colgada/volcadas/soltadas[delete as appropriate] or do I just accept that as part and parcel of dancing with an unknown?
- If someone comes up and asks me to dance when I’m sitting with a leader who I sense is just about to ask me to dance, what should I do? Is it just a case of first dibs?
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
The classes I have been attending have been for women only and while I think they are very good, they are also not the most ‘enjoyable’ of classes. Surrounded by mirrors and other followers, all of my steps and technique are magnified and I find myself looking aghast as I perform another wonky boleo or realise how clunky and ungainly my walk is. Practising alone on the spot (most of the time without support) really emphasises the importance of staying on one’s own axis and points out how most followers (sneakily) lean on the leader for support. The first month was not fun but since then I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my dancing and have had several comments, especially about my walk which I have been particularly working on. I've become an avid reader of Tango and Chaos which has some useful pages on milonguero style and techniques and although I’m still nowhere near to walking as smoothly as my technique teacher, this subtle improvement has hopefully started me on the right path!
The only problem with this new development, is that not that many leaders just want to walk – even in a practica. Many of them, keep throwing in 'pesky little steps' and so I’ve actually had to ask certain leaders if they don’t mind just walking with me during a whole song. A few don’t mind but others get quite uncomfortable (I think they feel it makes it appear as if they don’t know any steps?!) and still throw in a quick boleo just to liven things up. I feel like saying that sometimes we honestly don’t need all those extra steps; sometimes we just want to move with the music and ignore all the other delightful tangents that distract us. Let’s just walk; simply.
I really like this video as they both walk very elegantly and precisely, but also in a relaxed manner.
Monday, 23 November 2009
So why do teachers keep so exclusive? Do they fear that dancing with someone less good than them will lower their dancing credibility in the eyes of those watching (many who could be potential students)? Is it that they don’t feel it is a challenge to dance with people less good than themselves? Or is it purely, that they know that dancing with most people will result in them feeling obliged to give pointers and tips? Can it be that for teachers, the milonga is no longer a wonderful space where they can dance and lose themselves but one where they are constantly (albeit on a low level) on display and working?
Part of the fun at a milonga for me, is the fact that I never know who I’m going to dance with. I’ve had lucky nights where I’ve clicked perfectly with several leaders and times when I’ve been disappointed by the lack of connection; but a big part of tango is the anticipation and the not knowing what the next dance will bring. The happiness you feel when you have had a lively, milonga repartee, been swept away by a sublime vals or had the most perfect tanda – all unexpectedly and with (up until that point) complete strangers. I wonder if the teachers ever miss it?
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
I am so excited, Geraldin Rojas and Ezequiel Paludi will be performing in London this Friday (20th November)!!!
I can't wait!
See you there!
Saturday, 14 November 2009
His new partner was a petite blonde who wears beautiful pink shoes which tie up with winding pink ribbons up her leg. She moves very lightly and gracefully and you can easily picture her as a ballerina. I thought it was quite interesting as normally the tanguero and his partner dance in a very dramatic, ‘spiky’ way but with this new partner, he danced smoothly and more lightly. I mentioned this to my friend and we agreed that certain women dance in a particular style and the best milonguero will adapt to this and allow the woman’s style to be showcased.
Monday, 9 November 2009
It was through watching some of their performances that I came across the BBC documentary 'La Confiteria Idéal' which was broadcast on BBC4 in 2005. You can watch snippets of it (including interviews with Javier and Geraldine) on youtube but unfortunately the documentary has never been repeated, which is an awful shame as I have since discovered that many people rate it as one of the most insightful programmes into the BA tango world.
With dance growing ever popular in the UK and being given primetime viewing slots ('Strictly Come Dancing', 'So you think you can dance' and the soon to start ‘Move like Michael Jackson' (!)) you would hope that this documentary might be broadcast again soon. I wonder if any milongas could be persuaded to start a petition and get people to request its repeat?
Here are a few of the clips, focusing on Javier and Geraldine as well as other older and influential dancers including Puppy Castello.
Postscript: If anyone knows where it is possible to get a copy (even if it is just more snippets) please let me know!
Monday, 2 November 2009
Having suffered from a particularly nasty case of the ‘bumps’ (think dodgems and battering ram) while out on Friday night, I was keen to see how this room worked and whether it would be accepted or slated by the tango community (rumours had reached me that some dancers were rather offended when their floor-craft was called into question!)
So what was the verdict? Well, in my opinion quite good. There was a short announcement before the milonga started explaining the principles and then there were flyers on the tables detailing the ‘Dos and Don’ts’. Generally, the room was not that busy but that was partly due to the fact that there was a live music for dancing in the other room. I noticed a few people making an active attempt at cajoling other dancers or their partners into sticking to the rules and certainly the line of dance kept flowing much better than in most milongas I’ve been to. I certainly felt able to (sweetly) mention the rules to one partner I was dancing with myself and chastised, he danced the rest of the tanda in synchrony with the rest of the couples. [Later, he told me that he had been unaware of the rules - possibly a way to save face? - although surely not a good excuse, as it implies that he felt good floor-craft was somehow separate from his normal social tango!]
It will be interesting to see if this room can survive or whether the tango community will ignore it. Certainly, last night it was not very busy but the question is why? Was it merely because there was live music upstairs? Is it mainly a question of presence (ever since I have been going to 33P I have perceived that the main room was the upstairs room – due to its atmosphere and close proximity to the drinks)? Or is it just that some dancers actually don’t like the idea of being ‘confined’ or ‘restricted’ to the conventions of ‘tango de salon’. Is this room going to merely be for a certain kind of milonguero?
One of the organisers told me that this room’s survival will depend on the amount of people that use it and enjoy it. They have already received some comments from people saying that they disliked the room and I’ve also heard whispers of ‘pretentious’ and ‘too BA orientated’ from others but apart from this negativity, most people I have spoken to are in approval and welcome this idea.
So, does this kind of room appeal or repel you? And if you approve, then Londoners vote with your feet and meet me in the Tango de Salon room!
Saturday, 24 October 2009
I'm just praying it won't have all seeped out from my brain. Will let you know how my weekend milongas go!
Monday, 28 September 2009
I nervously swallowed the cake I was eating (why now of all times was I eating?!) and smiled at him as he asked me to dance. I got up and followed him to the dance floor all the time conscious of my friends beaming at me. I was thrilled but then as we started dancing I got nervous and then these nerves grew and then suddenly it was no longer Golondrina on the dance floor but a ball of nerves and hundreds of questions and doubts – why had he asked me to dance? Was I finally good enough? What did that mean? God, I hope I can follow him after all this. What if he throws in a tricky move? — and that was it. I had lost it. After what felt like the longest tanda ever, he returned me to seat and I collapsed, drained.
My friends have assured me it was not as bad as I'm making out but I can honestly write here how gutting the experience has been. Why did all of my tango knowledge leave me at that precise moment? I guess the real test will be to see if he ever asks to dance again. Fingers crossed!
Thursday, 24 September 2009
The first evening milonga starts this Saturday (26th Sept) and includes a class (beforehand) and demonstration from Tangosouthlondon.
The following Sunday (4th October) there will be a Tango Tea Dance (2-5pm) presumably with cake!
I’m not sure what to expect as they usually use this venue for ballroom dancing (although this is definitely an Argentine tango milonga) so it will be interesting to see who attends.
Here is their website: Stardust Ball
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
This review is done very much in the style of Ms Hedgehog’s whose reviews I found so helpful when I was just venturing out into the scary world of London milongas. As she hadn’t done one for Sway, I thought I would put my work commute to good use, only to find she has pipped me to the post! :-)**************************
(Read Ms Hedgehog's review)
Location: Sway bar, 61 -65 Great Queen Street, Holborn
Dates and times: Wednesdays, 8 till 12
Average drinks price: Soft drinks £2.50, spirit and mixer approx. £4
Food: Varied bar menu.
This is a new (August ’09) milonga organised by Eleanora of Tangology. It is held on the ground floor (although you go up some stairs to enter) in a large bar attached to the Connaught Hotel with ornate cornices on the ceiling. There are booths on two of the edges and a bar and kitchen area on the other sides. If you are lucky enough to have a booth or know friends in a booth, then you can easily leave your coat and bags in (relative) safety, otherwise you might feel they are a little exposed leaving them around the edges, especially when the dance floor gets busy. I couldn’t see a working cloakroom on my visit although there is one attached to the basement non-tango bar (separate entrance or accessed via the toilets) which you might be able to use.
Classes: None. There are however several close-by (Tango in action, Tango Movement, Tango Soul etc.) so its easy enough to get some practice in first before coming along.
How easy is it to get dances?: Sitting with friends in a booth can mean it is hard to get dances if you are hemmed in at the back, although if you have good eyesight and are a dab hand with the cabeceo, you might have more luck as it is relatively light inside. The backs of the booths near the main entrance are used as leaning posts so you can easily watch the dancers but this means you can only be easily approached from behind so you may miss out on invites or be directly offered those which you wish you could have averted! By the bar, there are several tall tables and stools for elegant perching.
The Powder Room: Downstairs, underneath the dance floor. Ample space for putting on shoes and easy enough to change in a cubicle if necessary. Large sinks with well lit mirrors mean you can easily doll yourself up if you’ve come straight from work or had to cycle in. You can also hear the music from upstairs so can dash up if you hear your favourite tune.
Who goes there?: Quite a few of the Sunday Tangology crowd (not surprising as this is their new Sunday venue), Southerners who don’t fancy the journey up north to the Dome and tangueros who have just finished their central classes (there are several, take your pick!) and fancy trying out their newly acquired moves. Generally a young-middling crowd. Quite a few people just drop in for an hour.
Timings: The floor doesn’t really pick up until 9 although there are always a few couples taking advantage of the free space to try out new moves etc and several groups bagging booths and tucking into the food deals.
Quirks: It is free (go Eleanora!!) but this also means the bar is open to the general public. Spot a few voyeurs sitting in the corners.
Rivals: The Dome
Finding your way outside: Just 3 mins from Holborn tube station (Central line). There are also lots of buses on Kingsway (1 min) which go (south) towards Waterloo, Trafalgar Square or (north) Euston.
From Holborn tube station: Take the exit directly in front of the escalators and turn left. Walk to the traffic lights and cross over the road. Great Queen Street is the next street on your right and Sway is on your left after you have passed the large hotel with the circular driveway.
Finding your way inside: When you first come up the stairs, you enter one set of glass double doors into a foyer (sometimes with a doorman/bouncer). Go through the second glass double doors to enter the dance floor or turn immediately left and go downstairs for the toilets.
Saturday, 5 September 2009
"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
I had previously met Mr Stubborn last month at a milonga and after chatting realised I’d also seen him once at my usual class. I asked him about it and he complained to me that he thought my class had been too hard and had not been what an ‘intermediate’ class (which is what he considered his level to be) should be. I explained that a lot of the dancers who attended my class were very experienced and that perhaps he might like to try the ‘improvers’ class instead. ‘But I’m intermediate’, he said ‘I’ve been dancing on and off for about 6 months’. I was tempted to roll my eyes but refrained.
Anyway, he turned up again at the class this week and predictably he found it quite hard. In the middle of the class, the teacher stopped and explained that as there was a large range of abilities, she would like to teach us a step with several progressions and asked that we each stopped at our own level. Needless to say, this was not the case for certain people. At the end of the class, the teacher explained that although she didn’t want to send anyone backwards, it was very hard to learn something well if people weren’t honest with themselves about their ability. In the end you are just short-changing yourself as you will only ever be able to reach a certain level and then you will just stagnate.
This lesson has inspired me to start again simply and so you will now see me re-visiting the beginners class next week! Unfortunately, I don’t think Mr Stubborn will be joining me.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
We had just finished a class and the practica was fully up and running. I was chatting to a sweet, relatively inexperienced dancer who while lovely socially, is quite a timid leader. A vals tanda started and we both looked at each other and said ‘I love this one!’ and got up to dance.
Now here is the big problem: I LOVE this particular vals and must have played that version hundreds of times at home. I knew precisely where the pauses were, the up-breaths, the swoops and I knew in my mind exactly how I wanted to dance it.
So subtly, I started to lead it. I sped up my ochos, so I could fit in an extra one. I over-pivoted so I was led into a side step — the list goes on, frighteningly long! At the end of the song, my partner looked quite dazzled. ‘That was “good”,’ he said in surprise, ‘I really liked that. Another?’ I nodded and again, it was another popular vals and off I was again, an extra step here and there, a quick step to the side – I was out of control! At the end of the tanda, my partner smiled at me, said how fun it was to dance with me. I smiled back but the realisation had hit me, we hadn’t just tangoed, I’d used him to dance how I wanted to and basically turned it into a solo routine with props. Regardless of whether he had enjoyed it or not (he could have just been being polite?) I was sheepish for the rest of the night and have now sworn to not let my enthusiasm take over again!
Monday, 17 August 2009
For me, I have found that tangueros tend to critique rather more than praise. I am frequently told when I have done a step wrong with a new partner. Is this good criticism or the self arrogance of the leader who assumes that his longer learning period gives him the edge? Sometimes they are right but as I have learnt more, I have realised that sometimes they are also wrong. It takes courage to realise this and accept that I have correctly followed the lead but it has been poorly executed; that I have danced well that night and they have not.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
I couldn’t actually point out one particular tanguero and that got me thinking why some nights I seem to dance beautifully with someone and then another night, it’s as if we are speaking an entirely different language.
Have a look at the picture below:
I think this sums up the connection in the sense that it involves two separate unities being linked and creating something new, even if it is only temporary.
I also feel I have to include a video I found on Alex.Tango.Fuego's tango blog as it ties in quite nicely.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
As I realise that my first anniversary is coming upon me, I’ve started to reflect on what I have achieved in tango. Too often I forget how far I have come and get bogged down with criticisms about my posture, my embrace, the connection I get with partners. I remember dancing my first waltz in the Crypt and finding the rhythm terribly hard to keep too. How my first ever milonga was with another beginner and how suddenly, we realised that our feet just couldn’t move fast enough. Now, I just slip effortlessly from one style to another and I forget how bewildering the milonga is until I see another beginner couple struggling to execute a few steps. I had such anguish with boleos, I used my leg strength to fight against the natural swing, not knowing that I was completely wrong on all elements. Now when I read how important it is for the follower to not ‘chose’ to do a boleo but let it be led, I can’t imagine how the follower even ‘has’ that decision to make – the movement needs to just flow out of you?
I can see I am not even on the cusp of my tango experience but I also think it is important to mark the milestones on the way.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
There is the direct approach: the man approaches the woman and requests a dance, straight forward and transparent but slightly tricky if she refuses without a good reason.
Then you see the more formal approach, the cabezeo: rare in my experience of London milongas and generally only observed by visitors or those who learnt tango abroad. I’ve only successfully experienced the cabezeo once, although possibly I’ve missed it a couple of other times! (I think it soon becomes apparent to the foreigner that the women are not deliberately ignoring them but just are simply not in tune to this subtle approach!)
My latest bugbear however, are the men who approach a woman to dance with an arrogant ‘hand out’ gesture. No words will cross their lips, it will merely be a hand and a stance that says they don’t expect a refusal. Several times, I have seen women co-erced into dancing with someone this way and often it tends to be the more forceful dancer who you see dispensing this kind of invitation. I don’t like it. If a man wants to dance with me, I like to feel some kind of connection, even if it is just a simple hello and a smile. It shows courtesy and I am more likely to respond in the positive. The only way, I can see this anonymous approach working is if the tanguero turns out to be an amazing dancer, in which case the scenario has something akin to a dramatic stranger sweeping you off your feet! – the unexplainable connection between two strangers and the whole drama of the dance can build into a wonderful experience, which you will bore your friends with long afterwards. But for many though, this is unlikely to happen – so men, do the courteous thing and ask with words!
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Unfortunately, I’ve just come back from my class and I sucked! I have a heavy heart now and a big dose of humility to swallow.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Fortunately, Gabriella and Eduardo were lovely and their dancing elegant and 'neat' (my top compliment!) They taught a class on milonga lisa and traspie and I was impressed that they happily went over the scheduled one hour, to continue demonstrating the steps when we were struggling. So often, I’ve been to classes where the teacher cuts off just in the middle of a lesson because their time is up, even if there is a practica session afterwards. In my mind, the teachers should want you to learn the steps/method – not just stop on a cliff hanger with the trite words ‘We’ll go over this again next week’ translated as: ‘come back to my classes and pay again’.
Anyway, here is an example of their ‘neat’ style:
And my new ambition; to dance 'elegant' milonga.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Here is one of my favourites, the lovely Jennifer Bratt and Ney Melo. I adore this dance as well as the following and I especially love the music.
And my favourite vals!
Can anyone let me know where I can purchase these tracks individually? iTunes really needs to up their tango listings!
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Friday, 5 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
On a slight tangent, we were fortunate enough to actually see Branford Marsalis, an amazing jazz saxophonist live the other week and one of the pieces played was called ‘The Blossom of Parting’. It was a fabulous ballad written by his pianist, Joey Calderazzo and while I was listening to it, I could completely imagine myself dancing tango to it. I have found a recording of it on youtube but the images (of Russia, I believe) have no relevance! but I just wanted to share its wonderful lyricism.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
I must admit to feeling a bit miffed by his comments and I’m inclined to disregard them as even before I left his school, he had a habit of slating other schools but then is that my vanity speaking because I don’t like his comments? Like the obese patient that doesn’t like being criticised for eating too much and is convinced she has a slow metabolism, I’m going to demand a second opinion!
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Some people are quite critical of Zotto’s style, saying it is too ‘stagey ’ to be proper salon tango. Certainly, the following piece shows some of his usual tricks. See what you think.
Friday, 15 May 2009
The class was over and awkwardly, it ended up that the two of us were the only ones not dancing and therefore because of our English social sensibilities, he asked me to dance. The first tango was fast but I didn’t trip which relieved me. At the end, he said as I’ve grown to expect ‘You’re dancing too fast. You need to wait for me. You don’t give me time to finish my moves before you react’. Harsh but I went with it and deliberately tried to ‘ground’ myself and slow down my moves for the next tango. This time when the music ended, he looked at me and said ‘I’m going to say it again you still move too fast’. I grimaced and blushed at the same time. Now here comes the HUMILIATING part! Just as I was trying to stammer some kind of explanation, he tapped the shoulder of the girl in the couple next to us and said to me ‘Shall we switch partners?’ and then led her off into the next dance. Eyes wide open with shock, I turned to the girl’s former partner who gamely went along with it – I mean there wasn’t much else we could do unless we stood there like two rejected lemons.
In hindsight, I think my former partner and this girl obviously both felt they were struggling with their partners (ie: me and my new partner) and had signalled for help from each other. As I danced with him, I discovered that my new partner was a Complete Beginner and admittedly this made it quite hard to dance with him but he was infinitely better than my ‘Uncomfortable’ (now renamed ‘Never-To-Be-Again’) partner!
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Cue three hours later (and really I should have left about an hour ago as I’m now on night bus territory) I find myself cornered by the above said man in the cloakroom again. I fob him off with some excuse about leaving and go to grab my coat when a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for ages appears and asks me to waltz. Now dancing a waltz with this man is dreamy, so I can’t resist but as I finish my tanda, R approaches me, hand out with the words ‘So you are dancing after all’.
In a pang of guilt, I agree to dance with him again and somehow it has now become 10 times worse! He is hotter, his shirt is now damp and somehow he has convinced himself that I no longer needs marks from him but can somehow read his brain regarding steps. We bungle along through the first two tangos and as if suspecting my displeasure, he does that annoying thing of NOT letting go of my hand between the music and even continues to weight transfer as if hearing some invisible beat. The final piece is a milonga and before I can even blink, he is cannoning us along the dance floor, his feet going 19 to the dozen and halfway through I just lose it. I stop even attempting to follow and just hang their like a rag doll, my feet dragging along the floor and conveying my utter displeasure at this Neanderthal dance style. The music ends. There is a pause and I extract myself and look up at him, hoping he is going to have realised something is amiss. ‘Wonderful’ he says leaning down to kiss my cheek. ‘My best partner of the night’. I cannot hide my disbelief, nor do I trust myself to say anything. I am speechless so turn away and sit in the corner seething and grinding my teeth.
The next day, I told another leader about this experience and although he sympathised, he also scolded me for not being honest, ‘Now some other poor girl is going to suffer through the same thing next week’, he said and its true and now I feel bad.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
One thing that the instructor said stuck with me though. He said that while it was very important to stick to the beat, it was not essential to move on EVERY beat. He said that too many people treated milongas as races, where they were trying to fill every beat and they left the dance floor sweaty and panting. They then demonstrated dancing on every other beat and showed us how it could still look good and fit with the character of milonga dances. I wish some leaders would remember this. As I’m quite a small follower, I quite often get a lot of leaders who like to swing me around madly during milongas, jumping from step to step madly and I tend to leave the floor feeling exhausted and a bit haunted.
Unfortunately, they can’t all be to blame as one leader I was with (who informed me that he was quite ‘experienced’ in tango – aren’t they always?) told me that I was bobbing about like a racoon! Not the most flattering description of my tango, I must say! He then told me to try it again, so this time I tried to treat the milonga more as a walking exercise and really place my foot on the ground (I do have a habit of dancing on my toes). It felt quite flat to me but at the end of the dance he said he felt it was a vast improvement which puts me in a bit of a dilemma. Part of the fun of the milonga is that I can ‘sway’ with the music but perhaps I’ve been doing it too much? The problem is I’m not sure quite how much to trust this leader. He may be very good but its hard to know for sure when I’ve never met him before and I’ve had a lot of rubbish (as well as brilliant) advice given to me in milongas. I’m thinking of asking for a second opinion from another leader at my next milonga and seeing what they say.
Sometimes, I wish I could film myself dancing. As someone who is used to learning dancing with mirrors, I find it very strange to not ever see myself and adjust my body when I’m dancing. With tango, I just have to go with how it feels which is hard for me as I am definitely a visual person. Presumably, I need to practice in a school with mirrors?
Friday, 10 April 2009
While I am on this subject, here is a video of Murat and Michelle dancing to the same piece which I found on Youtube and which I must have watched about 50 times – I love it so much!
Does anyone know where I can download the music without having to buy the whole album?
Monday, 6 April 2009
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Well finally, 2 months ago, I decided I was ready. That finally I felt confident enough in my own dance ability to say that my feet deserved to be beautified! And so like a fairy godmother, I decided to find what would be christened my ‘Six Month Pair’. I looked at websites, I visited stores, I quizzed people obsessively about what was best. Should I get a flared heel, a straight heel, slingbacks, open toe? – the choices were endless! Then I found my ultimate pair – an open toed silver creation with twinkly diamante ‘eyes’ that seductively winked at me from the straps that wound up my ankles and caressed the statuesque silver heels. I fell head over heels in love – nothing could compare, it was going to be me and Miss Silver Toes until the end of time. I bought them without even looking at the price and floated home, smiling dreamily at everyone on the Tube.
At home, I immediately started creating outfits, planning details right down to the best nail colour. At last ready, I reverently packed my bag and headed out to my regular milonga. I spent the practice class admiring my feet, watching them catch the light and sparkle. I felt like an official tanguera and at last I looked (if I might say so myself) the part!
I would love to leave it like that – say my night ended magically, I looked like a princess and danced even more beautifully but if the truth be told, I find the strain of having Miss Silver Toes with me a bit much. Quite a few people (including men!) admired my shoes but I started to feel that they set a bit of a precedent. I was led into a lot of fancy moves that night, moves that were maybe more suitable for my shoes than for me and by the end I was a bit low and tired. Tired of apologising when I knocked myself off balance in my skyscrapers, tired of tottering down the stairs to the refreshment area and also tired of the balls of my feet aching after what was only 3 hours!
Finally I decided to call it a night and happily removed Miss Silver Toes and replaced her with huggable, cosy Mrs Uggs. The next day, I was telling a friend about my shoes and she laughed and said she had done the exact same thing in her first year. ‘Practice with them slowly’ she said and then maybe treat them as your ‘One Year Pair’ – plus probably best to get yourself an in-between pair. So that’s what I have done and although my latest acquisition is not as flashy as my first pair, I feel much more comfortable with my new bronze buddies. They support my ankles, give me about 3 inches of height and are still sexy enough to hint at toe cleavage! In short, they are what I should have bought first time round and I’m happy with them. Although I must admit, last week I did have to take a peek at Miss Silver Toes, just to check to see how she was baring up at the back of the cupboard!
Monday, 23 March 2009
Also, please let me know what this piece is. I definitely recognise it but have still got a very limited tango music collection! Thanks!
Friday, 20 March 2009
From ‘Long after Midnight at the Niño Bien’ by Brian Winter
The above quote, made me think of a man in my tango school who I have known for a few months now. He has always danced quite well but has never stood out particularly for me until this last month when I have seen an unexpected change in him. His movements are smoother, his steps more confident and his lead more sure. So, what has brought about this transformation?
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
1) Walking to work through the back streets, I came to a particularly dramatic phrase in a waltz, started twirling, turned the corner and came smack bang in front of two office workers having an early morning cigarette. I nonchalantly had to keep going, my cheeks scarlet and find a new route home.
2) While waiting for the water to boil in the small kitchen at work, I started weight transferring and then added a few tiny embellishments. These became progressively bigger until I was almost doing a forward gancho. Oh course, someone came in at that precise moment and now they will either wonder what crazy dance move I was doing or why I was scratching my left thigh with my right leg?
3) My company’s bathroom is a large room with smooth tiles that is brilliant for practicing my giros. I quite often try a sneaky few if the room is empty as the floor is much better than at my home. Yesterday, as I was just about to leave however, I suddenly saw the wash basin and realised in a flash of inspiration that it might be a good stabiliser for me to practice my backwards boleos. Just as I was getting the right height and swing, a woman from another company came in and in a moment of madness, I pretend to be checking the back of my shoe! — touching the heel and making a big play of checking its stability. As she walked into a cubicle, I saw the look of bewilderment on her face and now I feel so embarrassed I wouldn’t be able to face her; apart from the fact that in my sheer panic I didn’t exactly register which woman she was. So now, I just cringe whenever I see anyone blonde from that side of the building.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Unfortunately, this place appeared to be having an off night as far as I am concerned as I turned up to find 4 men and 20 (!!!) women! I must admit I was abit taken aback but hoped that it would improve as the night went on. Well I can recall a further 2 more men turning up before I left but … they came with 4 more women and one of this set were a couple who were dancing exclusively with each other. Oh dear!
So basically, I spent my entire night sitting on the sidelines until finally, just as I was thinking that I couldn’t take it anymore, I was asked to dance! I eagerly stood up and walked forwards. Now I probably should have been concentrating a bit more but my eye had been particularly caught by an elegant tanguera with amazing footwork and I had somehow missed this tanguero’s ‘dramatic’ style and subsequent subtle rejections by other tangueras. As soon, as we were in the embrace, he began heaving me around like I was a sack of potatoes. We swung around the dance floor (definitely inelegantly) and then finally when he decided that we had had enough of this race, he started to throw in heel flicks and ganchos right, left and centre! This pattern continued throughout the tanda and I was finding it increasing hard to follow (a possible hint to this leader, maybe?) but instead of slowing him down this seemed to agitate him further until during my final giro sidestep, he actually shot forwards and ‘kicked’ my foot. At that precise moment, the music ended (maybe he thought that was a grand finale?) and with great relief I limped off the dance floor, straight to the cloakroom where I ordered a taxi and slunk off home. I have learnt my lesson, desperation makes you blind.
Monday, 9 March 2009
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Now a bit of background to this momentous event; as of January when I started my new classes, I’ve only danced with ‘The Brilliant Leader’ once, at my first ever lesson. Although it wasn’t disasterous then, I wouldn’t exactly expect it to into the history books as an example of how to tango. I got lost, stepped on his toe and missed several ‘obvious’ marks. So, since then although I would have been pleased if he had asked me I was secretly relieved he hadn’t as I felt I would still find it too intimidating and scary. Anyway, we danced and by no means was it brilliant but at the end he said I had definitely improved since last time, and with dedication he thought I could make myself very good! Just a simple compliment and yet I felt so happy that he had noticed that I practically floated through the next few tandas!
My only complaint from Saturday (and this is more to do with me than my respective partners I guess) – but why, oh why does EVERYONE want to lead me into either a boleo or a volcada every other minute??!! As someone who has never learnt either, I always try to let my partner know in advance that I am not comfortable with either of these moves, nor do I want to start practicing them in the middle of the dance floor at a milonga! Please, please help me at the practica but not out there where I am liable to kick some poor dancer’s vulnerable ankles! I know that if I was a brilliant follower and had a brilliant leader, then we could dance and naturally ‘boleo’ ourselves happily to the moon and back but neither of those two factors is likely to happen soon! However, as it seems to be that these moves are pretty much every man’s ultimate party piece, I’ve decided to look out for a workshop in one of these to try and at least get the principles of what I am supposed to be doing.
Saturday, 28 February 2009
I think I might try and have a break for a week!
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example,'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance".
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing.In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.
Now question time folks: Which tango music would you dance to, to best express these emotions?
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
So this is what I tried to do the other night but I must confess that sometimes it was very, very hard and quite often I felt like we were both just doing our own thing while holding hands. Unfortunately, being on the dance floor meant that it was too tempting to ‘fill in’ the moves or ‘help out’ when my leader started floundering (both for their sake and mine); and now I’m wondering if I might have actually hindered my learning by dancing this way? At the end of the night however, a couple of the beginners leaders came up to me and said how much they had enjoyed dancing with me and ‘thanked’ me for dancing with them, making me wonder how many other dances they had managed?
So how should you behave at a milonga? Should I put up with poor dancers in the hope that I will be learning something from them or should I start to be more stringent and go for quality rather than quantity? Isn’t that a bit harsh on the newbies? And after all everyone is a beginner at some stage aren’t they?
PS: On a side note, you never know which beginner will become an excellent leader so surely my good manners now might bode me well for the future!
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Generally, women complain about it the other way, which makes me think that last night was an exception. So did I just luck out? Or create opportunities for myself? and now am I the target of every tanguera’s evil eye?! Could I be coming across as too brazen – is it more ladylike to sit demurely at the side? Or were the men in this particular milonga just too polite/laidback to refuse me?
Saturday, 21 February 2009
In all honesty, I had become a bit too arrogant in my skills – I mean obviously I knew I was still a beginner but I had forgotten exactly how much of a beginner I was. On Sunday, I had danced at a milonga and been inflated by the compliments (which admittedly were probably partly encouraged by my pretty dress). This meant that come my class and practicá, I was ready to shine for everyone – to display how good I’d become in a few short weeks. Well, pride comes before a fall and I spent the whole practicá being told that my embrace was too weak, that my giros were too wide and most upsettingly that my ochos (my pride and joy) were over pivoted! I was a bit low as I walked home but in the harsh morning light, I realised that with the exception of one leader, the others are all dancers who I admire and so should really pay attention to what they say. So from now on, I’m searching for and hoping to maintain the energy within my frame (Leader 1), I’m keeping away from the ‘ballroom fingertips’ (the Teacher) and most importantly I’m not going to anticipate the next move (Leaders 1, 2, 3 and 4!). I might need to buy a bigger mirror for my flat!
Now I may be coming across as a bit harsh but in my mind, a milonga is a social dance place. It is where you go to dance as best as you can. Of course, I want to learn new steps but for me that is what a practicá is for. I was pleased that the last milonga I went to had its own separate room where people were able to practise and this was great. I managed to practise for about an hour and then dance in the milonga for another hour – happy in the knowledge that I could now focus on connecting with my partner and the music. And you know what? – sometimes it is only after one of these magical dances, that I realise how complicated my footing was and how effortlessly I had been led into them! That seems to me a sign of a good leader.