Thursday, 24 December 2009

Good wishes to you all

I'm now out of London and busily visiting friends and family. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year wherever you are and thank you for reading the last few months. Let's hope 2010 brings us lots of amazing dancing!


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas tango books

Christmas is almost upon us but there is still time to ask for a few more tango related books as presents! Here are some snippets on tango related books. Please let me know if you can recommend any others:

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

Milonga thoughts and etiquette

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

Technique and walking simply

Some time ago, I asked a question on Ask Arlene’s page asking how, having learnt for about 18 months, I could improve my tango (and especially my follower technique). There were lots of helpful suggestions and ideas (several of which I implemented) but the one that has made the most impact on me and my dancing has been taking a regular technique class. Sophie (who had suggested this idea) had said that some people shied away from technique classes as it highlighted faults and for me, this has been the lynchpin.

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

Do tango teachers miss out?

I’m a bit of an early bird, in that I arrive at milongas before midnight and generally tend to leave before 2am. This may therefore colour this post which is about tango teachers and milongas. I go out to lots of different milongas but it’s not often that I have the chance to see teachers dancing as most of them tend to arrive about the time I’m going. The times I have been able to observe them however, I’ve wondered what their objective for the night has been? Tango teacher couples who come together tend to dance almost exclusively with each other (plus occasionally one favoured pupil). They dance beautifully and I enjoy watching them, but sometimes I wonder if they are dancing a bit too much for the people on the sidelines.

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

Carablanca Tango Club Exclusive - Geraldin Rojas and Ezequiel Paludi


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

Shoes maketh the woman

It’s interesting how women's shoes seem to influence their dancing styles – or is it the other way round? The other night I was chatting to another tanguera when a particularly good dancer passed us by but without his usual partner.

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.

This led onto a light-hearted discussion of how many dancers and their shoe-styles fit together. There is the regal queen (amazing posture) who dances with an elegant pair of purple and gold heels, the coquettish polka dot girl (you should see her dance milonga!) and then the leopard-print pointy shoe diva whose dramatic moves are slightly scary to watch! Perhaps this is a useful tip for men at a milonga searching for a partner. Check out her footwear and see if it matches her style!

Monday, 9 November 2009

La Confiteria Ideal - the BBC 4 documentary

I think that most people who get into tango and enjoying reading blogs and watching youtube videos will sooner or later read or see something about Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas. Both are incredibly talented dancers who for several years were partners and danced all over the world, stunning audiences. They each now dance with other people (another story and not one I would deign to speculate on) but you will still find lots of videos of them dancing together on youtube.

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

A novel idea - the Tango de Salon room at 33 Portland Place

While I have been away in the sunshine, I’ve been missing out on some of the recent tango gossip. One of the most interesting developments has been the introduction of the 'Tango de Salon room' at 33 Portland Place (a regular Sunday night milonga – review to follow shortly). Apparently, it was started up a few weeks ago and the first two sessions were overseen by Adrian Costa (visiting and teaching with his partner Amanda). The aim was to create a room where floor-craft rather than any particular moves/styles was the focus. Certain rules were put in place (ie: no overtaking, sticking to your ‘lane’, always moving in the correct direction etc) and apparently enforced (see Ms Hedgehog’s account of the first two weeks).

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


Apologies for the lack of blogging - I have so many posts in mid-script but I have been away catching some sun before the gloom of November! Did absolutely NO tango for over 3 weeks - remarkable!

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

The moment my brain left me

I’ve been feeling pretty confident within myself and my dancing and was looking forwards to my Saturday night milonga. It’s quite a large event and so although I know lots of people by sight, the night tends to be clusters of people scattered around the dance floor. I had been dancing well and was just taking a small break when suddenly my friend comically raised her eyebrows and gestured for me to turn around. Behind us was one of the Brilliant Dancers. He has always been pleasant enough to me and I’d danced with him once before when I had been quite new but he had never asked me since.

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

New! Stardust Ball Milonga - this Saturday

Being a keen subscriber to pretty much every tango e-newsletter under the sun, I was interested to hear there are going to be 2 new monthly milongas in Oval. Held at the Stardust ballroom, very close to Oval tube station it might be a godsend for South Londoners who won’t even need to cross the river!

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

Milonga Review: Sway bar

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! :-)
Ms Hedgehog's review)


Location: Sway bar, 61 -65 Great Queen Street, Holborn
Dates and times: Wednesdays, 8 till 12
Cost: Free!
Average drinks price: Soft drinks £2.50, spirit and mixer approx. £4
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

Why I dance ...

A wonderful quote I read on a tango blog (sorry, I can't remember which one):

"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."
Merce Cunningham

I heart AA (the Adrian and Amanda Costa fanclub!)

I am SO excited! Amanda and Adrian Costa are coming back to London to teach in October. I was fortunate enough to catch their 2 classes last year and thought they were amazing. I’ve heard that they will be doing various classes at different venues over a 3 week period and I’m already planning to clear my diary so I can attend as many as possible. Here are 2 videos to gush over (!)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Class standards

This subject has been addressed a few months ago on Arlene’s pages but I wanted to blog about this subject again because of a recent class I attended and a particularly stubborn leader.

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

When she was bad ...

Last week I committed one of the worst Follower offences: I ‘back led’ pretty much an entire tanda!

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


Tango forces you to be brave. If you are lucky enough to have a regular partner, then you can monitor each other’s developments and weaknesses. People with private teachers are paying for commentary but if you use group classes as your main learning tool (the most usual way) then it can be hard to judge how you are dancing. Have you improved or have you picked up new, bad habits?

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

The elusive connection

The other night I danced with a elderly gentleman at a milonga. He had been sitting out for a lot of the evening but he caught my eye as I was returning from a dance and so we stepped up. Halfway through, the music changed to a milonga and he asked if I mind sitting it out. While we were watching the other dancers, he said that he had seen me dance earlier and felt I danced quite well but ‘who was my regular partner though?’ I explained that I didn’t have one and then confessed that as I still felt new to tango, I was eager to dance with most people as I felt I needed to get my ‘mileage’. ‘Ok then’, he said ‘then who do you dance with that you have a connection with?’

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


I am receiving the one year mark in September and it is a strange feeling. I have had some spectacular highs and miserable lows. I have been out 5 nights a week dancing and then done nothing for over a month.

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

Asking a woman to dance

Having got back into the milonga social scene, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and experience again the different ways a man will ask you to dance.

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

The mind is a powerful thing ...

I was out on Saturday at a milonga and my dances felt good. I glided and swooped with the best of them. I had to work Sunday and Monday so couldn’t go out but all day I was humming tango music and surreptiously reading tango blogs/books etc at work. By Tuesday, I was ecstatic as finally I would be able to go back out there and dance again. Unfortunately, en route my train was held up and so I missed the start of the class. I was disappointed but it was ok as I just ‘knew’ I was going to dance beautifully. I had all the images in my head, the perfect embrace, the intricate footwork – it was going to be amazing!

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

The wrong vibes

I attended a class and as I arrived late, I had to sit at the side. Five minutes later, one of the other regulars came in and sat next to me. He has only been a regular for about 6 weeks but as he knew a lot of the others, I’ve not danced with him that much. Anyway, we joined in the class and made a lot of small talk. He seemed nice enough but I was too busy focusing on the steps which I was struggling with. We switched partners but on the next swap, I ended up with him again and two swaps later it was him again. At the end of the class, we have our normal quick practica and 'again' we danced. By now, I was a bit keen to dance with someone else but he then started telling me that he felt that we were really connecting while dancing. I gave a weak acknowledgement but was then horrified to hear him ask me out on a date. Oh dear! I started to splutter out an explanation about my boyfriend but it was incredibly awkward for both of us. I feel really bad now – I’m really not sure what ‘connection’ he felt we had but obviously I missed it. I hate it when you get into situations like this – it makes you wonder what vibes you are emanating!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Gabriela Elias and Eduardo Perez

There is a bit of a dearth in London at the moment with most of the teachers I’m familiar with going off on tango holidays and so lots of guest teachers coming over to fill in the gaps. I was a bit apprehensive as my last experiences with guest teachers at the Tango Festival had been a bit hit-and-miss with a lot of self-promotion and teaching videos for sale. I decided however, to try one of the classes with Gabriela Elias and Eduardo Perez, who I had heard were very good and visiting from Greece.

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


I’m in the process of trying to regain my enthusiasm, so am working my way through my old favourites, both musical and video.

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

A Quiet Retreat

I’ve been quiet for a while now because tango has kind of left my life. My previous dance circle came frantically calling me back and since then I have been immersed in routines and not had time for my tango classes. Well, that is partly the truth, but I must admit that a major reason I have not been out for a while is that my last memories have not been good ones. A few bad milongas, a couple of insensitive partners and an ex-teacher who criticised my style have all left a sour taste in my mouth and one with which I have wanted to distance myself from. My first flush of love for tango has withered and now it is just a case of seeing what can grow from the soil. Will I be back? I hope so.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Pablo Nievas and Valeria Zunino

I had a milonga lesson with Pablo and Valeria recently. The class was hard but fun and I’ve definitely got some milonga style drills to practice at home now. Near the end of the night, we had a demonstration by Pablo and valeria which consisted of 3 dances. The first was completely improvised while the other two were choreographed. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed as I had already found a video of them on youtube doing a milonga and been very impressed but now realised it was one of their choreographed dances. Its still great to watch but it has slightly taken the shine off for me. Is it usual to have choreographed dances? Am I being a bit naive?

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Tango and Jazz

My boyfriend is not at all into tango which is a shame as it is now such a big part of my life. As I know the dancing part is never going to appeal to him, I was wondering if I could get him to like the music part. He is very into his jazz and when I was reading an article, they mentioned that some tango music is similar to jazz because of its improvisational nature. I’m now hunting for heavily jazz influenced tango music. Anyone got any ideas?

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

Haunted by a past teacher

OK, so I’ve been getting a bit low about my tango lately (see my last few entries) and this bad period was punctuated by a chance meeting with one of my previous tango teachers. He taught me for about three months but by the end, I felt that I could learn a lot more at other schools (for various reasons, not just because of his teaching manner). Now, he had always been a bit disparaging of other teachers’ styles and methods so I was a bit apprehensive when I met him by chance one evening at a milonga in the centre. We made small talk and then he asked me to dance. He threw in quite a few advanced moves which I had not learnt during my time with him but had managed to pick up in the last few months myself. At the end of our tanda, he asked me if I had been learning elsewhere since I’d stopped attending his school. I admitted that I had and then waited with baited breath, knowing he would give me a verdict. Well surprise, surprise, I had failed to impress and he informed me that in the last few months I appeared to have picked up several bad habits namely, a bad embrace and bad posture (my bottom sticks out now and curves my spine). He informed me that I should come back to his classes and he could ‘fix me’ as it was still in its early days.

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

Miguel Angel Zotto and Daiana Guspero

I went to a class with Miguel Angel Zotto earlier this month. I must admit I was bowled over by the name partly but in the end, it was actually his dance partner Daiana Guspero that made more of an impression on me. Part of the class, was spent split into men and women practicing a sequence of steps. Daiana kept moving us around which was great as everyone got a chance to see the step work up close. At one stage, I was directly behind and to the side of her as we practiced the steps and OMG, what a horrible contrast! ;-) She was so steady and sure on her axis, it looked like she was one of those artists drawing dummies that has a metal stand through its back. She was perfectly straight while I looked and moved clumsily and crookedly! This class has convinced me undeniably about the benefit of having mirrors during a class.

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


There are always going to be people who you just can’t dance with, however hard the two of you try. My ‘Uncomfortable’ partner is someone who circulates at the same milongas and classes as me. He dances fast (like me!) and unfortunately, when we dance together we seem to feed off each other and get faster and faster until neither of us can dance sensibly or well. He obviously finds this quite annoying and whenever we dance, he tells me in no uncertain terms that I ‘dance too fast’ and ‘don’t wait sufficiently for cues’ from him; and ‘I react too quickly which means he can’t communicate moves to me’ etc, etc. It is frustrating for both of us, and so by an unacknowledged agreement we don’t dance together socially until last week’s workshop.

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

Embellishments and La Maleva

For the first six months of my tango life, I never did any embellishments. I thought they were too hard (which they were at my level) and also too ‘flashy’ for someone of my standard. Since progressing and now adding a technique class to my weekly schedule, I’m finally discovering why women love them so much! I’ve also discovered that dancing with beginners is a great way of practising as between the slower steps, I have time to plan (and fit in) extra steps. I have also become hooked on videos featuring La Maleva (aka the beautiful Jennifer Bratt, whose website: is also well worth a read). I particularly like the ‘rulo loco’ move but that may take some time.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The worst dance of my life (and more fool me for having it)

I danced with a man the other night at a milonga and apparently we each entered a separate twilight zone because at the end, while I was relieved it was over, HE ended it gushing and saying that I was the best partner he had had that night! Perhaps the others had done the sensible thing and walked out in the middle of their tanda? This dancer (I’ll call him R) was incredibly hot and sweaty and even though we started the dance in the open embrace, he managed to grab me close while doing a couple of lightning fast turns – eeuah! He must have easily pushed 6'5" and this combined with his brute force meant that I felt very much like a small sail boat in the middle of a hurricane. At last though, my tanda was over and after a tight, disbelieving smile I left the dance floor, relieved to have survived in one piece.

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

Homer and Cristina Ladas

I seem to make a habit of falling for my guest teachers’ dance styles and this time I have fallen hard. Last night it was the wonderful Homer and Cristina Ladas who were here for a UK roadtrip. I’ve been a youtube fan of theirs for the last few months and then someone at my Monday class (thank you K!) told me that they were in London teaching! I straightaway got home, googled like crazy and then located yesterday’s class. Anyway, I found the class really good and fun. Their teaching style is definitely light hearted and yet they still came out with these lovely moves and now I want to move over to San Francisco! At the end, they did a lovely waltz demonstration and I floated home whistling the Biagi waltz we had practiced to and singing ‘Boom chukka-chukka’ (you had to be there to understand). As I got into bed, I asked my boyfriend if he fancied a holiday to San Francisco – fingers crossed!

Monday, 27 April 2009

This is ridiculous …

I am in the process of trying to find a new flat with my boyfriend. Generally, we are not too fussy, we want 2 bedrooms, a nice kitchen and some kind of outdoor space. Sounds regular enough on paper. Obviously though, we each have certain wishes that it would be nice to fulfil: for him, an electric shower and close by to a park. Unfortunately, my wish has started to dominate our search and we are now actively seeking out a room that can double up as my ‘tango room’ — ie: a decent size, wood floors and on the ground floor so I don’t create mortal enemies with my neighbours. This has now narrowed down our search considerably and we have been left with not a lot of choice. The other day we found a flat which could be perfect. The lounge was HUGE (unimaginably so for London) with lovely wood floors perfect for boleos (I tried), it had the right number of bedrooms and even a garden. Its downside? — it was in the middle of nowhere, at least 15 minutes from any kind of transport links and frankly I’m not entirely sure about the neighbourhood! So its looking like a no, EXCEPT it did have a potential ‘tango room’ and now I can’t get it out of my head!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Milonga Vibes

It was a mid week milonga and so I braced myself and journeyed up north. It was my fourth time there and yet again the energy was just not there for me. A lot of people love this milonga and rate it highly but for some reason, it just never works for me. My dancing is always off, I don’t seem to get the dancing I want and I rarely manage to meet new people. Its strange as I recognised at least 2/3s of the people, so its not as if I’m dancing with new people or doing stuff I can’t do. Could it be the DJ? Perhaps, although I’m not experienced enough to say consciously its that. I’m guessing it just must be the vibe of the place and it obviously just doesn’t sync with me. That’s not to say it is a bad milonga, just doesn’t suit me. In contrast, there is another milonga I’ve gone to and somehow whenever I am there, everything seems to fit and flow. I dance ‘great’ tango, find exciting new partners and somehow the energy is different and my feet move smoother and quicker. Does anyone else have these experiences? Is there a milonga which just never fits however many times you try it?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Slippery skin

Last week, I found these gorgeous patterned tights and instantly created a perfect tango outfit in my head. On Saturday, I wore them out and TWICE my shoes ‘slipped’ off my feet. The ankle strap held firm but the toe section just slid right off leaving me hobbling in the middle of the dance floor. The first time I laughed it off, the second time I was mortified (it was with the same partner, a lovely experienced leader and now sadly a wasted opportunity!) but not having any other tights (nor feeling prepared enough to go bare legged) I had to spend the rest of the night navigating my way out of leg wraps with my shoes and feet in tact. People must have thought I was doing some new kind of stiff leg style — no more Pretty Pollys fo me!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Dancing milonga correctly

I went to an interesting class on dancing milonga yesterday. It was a general class so the levels were very varied which must have made it quite a challenge to the teaching instructors. Fortunately, they got over this by teaching us a step and then adding various adornos. By adding more complicated decorations, they created 4 levels and told us to each work up to our own level. I managed to reach level 2 competently and could manage bits of level 3. It was good fun and my aim is now to practice until I can do levels 3 and 4 (no easy task!). The rest of the class was on doubletime in milonga and how to successfully convey that to your partner through an ‘upbreath’. I still struggle with this, so it was good to recap over it again.

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

En tus brazos

I’m sure a significant amount of readers have seen this amazing cartoon before but for those of you who have not – enjoy! I will fully admit to crying a couple of times at the end!

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

Flashy Feet

Unlike my last entry, this is not in fact about shoes but footwork and speed. I was out yesterday evening and was comfortably sitting by the dance floor. A couple came into view who I had never seen before. As they danced along, I realised that they were both involved in some incredibly dense and fast footwork. The floor had just become a bit clearer, so it was possible for them to do some gentle walking but instead they persisted with lightning speed to do ochos, voleos, ganchos etc etc. At first, I was impressed by the speed and watched intently but after about 30 seconds I realised that I was getting a bit distracted, I was fiddling with my wine glass and jiggling my ankles, which is strange for me as usually, when I find a couple I like, I sit spellbound. Fortunately, at that moment, I caught sight of one of my favourite dancer couples. Although, I have seen them do amazing moves, all they were doing this time was walking, slowly circling the dance floor and moving as one. It was a joy to watch and I instantly forgot about the Speedy Gonzalez duo.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Aiming a bit too high

April 1st was a momentous day for me. Today I received my first pair of tango shoes, yes read that carefully, my FIRST ever pair! You may be feeling a bit confused, after all I have been learning for just shy under 6 months now but for some perverse reason I had been reluctant to buy any in my first few months. I had a pair of ballroom shoes that had seen better days and while they were never going to compete with their more beautiful sisters on the dance floor, they were sturdy and let me do what I needed to do.

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

Amanda and Adrian Costa

Amanda and Adrian Costa were in London last weekend and I got to go and attend one of their classes before my regular milonga. The were both lovely and really helpful with their comments (not to mention their charming accents!) but what I found most pleasing was the fact that they are so untheatrical in their dancing. For me, it was just simple, neat dancing - and I mean this as a compliment! Unfortunately, no one yet has posted a video of their demonstration (although I’m sure they will eventually) so in the meantime, here is a previous video of them dancing a milonga.

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

Who do you fall in love with?

‘Fall in love, fall in love. That’s my only advice. It can be with a girl, or with the music, or with the dance. It doesn’t matter. But, whatever you do, fall in love. And, if you do this, then the tango, with all the bulls*** that you’ll go through along the way, will have been worth it for you’.
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?
I have a feeling it may be related to a new dancer who has just joined our class. She is a beautiful, long limbed lady from Russia who has clearly been dancing a while. She almost seems to glide along the floor and leaders who I have spoken to say she is as perfect a follower as can be. She also seems quite shy which seems to add to her mystique — never staying around to chat much after the practices etc. Since she arrived however, it is like this man’s eyes have become attached to her by some kind of invisible string and he is always eager to dance with her as soon as she appears. She never particularly singles him out and dances with a variety of partners but the difference when he dances with her is remarkable. I’ve seen other follower’s eyes widen in surprise as dances by, he seems so different when he is with her. Now is this woman aware of his attraction? She doesn’t seem to nor does she seem to want to socialise; so, I wonder if for her, it is always about the ‘dance’ while for him, well I wonder if it has become about ‘her’? Could it be the ‘unrequited-ness’ of it that has added such depths to his dancing?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Ever since my last weekend class, my head has been swimming as I try and re-create moves and steps from memory. I also seem to have become surgically attached to my ipod as I circulate between Di sarli, Gotan, Campo, Pugliese etc. Unfortunately, this has led to the following embarrassing incidents this week:
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

How I became Desperate Miss Wallflower

Because of a work commitment, I had to miss my usual class and practica last week. In the end my meeting finished earlier than expected but I was on the wrong side of town to make my class. Being buoyed up with tango enthusiasm though, I located a milonga that was only 10 minutes away from where I was and headed down, eager to meet some new people.

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

The peak

Oh my god, all I want to do is tango! Not sure if I can keep living with these extreme highs!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

A momentous event and hideous boleos on the dance floor

I’ve been having a tango break for the last 10 days due to illness (the nightmare obviously marked the onset of a miserable cold) and a visit from my non tango friend and her baby daughter. I went back to my usual class on Wed and was a bit apprehensive beforehand, convinced that I’d find that I had lost all memories of having ever done a class but fortunately, after a few exercises I was back into the swing of it. Fired up again (maybe it was good taking a break?) I went to more classes on Thursday and Friday, all of which were quite useful. I was therefore quite keen to go out to a milonga on Saturday but was a bit scared I would OD again. In the end, I persuaded myself and had a wonderful evening culminating in a tanda with ‘The Brilliant Leader’ who turned up for the last hour.

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

Tango nightmare

OK – I have now experienced it! My first ever tango nightmare! I went out last week to a milonga, even though I was exhausted, ended up staying way too long and when I got home, I realised that I had been on my feet for approximately 20 hours with very little sustenance except for a couple of chocolate bars. I went to bed feeling sniffly and awoke at about 3am feeling shivery (my covers haphazardly thrown on the floor). It was then that I realised the fading edges of my dream had been all about me on a dance floor, clumsily and chaotically dancing and stepping on people’s toes! I could still feel the shame on my cheeks as I stepped on yet another person’s toe and then thankfully I woke up.

I think I might try and have a break for a week!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Beauty and sadness - which tango expresses it for you?

One day I hope to be able to read this and understand the intricacies of this gorgeous poem in Spanish. But even in translation, I cant read this without getting a shiver down my back. One day I hope to experience these emotions while dancing tango....

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.

Pablo Neruda

Ahhh (sigh)

Now question time folks: Which tango music would you dance to, to best express these emotions?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Is dancing with poor dancers good manners or good practice?

I was back out again the other night and for the second time running, managed to dance to pretty much every song with the exception of about three. Now I wouldn’t flatter myself that I was the best dancer there by any means – in fact I was distinctly average but I think it might have partly been my decision to ask and dance with everyone –including a couple of beginners who had just tried their first class. Now I agree this is less pleasant for me and can be a bit of a challenge but I was trying to follow the advice of S – one of my school’s advanced leaders. He had danced with me the previous week and told me that I wasn’t feeling the energy from my partner when I danced. He said that I needed to ‘locate’ this energy and then channel it into my moves. So far so good, but then he said it was all too easy to do this with a good leader but that if I really wanted to improve I should try and locate this energy in all my leaders, even the bad ones (!)

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?


Drina x

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

A brazen woman?

Yesterday I went to a small milonga close to where I live. It has a casual atmosphere and as there weren’t that many people, I managed to dance with pretty much all of the men during the warm-up class beforehand. When the dancing began in earnest, I was up straightaway and onto the dance floor – in fact I think in the whole night I only sat out three tangos and that was only because I was in the bathroom! My plan was that if no one asked me, then I should just go up to the nearest man and ask them. Now at the very end, one of the tangueras said to me, ‘You’ve been dancing non-stop all night. You don’t let any tangos pass you by, do you?!’ At the time I just smiled and said that I wasn’t letting any spare music go to waste when I could be practising but afterwards I wondered if it was a subtle dig for potentially hogging too many partners? Should I have deliberately sat some out?

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

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing …

Since Christmas I had been enjoying my first accelerated learning curve and I was loving it! Suddenly, steps which felt so slow and plodding just a few weeks ago, now felt whimsical and playful – my ochos were looking assured and steady and I’d had ‘those’ moments when I was so in tune with my partner, I was not consciously thinking of the next move but just literally gliding into it. These glimpses of bliss had been becoming more frequent and with various compliments from teachers and partners, I had been floating with my head in the clouds for the last few days. Of course though, the proper learning path of anything worthwhile cannot sustain such a course and yesterday I suffered a deserved knock.

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!

Murder on the dance floor

As my dancing has improved, I’ve wanted to go to out to more milongas and as a consequence I’ve seen a lot more good dancing as well as bad. Now as a beginner (and one who looks quite young), I find myself inevitably in a tricky situation – that of being asked to dance by what I would call a ‘semi-experienced’ dancer (ie: someone with more experience in terms of months than me at tango) who decides to ‘teach’ me on the dance floor a complicated move that he learnt a few weeks prior. Or perhaps I should say, someone who uses me as a guinea pig for them to try out moves on. Whenever I hear the words, ‘I’m just going to lead you into something we tried a few weeks ago, it might surprise you’ my heart sinks. What these leaders forget is that if they were leading me well, I’d not need this little warning and presumably I’d be able to follow their signals. Instead, they start teaching me a step which they didn’t master very well the first time and ignore my comments that ‘perhaps it can’t go that way round as I seem to be off balance’ as they crash me into the couple behind us.

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.