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!