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.