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.