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!