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.