Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Following and information

Having the opportunity to learn to follow before attempting to lead - which women do by social right, and men once did for practical reasons - is not only a matter of having better information than someone who comes to it 'cold'.

It also allows you to solve about 90% of the big physical problems of posture, axis, embrace, balance, coordination, control of momentum, cognition and proprioception, before you start worrying about any of the much smaller number of problems that are specific to leading. 

For me, leading is mostly just one quite challenging problem, which is training my brain to perceive and command a lot of quite complex and unexpected movements that my body can already easily do. And solving that one problem gets slowly but steadily easier with practice. 

Most of the other problems are relatively straightforward, when taken in isolation from the problems that are common to both leading and following. You can focus properly on the specific problems and solve them without confusion.

Another benefit is that you have already developed an accurate idea of what you might want to do, and why, which makes you unlikely to waste much time on classes that are not useful. I don't bother learning to lead anything I don't personally like to follow.

A third is that you have access to good followers and are in a state where you can avoid annoying them, if you have any trace of sense, and repay their investment in you quickly. 

And a fourth is that, with luck, you may also have found, or even become part of, one or more communities where the leaders behave nicely on the dancefloor rather than some combination of charging about like ants on coke, wrestling and pouting. This will reduce the stressful side, and also give you access to crucial information.

All these are blessings. But if you learn to follow well and then start leading and take it seriously, you damn well ought to be better than average in a couple of years, or you're doing it wrong.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Scenes of Working Life


I have no idea what I'm doing. A minute ago I thought I knew what I was doing, and now I don't.


Oscillation between those two states is the sign of a healthy learning experience. 
Thanks for that.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Perfect Things

There are things I want to be able lead and that I could go to a class and be told how to lead.

But they're things of the kind to which I have a deep-down awkward attitude that says, if I can't work out from first principles how to do them myself, I ought not to be doing them at all.

Monday, 28 November 2016

A Brief Rant on Poetry

One of the things I like about tango is that when I DO pay attention to the lyrics, which is not always, I normally find that they're not shit.

Sometimes I don't understand them, sometimes my reaction is "yeah, right", sometimes they're kind of routine, sometimes the content is morally or aesthetically objectionable in one way or another, and sometimes they're hard to take in the sense that the writer presumably intended, but I can't think of an occasion when they annoyed me by being badly written. Very often, they're great, like "removiendo fotos en mi corazón" and things like that. Or maybe I just don't notice the bad bits because it's not my native language and even when they are a bit weak, I don't take it personally, so I instantly forget it. If you have an example of badly-written tango lyrics, please put them, with your analysis, in the comments.

Today I encountered a poem by a Poet Laureate, no less (the official state poet!), specifically commissioned and written to be carved in stone at the UK Supreme Court. And it's dire. He starts with a nice idea about the setting; he trips over his scansion in line three by adding an unnecessary word that makes the line more twee and less meaningful; and then what a limp, superficial, witless, smug, plodding, naive, insincere four verses. And this appears on the website far too close to a picture of Lord Denning, who besides being a famous and unusually talented judge, really was a poet, in his own way.

Could we not have got somebody good to do this? There must be so many rap artists who could have done a better job of a thoughtful, historically-informed, engaging and aesthetically vigorous poem about the difficulties and importance of the administration of justice. And it would have scanned, rhymed, and made sense to music.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Krissy on Kennet Radio: the magic of tango

My friend Krissy King does a wonderful job in this, describing the magic of tango. The whole programme is fun, with chat about sewing, salsa, Strictly Come Dancing and other matters, but Krissy comes on just before 01:10:00 and finishes at about 01:20:00. I think her description, and the reactions in the studio, are worth studying for anyone who might find themselves in the position of trying to describe tango to a friend or stranger.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Night of the Swooshpout

A month or two ago I happenend to be at a practica which, for some reason possibly something to do with some other events on the previous few days, had attracted a slightly bigger than normal, and slightly unusual, crowd. Not in conflict with its usual crowd, but taking the usual theme and extending it well beyond its normal parameters.

It is a peculiar and fascinating experience for a middle-aged woman to lead on a floor where the men - many of them youngish and prettyish - are so wholly and competitively focussed on each other*.

They glare, they pout, they sweep about, in bubbles of anxious pretensions and a fog of masculinity.

Their partners - pencil-skirted, peeled, and vertiginously heeled, fluffed, big-eyed, and glittering (for a practica), are there only to applaud, more or less. They have to work hard for attention, because the boys are focused on each other and who can do the best imitation of a six-foot plastic Carlitos.

A few attempt the plastic Chicho, but he's rather out of fashion, if not quite far enough out of fashion to be retro. Yet.

It reminded me more than anything of the crying-with-laughter moment in the 2012 Olympics when Clare Balding started to relate how the male swimmers allegedly beat their chests before a race "... and the women [pause, during which Clare realises that this sentence has nowhere it can possibly go and Ian Thorpe collapses in giggles] ... do not."

It is most peculiar to feel this atmosphere overwhelming me and demanding that I either fight it, which is hard work and extremely distracting, or be sucked in and try to do the same myself, which is ludicrous. Somehow or other, I have to find a way to float and let it all wash past me. It's not easy and it requires a constant, determined effort at maintaining the connection with my own dance, my own pleasure, my own partner and my own priorities. And also at asserting my right to be there and to occupy my equal share of space, which is in itself a challenge. The answer may be to develop some sort of Somebody Else's Problem field; I will let you know if there is an outcome to my research on this.


* Or, to be fair, about 60% on each other and 30% on Carlitos, with the rest left over for female and other matters. I specifically want to say that I wouldn't want to give Carlitos any shit for this. I know from direct firsthand information that when he was teaching a regular beginners' class in the south of France he produced some of my absolute favourite dancers anywhere, with not only the purest warm-hearted modesty and competency of dance, but the kind of embraces that leave behind a little trail of floating hearts as we dance around the floor, exactly like on Periscope. I saw nothing at the practica that was on the same planet as any of those. That is the way tango should be, and very often is. But not in the fog.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Very Sad Tango Social Media Retweet

This is "Tati" Caviglia, who was murdered three weeks ago.

I didn't know her, but I know a lot of people who did. Their grief is part of the reason it upsets me more than a report of a faraway murder usually would.

There are two suspects, one of whom has already returned from his flight and given interviews, but doesn't appear to be under arrest (although I have some trouble making sense of the relevant news reports, lacking any familiarity with the normal operations of the justice system in Argentina, so I could be wrong about that). In an interview with a local newspaper he accused the other suspect of the murder, here quoted by a TV journalist:

Or in English: "[Her] employee Ezequiel Blanco recounts that the other suspect Joel Baez said to him 'what's up with this old woman? Is she alone?'"

It's not clear to me what, if anything, he has said to the police, although his lawyers have been on TV.

So it seems there were two young men, doing jobs in her house, at least one of whom decided that he had the right to violently destroy her body, that body that was moving so beautifully on the beat, but only belonged to an old woman who didn't matter, so she couldn't live in it any more, and that if he put it in a suitcase and set fire to it some distance away, and then went to Bolivia, no one who mattered would notice and the consequences of his other thefts from her would be less, rather than more.

I repeat: one of them says that the other one checked that she didn't belong to anyone who mattered; that he wasn't taking her life from anyone but her.

I may be looking in the wrong places, but I'm only seeing "find this person" tweets from her many friends, not the police. This picture only shows the witness already interviewed:
This one shows the other fugitive, now supposed to be in Bolivia.
The news reports do not explain what efforts are being made to find him. As someone brought up on Crimewatch this seems weird to me, but I have no information about how these things are normally done and a few seconds' thought makes it obvious that it is much easier to be a permanent fugitive anywhere in South America than it is here. I just had to talk about this before I could talk about anything else. So for now I'll leave it at that.