Saturday, 9 February 2008

Veronique Bouscasse and Marek Szotkowski

First, housekeeping: I am reliably advised (by a PhD Linguistics whose profession is advising people how to say difficult words, how cool is that?) that Marek Szotkowski would be MAR-ek Shot-KOF-ski, the capital letters indicating stress. [Edit: I have to check this, however, because we both believed at the time that he was Polish, and now I think he is actually Czech - I will get back to you if it turns out to make a difference. I missed the opportunity to ask him how he pronounces it himself.]

Anyway, Veronique and Marek gave the class and a performance at the Welsh Centre tonight. I've taken one class with them before, and I got the impression both times that they were very nice people, and careful, intelligent and conscientious teachers.

A warning: they follow the highly unusual practice of starting the class exactly at the stated time, and I missed the first five minutes as a consequence.

They're both rather tall - especially him - musical, and elegant. Veronique does a bit more of the talking but I had the impression that they're sharing the work equally. Marek has a youthful face but a good deal of natural authority. The class was quite well attended, but they were in control of it and took care to ensure that everyone had the chance to participate. They watched the students attentively and Marek was kind and adapted his advice well to the leaders of different ability I danced with. They made themselves available to answer questions.

It started (plus or minus five minutes) with some technique excercises and then built up progressively in a very systematic way I wouldn't be surprised to learn was typical in France. The material was really very simple but I thought it was high quality. You could use it as a continuation of the technique exercises, and it also illustrated some generally-useful things. Leading the follower to walk forwards, outside and inside the leader, is not something you'd do very often (because it requires the leader to step backwards at least once, rarely a good plan) but it does reveal some possibilities you might not otherwise have thought of, including the simple but elegant two-point turn they made out of it at the end, in which the follower steps forward, outside the leader to his right, and pivots so that you end up facing the other way.

Some experienced leaders surely found the class too basic, but others got a lot out of it and the material was the kind of thing that's enjoyable and quite interesting for the followers to execute and contribute to. I used it as an opportunity to warm up, tune in, and think about my technique; I had to think about controlling momentum. Veronique gave a good deal of time to technique points like not making sliding noises on the floor, and how the follower should deal with the slightly unusual forward step. I thought she was intelligently aware of the kind of mistakes you can make when you're inexperienced and having to scavenge for information in classes where the followers often get ignored. Some of the excercises gave the followers the opportunity to lead - just simple sidesteps, but a useful experience.

Definitely recommended if you like a logical progression in your class, you prefer a social and undramatised style of dance, and it's important to you that your teachers are nice people with an intelligent professional attitude. I also thought that you didn't need much experience to get a lot out of it.

Someone I spoke to during the milonga also said, I paraphrase slightly, "What I like about him is, he's not Latin Lover, he's not all moody and up himself in the class."

The demonstration was charming, very musical, unfussy, with lots of interesting little details you could learn something from. It really felt improvised, with the little eddies in the flow and pauses that happen when it is. They look as though they genuinely enjoy dancing with each other and they're just letting you watch. Especially her; she looks like she's thinking "ahhh that's nice." They got changed but still wore normal clothes you'd wear to go out dancing - indeed, the only distracting element was that the hem of his jacket needs repair. They both danced with each other and with other people in the milonga both before and after their performance, as well. [Edit: here's a video of the vals, posted some time later.]

She was wearing the first platform tango shoes I've ever seen in action. They seemed to have really thick soft cushioning on the sole. That would be lovely - where can I get some of those? Does anybody import them so I can try them on?

The performance was given in good light, they were happy for people to make videos, and they imposed no restrictions. You can see a couple of videos on her YouTube channel and his YouTube channel (probably the reason they don't share one is that they've only got together recently) as well as some of each of them with other people. I like the ones of them together more than the others, I think. Although the dress she's wearing in Vida Mia is amazing.


Chris, UK said...

> Although the dress she's wearing in Vida Mia is amazing.

No Vida Mia found on either channel :)

msHedgehog said...

Shame - the video must have been taken down - it was nearly two years ago. AFAIR the dress was a sort of silver and black brocade number with a flowy skirt, and it looked great.