Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Firm Foundations

Have a look at Tangocommuter's post about experiences of learning tango for a short time in Buenos Aires, compared to his experience here. I think it's interesting.

I think that people I dance with who have good posture, and decent basic technique — really basic technique, the kind of thing in the Detlef&Melina video I posted — are the people who are free to dance their own dance, each individual and distinct from other people's, and memorable in its own way. I can tell who I am dancing with. If you've got that stuff, the rest of it follows, and you can take it wherever you want to go.

It is absolutely possible to get that here. (At least here in London, and in Edinburgh - I don't know about otherwise). There are teachers who can, and do, teach it, at least to those students who seem to want it. You don't have to go to Buenos Aires. But you do have to know that it's possible, and you do have to think that it's something you want.


Arlene said...

I also read TangoCommuter's post.
You are right H, you can get that here, you just need to know where to look. Why people wouldn't want it is beyond my comprehension frankly. I personally think it stems from laziness and wanting to show off.

Anonymous said...

We're outnumbered, simple as that.

The majority want a simplfied, flashier version.

Without them there probably wouldn't be milongas. Or maybe just a single milonga where everyone actually knew the basics.

They effectively pay for me to be able to learn and dance tango "properly" and I'm grateful to them.

Now if they'd just stop kicking me....

Anonymous said...

i've been tempted to start a milonga where the atmosphere is of civilised good behaviour and the tango is simple and traditional, respecting the flow and lanes.

seriously i have thought about how to make this happen. maybe a programme or brochure that is handed out with every entrance explaining this policy of no lane cutting, no blockages and no round-house head kicks.

but then i think .. maybe people will stop going and there will only be 4 regulars, stoics to the cause.

i would love to have a small milonga where people "graduated" to once they stopped all that on the spot kung-fu. "graduated" isn't the right word but you know what i mean.

behaviour - by this i mean, no lectures, no high table of elites, no sleazing or stalking, and no seat reservations (i was at corrientes where there were 5 empty seats, i took one, and a bloke asked for HIS seat back, so i moved up one chair and sat next to him, with 3 other empty seats - crazy people!)

Anonymous said...

"seriously i have thought about how to make this happen. maybe a programme or brochure that is handed out with every entrance explaining this policy of no lane cutting, no blockages and no round-house head kicks."
No round-house head kicks? What, and take all the fun out of life? :)

Seriously, a leaflet - any written material - won't help (although maybe naming it "RespectTango" or similar might).

To achieve this, I think you'd need to do it the hard way - that is, develop a community which has respect for these things, right from the start, including teaching, practicing and working on these areas during classes.

Tango teachers don't do this in London. It's weird really - they mostly tell you nothing about social dancing, and what they do tell you is usually recycled cabaceo nonsense which has no relation to the social scene. Basically, I suspect most teachers simply know zip about how social AT dancing works in London for most of us.

In fact, it looks like this is a gap in the market...

Arlene said...

With all good intentions, civilizing the dance floor is never going to happen here unless punch-ups occur or someone gets knifed. I watched a program on the history of dance and the reason ballroom was invented was that after the war, the dancers would dance willy-nilly and injure each other, so some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to regulate the dance rather than the dance floor. Go figure.
We have so many people dancing different styles on the dance floors. In BA, they tend to dance in only one style, everyone knows the ettiquette, etc. unless they are tourists. The dancing here is not what I fell in love with over 10 years ago, sob! What to do, I really don't know, except to stop dancing with people that don't dance the way they outta.

Anonymous said...

David said ...
"Tango teachers don't do this in London."

I did do this. I tried to teach sticking to a rule I made for myself. No steps or sequences. Ever. This worked for a class aimed at people who can move around the floor. There are plenty of topics to think about - music exercises, keeping connection, "how much resistence", posture, style of walk, interpeting different types of music (slow melodies - di sarli, punchy rythms - 9 de julio), thinking abou dancing in character to the meaning of the song if you want to do that ..

but eventually this tailed off and people lost interest. the followers wanted to do "big long steps" and the leaders asked "how do you do that back sacada" and they all asked "why donm't we play some gotan project".

i gave up.


msHedgehog said...

Arlene - I think it's all about opinion forming, which is not an easy project.

Hi Anon - If you weren't anonymous, those who were interested could find out who you were and where to get this instruction. You don't have to have a Google account: just press Name/URL and type in a name and your website address.

Game Cat said...

Londoners are inherently diverse and accustomed to choosing their own ways. I think milongas will multiply and diversify to reflect that, and we dancers will inevitably gravitate to the ones that suit us best.

I think it's not surprising that, the dancing population having reached a critical mass, 3-4 competing milongas have opened on Fri and Sun each. Although I've not been to them all, I'll bet they attract distinctly different types of dancers. This is no bad thing....just pick the one you like.

Re teachers, someone told me that it is not uncommon for many students to treat tango classes as a relaxing social event. They go there to meet other friendly people as much as to have a good time. They get their tango "fix" by attending classes. No wonder some teachers don't feel the need to educate their students about the milonga....please if posters can corroborate/disprove this, I'd be much obliged.

I personally am of the belief that one attends classes to learn, and to prepare oneself for the milonga. A good class is not necessarily friendly or fun, it's supposed to be productive, efficient and enlightening. If you can't remember or apply what you learnt in a milonga (and if you don't practice it), then you're better off spending your £££ on a good dinner. Again, there are many different types of teachers in London....shop around and pick the ones you like.

Ms H - As you can see, Tango Socialism ain't my thang. "Four legs good, two legs baaaad" and all that. ;)

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me which teachers are good for milongas?

Anonymous said...

Be the tango you want to see in the world.

Anonymous said...


I've heard the figure put at about 90% consider dancing a social thing. It's going to vary from place to place, teacher to teacher, put I'd say it's still a hefty majority.

As MsH has posted recently a good way to get dances is to go to the classes before-hand. I've heard this from quite a few women.

But, you don't get to wear such pretty shoes at dinner....(and getting hot women to rub up and down your leg is definitely out in most restaurants I know!)

I'm in the "Live and Let live" camp, though I do object to people who don't have simple common courtesy.

Thankfully MsH is right. You can still learn how to do this stuff, though it does take a certain degree of persistence to find out where and how. I suspect there's small unknown enclaves where good floorcraft and manners do exist. They just keep quiet about it...

@ the last Anon
is a starting place.

Arlene said...

Well, I know a few teachers, but I don't publicise my opinions. If you leave me a comment on my blog,or e-mail me via the TangoUK group I can respond privately.

msHedgehog said...

@the last anon:

The following is purely limited to my personal experience - I have not taken classes with many different teachers.

The beginners' course I originally did covers milonga conventions and etiquette specifically, and it included being encouraged to go to a specific place on a specific day where other students and the teachers would also go. That was this one and I also think it was better than average for basic technique. Paul and Michiko (Monday nights, same website) also teach very much a social style. Generally, you could consider looking for teachers who dance mainly socially, not as performers. But that's not a rigid rule - I also dance regularly with some of Stefano and Alexandra's students, all of whom (a) dance well (b) have decent floorcraft and (c) want to, and do in fact, make perceptible improvements over time.

But do email Arlene, she's been around a lot longer than I have and she will be able to make other suggestions.

Tangocommuter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tangocommuter said...

I'd second MsH's recommendation of Paul and Michiko in London. & Nikki, who shares the Crypt with them, is a reliable teacher of basic movement and moves, tho' her style doesn't appeal to everyone.

You can't learn tango from video, but video can be very helpful once you have some experience. I found tangoandchaos.org a good starting point: there's a lot of helpful information, and videos of some of the best dancers of the older generation. Recent postings on floorcraft are especially useful, and amusing: they are listed under 'Comments and updates'.