Archive for May, 2009

From Ceroc to Argentine Tango

May 26, 2009

I started dancing several years ago with Ceroc/Modern Jive. While I never did win any competitions or reach a really really high level, I can handle myself on the social dancefloor. A popular measure for skill in Modern Jive was how cool or how many moves you know. After a couple of years, I had memorised enough moves to last a dance or maybe two without too much repetition.

But then I didn’t know where to go – I could learn more flashy moves but there’s a chance that your partner may need to know that move too. Some people move to other styles, usually west coast swing or tango. I’ve not known a lot of people who move from modern jive to salsa or ballroom but there are some that do.

When I first started learning tango, my modern jive mindset was still around. I wanted to learn more moves – fast. I looked different classes of different levels and tried to find out what move they were teaching. Some schools advertise a timetable and let us know that on this date they’ll be teaching a sacada or gancho if I hit the jackpot, a volcada or colgada.

Often I wrote down a description of the ‘move’ I learnt and if I could do the move on the other side I’ve learnt another move. And maybe if I could do it in both parallel and cross system I’m getting my money’s worth of moves. I also watched youtube for new moves.

Memorising tango moves were easy compared to modern jive where every night you would also do four intermediate moves so I thought it was only a matter of time before I learnt enough moves to dance with anyone and enjoy tango.

But then the music was annoying me. Modern jive nights played popular music. Stuff I grew up listening to, stuff I could listen to on the radio and stuff my friends listened to. What were these tango venues playing? All this horrible scratchy stuff. Then I found neuvo tango music like Gotan project and it got better. At least it was modern cool and easy listening music.
Its not stuff I would normally listen to but at least if I played it at home when my friends came over I won’t feel embarrassed. There was little chance I was playing the really old stuff to my friends. How could anyone dance to that stuff? Even the teachers at the school I was going to didn’t like the golden age stuff. They were into neuvo.

After about 6 months, I wasn’t learning any new moves so I changed schools. Immediately I was corrected on my posture, musicality, leading and other basic elements of the dance. Stage, the old school didn’t really spend a lot of time teaching these things. I wasn’t taught moves anymore but I felt that this time round everything was much harder. I was doing more things in close embrace and the teachers liked the music. Eventually I developed a similar liking for the traditional tango music. I didn’t learn any new moves though. In fact, I stopped using a lot of ones I learnt in my old school and even some I picked up off youtube. They just didn’t fit into the music or they made me look silly doing them.

A year after starting tango, I had enjoyed it a lot more than modern jive and now I might visit a Ceroc event once every couple of months. But it hasn’t been an easy journey and its far from over. I still get a lot of refusals when I ask a lady to dance. This never happens in Ceroc unless the lady is geniuely tired.

The music is much more important to be now – I used to dance to any song – Ceroc or Tango, but now, I only dance if the music is decent. I wish there were better Tango DJs here.


less is more

May 5, 2009

I was at Negracha on a Friday a couple of weeks back. I arrived late and didn’t make the class. I normally try to attend the class unless its being held by teachers I really didn’t like. Most of the time, I think that you will get something by attending a class. Even if you meet someone new or warmed up or got yourself in the tango mindset, you’ve got something out of the class. Whether or not its worth £2 (or sometimes more) is a different story.

Since I didn’t make the class, I wanted to warm up and dance with someone I’ve not danced before. But having arrived just after the class at Negracha means that there’ll be a shortage of women. Its strange, where do all the women go? In class, there are usually a couple of women over, but after class, there are loads of men sitting down. The music isn’t bad, but the men are sitting because the women have disappeared. They haven’t just gone to refresh themselves got there’s usually a shortage of women until around 10pm, a good 45 minutes after the class has ended.

I invite a lady whom I knew was a relative beginner. I keep my dance simple, just walking at first. She’s a bit tense but I was like that too when I started. Then an ocho or two. Not bad, she didn’t step too far and seemed to have decent control. Later a parada or a sandwich and she responds with a back boleo, low sweeping pivot and a triple tap up my leg before finally walking over my stopping leg … interesting. That was quite hard work just to walk over a leg. I try the stop again and she responded with exactly the same combination except this time the sweep was even lower. Clearly this came from some workshop or some class or maybe even a youtube video.

After the second song she said she was a beginner. I didn’t mind, and told her just to relax and enjoy the dance. No need to try and do fancy stuff. Social dancing is about having fun, no matter who you’re dancing with. We finish of the tanda but I keep it even simpler – no more paradas – theres no need for her to work so hard just to dance.

I wonder if she’s even having fun when she isn’t trying to do such fancy stuff? How much did she pay to learn to walk over a leg? She isn’t the first lady I’ve danced with that tried to go overboard just to walk over a leg.

Head of a horse

May 4, 2009

There are thousands of tangos and there are countless good songs. Where and how does one start when discussing music?

Lets start with a well know favourite:

So what do you think of the dancing? Its not bad, its got sexual tension, flirtation and seductiveness that makes tango such a sexy dance.

This is a popular song with Hollywood, you’ll see it in The Scent of a Woman and probably some other films as well. The song is called Por una Cabeza and was originally composed in 1935 by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera.

Por una cabeza is one of my favourites. I don’t know any Spanish but when I heard the song on my Mp3 player the other day, something reached out and I wanted to know more about the song.

Here are some lyrics:

and also on wikisource.

In a nutshell, the protagonist is comparing love to gambling at the horses and although looking like a sure win all the way to the end, he  just loses out – by a head. Like gambling, he insists that he won’t do it again, but the temptation is too strong and in the end, he is still torn whether to gamble once again.

If you haven’t read the lyrics, then I strongly encourage you to do so. They are beautifully translated by Alberto on Planet Tango.

So, now after having read the lyrics, what do you think of the dancing in the video clip?

Is this song a sexy song? Can you visualise the sexual tension and seduction through the lyrics?

I can’t. But everyone feels tango differently. What do you feel when you hear that song?

To me, there is a sense of sorrow and loss. Everyone gambles on something. We all know the feeling when our gamble didn’t pay off. That if only feeling.

So what about the sexual tension and seduction etc? How does that end up in your dance? Its not in mine but then I’m no milonguero. If someone can find a video of a milonguero dancing and portraying the same sexual tension found in Hollywood movies I’d like to see it.