Archive for the ‘tango’ Category

Who needs lights?

June 6, 2010

You need decent lighting to be able to cabeceo someone.

Why do you want to cabeceo someone? Well, its the traditional way of inviting someone to dance in Argentine Tango.

Its useful for the man because he can get rejected without everyone else in the room noticing. Men will always be men. We hate being rejected and we certainly don’t want the world to know about it! So I use the cabeceo where and when I can.

However, if you’re at a milonga where its so dark that you can only see half the width of the dance floor, eye contact is very difficult. Not to mention that half the ladies aren’t even looking out for the cabeceo because there are so many men that don’t use it. Those men are happy for the whole dancefloor to see that they got rejected.

I was at The Light’s Saturday night opening. It was a nice venue but the lights weren’t very powerful and it was a blue-ish tint which makes it even darker. It was quite difficult to see very far in terms of trying to cabeceo someone. BUT – what I noticed was that I could barely make out who was who anyway. Except towards the end when most people had left and you could guess who was who, but earlier in the evening, even if you got rejected, people across the room certainly wouldn’t have known who you were.

So who needs lights and cabeceo when milonga organisers can just off the lights and make it as dim as possible so you can’t see people being rejected?

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London Milonga – The Dome

April 25, 2010

I’ve taken a little break from dancing in London Milongas and decided to resume tango at The Dome.

The Dome is one of my preferred milongas – the crowd is younger, theres usually a number of good dancers and music is never terrible. Basically, its a not a hit or miss venue and at worse, it will be an average night. Most my nights there are good to excellent.

Providing the Northern Line is working, the venue is not too hard to get to.

Entrance fee is on the website and rarely changes so theres never any surprises or significant fee increases due to some visiting teachers or live bands.

There is usually a pre-milonga class and the resident teachers are Rene and Hiba. Occasionally there are guest teachers. As with most pre-milonga classes, the standard is open and you can get a variety of skill. Very few couples stick together but I can understand why they choose so. The number of men and women are usually differ by no more than four (in my experience – extra men!)

The music is mostly traditional golden age but there could be the occasional nuevo track (not every week as far as I know). I’ve not heard salsa or other dance music at The Dome before.

Class finishes a little after 9pm and the dancefloor is very nice to dance until about 10:30 when it gets really busy. By about 11:30pm, it gets a bit quieter again and if you still have energy, is a nice time to dance.

Floorcraft varies but in my experience, it is quite difficult to navigate during the busiest hour 10:30 to 11:30pm. You do get all sorts of dancers at The Dome, some dance larger than others while some think they’re on stage. But the majority are social dancers and prefer to limit their bumps throughout the night.

Currently, I’m not aware of any significant competition to The Dome on a Wednesday night. Perhaps thats why the floor can get so busy.

I’m not a regular at The Dome as its on a Wednesday night but I certainly do recommend anyone visiting London to give this Milonga a try.

Homer and Christina talk about floorcraft …

April 25, 2010

Whenever I think of Nuevo Tango, I always think of couples dancing large, kicks, lots of cool moves but not very social and very bad floorcraft.

I’ve always considered Homer and Christina nuevo teachers and only ever seen them on youtube.

They were in London recently teaching musicality and like most teachers, they explain a concept and then get the student to dance a song with that concept in mind.

After dancing just one song in their musicality class, they paused for a bit and mentioned two things about floorcraft:

  1. Always try to reach the corners of the floor and not cut corners (or the corners of your lane)
  2. When entering the dancefloor, try to get eye contact with the couple you’re going to dance in front of, let them acknowledge that you are there and they’ll give you space.

Obviously theres a lot more to floorcraft but it was a lesson on musicality and after just one dance, they had to stop for a bit to make these comments.

I guess I’m wrong about Nuevo teachers not caring about floorcraft. Now I hope some students got the message and try a little harder to maintain good floorcraft.

Why we need good DJs …

February 10, 2010

Was dancing on Saturday night on a very crowded floor. Actually, the number of couples on the floor itself wasn’t that many, it was the fact that there were at least five couples dancing large, some more skilfully than others. It was almost impossible to avoid them and the music was something upbeat, probably D’Arienzo and so they were probably getting more excited than normal.

While dancing, I was really hoping that the next tanda that would come on would be a DiSarli or something a bit calmer so that the dancers won’t be as wild. But instead, a milonga came on which was even more upbeat. But instead of it being a total derby, a lot of people in London don’t dance milonga and the DJ knew this, the floor started clearing up leaving plenty of space for those unscathed from the previous tanda.

A good DJ not only knows good tracks to get everyone dancing, but also when the floor is a bit chaotic and puts on the music that was allow it to settle down a bit. Good to know that there are some decent DJs in London.

trapped …

January 14, 2010

I normally look around and try dance relatively close to people who dance small. Occasionally there’ll be a nuevo dancer not too far away but last night I got myself into this situation:

The music was Biagi and I always find Biagi more challenging to. But when I’m pinched in by Nuevo dancers it was a new level altogether!

Welsh Centre Xmas Party

December 22, 2009

The Welsh Centre has been home to a milonga for many years, but its always had problems and the organisers moved to Conway Hall and renamed their club Carablanca.

Later Oktango decided to run a milonga and a year later, not everyone knows about the reopening. Which is a shame, its a large floor and the venue is nice.

You can read a detailed review on Ms Hedgehog’s blog and there is a website with the latest info.

These days, pre-milonga classes are taught by Luis Rodriguez who regularly teaches at South London Tango with Claire Loewe. The class was too early for me but I would recommend Luis. I’ve had many good dances with people from South London Tango so he must be doing something right.

The food buffet was served in two rounds, the first round finished pretty quickly and a little later in the evening they had a second delivery. I’m not sure if its always like that. I didn’t notice any mints but I always carry a pack of gum with me when I go dancing.

I’m not sure what the role of the dance hosts were. There were clearly more men that night. Some men sat there talking while I stood there watching the dancefloor for almost an hour before I started dancing. Eventually I realised who the dance hosts were (they had a white sticker with their names printed on it) and I think their role was to dance with beginners or students of Oktango (and each other).

I found the layout of the chairs a little unusual. Most of the chairs were where the food buffet was, near the entrance. But there were a couple of chairs oddly placed around the far side of the dancefloor which some couples took up.

My friend arrived a little after 9 and we started dancing. There were varying skill levels on the dancefloor and even though there was lots of space, some people still danced large and didn’t always flow. Some couples stayed close or in the centre trying out moves while most moved in the line of dance. There were no lanes as far as I could tell.

My greatest criticism for the night would be the music. When I first arrived, I thought they were playing Pugliese, but then it sounded a little more polished/modern so it was probably ColorTango. Milongas and vals were usually from the Golden age. But apart from that, all the other tangos seemed to be from Modern Orchestras. The whole night I did not hear a DiSarli, Canaro, Calo or Troilo (or any tango from Golden Age). I heard many familiar songs but it was always a more modern version of the song.

Are modern orchestras such as ColorTango still considered traditional music?

Don’t get me wrong, I like the modern orchestras but they all sound very similar to me (especially after a whole night). They’re all very polished and lack the character of the older orchestras. So towards the end of the night, I was looking forward to the neuvo tracks which offered a bit of variety.

I prefer my music arranged in tandas with cortinas. I think the music was arranged in tandas (but I couldn’t tell because the distinction between the modern orchestras aren’t strong enough to me) but there were certainly no cortinas. Feedback from the regulars is that they like the music at the Welsh Centre.

The Welsh Centre has a lot of potential but unless I go with someone I can dance with, I’m not sure I’d go again. The large space means that its a good venue to practise and the number of beginners there means that I can bring beginner friends along and not worry about them not finding anyone to dance with. The idea of dance hosts (male and female) is a good idea but I think you might need to take their classes before they ask you for a dance. In the end, for one night it was a good alternative to Negracha and Carablanca. These days, I still talk to people who don’t know there’s a milonga at the Welsh Centre. I think its worth help spreading the word so that everyone knows its open.

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Achieving fluidity

November 3, 2009

This is one of the things I’d like to achieve in my dance.

The other day, Andreas Wichter talked about walking around holding a bowl of water and being very careful not to spill any of it. Try not to cut the movements and use counter-movements when changing directions.

Bruno and Mariangeles used a similar idea in their fluidity workshops the other day. The leaders and followers shared a ball or rolled up jacket between them and walked around trying not to cut the motion and letting the movement come to a natural stop or counter-movements when changing directions.

Both ideas remind me of a Japanese anime called Initial D where the protagonist is a tofu delivery boy for his father’s business and often races around the mountains. There is a small cup of water on his dashboard, which he must be careful not to spill as that would mean he was driving too hard and the tofu would have been damaged.

I like to dance fluidly, soft and gentle and taking care of my partner as if she was that tofu which must not be damaged, ensuring that I can deliver her to the end of the tanda in one piece.

Straight legs? Bent legs?

October 22, 2009

A friend had different teachers tell her different things about the leg – should it be straight? Should it be bent? She, like many others before her was confused.

I’ve done a lot of my own research and listened to many teachers and their opinions and came to the conclusion that one should not be thinking about the legs. Just be natural. Most people learnt to walk since when they were about 1 year old. So they already know how to walk. How come after 1 lesson of tango, a teacher somehow convinces them that they no longer know how to walk?

I think the teachers have it wrong when they say straighten your legs or bend your knees more. The students start to think about the legs, those who get told to straighten it start to lock it and those who get told to bend it really bend it and lose structure.

Look at how you walk normally on the streets, as your stepping foot lands, your leg is quite straight, but not perfectly straight and definitely not locked. Your knees are quite soft, and may be a little bent. If you happened to trip over something, most of the time, your legs react quickly and reposition themselves to stop you from falling over. They can only do this if they’re relaxed. It doesn’t matter whether you tripped while your legs were straight or bent. If your legs were tense and hard, then there’s no chance they’ll save your fall. Your legs need to be alive and ready to react, with spring and structure.

The idea is soft but not weak and strong but not tense. This is the natural way.

Some experiences with the Cabeceo

August 23, 2009

Following the advice from a previous post, I’ve decided to try the cabeceo and here are some of my experiences over a period of several months …

  1. I invite a friend and I perceive her reaction as an acceptance of my invite to dance. I maintain eye contact as I walk over to her and when I reach her, we start a conversation, she then invites me to sit next to her. After a while, a man comes over and verbally asks her to dance. She accepts and dances with him.
  2. I invite a friend from a distance and she accepts with a smile and a nod. We walk towards each other and meet on the edge of the dance floor. We start a brief conversation and then she asks me if I’d like to dance.
  3. I am sitting down and I invite a lady to dance. She smiles, nods and gets up. But before I get up, she walks over to a friend and they get on the dance floor together.

All of the above experiences happen on a Friday night at Negracha and with different women of at least one year’s experience and at least one has been to Buenos Aires.

The above are experiences when the cabeceo did not work for me. However, I’ve had many instances where I invite a lady, she accepts and we get up and dance, not much of a story to tell.

I was first taught the Cabeceo four years ago during an introduction to Argentine Tango class in The States. I first thought what a weird way to invite someone to dance. Why do you have to do it from the distance and in  secrecy? When I finally went to my first Argentine Tango milonga, I saw many men verbally asking women to dance so I didn’t think much of the Cabeceo.

In the past couple of months, I’ve used to Cabeceo alot. On some nights almost exclusively and with success. But its not easy in London and here are some of the reasons why I think that is so:

  1. Only some people know what it is, some treat a nod as a hello or greeting so out of politeness, even if they don’t know you, they’ll smile back.
  2. The lights are dimmed so you can’t see very far.
  3. Some women are only staring in to the dance floor and not actively searching so you have to get right in front of them, and in that case, its almost the same as inviting verbally since you’re in speaking range.
  4. Some people do not clear the floor during a cortina, or there are no cortinas so there’s always a curtain of people between you and the lady you intend to invite.
  5. While manoeuvring myself into the line of sight of a lady who isn’t actively search for a dance partner, a bozo comes over to her and verbally asks her to dance. To some, this is an incentive not to use the Cabeceo since bozo got there first.

So will I continue to use the cabeceo? I certainly will. Will I rely on it exclusively? Probably not. Negracha is probably one venue where I can try it out, some other venues are worse – 33 Portland Place for example, the upstairs dance floor as a narrow entrance on the side of the room where men and women stand together.

The other night while Negracha has a special class on stage tango,  Carablanca had one devoted purely to salon tango taught by Andreas Wichter who requested that the lights be turned up a bit so that people see a little further and could use the Cabeceo. I think it worked out well for me that night. I would certainly like it to continue that way.

Don’t try this in a milonga, folks …

August 8, 2009

Before a stuntman does his stuff, there is always a disclaimer “Don’t try this at home, folks”. Nobody really treats this phase seriously because everyone knows the stuntman is a professional, has everything setup and the stunts themselves are indeed quite scary, its obvious that you should not try it. (Well, not all stuntmen are professionals, some are just plain stupid but thats a different story).

Often there are performances in London Milongas such as Negracha. I don’t go to there every week … when I’m not there I’m missing Tango but when I’m there I know why I don’t go that often.

Some Londoners need a bit of inspiration when dancing and unfortunately they draw their inspiration from visiting teachers and performances. Theres always a little performer in them that can’t be contained and after a performance, the dance floor is where they feel they should try some new moves they just witnessed.

Obviously not all dancers feel the need to perform, it might just take three or four bad couples on the dance floor to screw up the flow and the rest can’t dance properly.

Its a shame, what London needs are some organisers who care about floorcraft and are willing to ask badly behaving couples to tone it down a bit …