Posts Tagged ‘London Tango’

Things that can help with musicality

June 21, 2012

I’ve always struggled with the music, like a lot of other dancers I know, I grew up not having much music education besides what I did for a couple of terms in secondary school.

So when I started tango, not only did I struggle to move in time with the music, I struggled to even know how to find the beat. I was so used to modern pop music and tango had so many more layers to it.

Teachers taught me figures and sequences, but never explained the music. Occasionally there were “musicality” workshops where the teachers talked briefly about the music and taught sequences they thought fit the music.

I was lucky enough to have attended Joaquin’s classes in Carablanca and also purchase his book Lets Dance to the Music which can be ordered from his website. The book comes with a DVD with examples for each chapter. It starts bottom up, with finding the beat, double time, half time and moves onto more advanced (for me) topics such as question and answers and the form of tango songs.

Another book I found useful is Aaron Copland’s What to Listen for in Music. Its not about tango, but its about music and written for the laymen like me. Unfortunately, there are no musical examples on a CD so I had to find the examples on youtube.

There are many other resources out there and I’m more than happy for someone to give me suggestions.

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How many women have you danced with?

June 8, 2010

A little while ago I was chatting to a tangeuro at Carablanca. It was a bit of a quiet night.

“I can’t believe this, I’ve only danced with four or five women tonight. I come here to dance. I’m going to Negracha.”

(Yes, please do – floorcraft would improve if you did)

I don’t know how to respond. I’m certain any honest response would’ve fallen on death ears. I think I had only danced with two women at the time I spoke to him. But at least they were good dances.

If I can get one good tanda then I think I’ve had a good night. I find that getting a really good dance in London is quite difficult. There are plenty of women who are brilliant dancers that I enjoy dancing with (and are willing to dance with me). But trying to get them to the right orchestra is always a challenge. Whats even harder is getting a dance when the floorcraft isn’t so bad. Its that combination of partner, music and floorcraft that makes the or breaks the night for me.

If I can get one really good dance where everything falls in place, then I’ve had a good evening, anything else is a bonus. I’m not sure how some people can use the number of people they’ve danced with to gauge how good a night they’ve had.

I later found out from that Tanguero’s Facebook that Negracha was just as quiet that night – what a pity …

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.

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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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 …

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.

Yet another blog on Tango in London

March 31, 2009

Have we got enough Blogs about Tango in London? Probably, here’s yet another one …

Will I bring anything new? I hope so, otherwise there’s no point starting another blog.

Will I bring anything different? Probably not since the few that around are very good already.

Am I as experienced as any of the other dancers? No, I’ve done less than 2 years (as of 2009) so if you ever ask me about something and it conflicts with the other bloggers, their advice is probably the way to go.

Here are some other active blogs on the London Tango scene (please let me know if I’ve left you out or feel free to add it to the comments):