What is tango?

I’m climbing the stairs in an unfamiliar building in an new city in a country I’ve never before visited, and whose language I do not speak. But already I’m starting to feel at home.

The music drifting down the stairs is known. In my tango bag, my usual companions: dance shoes, a shoe-horn, a hand fan, a box of mints …

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Joining some more dots – in cross-system!

Different teachers have given me different things. David, for example, was absolutely fantastic at giving me variations on things I already knew. At helping me connect the dots – something which has made my dance both more varied and more fluid.

With Filippo, I’m working almost exclusively on technique. But five hours of dancing on Sunday made me realise there is something rather fundamental missing from my vocabulary, so tonight I asked Filippo to provide a solution. It worked out better than I could have imagined …

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Five hours of wonderful dance, and I feel back on track

I wrote last time about my tango crash, feeling that with my newly-improved posture, it was like I was starting all over again when it came to learning how to dance.

Emma diagnosed the issue and provided me with a way forward, but circumstances conspired to delay my first real-world test until the Los Angelitos 10th anniversary milonga on Sunday …

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A tango crash after the high, and a wonderful new teacher

I kept saying, throughout my extended tango high, that there had to be a crash around the corner. It was a surprisingly long time coming, but when it did, it was an impressive one.

Let’s start with the good news …

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Three years in, learning to stand, walk and turn

Being a tango teacher must take a special kind of patience. Learning to dance takes so long that the only way it will ever happen is via shortcuts. Things that are good enough to work, to get people to the stage where they can dance.

Along the way, they have to turn a temporary blind eye to really fundamental technique issues that will need to be addressed further down the road. Things like learning to stand, walk and turn …

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My 3-year appraisal: Beginning a whole new level

I’ve written a few blog posts with self appraisals of my progress. The differences between six, nine, twelve and eighteen months were dramatic! For me, the real watershed point was when I could Just Dance, without having to think about figures.

Technically, I’m now 2.8 years in, though the pandemic makes such measurements less precise. But now is clearly the right time for a slightly early three-year appraisal – this time taking a somewhat different approach …

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The magic continues with a slice of Buenos Aires in Knightsbridge

Saturday saw a rather special event: the Argentine Ambassador’s Milonga, at the ambassador’s residence in Knightsbridge. It really did feel like being in Buenos Aires!

Admittedly the grandeur of the setting would have been more faded in BsAs, but the crowded floor, the atmosphere and even the heat made for a very convincing impression …

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A truly magical experience – and a rhythmical breakthrough – at Negracha

I had to be almost bodily dragged to Negracha. I’d heard people talk about it, and seen a couple of videos, and it was clear to me that the level there was far too high for me.

But the visit was a group one – Emma, Diego, Asia, Steph and me – so the worst-case scenario was that I’d do a little dancing, and have a great time socialising. What happened instead was something I couldn’t have dared hope for …

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Rhythmical dance is bringing me back to basics in a whole new way

I wrote last time about the excitement I feel, at finally feeling like I might start to enjoy rhythmical tandas as much as lyrical ones. But there’s also the other side to this, which is why I choose the above image for this post.

There are times in my tango journey where it feels circular: Oh, this again! But it’s of course really a spiral. We learn something on one level, then we return to it later and explore it on another level. And we continually get deeper into each element – like revealing the fruit beneath the peel. (Hey, this metaphor is worth what you paid for it!)

Turning my attention now to rhythmical dancing is like revisiting everything from scratch …

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An unplanned, and very exciting, focus on rhythmical dance

I’ve long favoured lyrical tango over rhythmical – legato over staccato. While most songs of course contain elements of each, there’s a huge difference between say Fresedo’s Buscandote and D’Arienzo’s El choclo. The former has me leaping out of my seat, the latter shrinking back into it.

Partly that reflects my musical tastes. My non-tango music is dominated by singer-songwriters, so it’s natural that my tango tastes would lean heavily toward songs where the singer is the focus. But there’s a second factor …

Continue reading An unplanned, and very exciting, focus on rhythmical dance
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