All posts by Ben Lovejoy

EU Editor of 9to5Mac. Sometime novelist. Likes words, tech, photographs, bicycles, drones, places that are London, places that aren't London.

All my life’s a circle

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I have a one-thing-at-a-time mentality when it comes to, well, most things, actually. When it comes to learning tango, my theory was to stick with one figure until I felt I had a reasonably good beginner’s version of it – and only then move on to something else.

But in line with my determination to ‘be more ocho,’ instead of insisting doggedly that we stick to the ocho, I left it to Mariano to decide how we spent today’s lesson. Which turned out to be a practical demonstration of how, in tango, everything is connected to everything else …

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Being More Ocho

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Another Saturday, another beginner’s group lesson at Tango Garden. Except today, a family emergency meant the teacher was unavailable. What was available was a class for ‘beginners+,’ a small but significant suffix I’d most definitely not yet earned.

But I was there, and Maral and Mariano seemed confident no-one would die. The goal, for those legitimately in possession of a plus sign, was a sequence of steps I couldn’t even hope to accurately describe, let alone imitate. Feet flashed and bodies whirled. It looked like an Olympic dressage event while I’d gone there for a seaside donkey ride …

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Tango crash

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I throw myself into things. Between lessons, daily practice … books … blogs … videos. Why Tango. Tango & Chaos. Twelve Minutes of Love.

They give me a feel for the passion and romance. But also show me a world so far removed from my seven-lessons-in walk that it seems a crazy, absurd, impossible idea that I could ever aspire to set foot in a milonga in Buenos Aires, that year-away-goal designed to inspire and propel me forward …

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Ocho, ocho, wherefore art thou ocho?

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Yeah, I know it means why rather than where, but I never let facts stand in the way of a cheesy title.

One word. One move. You’d think one lesson might be enough to get me to the point where I could produce something which might bear a rough approximation to an ocho if viewed from a distance on a dark and foggy night. But no …

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The right teacher for the right time

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A recent experience made me appreciate just how much is involved in a great teacher-student relationship.

It starts with compatible goals. A student who collects moves in much the way a philatelist collects stamps will need a different teacher from one who wants to achieve a certain level of proficiency with one move before embarking upon another …

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One simple sign

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Judging progress can be difficult. People talk about a kind of zig-zag in tango. One lesson, everything clicks and is perfect and you feel you’re doing fabulously. The next, everything feels terrible and nothing works and you feel you’re a lost cause.

I’ve been doing pilates for only a little longer than tango, and there it feels even harder to see progression. Maybe an exercise feels a little smoother here and there, but mostly I rely on our teacher’s assessment.

But every now and then …

I can balance really well on a bicycle or motorcycle: I often used to win ‘slow races,’ which are all about balance. But I’ve never had great balance when standing on one foot. I generally carry out a site survey and formal risk assessment before putting on a sock. I knew I’d have to improve my balance for tango, so asked our pilates teacher for one lesson focused on that.

Aside from standing on a balance board for a while, it didn’t feel like much of the lesson was overtly geared to that, and trying a balance ball at home afterwards, I could see and feel no visible progress. Steph was able to stand on it doing a fine impression of a rock; I looked rather more akin to a yacht being tossed around the ocean in a force ten gale.

But side-steps in my next lesson did feel more solid. And putting on my sock the next day, I discovered something amazing: I was able to stand, almost perfectly still, on either leg! When I got back on the balance ball, I was almost stationary on that too.

I could even follow Steph’s lead into a yoga move, lifting the other leg up and alternating between holding it in front of, and behind, me. That’s something I could never have imagined would happen so quickly. I was so surprised I almost fell over.

My first dance

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A tango dancing friend protested I was having it all too easy. Private lessons and a highly experienced follower on tap. Not like in her day, when you had to (tango) walk 43 miles through the snow in your bare feet, listening to scratchy music through a crystal radio with a broom for a dance partner …

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