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.

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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Things that click in the night

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Tango is just walking in time to the music.

The lie is compelling because we all know how to walk. Most of us have been doing it since before our first birthday, and like to think we’ve got the hang of it by now. The deception is of course revealed in the very first lesson.

‘Push from the floor with your rear leg, don’t reach out with your front one.’

‘Walk with a swagger, but not pushing your hips forward.’

‘Lead with your chest, but take your power from the floor’ …

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Five lessons and a milonga

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Curiosity and obsession …

I get curious about anything and everything. I flirt with understanding everything from the construction of modern skyscrapers to how DLR trains know where they are. But every now and then, I take an intellectual lover.

My bookmarks were packed full of articles on everything from floor-craft to musicality. Our cleaner was bemused by my practicing my walk in my home office before work. YouTube had virtually stopped recommending anything that wasn’t a tango video. From flirtatious glance to tango leaving her toothbrush in my bathroom had taken but a few weeks …

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The impossible journey

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‘Love music, can’t dance’ had had for so long been a part of my self-identification that the very notion of this not being an established fact seemed hard to imagine. And yet it was an illusion shattered with a single evening of ceroc.

I discovered, to my great surprise, that when you combine a halfway decent musical ear with some well-taught fixed steps, the result is something which looks not entirely dissimilar to dance.

In retrospect, it ought to have been abundantly obvious that this was merely step one in Steph’s Machiavellian plan to turn a non-dancer into some variety of tanguero …

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