Monday, 7 June 2010

Mimi in London

I really don't know where to begin this one. The Friday night workshop at Carablanca was big and a bit chaotic. Mimi, by no means young, nevertheless has unstoppable energy for teaching tango, and it wasn't easy to halt her voluble flow: moreover, Carole who was translating for her, only just had the voice (unlike Mimi) to fill Conway Hall, which is big and high. But someone with energy like that carries a whole crowd along with her. Soon we were dancing with coats draped over our arms (guys' left, girls' right) to remind us of the need to keep that side of the embrace open. It all seemed a bit basic and pedantic, until suddenly we were trying to lead a walk in parallel to the girls' left side, with a saccada.

And unlike some other teachers Mimi stayed to the end, and enjoyed herself on the floor, leading and following. She led a milonga tanda with Christine Denniston, which I'll remember for a while. & I know that she went on to another milonga when Carablanca closed, because I showed her where it is.

I think this is an aspect of tango we rarely see in London: this wholehearted, good-natured passion for the dance. I think Ricardo Vidort was quoted as saying that you should only dance if you're going to give it everything you've got, and not dance otherwise, and I think most of us were impressed by that spirit in Mimi. If it's worth doing, it's worth giving it everything.

So she left the milonga at 01.30 and was ready for workshops at 11am next morning. The workshops were a lot easier. For a start there were two excellent Spanish speakers in addition to Carole, and they all made a point of reining her in - 'Espero, Mimi, uno momento!' – so we could get the full translation. And stopping her so we could get a short break was really an effort! We're all more than grateful to those Spanish speakers for their help.

There was plenty of opportunity to work with a partner, and also to ask Mimi for particular advice and clarification. I wish I could remember more of the clarification, but a few points stick in mind. Firstly, stepping out of the cruzada: for a lady, make sure that the weight is fully transferred to the front foot by lifting the toes of the back foot, before stepping back with it. It looks good, and it ensures that the weight has been fully transferred before stepping. Guys are probably going to step forwards from a cross, so the toes of their front foot should be lifted by pushing up from the ball of the back foot. Then, when leading a saccada, try to lead it from the hip. It certainly works better, and it certainly feels better, more a nudge of the leg than a kick to your partner's foot, as the leg swings out from the hip, rather than kicking. Then just in walking, girls step back with a straight leg, guys step forwards with a straight leg, and onto the ball of the foot as much as possible. Try to think of the instep as you walk, and try to walk like a tightrope walker. & the contact of guy's left to lady's right hand should mainly be with the lower part of the palm: the fingers don't give a firm enough contact. (Although of course you don't lead with the left.) And she noticed too much 'clutching': with the guys' right hands in particular; and also the guys' left and the girls' right arms get pulled in towards the body. Practice with a coat draped over your forearm! And... And... (If anyone can remember more or correct me, please post a comment.)

There was a lot more, a huge amount more: about which muscles need to be used to make walking better and so on. My first impression of her teaching in Buenos Aires was amazement that dancing had been analysed in such detail. Normally, I'm opposed to classes with a lot of talking, and to classes with a lot of technical detail, but this was on another level. In fact, one participant told me she wanted to go to all the tango teachers she'd ever studied with to ask them for her money back: she'd been misled and misinformed so often.

We started with the parallel walk from Friday night, then a basic walk in cross system with two saccadas, and a way of linking the two. Then in the final session she said she'd been watching us dance and had seen plenty of walking but not much turning, so she taught us a very quick tight turn, a 'giro milonguero', a 'quatro baldosa' (four-tile) turn, since it can be done in very little space (a good many Buenos Aires dance floors are tiled). It actually feels more like a one-tile turn, it is so tight, the kind of thing you can do even when you are squeezed in between four other couples.

Mimi didn't really stop for a break, just slowed down a bit. & she was still teaching on the pavement outside as we left. & I know she was going on to another milonga that evening. This really is the spirit of tango. Come back soon!


Anonymous said...

'Scuse me - para 5 about 2 thirds along. Do you mean guy's LEFT to lady's RIGHT hand?
Everything else - spot on!

Tangocommuter said...

Doh... Thanks, of course. I've changed it.

Preen&Ogle said...

What a tanguera! Non-stop. Left me quite exhausted.

Tangocommuter said...

Exhausted... but happy, I hope!

Golondrina said...

Really good class, just a shame I couldn't go to any of her other classes.

Plus I thought she had such good humour about her. Everytime I danced past her table, I heard her chatting and laughing to people.

Tangocommuter said...

Hi Golondrina, glad you enjoyed the class. Yes, that warm sociability seems characteristic of Argentina, and of the tango world in particular. She really seemed to enjoy London! It was great.