Tuesday, 13 December 2011

On being a tango commuter

It really isn't a lot of fun. When I moved out of London some years ago I was just beginning to get seriously involved in tango, but I knew there was local tango, and a train service, so I wasn't too concerned. But I was naïve. The local tango turned out to be classes only, taught by a couple with good intentions but who probably assumed that the time for close embrace social tango in rural UK still hadn't dawned. That assumption, and an unwillingness to create an opportunity for social dance, meant that tango there inadvertently remained something of an academic exercise. As for the trains, leaving a London milonga in full swing to catch the last train on a Friday night isn't a great end to an evening out.

So I started making a longer commute to Buenos Aires. Instead of at the most an hour or two of dance a week it's possible to go out daily, afternoon, evening and night. It's very easy to remember the advice from all the wonderful teachers I've met there. I can even write it down! But putting it into practice, creating new habits, changing muscle memories, takes time on the floor, there's no short cut. You can't really do this in a milonga. In the absence of a regular practice partner, private classes with women become intense practicas, with a lot of very welcome feedback, too. & sessions with teaching couples have been really inspiring.

Local tango remains uninspiring, although there's regular social dancing, organised with energy and good intentions. There's a vague feeling that tango ought to be danced close, but trying to practice the teachers' double ganchos is generally a lot more fun... As for London, as far as I can recall, the last great social teacher to visit was the late Ricardo Vidort, who died about five years ago. The unwillingness of organisers to invite good social dancers, even of a younger generation, and immigration policy*, haven't helped. London is a Mecca for extravagant choreography teachers, and tango there isn't great, although generally I think dancing close in London (if not exactly Buenos Aires-style close) is becoming more normal, more acceptable. I'm often reminded that tango outside London can be better, just, sadly, not where I live. But at least it's a good excuse to visit Buenos Aires.

(*There's a general complaint that short visits for any kind of teaching should not be treated as an immigration issue, but it takes years to change legislation, and it's such a sensitive issue.)


Chris said...

"I'm often reminded that tango outside London can be better"

May I recommend some more reminders: Tango De Salon (Letchmore Heath), Baldwin Hall (Eton), Milonga de los Amigos (Sheffield), Bailarin Tango Club (Windsor), Tango Y Tu and TangoWest (Bristol), Milonga Del Arrabal (Oxford), TangoAr (Reading), Milonga de los Leones (Birmingham) and apologies to any omitted.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for the useful list. One of the reasons Nikki's Sunday night milonga has a good quality of dance for the UK is that dancers often come in from the nearer of these places.

Chris said...

As an aside...

"...Nikki's Sunday night milonga...

Apropos that (Pavadita), and El Once and the comments here previously about their poor sound systems, I see both have recently upgraded with two new speakers. The results I heard were excellent.

Cinderella said...

There are so many of us, dancers who live in a place with no sufficient or no good dancing at all and spend a lot of time and money on travelling.
I keep telling myself that the good dancing wouldn't be half as precious to me if I had the opportunity to get it every day. That sometimes helps (a bit...:))
I use the time I spend on trains and on the motorway for listening to tango music. That is very useful and just a great thing to do.
And if I get very desperate because I haven't danced for more than a week I enjoy reading (and talking) about tango. Your blog, for example, really helps to sustain. Thank you for many interesting posts. I hope writing helps you, too.
Getting useful recommendation from other dancers is also necessary, especially for us tango commuters who always have to carefully decide where to go.
If dancing in the UK isn't satisfying and you can't go as far as BsAs, have you tried other places in Europe?

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for your comment, Cinderella. I didn't for one moment imagine I was the only tango commuter... & you've explained your name, too: my friends joke about my 'pumpkin hour' although it's no joke at all, that transformation from happy tanguero to oppressed commuter. I've listened to hours of music, too, but I can't convince myself that if I had more dancing it would be less precious. & many thanks for the comment on the blog. Dance is so evanescent it's always valuable for me to write about it: I write for myself but it's great if people enjoy it. I've chosen to travel to BsAs because I know I can find teachers with long experience of the tradition of social dance there, and I've never been disappointed. It's also possible to watch great social dance, night after night, and be part of it, too. I might take a dozen classes a year, but they're all first rate and very inspiring. Worth it if you can get over there.

As for European milongas, the weekly Milonga Linda in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, midway between Nice and Antibes is excellent, run by Celine Devezes. & there's good tango in Nimes at the Milonga del Angel. & they organise a midwinter milonga, from December 23 to 31 this year, every night... There are also regular weekend festivals: there's a list of them on Melina's blog.