Saturday, 13 June 2015


I was delighted to find this clip recently.

It's a short quote from a TV documentary made in 1999, in which Royal Ballet soloist Deborah Bull explored four kinds of dance; hip-hop, swing, belly dance and tango. (I wrote about this clip here, before I found it.) The tango programme includes a sequence with the author and broadcaster Clive James who was then a regular tanguero. A pity the whole programme isn't available. In this clip one of the earliest tango dancers in the UK, Christine Denniston, teaches Deborah to walk, and outlines some of the background of social tango.

Sadly, perhaps, the programme ends with a highly choreographed tango performance: I could wish it ended with Deborah happily lost in a Buenos Aires milonga. I watched it before I started classes in London, and the insights of this clip in particular stayed with me. & I've read that Susanna and Cacho amazed Londoners with just how close together they danced...

Interesting thought: Christine says that because there were relatively few women in Argentina in the years when tango evolved, men had to work out how to please the women they danced with, as women had plenty of choice of partners. The pressure to evolve came from that need. Currently in London the opposite is true; there are often many more women than men. It follows that there is less pressure on men to improve their dance, as they can usually find partners, although this must be offset to some extent because men who do dance get more practice.

(I've worked out how to embed video! It used to be straightforward until a software upgrade a few years back. Since then, an HTML embed code pasted into the text editor has been simply published as embed code. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I should try inserting the embed code into the HTML editor rather than into the text editor. Either that, or write in the HTML editor from the start.

& someone asked if I knew how to enable comments. It's under options in the post settings on the right of the 'compose' page.)


Francesca said...

Hey, I remember that programme too, it was one of the things that led me to start dancing. I remember seeing Clive James in a cafe in London & wanted to run over & tell him he had influenced me to dance, but chickened out.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks Francesca! It gave me a better idea of the background before I started tango classes too. That and the Tango Salon film, also from the BBC.

I'm told by people who know her that Christine Denniston has completely given up on London tango. It's a pity, as I believe she's one of the few with a real sense of the tango of the BsAs milongas. I guess she must know that almost all London tango is infected to some extent by tango fantasia, that the tango of the milongas is effectively impossible here. 15 years ago she tried to teach what she knows: now she just seems to ignore the whole scene. I saw her just once when we got Mimi Santapa to drop by in London. Christine turned up to see her, they danced a tanda, then Christine disappeared again.

RobertB said...

Thanks for posting the Denniston clip. I've read her work and enjoy her writing but have never seen her interviewed or filmed. Very informative. Unfortunate that she's no longer active in the London tango scene.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, RobertB. I was glad to find that clip, but I think it's all there was of her in that film, and I don't know of any more. 15 years ago she held well-organised tea dances with classes in London, and it's sad she's given it all up. But perhaps understandable.