Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Oscar and Humberto Primo

Hit in the face by a hot wind, hot and heavy with humidity, as I came out of Oscar's El Beso class this afternoon. Not unbearable, but hardly pleasant. A week ago it was a cold wind and I had to wear a jacket! I cross the road to the small restaurant on the corner, no aircon, the windows open, fans whirring, and have a late lunch: a friendly place with good food. Grilled boned chicken and salad with bread and a glass of red, £4.

Oscar's an expressive talker who values the past of tango, and the improvised social dance that it is, a great teacher who can put words to concepts. He talked about how he and other contemporary teachers spent hours watching the older generation who'd had 60 years experience. & of the importance of learning to lift and lower the follower: 'If you can't get that right you'll never be more than a step collector, the kind of tango dancer no one wants to meet.'

The class was particularly useful, a milonga class that didn't aim to teach anything complicated, but to get across concepts of leading simple traspie. Invaluable both in tango and milonga. I had a few minutes with Mary Ann, who clarified that 'lifting' isn't done by hunching the shoulders, it's more like breathing in at the same time as collecting. Other teachers have mentioned 'lifting' in passing but it's never been so central or so clear. Don't learn to lift and lower as part of 'a step': learn first how to lift and how to lower, then learn where you need to use it, and why. & the reason there are often more men than women? Oscar's a great teacher of leading, of the mechanics of leading: he seems to teach basic principles, using steps as examples, rather than teaching steps. He and Mary Ann help both men and women, and the classes are of course useful to both, but essentially it's a class about leading.

I've felt confused about not getting much social dancing: one of the reasons I came here was to spend time on the floor. In two weeks I've probably had only seven or eight tandas, hardly more than in a single evening in London. But a lot of social dancing can simply strengthen bad habits, so maybe it's a good thing. Classes that teach right practice, classes that point out wrong practice, and practica as a chance to put things right, are more important.

I swore I'd never go back to Oscar's Monday night milonga in Humberto Primo, which I guess made it inevitable that I would. I tried to get there for the practica but arrived late, and just danced two tangos with a couple of class friends, and then the practica was over. I get frozen by the formality of the event there, and anyway I'm never sure if anyone is looking at me or not, so it doesn't work well. Partly my eyesight, but the Humberto Primo hall is high and rather gloomy with diffused overhead lighting, so eyes aren't clear. You really need to see the whites of the eyes! It is the worst I've been to in that respect, a pity because the floor is really excellent. But actually I was tired and knew I wasn't up to dancing well for an evening and left early. It's too easy, and very unsatisfactory, to dance on autopilot, without enjoying the partner, the floor as a whole and the music. Grammar doesn't let me give those three equal billing: I don't want to suggest that the music comes last, or even that the partner comes first. Three in one: they co-exist.

Later, out on the balcony, a light shower and the rumble of thunder in the distance over the Rio Plate, cleared the air.

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