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Charles Long

Strange times indeed

By | News

What a difference in 2 weeks.

Our milonga a couple of weeks ago was a marvellous night, and to be honest, we were really happy to see so many people come along to support us. Sure, there were fewer dancers than normal, but somehow the atmosphere was extra special; there was a real feeling of community spirit and warmth from everyone. Perhaps it was because we just didn’t know when we’d been seeing each other again, or maybe in our hearts we know this would be the last milonga for several months. Either way, it was a truly special night.

We had a Wednesday Tango night after that, but that was the final Tango for us until we get the all-clear.

So now our Tango has pretty much stopped altogether, including the big Eastonathon event at Easter that was an obvious casualty. And, of course, we can’t go out dancing and meeting all our friends in the Tango world.

It’s just heartbreaking to have to call a halt to everything that we’ve been building up over recent years. Our milongas have been thriving recently, with new faces discovering us and become loyal supporters, so it’s especially sad to call a halt.

The only things still happening are our private lessons, and our regular students have been fantastic! We’re teaching several days a week, and the private lessons are becoming a real lifeline for us.

But we will be back, it’s just that we have no idea when that will be.  Strange times indeed.

Keep calm, and carry on

By | News

Tte Covid-19 virus has caused masses of uncertainty and concern around the Tango community lately, with plenty of self-taught ‘experts’ happy to share their views and concerns.

As Ricardo Pxt has put it: “I am amazed on how everyone has suddenly become a public health specialist voicing the words of wisdom about the Coronavirus situation above those of the people who really understand what is happening (i.e. public health specialists). Reminds me of June, Wimbledon and how suddenly everyone is a tennis expert.”

As for us, well we’re following the current NHS and Government advice, and the Eton Milonga at Old Windsor is going ahead as planned.

I won’t pretend that it hasn’t caused us to stop and think before running the milonga. I mean, as the organisers we have a responsibility, right?

But it’s not for us to pretend to be immediate experts on public health, so it seems to us that it’s best to follow the advice from folks who actually know what they’re talking about.  That’ll be the NHS and Government (I know, I know, but in this instance I’m prepared to believe them). And they are not saying anything about cancelling events or staying away from crowds yet.

Parents are still required by law to send young children to school (exposing them to contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people every day). Sports events etc. are still running. There are no restrictions on public transport. People are still going to work in busy shops and offices.

Folks are always free to make their own choices and avoid coming to milongas. If you’re worried then don’t come. If you’re vulnerable for health reasons then don’t come. If you’re going to talk about nothing else all evening then perhaps don’t come too 🙂

If there’s one good thing that will come out of all this, it’s that people will be more fastidious about washing their hands regularly. And lets face it, that’s got to be a positive result.

Just as well we brought along extra pizza and wine!

By | News, Uncategorized

To be honest, we’re still in a slight daze after last night’s Sueños milonga – the best EVER.

Sometimes Sueños has a nice cosy, intimate atmosphere if there aren’t too many dancers around. And that’s always going to happen if there are other local milongas going on the same day. But somehow Sueños still feels good whatever the size of the crowd.

And then we get nights like last night, with a really big crowd of good dancers coming along and creating a totally different experience. It was, well, just amazing to have a fantastic evening with so many friends. It was just as well that we had brought along extra supplies of pizza and wine!

Thanks again, everyone; you don’t know how much it means to us to have nights like that!.

Survival of the fittest

By | News

This year has got off to a very interesting start in the Tango world, with at least 3 new milongas opening in the London area. It’ll be interesting to see how many of them survive later in the year, but it’s great to have some new variety in the Tango scene.

In our area there hasn’t been a new milonga for several years now, and we sometimes wonder why not. With no new competition it can be all too easy for the existing milonga organisers to get complacent with their offering. The dancers may not complain, but the Tango scene can stagnate if there are no new ideas and energy being injected.

Hold on a minute… what am I saying?! Perhaps it not such a bad thing that we haven’t got any new competition? Well, obviously yes, we certainly don’t want any extra milongas competing with ours! Obviously anything operating in direct competition is bad news for us.

But, then again, on our nights off it’s nice to be able to go out and enjoy a good milonga, with a good atmosphere and our kind of music.  So we like to see other organisers doing well and putting on good events (I’ve ranted on at length about my personal opinion of what makes a good milonga IMHO).

And, to be honest, it helps us to keep focused on delivering the best milongas. We are always trying the improve things, and we work on the little details we hope will combine to make for a great event. You’d be surprised how much we chat and review our milongas; in fact, we’re slightly obsessive about it!

Done and dusted

By | News

Well, Etonathon 2019 is now done and dusted; 5 days, 9 milongas, and countless hours of dancing and friendship.

These long events are always a real challenge to organise and run, because of the sustained work involved.  We have a huge number of dancers attending, and many of them have travelled a long way to join us for the event.  There are guest DJ to be organised and managed, and catering to be arranged with staff to help things run smoothly.

This year threw some new challenges at us also. One evening the ladies toilets all became blocked, which was a bit of a problem with over 60 ladies I the building!  Several intense minutes later an emergency plumber was on his way, and within an hour everything had been sorted out. The next day Sarah was incapacitated with a Migraine, and our kitchen helper could make it in because of flu. So it was all hands to the pumps to keep the show on the road, and we had an amazing response from Sharon, Jo, & Cathy who stepped up and worked miracles.

Ok, so that was the difficult side. But it was all totally worth it because the Etonathon was such a fantastic success, and the final night’s New Years Eve milongas was just brilliant. Honestly, we couldn’t have wished for a better end to Etonathon. The room was buzzing with a fantastic atmosphere, and the spontaneous rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to Charles’ made my night.

Let’s do it all again next year!

Mr Picky

By | News

The Tango scene usually gets quieter over the summer holiday period; organisers take a break and halls get shut down for maintenance work. We’ve taken it easy too, especially in the past when the old venue was shut (often for no reason whatsoever, but that’s another story…). But this year we were kept active; a Sueños Milonga, ‘Junction 8’, two Wedneday practice evenings, private lessons, and the build-up to ‘Septonathon’. And all this during the school summer holidays.

Now we are in September things seem quieter; at least we are running fewer events this month. But the build up for ‘Etonathon’ has already started, plus preparations for our first ever New Years Eve milonga. And that all starts with the guest DJs.

Recruiting the DJ team is a painstaking process, mostly because we are so picky about the guest DJs. We’re out & about at milongas a lot checking out the music, amongst other things, and we also get plenty of suggestions for DJs we might use. It’s part control-freakery and part fussiness, but we find that there aren’t actually that many DJs who we think make the grade for our events.

If we’re approached by a DJ who we haven’t heard in action, then we’ll ask for a sample of a recent playlist, which we can check out at leisure. This is never the same as being in the room at a milonga, but it can give a good idea of how the DJ structures tandas, and the style of music that they prefer. Sometimes it’s a revelation. But often it’s not pretty, with poor choice of tracks and an excessive tendency towards a particular mood or artist.

Anyway, despite needing to meet our high criteria this years DJ team is just about recruited, and their travel arrangements and accomodation will need to be sorted out soon.  Then we’ll relax and look forward to another great event.

‘I love it when a plan comes  together!’

 

 

 

It’s been a while…

By | News

It has been a while since the previous post.

 

Well, there have been posts in the meantime, but they fell victim to hundreds (yes, hundreds) of spam comments, so we’ve given it a rest and in the meantime disabled the comments facility. Sorry if that means that you can’t respond here to my dry witty observations, but I can still be reached by email or Facebook if there’s something you want to say.

 

What else has been happening in the past few weeks?

 

There’s been lots of dancing and teaching as ever. We have many students who have regular private lessons, and they are all doing very well and having good fun.

 

We had a special celebration night for the 10th anniversary of ‘Junction 8’.

 

Plus we took couple of weeks off for a family holiday.

 

Behind the scenes we’ve been developing new decoration for the Hall at Old Windsor; new lighting colours, table decorations, and screening for the side alcoves that’s much more attractive.

 

And I’ve been actively looking at getting the floor at Old Windsor re-coated to keep it super nice to dance on. With a bit of luck the work can be done in August ready for our next big event – the ‘Septonathon’ weekend.

 

 

 

My apologies…

By | Rant | No Comments

… but I won’t be coming to your Milonga. Thanks for the invitation via Facebook, but I’m not interested. Why? Well, let’s see;

Perhaps the DJ doesn’t play music to my taste.

Or the lighting may be too bright.

Possibly you only serve cheap instant coffee.

Maybe the crowd that will be going doesn’t excite me.

Or perhaps it’s because you have set up events that coincide with our milongas, without any explanation or apology. You call yourself a Tango friend, but that hasn’t stopped you running events that will inevitably compromise the attendance we get. So I really don’t feel like accepting your invitation.

Or it could be that Kylie has promised to give me a full body massage that evening.

Perhaps.

Live or recorded?

By | News | No Comments

Lately we’ve been thinking about live music at Milongas, and why it doesn’t happen more often. The thinking has been prompted by a very courteous email recently received from a skilled musician. He was enquiring whether we would like to have him play at one of our milongas, and that got us reflecting on the whole issue again.

The short answer is no, we won’t have live music at our events. But there’s a lot of careful consideration behind that simple choice.

It’s nothing personal; we just prefer dancing to recordings of the great Tango orchestras in their heyday. If you listen to them, it’s not just the songs that inspirational; it’s the way that they are being played, with the dancers in mind. Their music has a ‘compás’ or beat that creates energy on the dance floor. The energy and vitality that filled the dance floors night after night. Wouldn’t it be great to have the immediacy and excitement of  those orchestras playing, just like in the Golden Age in Buenos Ares? It’s certainly a very romantic notion, and I guess many dancers have fantasised about being on the dance floor when D’Arienzo or Tanturi were playing live.

It’s not really fair to compare modern musicians with the masters of Tango, playing at their prime at the peak of Tango’s popularity. It’s a tall order, and who could realistically expect anyone to match up to such virtuosity? And yet inevitably, that’s what the dancers will do whenever live music is being played.  The dancers have heard the same tracks throughout their Tango dancing, in lessons and at Milongas, and the music is a constant companion and friend as their dancing evolves. A modern rendition will be an interloper in that relationship, struggling to match up to the energy and foibles of the familiar recordings. And let’s face it, the live performance is most likely going to sound a bit second rate when you’re used to recordings by brilliant orchestras who honed their art night after night in the most competitive era.

And yet, perhaps there’s something special about dancing to the spontaneity and immediacy of live performances? In our experience the novelty is often outweighed by the poor quality of the performance. And if the performance is top class? Ironically, a dancer recently reported the a live orchestra at a milonga was so good that ‘they sounded just like listening to a CD’. Go figure.

Oh, and there’s the brutal economics to consider. Organisers already have to budget to cover the cost of hall hire, advertising, a DJ, catering, insurance etc. etc., so the extra cost of live musicians fees and travel just isn’t affordable. And because the attendance at a Milonga is never guaranteed then sadly it’s very brave or foolhardy to commit to paying musicians a fair rate.

So, there it is; live music is a nice romantic idea, but in reality, it’s just too expensive, and can’t match up to recordings of the great orchestras from the Golden Age. Shame.

We are teenagers now

By | News | No Comments

In January 2006  a small group of friends got together to give their first Tango lessons.

The scene was Windsor Arts Centre (since renamed as ‘The Firestation’) and on a cold Sunday evening we were a bundle of nerves and excitement.

We knew that a big crowd of people had signed up for the lessons, but we had no idea just what was about to start. We had spent endless hours talking about the lessons; what to teach, and how to do it.  We had all endured disappointing Tango lessons, and with naive arrogance we were sure that we could do a better job. 

3 hours later, I recall driving home with a huge smile on my face; the whole evening had been a fabulous success, and a new local Tango community had been born. There had been a buzz of excitement all evening, and there was a sense of being in at the start of something good.

Now, 13 years later, the local Tango scene is very strong. Our milongas are popular, and dancers who have learned with us are now enjoying Tango all of the UK and abroad. New friendships have been made, and some romances too.

It makes me wonder what the teenage years of ‘Thames Valley Tango’ will bring!