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A spotters guide to rubbish Argentine Tango teachers

By | Rant | No Comments

I don’t care how many shows teachers have appeared in, who they have danced with, or how long their legs are. I judge Tango teachers according to what they should be doing; teaching tango that we can use enjoyably & safely with the music at a crowded milonga.

These are my top symptoms of lazy, incompetent Tango teaching at group lessons. Next time you are in a lesson, score 1 point for each of these:

  • Teaching a sequence.
  • Teaching a sequence that starts with a back step.
  • Teaching a sequence containing 8 or more steps (triple score for teaching the entire sequence in 1 go, without any breakdown)
  • Teachers demonstrating & talking for more than 5 minutes at a time, whilst students get slowly more bored.
  • Students left to attempt it for themselves for more than 5 minutes at a time whilst the teachers ignore most of the group and focus on one struggling couple.
  • No mention of the music.
  • No mention of floorcraft.
  • Teachers wearing trainers / combat trousers / hats / t-shirts.
  • Mumbling teachers.
  • Teachers staring at the floor whilst they dance.
  • Starting & finishing the lesson at least 10 minutes late.

Scores:

  • 0 – 2 Points: Formula 1. The best.
  • 3 – 6 points: Formula 3. Nearly there, could do better.
  • 7 – 15 points: Banger racers. Amateurs playing.
  • 15 – 29 points: Lawn mower racers. Amusing but irrelevant.
  • 30 points or more: Wacky racers. A joke, only I ain’t laughing.

I once observed a group lesson by visiting teachers from Argentina that featured all of these, making a 36 points maximum score. Kerrrching!

What makes for a bad Tango DJ?

By | Rant | No Comments

Lots of people with a collection of tango CDs have a go at DJ-ing. Only a few get it right. It takes a lot of preparation, research, and concentration (oh, and good looks, intellegence, wit, & charm..). Like many things, if it’s done right then it can appear easy. But there are some signs that it could be going horribly wrong:

  • DJ with ‘spanglish’ pseudonym.
  • Cheap and/or poorly set up sound equipment.
  • “I have prepared the playlist for the Milonga in advance”.
  • “Here’s a track that you won’t have heard before” (I wonder why?)
  • The DJ spending most of the evening dancing.
  • The volume too loud. I said TOO LOUD
  • Random music mix, with no tandas or cortinas.
  • Even worse; occasional cortinas, so the dancers are even more confused.

and a special section for Analia ‘LaRubia’ del Giglio:

  • Walking around on the dance floor amongst the dancers to check the sound quality
  • Randomly varying the number of tracks in each tanda
  • Dancing as a leader and travelling in the opposite direction to the Ronda (i.e. clockwise).

What makes for a bad milonga?

By | Rant | No Comments

We spend time getting ready to go out to a milonga. Getting smart, smelling fresh, rested, and fed. We leave home in plenty of time, and are looking forward to enjoying a nice night of tango dancing. But often recently I have been disappointed, & not only at London milongas.

As a milonga organiser, I tend to notice indications that tell me I’m going to be disappointed, and there are some things that are sure to get me in a grump (it doesn’t take much these days…):

  • Endless repeated promotional status updates on Facebook.
  • Web site out of date and/or with minimal information.
  • No signage to help you find the milonga.
  • No welcome
  • ‘Cabeceo-friendly’ lighting i.e. bright and cold lighting (it’s a Cabeceo, not an interrogation).
  • Paltry refreshments.
  • Announcement… another announcement… and another…
  • The Organisers spending most of the evening dancing.
  • ‘Star’ dancers performing show moves in the middle of the floor.
  • Salsa break… Jive break… Chacarera break…
  • Music volume too loud. I said TOO LOUD!
  • No sign of Kylie Minogue offering me a Ferrari F1 drive.

I could go on, but it’s time for my anger management class.

The rules of the road

By | Rant | No Comments

Since I stopped taking the pills for my nerves, I like to think that I am a pretty calm individual, no longer taken with dark thoughts of hacking dancers to pieces and burying them in the car park just because they bumped into me or my partner at at milonga.

Good floorcraft makes a tremendous difference to everyone’s enjoyment at a milonga. But the floorcraft at some London milongas I have visited has been, frankly, appalling (Negracha, Carablanca, Pavadita).

Floorcraft is the Cinderella of tango technique.  Teachers spend hours explaining the fundamentals of the tango walk, but can ignore the key skill of dancing with respect and consideration to the dancers around you.

And bad floorcraft is not limited to dancers in London. I can think of several local leaders who resort to using the space in the centre of the floor, and I have witnessed them & others dancing with total disregard for the dancers around them. In a few cases the culprits also call themselves tango teachers, but seem oblivious to the need to set a good example.

Let’s get this straight; a good dancer can use whatever space is available around them, without any need to bump, push, or kick or use the centre of the dance floor. A bad dancer can’t, and so resorts to using the middle of the dance floor. Get it?

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…..

By | Rant | No Comments

Since I started taking the drugs, very little these days drives me to violence. However, there is one thing that could still tip me over the edge, running amok on a chainsaw-driven rampage; Dancers who talk whilst they are dancing.

How can you interrupt the delicate musical communication, with chat & babbling small talk?  Are you mad?

The only distraction that I welcome during a dance is the sight of Kylie Minogue offering me a Ferrari Formula 1 drive.  If you are not Kylie then please keep quiet and enjoy the beautiful music and my earnest attempts at musical leading.

Chaca – bloomin’ – rera

By | Rant | No Comments

My loathing of Chacarera is well- known. Why? because Chacarera is…:

  1. According to Wikipedia: “A type of folk music that, for many Argentines, serves as a rural counterpart to the cosmopolitan imagery of the tango. .. A closer look at the history of the Chacarera, however, reflects a situation shared by the “official” cultures of many nation-states: While undeniably present in contemporary rural Argentina, it is also the product of a romanticized construction of national identity.”  i.e. it’s not even authentic.
  2. A naff style of folk dance.
  3. Over-used at milongas.  Often a good night’s dancing for me has been spoiled when the music stops, the lights are turned bright, and the Chacarera is announced.  Why would anyone want to interrupt a good night of tango to play Chacarera?  Probably the same people who like to play tandas of Salsa or Jive.