Tuesday 31 May 2011

The reasons, why I don‘t dance.

This might be a rather unusual blog-entry for a professional Tango teacher, but I guess you are by now accustomed to my personal weirdness, dear readers. 

The reason why I write this article, lies in the fact, that I just spend 8 evenings in a row sitting in Milongas and watching the dancers. On the last evening, one of the locals asked me, why he did not see me on the dancefloor for more than one or two Tandas. I explained to him: 

I do indeed not dance as much as others at Milongas, and the reasons for that vary. Basically, my non-dancing results from three different situations: 

I have been working all day: 
Most Milongas that I visit nowadays, take place in the context of a professional employment. So, on a day like that, I‘ve been getting up early, doing organisational stuff, maybe a workout, teaching for many hours and sometimes giving a performance. During our work, we have to stay focussed, be attentive, bond with people and cannot show show signs of tiredness. We love our work and want to give everything! This costs a lot of energy and at the end of a working day I am quite often physically and mentally exhausted. Too exhausted to relate to a dancer in the way I would want to relate in the embrace. I‘m sure, that many of you know that feeling and will thus not go to a lot of Milongas during the week. On your workdays, you prefer to stay at home with a good book or a movie, isn‘t it? But for us, the situation is reversed: Most Milongas take place on weekends, when the dancers can sleep long and are therefore well rested and energetic for a night out. Those are our customer-involved working days. (Not to forget the rest of the week, when we do the advertising, preparations, planning, travelling and other work-related stuff.) So please forgive me, if I am just too tired to get off my seat. Sitting, watching and chatting is fine for me. ;-) 

I am DJing: 
When I am DJing, I concentrate on the dancefloor. I will be watching the dancers, try to make out their mood, feel what they might want to dance to... I basically do the job, for which I am paid. I will maybe dance a Tanda or two, if I feel, that everything is going smoothly, but that‘s it. As a DJ, it's my pleasure to make YOU dance! :-)

So, these were answers enough for the Tanguero, who asked me that question on a full travelling, teaching, performing day, when I was also DJing at the Milonga in question. But there is another factor... 

I only dance, when I really want to dance: 
There are luckily still Milongas, that we attend for the fun of dancing and/or meeting friends. And even then, I might not be dancing as much as others. Why? Let me put it bluntly: Although being a professional teacher and depending on contracts, I will not do „social-engineering“ by dancing with potential customers or organisers. I will not either dance out of boredom, nor out of a general „urge to move“ with everyone, to no matter what music. I‘m funny in that way: When I dance with a man (or a woman), I do it for the pleasure of the embrace and I will connect very deeply with the person in question and the music. I can only do this, if the music and mood are right, if the dancefloor is well-organised, if I am awake and in an acceptable physical shape and if the other person shares my general ideas of Tango. I will rather dance with the beginner, who embraces me nicely and simply walks to the beat, than the „Maestro“ who wants to impress me with his athletic moves or complex steps. Feeling is more important to me than looks. And even amongst Salón or Milonguero dancers there are quite a few, who look nice to dance with, who move elegantly, but do not „feel“ nice! They will not connect properly, they will not communicate their ideas, they will expect me to dance memorised patterns, they are stiff and do not dissociate... It's about the quality of the dance. Am I fastidious? Maybe... But am I demanding too much? I don‘t know.... As I said: just walking to the music and holding one another gently in the arms is a great experience. I do not ask for more. 

But I won‘t accept less!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Abrazos - Encuentro Milonguero UK (Review)

So... here you are. Have a look at my review of a beautiful weekend in the british countryside and a perfect debut Festival:

ABRAZOS - Encuentro Milonguero UK (May, 6-8, 2011) 

The first Festival of social Tango in the United Kingdom was organised by our friends and Tangokombinat comrades Andreas Wichter & Lynn Collins. Andreas is teaching in the UK for some years and has been invited to Southhampton, Bristol, Cardiff, London and other places. He and Lynn are living in Totnes, Devon a lovely small town at the river Dart surrounded by tolkienesque hills and filled with stores that sell crystals and homemade shoes. This is Hobbit country. The Shire par excellence!
The Festival itself was set on Dartington Hall Estate nearby, a conglomerate of picturesque houses, the most beautiful garden in the world and some very functional multipurpose buildings, that host all kinds of cultural activities and art. On the same weekend, a festival in honour of the poet Rabindranath Tagore took place on the estate and you could enjoy all kinds of indian-inspired food, colourful people and (obviously) an elephant in the garden.

Practicas, Milonguitas & Milongas: 
The Festival offered lots of opportunities to dance over the weekend. There were Practicas every day, two afternoon Milonguitas, two big Milongas on Friday and Saturday, and a Despedida on Sunday. The concentration of so many Milongas, a big choice of classes and many people sharing Embraces, meals and discussions on this lovely spot in Devon, really made this event stand out. From all the Encuentros and Festivalitos this was definitely the most festival-like one.
All DJs presented traditional music in Tandas and Cortinas even during the Practicas. There were Jill Barret (UK) and Deke As (UK) for the Practicas, Celine Deveze and Philippe Gonella for the Milonguitas and Enrico „il Mali“, Uwe Willié and myself of the Milongas. I already mentioned Celine, Philippe and Enrico in my description of the YSM3 in Crema. Uwe Willié is our comrade in the Tangokombinat and was chosen for the Sunday Despedida. It‘s a actually speciality of his as he concentrates on Tandas of a more romantic and peaceful ambiance. Perfect for the final notes of a Festival.
We (Detlef & I) were teaching alongside Marek & Olivera Szotkowski and were focussing on the embrace, movements for crowded floors and musicality in order to attract the right crowd of dancers. As each of us did a „full programme“ (10 hours) of teaching over the weekend, we did not have the time to attend the afternoon Milonguitas or Practicas - apart from the initial guided practica of course. It was fun to work at the Abrazos Festival: the class rooms were big enough and equipped with an excellent wooden floor, the organisation was impeccable. All classes were sold out.
There was one special offer: each teacher was available for four „Privatandas“, mini private classes of the length of a Tanda. We already know the concept from the USA and like it a lot. It is a very dense kind of work, where you have to concentrate on one or two aspects. The big upside is, that you do not „overload“ the student with information. From what I can tell of the feedback, the participants got a lot out of it.
We did a short demo (2 dances per couple and one Vals together) on Saturday evening. 
Detlef and I danced two Tangos by Di Sarli as an illustration of our teaching during the day. We had given a special class on Di Sarli‘s oeuvre and wanted to demonstrate the interpretation of different styles of Tangos by the „Senor del Tango“. You can see our demos here and here.
Marek and Olivera danced to a Tango by Laurenz and a Milonga in their very elegant and personal way. I will add a link to heir demo, as soon as it is online.
Extra activities: 
Apart from strolling around on Dartington Estate (see above), you could visit Totnes, the Dartmoor, take a ride on an old-fashioned choo-choo-train, have tea and scones, look at Otters and other rare breeds... All very british and much appreciated by the visitors from the continent. Unluckily, the weather was not perfect. But who‘d expect this? ;-)
The locations were very, very convenient. As I already stated: wooden floors, state of the art technique and sound, appropriate sizes, nice arty ambiance.... The Practicas and Milonguitas took place in the „Hex“ a hexagonal hall with an arena-like tribune for seating and some additional tables and chairs. It was situated in the same building as the classrooms, including dressing rooms with showers, a vendor of shoes, a food stand and the reception. The Friday evening Milonga took place in the same building in the very nicely decorated large hall. I preferred this hall to the one of the Saturday and Sunday Milongas, which was set across the Estate in another building. This one was a tad „long and narrow“ for my taste. But nevertheless all places were perfectly fit for a Festival of that size, creating a very pure ambiance!
The majority of the dancers came from the UK and we knew many from former visits. It was great to meet them again and see them dance so nicely with our friends from the continent, who flew in from France, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. Let‘s not forget our Scotch and Irish friends of course!
I was very much impressed by the discipline and respect of the dancers on the floor and amongst each other. I have visited several british Milongas in the last three years and found the behaviour (outside of London) quite decent, but there were always some rascals on the floor, disturbing the Ronda. This was not the case at Abrazos! I have never-ever seen such a perfect Ronda with 2-3 concentric circles in all my Tango life, not even in Buenos Aires or in the most renowned Festivals. Obviously, the special emphasis on social Tango, the embrace and the „reglas“ in the publicity and choice of classes really had an impact. I know by personal feedback of participants, that they‘ve never experienced such a peace- and respectful ambiance at a Tangoevent in the UK before. The emotions ranged from tears to laughter of pleasure. Even I was touched by the harmony of the couples on the dancefloor, when I was sitting with my aching feet up and watching the crowd dance the last Tanda to a perfect Tango by Di Sarli. Whilst receiving a foot massage by my favourite foot-massage and Di-Sarli person. What more can I ask for?
Andreas and Lynn are already planning next years event, which will most likely take place on Dartington Hall Estate again. This is only the beginning of a deep friendship between british and continental Milongueros. The social Tango in a close embrace has found a new home on the island and there will hopefully be many more Abrazos. We‘ll sure be back!