Wednesday 18 December 2019

European Milongueros: Les Anglais

Although I had planned on writing this article for months, I actually started it on the day after the general election in the UK and now fear that it might be overshadowed by the sad news of a conservative majority and certain Brexit. But even such a disaster cannot break the bonds that have formed across the channel!

What is this article about?

In 2011, I published a series of articles to introduce some friends who have contributed to the early development of milonguero culture in Europe by promoting and living social tango, the "codigos milongueros" and a culture of the embrace as teachers, organisers, djs and dancers. 

Today, I would like continue by presenting a few of my British friends, who were not so much "on the map" when I wrote the original series. Back then, the UK had not yet developed a distinct milonguero culture, but that changed after the first edition of Abrazos - Encuentro Milonguero, organised by our Tangokombinat colleagues Andreas and Lynn in Devon. Today, a large number of Brits are not only amongst the most popular dancers at any European meeting of close embrace dancers, they also shape tango culture by organising events, teaching, djing and spreading milonguero culture through their tireless travels. As our French friends say: "Sans les Anglais - ça va pas du tout!"

I find it super hard to make a choice, but the ones that I am going to introduce share not only their milongueroness, but also two other important properties: All of them have repeatedly taken classes with us and/or visited our events, so that I had plenty opportunities to get to know them better. In addition to that, they are dedicated Europeans who have fought actively for the UK to stay in the EU by going to and organising rallies, by posting about it on the internet and by trying to reason with those who want to bring us apart. 

In the photo below, you can see Matthew, Nikki, Dawn, Eleanor, Krissy, Nick and many other tangueros during a march against Brexit. The others are not on it, but believe me, they've also done their part.

But let's look back to 2009.

This was the year when Detlef and I were for the first time invited to teach in the UK. The SuperTangk in Bramshaw exceeded our expectations. We had been told to be prepared for a bunch of lazy open-embrace dancers but what we got were enthusiastic students, eager to immerse themselves into close-embrace social dance. This was when we first met:

Nikki Mellor + Matthew Cooper
These talented dancers don't teach or organise but an encuentro without them is like a picknick without sun. Matthew is one of my favourite partners and the most positive person. When being nervous before a demo, I just have to look at him to know that everything is fine and that what we do is appreciated. Matthew's presence lights up my mood every time. Apart from being a remarkably musical dancer, Matthew also has an incredible eye for the small things around him. Have a look at his short film of loss and hope. It is one of the many moments that he captured with his camera.
Nikki is less visible on the internet, but she is one of the preferred partners of Detlef and many other leaders. She also leads, but not as regularly as Dawn and Eleanor. I unfortunately only got to dance with her very few times, but always enjoyed her embrace immensely, no matter in which role. I think you will get to know this strong woman best, when you see her through the eyes of her beloved. And by the way, I lied: Nikki has started teaching women's leading classes with her friend Krissy. 
This video shows Nikki and Matthew dancing the last tanda of Matthew's "40th spectac-EU-lar birthday" party- an occasion on which all his European friends united to celebrate tango, friendship and the EU. By the way: Dawn and Eleanor, whom I will introduce below, can both also be seen dancing in the video.
The cool photo below was made in Berlin where Matthew works in software development. Hopefully, he'll be able to continue this employment after Brexit. 

Eleanor Durrant
Eleanor has not taken many classes with us, but she is a dear friend, whose opinion I highly value and a fabulous dancer in both roles.
I first met Eleanor in 2009 on occasion of our Festivalito de los Angeles in St. Wendel, the next year at Les Cigales and at the FCA when it was still a festivalito. She reviewed all of these and many more events on her blog as Ms.Hedgehog and by that immensely contributed to the popularity of encuentros and festivalitos milongueros in Europe. Her writing is witty and always to the point, whether it is about tango, film, books, needle work or whatever she deems worthy writing about. 
In real life she's a freelance business analyst specialising in difficult business situations. As a tango dancer, you will often see which role she is dancing by her marked clothing: dress and high heels when she's planning on following or trousers and flats when she is leading. That makes her very visible when signing up as a double-role dancer and is one of the many precious tips for tango-dancers on her blog. She has taken up teaching in London, specialising on basics and floorcraft and I am confident that even the most advanced dancers will get useful advice from her how to dance better in a crowded ronda. Eleanor is also an active dj.
Here you can see her dancing with Andreas during the last edition of Abrazos in Devon. The picture below is by Markus Schüller. 

A year later - in 2010 - we first met:

Marion Greenwood + David Thomas
David told me that they used to watch our videos on Youtube thinking "that looks like it might be interesting to try". Well, they got to try a lot.
Marion and David not only visited numerous of our classes and tango-holidays, but also took part in our first Tango-Teacher-Training in 2013. I will always remember David's enigmatic introduction and Marion's ever encouraging smile, even when the classes took much longer than planned. This first TTT was very exciting and by working with each other, we forged everlasting memories as well as pedagogical concepts and musical ideas. It was on this occasion that David and Marion presented the orchestra of Francisco Lomuto in such a creative way: "Imagine an elephant running through a jungle." After the TTT, David carried on his research, resulting in the book Getting to know - 20 Tango Orchestras. I recommend it as an excellent resource for every tanguero. 
Because they are elegant dancers and great in any form of communication, we invited them (and Saso + Alja from Slovenia) to participate in the film to our book Caminar Abrazados. It was David who magically made an apple appear during one of the exercises and thereby initiated a running gag. Here you can see us all in action.
David and Marion are not only the most friendly and beautiful couple, but also very active in spreading the word. They teach and organise milongas as well as tango-holidays and David regularly works as a dj in the UK and all over Europe. The only thing that I regret is that we nowadays don't meet so often anymore because we fequent different Encuentros.
Fun fact: Marion and David live in the same village as Matthew and Nikki. How can such a small place turn out so many dedicated dancers?
The photo below by Thorsten Janes shows them on the film set. 

Dawn Porter
I first met Dawn in 2010 only three months after she had started dancing. It was on occasion of workshops in Bristol and two months later she already visited our Encuentro in Germany. I have seldom met someone so eager to absorb tango. In our teacher trainings I present her as an example for the ideal student. No wonder she made such great progress in short time. In the beginning she concentrated on the traditional follower's role, but soon asked me, whether I thought that learning the leading role would be a good idea. I encouraged her and never regretted it, because today Dawn is one of my favourite leaders for Biagi. I am lucky that this feeling seems to be mutual, because once a tanda starts, our miradas find each other across the biggest rooms. Needless to state that she's an excellent follower as well!
Apropos mirada: Dawn - who is also djing on a regular basis - was the creator of Una Mirada, which was the second Encuentro Milonguero in the UK from 2014-16. In recent years, she has hosted me and my partner Ramona for Ladies Only weekends and I hope we'll go on working together after Brexit. I would not want to miss the hours around her kitchen table. 
Another thing that comes to mind when I think of Dawn are her t-shirts. Since 2017, I have frequently seen her in EU-blue with stars, but the coolest was her "Made by Tangokombinat" shirt. As she has not only worked intensively with Detlef and me, but also with by Andreas, our Tangokombinat colleague, the inscription made us all proud!
Here you can watch her perform with Eleanor at a milonga in London. The video is old but you can already see Dawn's typical dynamic and Eleanor's relaxed footwork. And by the way: the person giggling so audibly is Matthew who made the video. 
The photo of Dawn and me dancing was made by the French milonguero Xavier Delalle.

Mike + Patricia Barrow
Mike recollects based on his diary entry: "We first met on 31st July 2010 at the Milonga del Angel in Nimes. You were running your Mas de Mestre workshops, we were on holiday in the area and visited the milonga.  ...  We danced...  Patricia apparently had two dances with Detlef... The diary records: Memo to self: we should sign up next time they come to a Tangk in Bramshaw. The rest is history."
Indeed. In the following years, we would have the pleasure of working and dancing with this interesting couple several times in and outside of the UK. I not only enjoyed the shared tango experiences, but also our vivid discussions about life outside the bubble. Mike is an academic economist, Patricia - originally French - was a school teacher. So far, the two have not ventured into organising or teaching, but given their background I would not be surprised. 
An interesting fact: Since this year, these smart milongueros both have British and French citizenship. They will therefore be amongst the lucky ones to be able to travel and work freely in both worlds after Brexit. I am very happy for them and hope we'll meet even more often in the future. The most recent encounter was at our Festivalito Pequeña in June, where Patricia won a ticket to the 2020 edition. So there are good chances to dance with them next year!
The picture below is from an Italian milonguero Christina Campagna.

Jeff Allen + Caro Millet
In my original post, I did not include Jeff and Caro, because they are actually not "Anglais" and new to the milonguero scene. But I have decided to add them, because things are constantly changing.
The fist time that Jeff and Caro took classes with us was in Bristol 2012 and 2013, so we know them quite some time, but it took a few years until we bonded. In 2013, I saw them at Abrazos in Devon, but there was not much of a personal contact. 
Caro and Jeff are another very European couple. They live in Glasgow, Scotland. He is Scot and she is from France, but has been living in the UK for many years. Both are very much affected by the political situation, but who knows, Scotland might remain in the EU. 
A fun fact about Jeff: although coming from another line of work, he is now building violins. I find that very impressive! 
Since 2002, Jeff has been teaching with the Finnish dancer Sari, but as you can see from (quite old) pictures on their website, their school does not have a definite milonguero orientation. Jeff has nevertheless changed his personal approach to tango a lot: In 2016/17 he registered for our TTT and since then been integrated into the milonguero community. He and Caro have also participated in a few of our tango holidays in France and regularly go to milonguero events in the UK and on the continent. Here you can see them dancing at an encuentro. Jeff has also participated in my dj-seminar and is djing in Glasgow.
Caro has not only started to lead but is now also giving classes with Jeff. They are actively helping to boost social close embrace tango in this rather remote part of the UK. I wish them lots of luck and hope that we'll soon return to Glasgow to support this great development.
The picture below is by Thorsten Janes and shows them dancing at our Pequeña.

Nick + Krissy King
These lovely people are the last to be presented here because we met them relatively late, in 2014 during workshops in Cambridge. But since then we've danced frequently at encuentros all over Europe and many milongas in the UK.
Nick is one of my favourite Di Sarli partners and I always try to catch his mirada when I hear the first notes of any song. Krissy is just wonderful and like mine, one of her favourite orchestras is Biagi. Such a warm person and great hugger. Both of them actually. Abrazadores par excellence!
Krissy and Nick teach and organise milongas in the Hertfordshire area and Krissy offers classes for leading ladies - sometimes with her friend Nicky Mellor. Nick, a TV film editor in real life, is also a committed dj.
There is another thing I particularly like about Nick: his outspokenness when it comes to British politics. After reading his Facebook posts, I feel entirely free to say "Bollocks to Brexit"!
In this video on Eleanor's blog, you can watch Nick dancing, but unfortunately there is no film that shows him with Krissy. That's a shame, because I love watching them move ever so smoothly. Can someone please film them at an event, so that I can post a link?
The photo below is also by Cristina Campagna.

So, it seems that I am done for the moment. I won't apologise for the length of the article, because I already had to restrict myself to not introduce even more British milongueros or continue my love letter to the few I chose. 

Let me finish with yet another video by Matthew. It features most protagonists of this article and many more of our friends. I'm also in it, leading the "Git Up" at the FCA. Apart from showing the friendship and love that binds us, this film proves once more that milongueros are first and foremost great fun!

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and a much better 2020.