It is an unfortunate fact of life that things tend to get a little more expensive over time, and whilst we've held off for as long as we can, the time has come for us to put up the prices.
So from the 1st September, all classes will be going up from £8 to £9 on the door. We will still be doing our "5 for 4" offer through the website or at any venue, so you can pre-buy 5 classes (to be used whenever you like) for £36. Go to the Buy and Save page on the website...
X-Tango Alternative Milongas will be going up to £12 on the door, or £10 pre-booked. We will be adding the booking facility to the website in the next few days, but you can always pre-book at any of our classes.
As stated in the previous post, the Guided Practilongas at St Luke's will be £6 for this year as a trial price. This is an on-the-door price only with no facility for pre-booking.
Hopefully that all makes sense. As always, if you have any questions then please ask.
We are still on our summer break at Sevenoaks, but when we come back a lot of things will be changing. I sent out all this info in the newsletter last week, but as I know that a lot of you don't get that for various reasons, here it is in blog form as well.
So what's changing? Well, for a start, we are re-opening on the 6th September, and when we do we will be at:
St Luke's Church Hall, 30 Eardley Road, Sevenoaks, TN13 1XT
The eagle-eyed among you will immediately spot that the 6th is a Thursday. Class nights at Sevenoaks will be on a Thursday from now on.
We are also temporarily dropping the smooth jive part of the class so we can concentrate on tango. I know that this will annoy some of you as smooth jive is the main reason for you coming, but there are a number of good reasons for us doing this. I won't try to explain them all here though; that's a subject for another post.
Our monthly X-Tango Alternative Milongas will still be on Fridays and will still be at the Community Centre, so this means that classes won't be interrupted every few weeks. Please note that our next X-Tango is on the 28th September as we cancelled the late August one to avoid clashing with Herstmonceux (see below).
Additionally, one Friday a month we will be running a "Guided Practilonga" at St Luke's. These will be a 2-hour practice session with no class but plenty of help around if you need it. We will mix up the music at these, so there will be plenty of opportunity to try out different dance styles if you want. We will be trialling these at £6 on the door for this year.
So that's a lot of stuff happening in Sevenoaks! In summary:
Got that all in your diaries? Good. There may be an exam... 😉
Yes, that's right, for the whole of July (and possibly some of August) I'll be teaching Tango down in Tunbridge Wells at Learn to Tango Kent. This will be on Monday evenings in the Showfields Hall, so if your week is a bit short of tango, or you just want to see your regular teacher out of his natural habitat, then pop down to Tunbridge Wells and join in. I'll update this post with the format of the evening once I know the details, but the address is...
1, Rowan Tree Road
Kent. TN2 5PX
You may want to check that postcode if you're using a SatNav, as there seems to be a bit of dispute between them as to where that goes. The address is correct and confirmed though.
See you there in July!
Over the recent bank holiday weekend (25th - 28th May 2018) we had the privilege of being involved with the England International Tango Festival, organised by Tango Boot Camp. After a number of years of it being based in Ardingly, and then one year where they relocated to Brighton as a new venue was being agreed, this year it was held in the magnificent buildings and grounds of Tonbridge School in the heart of Kent. The school itself is around 500 years old, with most of the buildings you can see today dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, and this formed a stunning backdrop to an amazing weekend of tango.
Our role in the festival was a technical one, providing sound equipment, lighting, and making sure that everything worked seamlessly for the workshops, practice sessions, and milongas throughout the weekend. We began our set up on Friday evening, installing lighting in the main milonga hall, and a full sound system in the second milonga room. That evening the school was still in use for an end of term function, so we had to set up the daytime practice room and the workshop area (one space that could be split into two) on Saturday morning before the events started.
Throughout the three days of the event there were a number of configuration changes that needed to be made, including two sets of live musicians in the second milonga room (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), a variety of DJs playing in the various rooms at times throughout the weekend, and a repositioning of connections to allow teachers to play music from the dance floor rather than the DJ station. The event itself ran from around 10am on Saturday morning to 7pm on Monday evening, finishing at 3am on Saturday and Sunday nights. And then when it was all over we took the equipment down again, packed it away, and took it home!
So that was the technical side of things. But it was a tango festival, so what about the tango?
It is not often that you get to attend a tango workshop weekend with such an impressive line-up of world-class, world-renown teachers. Teaching at the festival were Homer Ladas & Cristina Ladas, Vanessa Vilalba & Facundo Piñero, Sebastian Achaval & Roxana Suarez, and Marcela Guevara & Stefano Guidice, and they taught 38 workshops between them at a variety of levels from beginner to advanced. All the couples performed a number of routines at the grand milongas on Saturday and Sunday night, and frequently made themselves available to dance with people in each of the milonga rooms.
The workshops were all paced well, and the detail and explanation they gave was just right for the levels they were aimed at. Each workshop lasted around 90 minutes, apart from a couple of 'masterclass' workshops which were double-length at three hours. We managed to get along to a few of the classes (including the 3-hour Nuevo Masterclass run by Homer & Cristina) and hopefully we will be filtering much of what we learned into our own classes over the next few weeks.
But all of that technical description of who was there and what they did cannot do justice to the atmosphere of the event as a whole, the truly immersive experience it was to be there and to sit on the grass outside the Cafe Bailar (the daytime milonga room) listening to the tango music whilst watching the school team play cricket, or walking between the buildings in the evening hearing nuevo tracks being played behind you, live music off to one side, and traditional Pugliese on the other. This was not just about learning tango or dancing tango, it was about experiencing tango in its pure form, a way to step out of the world for a few hours or days and enter that strange and mysterious dimension where tango is more than just a dance.
There was something for everyone. If, like us, you like your tango to be nuevo or modern then you could head for the Cafe Bailar and hear Homer Ladas or Adrian Newell playing their set in the evening. For lovers of the traditional music you could choose from Michael Lavocah, Paulita, Diego Doigneau, or Warren in one of the other rooms. And if you like your music to be live then that was there for you as well.
The England International Tango Festival is a one-of-a-kind event, and you can be sure that I've put next year's dates in my diary already.
When preparing for a tango class or an event, the music the DJ chooses to play throughout the evening is probably the most important thing there is to decide. It doesn't matter if you provide a bar, free food, a fabulously ornate building with a perfect dance floor, or even a view across the Serengeti for the dancers to enjoy between tracks, if the music isn't danceable then you might as well not have bothered. But therein lies a big problem, as whilst for some people the music is just there to provide a background for the dancing, others consider tango (the dance) and tango (the music) to be inextricably linked and intertwined. If it isn't the right music, it isn't tango.
I grew up watching contemporary ballet and street dancers performing to everything from Rachmaninov to Run DMC, and so the concept of there being a 'right' sort of music to dance to was completely alien to me. I loved watching the ways they chose to express the different styles of music in their medium of dance, and how some of them would effortlessly switch from classical orchestral music to soaring metal power ballads in the same dance without missing a beat. The music was there as a framework that reflected their moods, their intent, and their own musical preferences; it was not something that was locked to a particular style, and there was no-one saying what could and could not be danced to a particular piece of music. For years I was just an observer, someone who sat on the sidelines and watched other people do something that I longed to be able to do myself (which is a whole different blog post), but I loved the near infinite variety of music and soundscapes that people used as a foundation for their dancing, and I loved the scope that gave them for expressing joy, anger, passion, confusion, revelation, mystery...
I became an active participant in dance a little later in life than most, and started - as many do - with Modern Jive. The first venue I went to was a little restricted in their music choice (even now, every time I hear "Titanium" by David Guetta I am back in that room in Dartford where it all began!), but when I started dancing in other places I soon found a huge variety of music that covered everything from slow ballads to bhangra and the scope that gave to our dancing was something quite special. The same was true for tango, as when I was first introduced to tango in a small studio just outside Southampton, the music the teacher played was diverse. So long as it had a beat or cadence that matched what he was trying to teach, he played it. This seemed logical, and when I started to encounter people dancing tango to the slower tracks at modern jive events it made perfect sense to me: if you know this amazing expressive dance form then why not dance it to some of the most amazing and expressive music that modern musicians can produce?
But then I changed location and had to switch tango classes, and that was where I first encountered this whole idea that there is a "right" music for tango. There seemed to be very few classes around that taught using anything other than traditional tango music from South America in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The teacher in my new class would go through a move or a sequence with a piece of Canaro playing in the background, and then put on the same piece played by Pizarro and get us to dance it again whilst he explained how this made it a completely different set of steps. I went to another tango class instead, but after six months of learning the basics he announced that from the following week we would be starting again from the beginning but this time with music from a different orchestra because obviously it would all be different and we needed to learn "the other way of doing things".
I had, however, watched people dancing tango to absolutely everything for as long as I could remember, so I still basically assumed that the teachers I had found simply preferred teaching it that way. The choice of music for tango must surely be down to a matter of personal taste.
After a series of somewhat surprising events, I ended up running my own tango classes and dances. From the first day I played blues, slow rock, jazz, and similar sorts of tracks in the classes and the practice time afterwards. I played what I enjoyed listening to and dancing to, and so for me that ruled out the majority of traditional tango music. The classes were well received, and although I knew I was basically making it up as I went along (my introduction to teaching tango was a complete accident, so I had little time to prepare), the people who came loved the choice of music. We even started to get people who came along purely because our choice of music was non-traditional.
But then I discovered a whole new aspect to tango that I was not expecting. I began to encounter people who described what I was doing as "risky" or "daring". They tried to tell me that it "wasn't allowed" to call it tango if it wasn't danced to the "proper music", although it was unclear who it was they thought would enforce the prohibition (the tango re-education police, perhaps?). Tango, they said, was only tango if danced to "proper" tango music that had been written specifically for tango. They disagreed amongst each other as to whether that included modern Nuevo Tango music or not (and even the definition of Nuevo was a bit variable), but they all agreed it was "daring", "risky", or just plain "wrong" to play anything not written with tango in mind.
Now hang on a minute... what we do is neither "risky" nor "daring". "Risky" is changing a light switch without turning the power off first; "Daring" is skinny-dipping in your neighbours pool whilst they're having a barbecue. What we do is play music we like as a way to enjoy a dance we love, and there is nothing risky or daring about that.
Tango is a dance that has been evolving ever since it began. From its origins as a dance-off challenge between two men, it changed when women started dancing it too as a way of attracting customers into brothels, something which resulted in it being banned in many places because of its associations with the sex industry. But then it evolved again when European dancers brought it over from South America and turned it into the first version of the tango we know today. The competitive ballroom dancing scene attempted to codify it, first with ballroom tango, and then with ballroom Argentine tango, but even these styles have changed and updated over the years, and many of the things they added have filtered back to the place where it all began. Meanwhile in South America there were multiple traditions of tango popping up, with Villa Urquiza, Salon, Fantasia, Milonguero, Club, and Nuevo (to name but a few) all appearing in different regions and at different times. The music changed as the pace slowed down and enabled dancers to be more open and expressive as there was more time for the larger moves. Even the connection between the dancers has adapted and changed as people have tried open, closed, open-V, offset, and adaptive holds to suit their particular style. In other words, there is nothing that has not changed at some point during the evolution of tango.
So what about that is "traditional"? What about that suggests that tango cannot adapt and change as fashions shift and people want to try something else? What about that diverse and ever-changing history suggests that tango is anything other than an evolving dance style that can work however you want it to work and be danced to whatever music you prefer?
And the answer is... nothing.
We dance tango. We play music that we like, and dance tango in a way that makes us happy. We advertise our X-Tango events as "Nuevo / Neo / Alternative", and the strap-line for them is "No tandas - No traditions - Just dance", either of which should be enough to suggest that the traditional way is probably not our way. We are not trying to get rid of traditional tango music or saying it should never be played. We are simply taking a dance that we love and merging it with music that we want to hear, and creating... synthesising... a new step in tango's evolution that will hopefully bring tango to people who might otherwise have been put off by the music.
We are Tango Synthesis. Our music is diverse and our tango is nuevo; we dance because it is fun and we laugh whilst we're doing it. If you are looking for a traditional Buenos Aires style milonga then we are probably not the place for you, but if traditional tango music is not your thing or you want to try something a bit different and see how tango works in an alternative environment, just drop in to one of our classes or events. Beginners are always welcome and there is no need to bring a partner.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go answer the front door... I just hope it's not the Tango Re-Education Police................
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