Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Musicality with Dawn Hampton and John Dokes (Swing)

My favourite thing about this video is that the band is LIVE and both of them still dance as though they know every split second of the music. Because they understand it as dance music, and so does the band, and they're all paying attention to each other, and when you cooperate and you understand the form and what each other are doing, you don't need to know exactly what's coming next.

For example: at 00:50, the feigned surprise is funny because he completely hit that, and that's why he seemed like a leaf on the wind of sound. And at 05:05, again.

The band would appear to be The George Gee Jump, Jivin' Wailers of New York City.

I've posted this video before, in 2009. It still makes me happy - it might make you happy, too.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


This is what I ended up knitting for a friend's new granddaughter. I was in Lillehammer, in Norway, and I walked into a yarn shop looking for inspiration. They had some lovely sock-weight alpaca in soft colours, and on the ball band was a little drawing of a goofy alpaca face.

It looked a bit like this.

So I made one.

He's got a little tail, and a little fluffy hairdo, blue eyes, and a blanket with flowers on.

They also had some wooden circular needles with square cross-section, which are very nice to work with, and since I hadn't brought anything with me and needed to start right away, I got those too. I love Norwegian yarn shops.

There's another animal I made this year which you've missed out on because the photos were destroyed in an SD card disaster. Anyway, it was a pink and purple owl, and there's no other one like it anywhere.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Thirteen Tango Terms for Beginners

I have a very dear friend who wants to learn to dance tango. She will, or should, encounter some concepts to do with basic technique. But sometimes in the social complexity of classes, these ideas get lost, or disconnected from any explanation of what they mean. And these are the kinds of things you need to get working well so that you can dance easily and happily with other people, and express yourself and find your own dance without hurting yourself or anyone else. You need this information to solve whatever problems you are having, and not waste time.

So, I've collected them here for her. I've ended up putting them in alphabetical order, because they all go together, so it makes at least as much sense as anything else. I'm not going to tell you how to achieve them; you should get someone who can already do this stuff and can see you, dance with you, and give you feedback, to help you with that.

Axis means that your partner can easily find a vertical line through your body about which it is possible for you to turn without going off balance. Like the axis of the Earth. To show yourself what it means, stand with both feet on the ground but your weight on just one of them, the other leg relaxed, and get someone to twirl you around on the spot. A good 'axis' means it is easy to do this and you don't fall over. If you stick one hip out to the side and make your axis curved, you'll find it's much harder. But the line is flexible and springy, like bamboo, not rigid.

Axis is equally important for leading and following. The line is what gives the follower neutral, accurate, racing-car steering, without understeer or oversteer or pulling to one side. It makes the leader easy to follow accurately.

Connection means, for example, that if you are led to step directly into the leader, you will do so. If half a step is led and then stopped, you will follow it half way, and stop. If you are standing with your feet apart and some weight on each one, you will stay there until led to bring them together and put the weight on one of them - and you will pass through all the percentages in-between. Connection means you can be led to change weight from foot to foot, one toe at a time. It means you follow what's actually led. Sometimes that won't be what was intended, and that's fine. Connection is a really good thing. Some people say it's the essence of tango. It means that your attention is continuously with your partner and not with (for example) spectators. One of the biggest challenges for the more experienced follower is managing to avoid learning rules, habits, technical work-arounds, and catalogues of stereotypical movements that cut off other options and destroy the ability to follow what's actually led, especially anything new or unexpected.

Connection mainly comes up in relation to following, but it goes both ways - the leader needs to be listening to the follower's body too. It means paying attention to what your partner is actually doing in the moment, and being open to it, not stuck in your own mental catalogue. And all the other techniques mentioned here go towards making that possible and successful.

Dissociation means the ability to point your bottom (back or front) towards the direction of travel while still keeping your torso towards, and connected to, your partner. That means the ability and willingness to twist in the middle whenever you need to do so, just as much as necessary.

Dissociation is equally important for leader and follower. It gives you accurate steering and freedom of movement.

Embrace means you have an embrace that feels nice and works well. The basic, characteristic, close embrace for social tango has the torsos in contact and each partner within the arm of the other, rather like an affectionate hug; it can be tighter or looser, and more or less mobile, and there are lots of variations but no real rules. There are also open variations (with less contact) that some people use and others don't, either to make various things easier to do, or for practice, or just because they enjoy the feeling of bringing it in and out. The same person will often use several variations, minor or major, depending on who they are dancing with. It's not like competition ballroom dancing where there's a refined, prescribed look with specific hand positions.

Embrace is equally important for leader and follower. Whether you need a wide range of different skills, or you're only really going to use the close version, depends on your situation and your preferences.

Floorcraft means having a good relationship with the other couples around you on the dance floor, sharing the space positively and not bumping into them. Although it's principally the leaders' job, the follower can screw it up royally by doing stupid things or being uncontrolled or difficult to steer. For the beginner leader, you already know how to walk along a crowded pavement or platform, or across a pub, mostly without bumping anyone, even in quite tricky situations. So you have two main challenges - integrating your partner into that, and avoiding learning any bad habits that cut off your perception of those around you, limit your choices of where to go next, or put you off balance or out of control. You'll also learn what situations to avoid, and how to cooperate with others.

Following pretty much means just that. It's basically the same mental process as following someone on a rapid, zigzag path through a crowded shopping centre without needing to hold their hand. It's something you decide to do; it has nothing to do with guessing what they want, and they don't even have to know you are there. You go wherever you need to go to stay with your partner, only from in front. The power do to this at a basic level whenever you want, comes for free with being a human, or indeed a duckling fresh out of the egg. In a partner dance we practice, extend, and refine it to build connection on top of it, and then do far more with it than you could reasonably have imagined was possible.

If you have taken at least one lesson, you should be able to successfully follow weight changes, walks, and sidesteps with a more experienced dancer who you've never met. If not, something has gone wrong. And nothing you do later should take away this ability.

If you mainly lead, doing some following gives you a chance to solve some problems one at a time that you'd otherwise have to tackle all at once, and also to find out which problems are most worth your attention.

Free leg
Your free leg is the leg you aren't putting weight on right now. Being 'free' means it's free to move, and perhaps swing. So that means it's relaxed where it joins to the hip, rather than being held in a particular position, give or take some friction with the floor. The consequence is that your partner can feel where that leg is through the connection with you (try it).

It's important for both partners, but it's more obvious for following, because the leader can cause it to move without the follower doing any more than allowing it - this can produce some amazing movements which you will never see on Strictly Come Dancing. The leader having a free leg is less obvious, but makes everything more stable and clear.

Grounded means you feel as though it would be very difficult to push you over. At first, you might think of this as like having "good balance" (I certainly did) but it isn't. You can balance in a position where it's easy to push you over. Being grounded is having habits in the way you move so that you don't get in such positions unless you want to.

Grounding is equally important for leader and follower, but leaders may need more of it more urgently. If you're leading and you're not grounded, you're likely to bump into other people, even if the follower has no problems. If you're following, and you're not grounded, then you may be out of control and difficult to steer. If you're well grounded, you can compensate quite a bit if your partner isn't, but it's hard work.

Heavy means it's really hard work to move you at all. It has nothing to do with your physical size, but you feel like a fridge. Your partner will get a sore back, hips, knees, ankles, arms or shoulders. It's a very bad thing, as it means dancing with you can cause significant injury. People may also say someone is 'heavy' or 'a little heavy' when they only mean the connection is not working that well for some reason. In that case it's not so dangerous.

It mostly comes up in relation to following, but it's also possible for the leader to stand or move in such a way as to hurt their partner physically. When you make changes, check.

Leading is making use of the fact that another human being has decided to follow you, in order to create a partner dance. As soon as they make that decision and start acting on it, you can already lead at a minimal level. You learn how to do it better, practice it, refine it, and find out what you can do with it. It's crazy how much you can do with it together.

If you mainly follow, doing some leading is very illuminating and helps you prioritise; it may also give you more confidence in the things you are doing right as a follower.

"Light" means you are easy to move. Being easy to move is not just being grounded and not heavy - it also has to do with connection. "Too light" means you tend to get away from your partner in an uncontrolled way. But exactly how "light" different people are varies naturally and there isn't just one perfect spot that's the same for everyone.

Lightness mostly applies to following.  But if you are leading and someone says you are too light, it might mean the follower can't detect where you are going at all.

Musicality means you are really listening and moving with the music. You have dynamics. It's not just that you follow what's led or that you move on the beat; the way you move, sharply, softly, swooshily, smoothly or not, and so on, always expresses what you are hearing and how you are feeling it. Each partner can feel the other doing this, and respond. So your attention to each other is mediated through the music, and the music is mediated into the dance through your attention to each other (and often, in the leader's case, to people around you) - they are working like one thing.

Musicality is equally important for leader and follower, but it tends to be discussed a lot more in relation to leading. This is because the leader has to decide what to do - whether the next step will be slow or quick - and learning how to do that and be on the beat takes a lot of time and attention. As a result, the women can often end up thinking that their own musicality is some sort of ornamental extra that has to be stuck on top of the leader's dance, like icing on a cake - and that it's necessary to stop moving and break the connection so they can take their turn. You can probably tell I think that's a terrible way of looking at it. You want to be on the beat, yes, but it's important to think of musicality in terms of how you move all the time, how you both do everything you are doing, and how that feels in the connection, not just when you step. That's what makes someone actually feel musical to their partner.

Posture has its normal meaning. But it's what creates lightness, heaviness, axis, grounding, and a successful embrace. So it's a good place to look if you are having trouble with anything on this list.

If you are working on any of the above, directly or indirectly, then you probably aren't wasting your time in class. If you find that one of them is the reason why whatever you are trying to do doesn't work, then you have learned something useful. 

There are lots of recreational arguments in tango, but none of the above is particularly controversial. Some people talk and think about this stuff a lot; some do it occasionally; others just hate the idea of thinking about what they're doing at all.

I have not dealt with manners in social dancing. That's for another day.

What I'm aiming for is to be useful and practical for people with no previous knowledge, in a range of communities. If you can get most of this stuff working to an ok-ish level, then you can reasonably expect (at least if you also like the music) to be getting lots of practice and to be well on the way to "dancing very nicely". Then you can take it as far as you like.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


I knew I wanted one, because I'd heard them in action. Two of them chained from a laptop are plenty to fill a good-sized room and have a perfectly good pop-up milonga with twenty or thirty people or so. Which is a nice thing to think, even if you don't do it. But they come in several charming colours, and I put it off and put it off partly because they are rather expensive, but mainly because (they being so expensive) I wanted them to be perfect and I couldn't decide which colour to get.

Then they brought out these purple ones with the yellow ends, and totally made the sale.

I played with them for a while after buying them, enjoying both the sound and the purple-and-yellowness. They're not cheap. They're a bit lurid. As I smiled at them, one of those flashes of self-knowledge informed me that these have now become the thinking woman's Comme Il Faut.

I've taken one on trips a few times, and used one this Spring (turned down very quiet) for dancing outside Pisa airport. And it was enough. I thought I wouldn't get the use out of them that I should for the price, since dancing in airports doesn't happen as often as it ought, but they're so small and so good that I use them all the time. I have one constantly on the dinner table for listening to lectures and radio programmes from my tablet, and the other in the bedroom. The only annoying thing is the bright battery-status light, which I cover with blu-tack if I am playing a lullaby.

But I am just as much a sucker for a clever, expensive consumer product as anyone, so just recently I bought the gold subwoofer as well. And it sounds GREAT. Of course, it enhances any music where the bass is important - and if you were teaching a muscality class, you'd probably find it very useful. But I also like the way it enhances speaking voices, especially male.

Now it lives on the dinner table too. In the picture I'm listening to a conversation about how the Hubble Space Telescope is steered. As for playing tango music from my computer, I like all sorts of things that I didn't much enjoy listening to at home before.

Anyway, here are Richard's in the form of action most likely to interest my readers - DJing from an iPad at a party. He didn't bring a subwoofer, as it's not needed in such a small room. I really WANT the pokketmixer you can see at the front (which is unpowered and lets you plug in headphones and switch channels to prelisten) but I have absolutely no sensible reason to buy one and they're, like, 90 EUR. So I'm not going to do that. Really. Not yet, anyway. It's so cute and clever, though. Maybe I could get one for Christmas.

The Minirigs are made in England - in Bristol, I think, or at least they are designed and tested there. They all come with their own padded cases and cables, and they sell a special backpack for carrying the whole setup and turning yourself into a walking sound system, but I don't like the design for this situation - I'm visualising an adapted hard-shelled briefcase that would open, maybe slide and click, and sort of fold itself inside-out, and be ready to go. It would need pockets for up to four minirigs, the subwoofer, the pokketmixer, the cables, some headphones, the ipad perhaps - and some reading glasses, in case you forget.

You can chain together as many as you want, which is very efficient if you are having a party and several of your friends own some. Obviously, though, you pay for the portability and style, so if you want a proper sound system for a big room, two big speakers of equivalent quality are going to be much cheaper than six little ones.

No they have not given me anything, but it would be ACE if they did.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Oh, I have so much writing to do

Experience and tips on learning to follow (written with a friend in mind).
Interesting experiences of taking my leading more seriously - methods and results.
A bunch of videos that I have found helpful or inspiring for leading (given very limited time and patchy motivation), and what is interesting about them.
Comments on a fascinating article elsewhere (hope I can still find it) about the history of ballroom dancing in England, and especially its decline as a social activity; parallels and contrasts.
An market-based analysis of why something I consider bloody rude, is so very annoying.
The relationships between social dancing, teaching, followers, leaders, quality, supply, and demand.
Possibly some uninteresting rants about software and corporate workplace silliness.
Miscellaneous things I've learned this year.

And I sit down too much already!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

International Transfers for tango travellers

Ok, this is a matter of so much trouble to Brits who travel for tango purposes that it's become a perfectly genuinely Frequently Asked Question. As I've been asked it multiple times, here's the answer for people struggling to make European transfers in Euros directly from a UK bank. I've done it again today and remembered the gotchas.

You ONLY need the following information, nothing else:

  1. IBAN, the very loooong number which starts with a country code like FR or DE. If your bank's form does not seem to understand this number when you paste it in, remove the spaces. I have no idea why the forms are too stupid to do this automatically, but for some reason they often are, and it baffles people.
  2. BIC, the Bank Identification Code, a shorter string of letters.
  3. Name of the beneficiary (person or company you are sending the money to).
That's it. You do NOT need to fill any address information, it's completely unnecessary, so leave those boxes blank if the form allows it, or repeat whatever address you have if your bank's form is so poorly designed that it doesn't. The chances are that any extra information will be ignored, and the bank's helpdesk will probably confirm this, as mine did.

There may be more than one option for how the costs are paid which can vary from bank to bank. Mine only actually provides one option, which has a totally misleading name ("shared") but nevertheless results in the correct number of Euros reaching their destination. Start by selecting whatever option lets you specify the exact amount of the bill you are trying to pay.

Alternatively, try Transferwise, which I haven't yet used myself (only because my bank's system is unusually cheap and I am used to it), but I know lots of people who've used it very successfully. It is almost certain to be cheaper and better designed than your bank's system. The only gotcha is that people fairly often misunderstand the form in such a way that they make a transfer the wrong way round, FROM the destination currency TO the source currency. This results in exchanging the money and paying all of the costs twice over, and under-paying the actual bill by as much as a tenner, so it's no longer cheaper than using the bank. Plus it's embarrassing. So try not to do this.

I hope that helps someone, because apparently it's been driving my friends round the bend. I do it multiple times a year, and it's the sort of thing you would just never have had to do even once if you weren't travelling in Europe in order to dance tango. Because all other sorts of business take credit cards, and in Argentina you just turn up with a bra full of USD.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Dance is not necessarily sport, either

Jonathan Agnew said something on the radio – during a Test Match at the end of June – about hacking, which means riding around on horses, but not competitively.

He was talking about people who ride horses in their daily life, but are not "recognised" as “participating in a sport”, and he asked them to tweet pictures of what they were doing with a hashtag, because it would (self-evidently?) be a good thing if they were.

I think Aggers is wrong to assume that they would want this. It sounds to me exactly analogous to the case of social dancing. There is nothing wrong with doing dance as a sport, and social dance has pretty similar mental, physical and social benefits to social sport. The tango-salon competitions are a whole other discussion, and a very interesting one (also sometimes farcical). Sport-dance can be a lot of fun. But conceiving ALL dance as sport would be harmful and there is no reason to assume that anyone would or should want that.

Just because some people define sport as prestigious doesn't mean everyone has to. The concept of sport isn't entitled to take over the whole world of healthy physical activity.

I could pretty much replace the word "Art" with "Sport" in this post and it would end up with virtually the same meaning. In fact, let's try some of that:

There's nothing wrong with artistic sporting dance. Lots of dance is certainly art sport. But it is wrong to talk as though dance is necessarily performance, and that non-artistic, non-performance dance is some sort of inferior 'just-for-fun' offshoot, defined as low-quality, because high-quality dance would be art win something. This belief does real harm to people who would enjoy non-art non-sport dance and be good at it, and real harm to dance communities. ...
... There should be more people dancing, more commonly, than there are, without being obliged to feel all artistic sporting about it. And without feeling that if they ever get good, they'll automatically be artists sportsmen and expected to teach or perform compete. Those are all totally different vocations and have no necessary connection with each other, or with just dancing. They're not needed to validate the quality of anyone's dance. (And they don't, incidentally).
Competition dance is necessarily standardised, because without some standardisation, fair judging is very difficult and seen-to-be-fair judging even more so. You need rules and criteria; and there’s a reason why some (or, in my opinion, most) great social dancers consider “Campeonato” style tango stupefyingly boring and artificial, despite the competition itself being great fun as a sporting event. But back to the previous post:
Being an excellent social (or indeed solo, or religious, or football-terrace) dancer is a valid and possible goal, and it's always nice to have more of them.
Why would social dancers want to be “recognised as participating in sport”? That would be poisonous – just as poisonous as being “recognised as artists”.

I'm not saying it's not tempting. If you put a lot of work into doing something well, the siren song of public or peer recognition will call to you, one way or another. But we should think properly about how to fulfil that legitimate desire in a way appropriate to the context - not blindly adopt the artistic or sporting model. And even if we occasionally organise a competition of a sporting nature, which could be huge fun, that doesn't mean we should let it take over or influence what we are doing otherwise, more than it deserves to.

It would be much better if social dance were more widely recognised as what it really is - play. And adult humans don’t need a prefabricated validating excuse – “sport” or “art” – for playing together. Or even with a horse.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Monica Paz - tomorrow

London tango peeps who appreciated my long piece "Argentine Tango for TV Viewers" might like to know that both Monica Paz and Antonio Martinez, who appear in one of the videos I chose, are going to be at Negracha, London tomorrow - not together, Monica is going to teach the class this week and do a demo with Marek I believe, [Sorry - the demo is at Corrientes tonight - not at Negracha yesterday! my mistake, I misunderstood what was said to me. But yes it's with Marek] and Antonio is DJing at Corrientes on Saturday, and Monica will teach there too.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Work in progress

This was going to be a present for a baby, but I was making it and I found myself fighting it. It has rather spooky, foreboding spirit. I wouldn't say an evil spirit, but not a protective spirit. I couldn't give it to a baby - I think it wants to be for someone else.

So I had to stop and make something else for the baby. I'll show you that later. (Luckily I found an idea in a yarn shop in Lillehammer, Norway).

There's some rather subtle non-symmetrical shaping going on here and it's not absolutely perfect, but I'm quite pleased with it. With sock wool it does feel right to use more detail. This is the back:

And this is the front:

It's going to need legs, and a tail. Now that I'm not fighting it any more I think I know how they need to be.

In my open-plan office

… two of my colleagues have been arguing quietly about technical subjects all day.

They are both very bright people, very nice people. At least one of them is very well informed about the subject, and the other one has some intelligent questions. But both are profoundly incapable, in totally different ways, of giving a clear, sequential, brief and comprehensible account of anything at all. Their minds simply do not work that way.

One just starts a lot of half-sentences in the right general direction and apparently hopes that one of them will land on the target. It drives me completely crazy. The other (better-informed) one has something I don't know what to call, but I think of it as verbal dyslexia; mixing up words, answering the wrong question, getting the right answer precisely backwards. It's okay if you're used to it and you know enough to catch it.

It's like two earphone leads trying to have a fight.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The sun lingers

The day when the Sun lingers longest to gaze on the green woods and fields of the temperate North - and my pretty Chinese parasol.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Quiet Hedgehog looking up

Dear readers, I haven't gone away, but I have taken on a very difficult extended project this year that is taking up a lot of my time and energy. One of the reasons for doing it was to get out of my comfort zone and do various kinds of work I'm not used to, and I'm certainly getting that from it. But I don't have the quiet internet time that I used to have. Hopefully the project should be more or less wrapped up by mid-October. At which point I may just go and lie on a beach and look at stars.

It's my birthday today :)

In 1996, they pointed the Hubble Space telescope at a tiny patch of sky - the size of a grain of sand held out at arm's length - in which no-one had ever managed to see anything at all. Over several sessions, they collected photons, practically one by one, for a total of ten days. Measured them, mapped them, noted their colour, to build a picture.

In the picture were some very faint stars that no-one had ever seen before - and three thousand galaxies.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Will someone please

Will someone please arrange, perform, and record a cover of Pharell Williams' "Happy", as a milonga?

There's quite a bit of live tango music about, but my experience with it has been that either the forces are simply too weak, or the band are just not at the level that makes it come together and sound good, or the band is good but they are either too classical (and just don't make me want to dance at all) or concentrate on rhythm at the expense of melody to such a degree that the heart of tango music is lost. This last one is less of a problem in milonga and vals, which is why I like Sexteto Milonguero's milonga much more than their tango.

I adore the best stuff of Orquesta Típica Victor. Yes, it's a house band. But I'm a dancer, not a musician. It's deeply professional dance music; great tunes arranged and played with a purpose - for dancers.

There is no reason why someone couldn't arrange a good song as a tango, milonga, or vals criollo right now. There are loads of people who'd like to dance to it. Maybe start with milonga and vals.

Three illustrations.

Postmodern Jukebox performing their leader's own arrangement of "Careless Whisper".



Come on!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Tourist Tat

I like to wear little things that remind me of things. They don't have to be valuable. I've never seen the attraction of diamonds. My jewellery is mostly about love and memory and particular places. So why not have a little heart of "inca rose" on a little chain? I chose it very carefully from all the very similar ones on offer, and decided that I wanted a heart rather than an oval. Because, why not. We can't always be loved back.

Rhodochrosite Heart from the tourist market in Recoleta
 These cloths came in many colours, and I deliberated long before choosing the brightest. It makes a warm scarf, or a very cheerful, very "South American" tablecloth.

Woven cloth from the other market in San Telmo
Also near the market in San Telmo was a Free Hugs guy. A fine looking tall young black man with a friendly face and a sign saying "Abrazos gratis". I hugged him with pleasure. He said "Oooooo, como abrazás!". Which was nice.

There is a tremendous amount of directly tango-themed tourist tat in Buenos Aires, much of it vaguely representational of couples allegedly dancing. Most of it is quite repellent. But I loved these. They have the painter's name on the back - rather hard to read, but I think it is Alicia Corrarin. She was a very sweet, friendly lady, selling her work in the market, and when I looked at her miniature paintings I felt that she really understands that people dance tango with each other because it makes them happy. One of them kind of reminds me of me, and another one kind of reminded me of a friend, except not now because she's got thinner.

Fridge magnet paintings from the market in Recoleta.
Every time I see them on my fridge, they make me smile. Tourist tat is not pointless.

(On the other hand, while we're on shopping, the cash economy was, to me, the number one most tedious thing about Buenos Aires. Of course, I got used to it very quickly and practically forgot about it: but it does the place a lot of damage.  I probably spent roughly half, perhaps even as little as a third, of what I *would* have spent in the local economy on top of accommodation, if the gap between the official and the actual market exchange rate hadn't been so large, and I had therefore been able to buy shoes and whatnot without having to travel across the city carrying large wads of cash. Impulse buys just don't happen. In fact, I would have spent substantially more if I'd been able to buy basically *anything* without carefully hoarding minuscule sums of cash I wouldn't have thought about for a second about back home. How hard is it really to just issue enough physical currency in small denominations, so that people who have the power to earn it and the desire to exchange it for goods and services, can physically do so as often as they want? One of the most basic  tasks of government? A question that must surely have been studied, I know not where. I know it can't be altogether simple - it took Isaac Newton to suss it out in Britain - in 1699).

Saturday, 19 April 2014

"From" is a big word

"From" is a big word. People ask where a person is "from", expecting that there is a simple, truthful answer which they can use to understand something about you. Or, less charitably, which they can use to look up in their heads what polite or impolite prejudice to apply. One of the nice things about living in London is that rather few people make that mistake; and one of the nice things about tangoing abroad is that "London" or even "England" will do as an answer.

I had a very curious conversation once in which someone concluded "... Oxford, but I'm not from there any more". The sentence struck me as extraordinarily odd; almost ungrammatical: who would ever say such a thing? The state of being "from" somewhere is permanent. That's the whole point. You can't "not be" "from" somewhere "any more" - that's just not what it means. If you ever were, you still are. Or you are not.

I nodded politely. I suspected it might have had to do with the university, and it might well have been meant as an invitation to ask about that, but as a Balliol woman I had no intention of indulging any such nonsense.

A week or two ago I had dinner with someone I've seen twice in the last three months, and before that, hadn't seen for thirty years. She is the only person in my life - apart from my parents, and I'm not sure about them - who already knows where I am "from". It doesn't matter where I was born, how long I lived where, what accent I speak with. She knows where I am "from" because she is too, and she remembers me. And no other information can remove that knowledge. And somehow, inexplicably, we were on the same page.

It was a very unfamiliar feeling for me, and it took me a while to understand what it was. I didn't know what it felt like, to be from somewhere.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

On writing letters

I have just been re-reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses. An inscription on the title page tells me that I bought it twenty years ago. Published in 1782, it is a fascinating novel concerning the education of women in the author's society. It was made (minus a rather eye-opening sub-plot) into a striking film in 1988, and there are lots of other film versions, including a rather good Korean one in 2003. I read an interesting essay recently which argued that a film by its nature misses the point of a novel in which all the characters construct themselves in the form of their letters, and never even bother to describe themselves or each others' physical appearance. However, all that aside, one of the bits I was looking for just now was this - my translation is below.


[The main part of the letter, instructing the 15-year-old Mlle Volanges on the management of her two lovers and prospective husband, need not detain us.]

P.S. - A propos, j'oubliais... un mot encore. Voyez donc à soigner davantage votre style. Vous écrivez toujours comme un enfant. Je vois bien d'oú cela vient; c'est que vous dites tout ce que vous pensez et rien de ce que vous ne pensez pas. Cela peut passer ainsi de vous à moi, qui devons n'avoir rien de caché l'une pour l'autre : mais avec tout le monde! avec votre Amant surtout! vous auriez toujours l'air d'une petite sotte. Vous voyez bien que, quand vous écrivez à quelqu'un, c'est pour lui et non pas pour vous : vous devez donc moins chercher à lui dire ce que vous pensez, que ce qui lui plaît davantage.

Adieu, mon coeur : je vous embrasse au lieu de vous gronder dans l'espérance que vous serez plus raisonnable.
My translation:

P.S. - A propos, I was forgetting ... another word. Pay more attention to your style. You still write like a child. I know exactly why; you say everything you think, and nothing you do not think. That is all very well between the two of us, who should have nothing to conceal from one another : but with everyone! and with your Lover, above all! You will always sound like a little fool. Think well that when you write to someone, it is for them and not for yourself : so you should try less to say what you think, and more to say what will please them best.
Goodbye, dear heart : I kiss you instead of scolding you, in the hope that you will be more sensible.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Tonight someone told me about a case of the widespread pain and misery it can cause when a person who is gay feels like they have to pretend to themselves that they are not. It had never occurred to me as a possible explanation of the behaviour I had heard about. I felt some sympathy and understanding I had not felt before.

I am so glad people can marry who they want now (as from two hours ago). Marriage is not for everyone, but the public endorsement is not a small thing. I hope it will give others the confidence to be themselves.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Art, Politics, Time, Space, Hair

This is a plan of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the museum of fine art in Buenos Aires. I went in while I was there; it was about thirty minutes' walk from where I was staying, and I was interested to see what would be inside. As you can see, it's quite small, (it looks bigger on the website), but it has some unique and interesting things. They include some compelling and very informative journalistic war paintings in Room 23, which I've never seen anything else quite like, and some horrifying drawings by Goya in room 8. It's also good for Rodin, but for a visitor the rooms of Argentinian painting are obviously of greater interest.

The impression I went away with was of very striking and beautifully executed, large 19th-Century paintings with plain political messages either nationalist or socialist. And lots of portraits of rich people and nude women, occasionally rich nude women, one looking very likely, if not very well painted, in a bath. And the detailed, panoramic, horrifying battlefields. All of those I really enjoyed looking at, and they made me think.

However, if you go there at any time, I would draw your attention to the large glass case at the street end of Room 17 (at the end, top right), in red. There's virtually no labelling to give you any information at all about what's going on, but it contains one or two dozen elaborately carved tortoiseshell mantilla combs, the widest a curved semicircle over a metre wide. That one has a pattern of foliage surrounding a male portrait. A smaller one, not on the website, had an elaborate hunting scene. Some of them obviously made social or political statements, but the labels gave a foreigner no clue. Who was Juan Manuel de Rosas and why did this lady want to display his portrait in her hair? How exactly would she have worn this comb, on what sort of occasion? What did it signify to her and those around her? How customary or widespread was this practice? How were they made, what did they cost, and what sort of people designed and made them? Was there some sort of my-comb-is-bigger-than-yours thing going on? Was it talked of in society? Did cartoonists mock it?

I have no idea, and they weren't telling. Charles Darwin, on his visit to Buenos Aires, had this to say:
Otherwise, I remain ignorant. However, on International Women's Day, just last week, I saw this:

These four Spanish women (you can only see three and an elbow) had made mantilla combs out of paper and card, written their messages on them in English, and worn them with fringed shawls to announce "I am Spanish and I demand abortion rights". At least, that is what it announced to me. The signs they carried were in Spanish, but the combs in English, this being London.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Grace, and the phantom

I've just been watching archive videos of Yevgeny Plushenko and remembering how beautiful he is. Such grace - that mastery of the physics that makes the man appear to fly, to move softly and subtly and effortlessly, with instant acceleration, deceleration and control.

It frequently makes full-speed video look like slow motion.

Part of it is musicality - even in Olympic competition, the music rarely seems like simply a background or framework for the choreography. In many routines he still manages to make the movement look as though it's motivated by the music, and that contributes a lot to the illusion of ease, and the reality of grace.

Of course, it works much better in the gala routines, which are more like pure dance.

I often think that it's a mistake to learn how to move by trying to make it look a certain way. If the movement has a meaning, something to do, say, or express, then beauty is an automatic byproduct of efficiency in doing that. I can't prove that, it's just my opinion. For me, seeing that something looks wrong is often a good way to identify an inefficiency or bad habit and discard it. Seeing the way someone else does something, and noticing that it looks good, can also be very helpful in working out how to do it better. But trying to look a certain way, or to do anything simply because it might look good, is mostly confusing and counterproductive.

An individual performance is about how it looks for an audience, yes. But I think it looks better when it's looking that way at least partly in the service of meaning something.

Bonus: Destin and his Phantom super slow motion camera explain the physics of ice skates.

My favourite thing about the internet these days is all the pop-science educational content that gets straight to an interesting point. Or if they do waste time, it's with genuine banter rather than irritating apology. Not a Pensive-Presenter-With-Landscape in sight.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

My dance and Buenos Aires

It takes a few weeks before you can say how your dance has changed, if it has.

I made no deliberate changes and took no classes, except a leaders' technique class with Marcelo Gutierrez, which I found very useful, and recommend. I also helped another of his students revise some work by following him for an hour under supervision, and that student's improvement was very marked when he put the advice into practice; like having an engine upgrade. But on the whole I prefer not to mix classes with social dancing too much, I prefer to separate them in terms of time, especially if any marked changes are likely.

Jet lag definitely helped me to make a flying start: I nearly always dance better when I'm fairly tired, because it eliminates mental noise and the tendency to try too hard. I was also confronted with a completely new set of partners, the majority of whom had a high level of emotional connection to the music, expressed through uncomplicated (but focused) vocabulary and technique. This helps the follower to keep a good connection and concentration level, and my concentration level improved dramatically. It helped me to simplify my dance and let go of unnecessary effort, which is something I need to do from time to time.

I was able to bring this back with me. That was nice, as it was something I had wanted to work on. I came back with memories that help me recreate that when I need it. I'm not sure that it has lasted till now, but it certainly lasted a while and is probably retrievable, in favourable conditions.

I also felt that I got more robust and resilient to balance or mobility problems in the partner, which a year ago would have sabotaged me for several hours. This might have been something I had already, but didn't know about - I can't identify what caused it specifically. I felt able to be, confidently, more adventurous than I normally am at home and to dance with a wide range of people. The reasons were complex and the effect was probably enhanced by the shortness of my stay.

I regained a sense of inspiration and adventure that I had been looking for. The concentration comes with that. I regained the ability to lose myself in the dance with a wider range of partners. At least some of this has stayed with me.

I got mixed reviews from partners at home: I was more grounded, more subtle, less inclined to think, possibly a little less responsive, but the response was positive from those who noticed a change.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Tango Musicology

Lots to read here: - obviously a labour of love by a knowledgeable and curious person. There's really a lot there. Of interest to musicians, but also with basic explanations for those with no or (like me) rudimentary musical literacy;  and, delightfully, videos synchronising the sound as closely as possible with the written scores. [Edit - fixed link - sorry!]

Here's the author's summary from the home page:

My analysis aims to capture and describe the character of the music. I use the latest music notation tools and plenty of audio clips to explore this rich music in depth, in an informative and hopefully enjoyable format. There is a standardized methodology and approach. Each starts with a big picture view of the music then delves deeper and deeper into its essence. Generally, these are the elements I write about:
Structure or Form; Phrases, sub-phrases, at one and two levels below the primary phrase; Phrasing: Question and Answer qualities, Dynamics, Articulation; Melody, Melodic Shape, Melodic Rhythms, Counter Melodies; Harmonies, Keys, Modulation, Cadence; Accompaniment, marking the beat, syncopation and rhythmic patterns, fills and transitions between phrases; Orchestration, texture.
Plus anything else I see and hear in the music. These elements are the foundation of music, its composition and performance.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


I almost remarked to someone "this is Maida isn't it, that is a properly knicker-throwing voice." Then I considered Forties knickers. But you know what I meant.

It has a warmth and richness of tone, and an emotional directness (for me at least), that reminds me of Domingo's pianissimo - and other kinds of things that blew me away to lonely places when I was sixteen. Although in some ways less lonely than the places I actually was.

I love the strong melody of this one, the arrangement, and the simplicity of the sentiment. About the embedded video above, note that this song is not, of course, on that CD. I don't know where you can get a legal transfer of this song, but I think it is possible - try Bernhard. Maybe my DJ friends will comment.

el invierno con su blanco ajuar, 
ya la escarcha comenzó a brillar 
en mi vida sin amor -

Profundo padecer 
que me hace comprender 
que hallarse solo 
es un horror -

Y al ver 
cómo soplan en mi corazón, 
vientos fríos de desolación
quiero llorar -

Porque mi alma lleva 
brumas de un invierno, 
q[ue ]hoy no puedo disipar…

Monday, 6 January 2014

Tango Argentino per Telespettatori

I'm very happy to be able to present
this Italian translation of "Argentine
Tango for TV Viewers" by Francesca
Bertelli. If you would like to make a
professional translation into another
language, please email me.
Cari telespettatori incuriositi dal tango: questo articolo è per voi. Per voi che ballate il tango già sapete tutte queste cose, ma forse avete degli amici e dei conoscenti che non ballano con i quali desiderate condividerlo.

Strictly Come Dancing [l’equivalente sulla TV britannica del nostro Ballando con le stelle] è buona televisione e ispira molti a uscire di casa e a dedicarsi ai balli di coppia. Ma quello che viene presentato da loro come “Tango Argentino” è in realtà un’imitazione, ideata per fare audience. Non assomiglia per niente al vero tango. Vorrei farvi una piccola introduzione tramite dei video.

Che cosa intendo dire con “vero tango”? Il vero tango non ha a che fare con giudici o pubblico e non ha a che fare con il raccontare una storia - ma ha a che fare con l’abbracciare il proprio partner e ballare con la musica. Non è un’arte. Non è uno sport. È un gioco. È completamente differente.

Il vero tango è improvvisato dalla coppia, e non coreografato in anticipo. Questo è vero per tutti i video che vi mostrerò, anche se la maggior parte sono video di esibizioni, e non di tango sociale. Sono esibizioni fatte per altri ballerini, non per un pubblico. Tornerò sul tango sociale poco più sotto, e vi mostrerò anche quello. Ma è più facile fare degli esempi chiari e comprensibili quando potete guardare solo una coppia per volta.

Ho scelto il primo video perchè presenta una coppia che balla a un livello altissimo, in un vero abbraccio di tango, con vera musica di tango. Se tutto questo vi risulta nuovo, guardate come si abbracciano, e ascoltate la musica mentre guardate le loro gambe che si muovono. Potete vedere chiaramente come la coppia sta ballando con la musica, quasi come se i loro corpi stessero producendo il sonoro. Questi ballerini sono considerati dei superstar e sono molto conosciuti e popolari come insegnanti.

[Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia Hurtado in Marseille. Music: Porque Regresas Tú, Di Sarli/Florio]

Nel ballo sociale, quello che il tango è in realtà, le coppie non sono definite e fisse. Si balla con chi si desidera, con amici e con completi sconosciuti, e le coppie si muovono insieme sulla stessa pista, circolando in senso antiorario. La musica viene eseguita in gruppi di tre o quattro canzoni e si balla un intero set con una persona; al termine del set si cambia partner o si fa una pausa.

Nel tango non c’è un vero e proprio “passo base”, perlomeno non in un senso che sia utile, al di là del semplice camminare abbracciati. Come funziona questo processo di “improvvisazione con il partner con la musica” non è facile da spiegare e non tenterò di farlo qui. È un insieme di competenze che devono essere imparate. Il punto qui è che nessuno dei due membri della coppia ha bisogno di sapere in ogni momento quello che il partner farà in quello successivo, tutto si decide mentre si esegue. Cosa che, se ci pensate, ha molto senso quando si balla socialmente in una pista affollata e con altre coppie.

Il prossimo video mostra la stessa coppia del video precedente, però mentre sta ballando socialmente, cosicchè vi possiate fare un’idea di che cosa significhi. Fate caso a come sono assorti nel ballo, e guardate come scompaiono alla fine.

[Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia Hurtado in Amsterdam]

Se qualcosa di quello che vi ho raccontato fin qui vi ha sbalordito, continuate a seguirmi, siete sulla giusta strada.

Allora: è importante che sappiate che il tango è un genere musicale, la cui Epoca d’Oro è stata negli anni ‘30 e ‘40. È molto difficile cercare di capire la danza o la musica separatamente, dovete prenderle in considerazione insieme.

Nel programma Strictly Come Dancing non usano questo tipo di musica, e dunque, secondo la definizione di molti, i ballerini non “stanno ballando tango”. A volte utilizzano musica definita “neo-tango”, ma questo è in realtà un genere musicale diverso (anche se collegato). Ci sarebbe un capitolo lungo e importante da scrivere riguardo musica e danza che però sono costretta a saltare in questo contesto.

D’altro canto, la tecnica nel tango è molto efficace, e la potete utilizzare per eseguire praticamente qualunque cosa ballando in modo improvissato con il vostro partner. I ballerini di danza contemporanea trovano tutto questo talvolta molto interessante.

Il prossimo video usa un tema classico intitotalo "Emancipación”, registrato dall’orchestra di Osvaldo Pugliese. La musica di Pugliese è molto intensa, cresce con lentezza, e in questo video potete vedere come il tango abbia tutto a che vedere con quello che si sente nella coppia, e non con quello che si vede dal di fuori. Se non si può portare l’attenzione di questa musica poderosa all’interno della coppia, e lasciare che ci guidi, ci si perde completamente quando si tenta di ballare Pugliese. Se ci riuscite, è una sensazione intensa, di cui non dovete avere timore.

Notate come la musica cambia al minuto 02:05 e 03:05, e ascoltate e guardate come i piedi di Monica - e il suo corpo - si muovono al minuto 2:35 e al 3:00. Qui veramente stiamo andando indietro alle vere radici, con una esibizione di due argentini regolari frequentatori delle piste da ballo più tradizionali di Buenos Aires.

[Antonio Martinez and Monica Paz in Buenos Aires]

Vedete il pubblico seduto? Tutte queste persone, alla fine dell’esibizione, si alzeranno per ballare.

Se volete una guida alla musica del tango divertente e istruttiva, vi consiglio di leggere l’eccellente libro di Mike Lavocah "Tango Music Secrets" e di ascoltare la lista di Spotify allegata al testo. Ci sono dei bellissimi pezzi, sia precedenti sia successivi all’epoca d’oro e include alcuni tanghi che sono stati suonati e registrati dal vivo ai tempi nostri. Secondo me, se paragonati alla musica dell’epoca d’oro, hanno meno successo nell’equilibrare ritmo, emozione, forma, e melodia nel modo migliore per ballare. Tuttavia tali esecuzioni possono essere eccellenti.

Parlando in generale, ci sono tre tipi di musica del tango che hanno ritmo differente. Il tango ha un ritmo camminato. La milonga ha come un saltellino, chiamato habañera; e il vals è un ritmo di valzer, però [si balla] in modo più lento di quello viennese. Il prossimo video contiene un tango e una milonga, in questo ordine, e poi una clip di ballo sociale alla fine. Questa coppia non è particolarmente conosciuta, ma sono ballerini sociali bravissimi e mi piace davvero molto guardarli in qualunque contesto. Guardate come sono perfettamente calmi, comodi, e assorti e come scorrono e fanno pause con la musica.

[Alexis Quezada and Céline Giordano in Montpellier]

La maggior parte di questi video sono delle esibizioni, per un pubblico di ballerini sociali con esperienza, fatte da professionisti che insegnano il tipo di competenze per il ballo sociale di cui ho parlato in precedenza. E dunque, anche se sono esibizioni per un pubblico, sono totalmente diverse dal tango spettacolo.

Ora vi mostro parte di quello che può essere considerato l’anello mancante tra tutto questo e quello che potete vedere su un palcoscenico o in TV. Questa è forse la coppia di ballerini professionisti più famosa (ora non ballano più insieme) che qui balla una milonga facendo anche un pò di show. Questi due sono un idolo per molti di coloro che ballano negli spettacoli di tango.

[Geraldine Rojas and Javier Rodriguez in 2004, no idea where]

Ballano in un modo più vistoso delle coppie degli altri video (altri fanno anche di più e generalmente meno bene). Il pubblico si aspetta un po’ di ostentazione. Ma non c’e’ niente di quello che fanno qui che sia completamente avulso dal ballo sociale. Forse potete notare che non si separano o fanno pose. Camminano l’uno verso l’altro e ballano insieme, con la musica, fino a quando finisce.

Fanno la stessa cosa nel video successivo, con alcuni elementi in più forse riconoscibili per coloro che guardano Strictly. Il tango è uno dei più famosi e conosciuti, intitolato “Poema”. I loro movimenti - perfino quelli più marcati e i più grandi - sono soffici, fluidi, hanno grazia ed equilibrio, sono contenuti e causati dalla musica. Loro sono competamente insieme. Vorrei portare la vostra attenzione ai minuti 2:22-2:30, e 2:38 - dove si vede bene come questo tipo di movimenti dovrebbero essere eseguiti.

[Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas in Taipei]

Questa registrazione di “Poema” è della popolarissima orchestra di Francisco Canaro, con la voce del loro più grande cantante, Roberto Maida. Notate come sebbene la musica abbia un ritmo molto chiaro e regolare, il ritmo non è forte, ne’ acuto, ne’ rigido ne’ dominante. È energico, ma fresco ed elastico, come il respiro di un animale, non meccanico.

Adesso voglio mostrarvi una coppia che conosco e che mi piace molto. Ballano un vals, così posso farvi vedere di che si tratta visto che ancora non l’ho utilizzato. Vorrei che notaste come spesso lei chiude gli occhi, proprio come fanno le ballerine quando ballano socialmente, e sorride molto, ma tra se’ e se’ piuttosto che per il pubblico. Si sta divertendo. Questa coppia non è particolarmente famosa, ma gode di grande reputazione come insegnanti tra coloro che sanno chi sono. Vogliono mostrare ai propri studenti e ad altri possibili studenti qualcosa che è bello, piacevole, adatto al ballo sociale e ottenibile (lavorandoci).

[Carole Beauxis and Bernard Casas-Reales in Devon]

Non mi sembra il caso di criticare come ballano su Strictly. Non vorrei criticare la loro tecnica nel ballare il tango, perchè non ne stanno usando. Non sarebbe realistico aspettarsi che dei professionisti delle competizioni di ballo da sala e latino possano imparare tutta una serie di competenze completamente differenti e anche incompatibili con quello che sanno solo per una settimana di spettacolo, e infatti non lo fanno, semplicemente usano un tipo di abbraccio vagamente adattato dai balli da sala (gli specialisti del tango utilizzano alcune tecniche del tango spettacolo, ma ballano ugualmente soprattutto staccati con l’abbraccio aperto e dunque non si nota la differenza). [Alla trasmissione Strictly partecipano come insegnanti/ballerini professionisti del tango spettacolo]
Per quello che posso vedere, realizzano delle coreografie di “tango” che possano essere ballate e insegnate da professionisti del ballo da sala-latino che non conoscono la tecnica del tango e non potrebbero mai improvvisare. Le concepiscono per permettere al dilettante di turno di mostrare quello che ha da offrire, e per somigliare in maniera passabile al tango spettacolo, sempre che voi non sappiate come funziona veramente il tango. Raccontano storie convenzionali che sembrano appropriate, sempre che non sappiate che cosa sia quello che rende il tango veramente appassionante.

Scelgono la musica e disegnano i costumi nello stesso modo, e tutto questo ha certamente senso.

La cosa che mi colpisce di più delle clip di tango da Strictly è quanto appaiono annacquate. I ballerini non si abbracciano quasi mai se non per pochi secondi, normalmente per un sollevamento. Passano molto del tempo lontani l’uno dall’altro, o facendo finta di litigare. Non c’e’ alcuna indicazione di come la musica ti faccia sentire il bisogno di ballare con un’altra persona che è ciò che provoca la musica del tango e quello che fanno quelli che ballano il tango. La ‘passione’ è limitata a poche idee convenzionali.

D’altro canto, talvolta comunicano qualcosa di bello se siete arrrivati fino qua.

Francesca Bertelli, la moglie di Antonio Martinez (che avete visto nel terzo video) mi ha raccontato tempo fa una cosa che fanno nelle loro lezioni per principianti in Toscana. Iniziano la lezione semplicemente facendo abbracciare i partecipanti l’uno con l’altro, come potete vedere che Antonio e Monica fanno nel video - e li fanno rimanere così per un intero tango. Poi chiedono loro: “ Che cosa ne avete pensato? Se vi è risultato difficile, sentite che è qualcosa che volete superare, che potete superare, o vi sembra che questo non sia per voi?”

Questo perchè superare questo momento è il primo passo e dovete scegliere di farlo. Perchè se iniziate poi dovrete camminare abbracciati per tutta una serata, con una musica veramente emozionante (e con molte emozioni diverse), con, se lo desiderate, una quantità di amici o sconosciuti. Non c’e’ bisogno che li conosciate, che vi piacciano, o perfino che condividiate la stessa lingua. L’unica regola è che ciascuno di voi voglia ballare con l’altro. È una cosa talmente divertente che a volte non siamo sicuri come sia possibile che non sia illegale.

In questo video ci sono circa 200 persone, provenienti da 20 diversi paesi, che stanno ballando tango in una giornata di gran caldo a Parigi. La ragazza con il computer è la DJ. Io ero lì.

["Dans Tes Bras", Paris]

Quello che sto cercando di dirvi è che tutto questo è molto più interessante, più entusiasmante, più bello e che ha molto più significato di quello che vedete in televisione.

Se avete amici che ballano tango, può darsi che siano preoccupati che voi pensiate che loro ballano o si vestono come i ballerini in TV. Se dimostrate interesse a voler imparare, gli insegnanti si potrebbero preoccupare che vi aspetterete di imparare quelle false pedatine e scattini in una settimana, e che insisterete nel ballare in un modo pazzo, da palcoscenico, e antisociale e che vi stanchete o vi arrabbierete per quello che hanno da offrirvi. Ma adesso non farete più quegli errori.

Ci sono delle buone ragioni, anche pratiche, del perchè il vero tango non si vede in TV. Ma sarebbe davvero una bella cosa se quello che è in televisione potesse talvolta essere un po’ più informato e rispettoso del vero tango.

Mi sembra che questo possa bastare per ora. Ho scritto molto e ho tralasciato molte cose importanti. Non ho parlato per niente di come funziona l’improvvisazione, del processo di apprendimento, delle diversità del tango, o delle cose sulle quali le persone sono in disaccordo. Vi ho solo dato un’immagine di alcune idee fondamentali e mostrato alcuni esempi di grande ballo. Forse avrete molte domande. Io spero che siate adesso meglio informati.

Hedgehog: mi piace molto poter presentare questa traduzione in Italiano da Francesca Bertelli, Tango Tuscany. Io non parlo molto bene l'italiano, ma se avete domande, scrivete commenti e farò che posso :)

Friday, 3 January 2014


I often wish I could properly hibernate, at this time of year.

Someone else is hibernating, in medical hibernation; someone who had a significant influence on my life, indirectly and quite by accident, mainly in the late 90's. A career full of joy, embarrassment, passion, surprise, beauty, and unintentional humour.

Dear Michael Schumacher, I loved your Annoying Personality, your obliviousness to the requirements of polite British hypocrisy, your ruthless destruction of the ordinary, your failure to recognise fear even when it hit you like a brick at 200mph. I remember meeting a rocket scientist who told me that he'd been at  Barcelona '96, and that there were millions of snails crossing the track as you quivered like a dragonfly through the turns, four seconds faster than anyone else. I remember being at Silverstone, and Monza. I remember how your stiffness melted into pure joy of hugging under the Italian blowtorch. They refused to bounce off you. I love the Tifosi, and how they are not afraid of being ridiculous. I just hope you wake up and it's all still there.

It took ages to find a video I liked - this doesn't even show any of the best bits, but it kind of points to the feeling, and at least it doesn't have Eddie Jordan being the world's most annoying rent-a-quote.

#45 #92