"Strictly Tango" - film review

9th January 2010

The film

"Strictly Tango" was shown on 7th January 2010, on Film24 (Sky channel 157). It's a shortened version of a theatrical release (named ""London Tango", just to confuse us) which I'm told was out last year at the 2009 Notting Hill film festival.


The blurb for the film on the Sky and TV schedules was massively confusing, and said:
"Documentary taking a spin through the world of dance in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, Buenos Aires, and following the varied characters who are learning to Tango."

This was, technically, a Big Fat Lie. It was absolutely not set in Buenos Aires, it was set in London. It's fairly easy to tell the two cities apart. Oh, and it was not focussed on Argentine Tango, it covered a range of dance styles.

But apart from those two minor details, the description was 100% accurate.

Film focus

The main focus of the film was on television divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyds Platt, as she learned to dance with her teacher Andrew Cuerden - she was learning ballroom dancing and salsa, based on watching her steps. Other ballroom professionals interviewed were Ian Waite and Hanna Haarala. The climax of the film was the Waldorf Tango tea dances; and the film ended with Vanessa dancing there (sorry if I've given away the ending!)

However, this aside, there was much of interest to AT dancers in the documentary. Ian Waite talked about the differences between ballroom and AT, and he described the difficulty of the learning curve for trying a new dance style. There was an interview with the lovely David and Kim of www.tangomovement.com , and they (well, mainly Kim) talked about their experiences in dance; we also saw some clips of them teaching at the Waldorf.

The dancers talked about floorcraft, about the embrace, about the intensity. They briefly mentioned the origins, the various influences in the dance and so on - in a way that was far better than Len Goodman's standard cariacaturised spiel about sweaty gauchos and whatnot.

There was even a discussion of the differences between competitions in AT (i.e. not very important) and ballroom (vital), and it was lovely to see that all the dances were treated with respect. I even saw a couple doing something which I swear looked like Ceroc at one point...!

So was it any good?

Actually, yes.

Trying to describe the whole partner dance scene in London in 60 minutes was always going to involve some compromises, of course - and the name of the film (either London Tango or Strictly Tango) could probably have been improved.

The fact that the main character wasn't actually learning any tango was also a problem. That said, there was certainly some Argentine Tango content in the film, and the dance was discussed far more than other styles.

So I'm glad that the documentary was made, and I enjoyed watching it.

~ David Bailey, 9th January 2010