2009 entries

2009: The most fun I've had with my clothes on

24th December 2009

I have jiggered, I have jived, I have jumped. I have gasped, giggled and guffawed. I have ocho-ed, enrosque-ed lustrada-ed, boleo-ed. Has it really only been a year since I took my first tottering tango step?

Looking back on this blog, I see I made all the usual novice mistakes: anticipation, over-adornment; Duracell bunny frenzy.

What I didn't know then was that this is par for the beginner course and oddly, these transgressions arise not from over-confidence, but from a lack therefore. It was my eagerness to please wot made me do it. Honest.

Did I please? Perhaps. I've been asked to dance again by many a once-bitten but still-not-shy tanguero. Many of my partners have turned into cherished friends: Davicle the Incomparable Clavicle , AmbiBambi, StantheMan, Best Button, BorderTangoMan, Musical Comedy, Rebollas, the Bandaged One and the Mackerel Catcher.

And these fine fellas have in turn introduced me to some delightful chicas: Bb, Rosie, Essie-Jo, Carella, Diana, Rachel, Mandy, Sara and many more. Sisters in slingbacks, besos a ellas.

But I see from the blog that I've also suffered rude partners, stinking partners, and my fair share of the eager but inept. And, pobrecita, I took every error personally, apologizing on the floor, castigating myself on the page.

One year, dozens of lessons, several workshops and many milongas later, my cherry is well and truly popped. I no longer assume that every stumble, wrong free foot, or missed musical opportunity, is my fault. I am better able to distinguish an acceptable lead from an unsatisfactory one; I'm more confident about standing my ground when the lead is confusing. And lo and behold, I've stopped getting sweaty-palmed when I dance with teachers. (Surely the best part of losing one's tango innocence?)

The downside of my new-found confidence is that I may have turned into Boring Blonde. Nowanights I'm to be found walking meekly backwards, bottom and head where they should be (mostly) both Comme Il Fauts on the ground (quite often) waiting for a lead.

Alas, more often than not, the lead doesn't come when I think it should. (Yup, I've also had the temerity to develop a musical sensibility thanks to my DJ amigos).

Whether this is a curse or blessing at this stage of my tango development --I don't have a regular partner -- is a moot point. Perhaps you, in a similar position, find it frustrating when you know a piece of music and anticipate a thing - anything - boleo, volcada, even just a change of dynamic... but nothing comes? Rosie tells me that the milongueros in Buenos Aires are a dream to dance with for this very reason. They know the music so well, even less talented leaders never miss a cue to dance to it.

Which brings me to my BIG NEWS.

I'm off to BsAs in January. Si, si, little ol' me. Barely taken off my tango trainer wheels and I'm trundling off to Milonga Mecca. Sooo excited! I'm joining Korey Ireland's taster tour.

That definitely looks like more fun one can have with one's clothes on!

Happy Holidays from La Dulce

Bajo ROCKed!

23rd July 2009

...at the Koko club in Camden on Wednesday night, when that electro-magnetic neo-tango crew, Bajofondo, gave a show that lit up the Stygian murk.

Looking at the crowd as we arrived, I felt I should flash my teenager, never mind my ticket, to get past security; the average punter looked as though they'd sooner smoke a Comme Il Faut than wear one. But the advantage of being among the Converse-trainered, was that they gravitated to the mosh pit, while we few milongueros had the whole of the elevated bar area to dance in, once we'd found a place to park our zimmer frames.

When Mackerel-catcher and I strutted our stuff to the neo-tango favourites being belted out by the band, the kids were fascinated. My blushes and frenzied footwork must be on many an iPhone & Blackberry. I was possessed by the high-decibels. Mac-catcher hung on as best he could but finally severed connection. I remain The One Who Got Away.

Several of the Pretty Young Things asked where they could take tango lessons. (The Tango Tyrant missed an opportunity there! Did I tell you he blanked me at a milonga few weeks ago? Has he heard bloggers are baying for his blood, or did that crinkling of his left nostril mean my deodorant had failed?)

Davicle and his band of Beautifuls from the Tango Factory noted that the Jethro-Tull-like violin player had appeared with Cafe de Los Maestros a few weeks before. I noted that the bandoneon player had on Pete Doherty's hat.

But there the similarity ended. This varon had biceps any self-respecting tanguera would have loved to get into close embrace with. My bet is he knows how good they look when he stands erect, holds his squash box above his head and stretches it out to maximum expansion, proving that size and how you handle it, matters. Martin Ferres can also play while pogo-ing; all of Bajofondo can - bouncing up and down on stage like Mexican jumping beans meets The Clash.

Al finale, el Bandoneon lifted his instrument above his head and threw it at the drum kit. WHO-ooooo!

Youtube link.

La Dulce

Sardines and opera

15th July 2009

Tango passion ran high at Negracha's on Friday night, when the inspiring Color Tango orchestra appeared for their second London date.

We were sardined in upstairs, reverently listening to master musicians strut their stuff, but the MC would have none of our English restrain. "Dance, dance. You can dance now, " he urged.

Difficult, with the already-crowded dance space further restricted by spectators, but many obeyed, content to queue in the snarled-up corners.

I was thrilled by the music, especially when the gangly youth with all the orthodontistry opened his metalled mouth and sang like Buenos Aires's answer to Caruso. Nevertheless, queueing is not my national past-time, so I went downstairs where the floor was emptier and the atmosphere ... far from chilled, as it turned out.

Was it because the music switched from traditional to Nuevo and back again, and forth again, and back again; sometimes soft, sometimes loud, sometimes stopping altogether? Many tracks were repeated, so the music became pedestrian, but the interludes were interesting: shouting, hand-wringing, impassioned explanations, in fact a whole Italian opera coming from the DJ's corner. Pobrecita, he was only trying to do Ivan a favour. I hope he had some good dances later.

I certainly did, meeting up with lots of old friends and tango classmates

Great to see you, guys and girls. And to make a new friend, a Lichfield lass, who claimed to be physiognomically-suited to tango. "I've got a ****-off miserable face, see."

She hasn't; only when she laughs.

La Dulce

I have been flirting...

9th July 2009

... with Modern Jive.

For six months I've been on a Strictly Tango diet. If you've been reading this blog you'll know it's been, um... character-building.

But recently, at Rockbottoms' excellent Tango/Jive weekend, I slipped out of my tango heels and sneakered onto the jive floor, because, lo and behold, lock-up-your-daughters, there's a new breed of DJs about.

Tango-savvy and cool, they are mixing it up to make jive j-u-m-p into the post-modern dance age. No dated, comatose-inducing tracks on their turntables. Instead their eclectic mix covers a self-consciously wide and witty range of genres, every track inspiring in a unique way, if one is adventurous enough to abandon dancing to the most obvious beat. Think threads, but from a paint spray can, making up a grafitti of sound. The dance result can be complex, dazzling and funky.

So what happened when La Dulce hit Rockbottom?

Upstairs, DJ Rob Ambridge's choices got her gleefully out on the jive floor again; downstairs in the subterranean gloom, he played tango so nuevo its madre wouldn't have recognized it. Later, way past the witching hour, came CJ with music that was mad, trad and dangerous to know. His Mariachi madness was off-axis, out-on-a-limb, often off-the-wall. It was wild, and La Dulce loved it!

So did the Rockbottoms tango & jive teachers, many of whom stayed, jiving, gyrating, jango-ing, experimenting with new moves to new sounds with new partners, until daybreak. And (be-still-my-beating-heart) they were happy to dance with non-pros like me.

Perhaps CJ's Mariachi mission statement best sums up this new revolution in jive music: "It pushes boundaries. It encourages expression, interpretation, courage and creativity."

Certainly it attracts more confident dancers. I later attended a Mariachi event in Oxford, where I floated through some heavenly dances, mixing modern ballet, jive, tribal, salsa and tango. No-one batted a false eyelash. Thank you for the music, that man with the naked rebollas!

But then I went and spoiled my new-found pleasure in jive, by going to a Ceroc event at Hammersmith - a soulless venue, mindless music and England's most arrogant DJ.
(When I complimented him on the only decent track he'd played all night and asked for more of the same, he said he didn't have anything else like that, but that good dancers should be able to dance to anything.)

Me: "I think the dancers here are good enough; just not inspired enough."
He: (pate alight with indignation, ego so inflated he couldn't see past it to notice the rows of bored dancers wilting around the walls.) "I think I know what gets a crowd on the floor; I'm a professional, I'm a dance teacher and I'm a producer!"

Ceroc has what it deserves.

Me? I ocho-ed back to tango and found that newly-sparkly pair, Kim Schwartz and David Benitez (felicitations on your engagement, amigos!) doing a workshop for gracious Janet Earl of Cheltenham tango. Saturday night I got tarted up for the famously steamy Moulin Rouge ball. It was hot - literally and figuratively, and in the crowd were Ceroc Showcase stars, Simon & Elaine, who have clearly been seduced by tango. Their impromptu interpretation of Roxanne, sizzled.

Then I bombed back north for a Sunday workshop in deepest Shropshire, led by that will-o'-the-tango-wisp, Flavio De Brito and his let's get-the-party-started partner, Richard. Such fun, those boys. Host, birthday-Bufton, (felicitations, again) played fabulous music much of it gleaned from BorderTangoMan, tango teacher of taste, in Shrewsbury.

So, I'm happily back in the tango camp and looking forward to the Color Tango concert at Negracha's this Friday. But should you hear of anyone playing Mariachi down my way, let me know.

La Dulce

Two quickies

9th June 2009

Hickory, dickory dock

A mouse ran up my frock.

Well, nearly...

I was in a bar, after a milonga, when an enormously-eared head poked out between the cushions of the banquette I sat on. Thinking it was the effect of one double Scotch too many I said nothing to my companion.

When it appeared again, attached to a tiny body and long tail, I pointed Mickey out. We watched, Disney-rapt, as the whiskery one made urgent dashes into the emptying bar, only to scurry back to the hidey-hole behind us, each time.

The manager appeared, to apologise for the rodent problem, we felt sure. But no - closing time and we were the last punters, he hrrrumped.

We decided not to rat on the tiny clock-watcher; he probably had a pumpkin coach to catch.

Motorway Milonga

A black car ahead, I'm behind in mine, idling around his bumper, waiting to take the gap, ready to roar off home after a weekend of tango. I catch the dark look in his rear-view mirror. Cabaceo, huh? Catch me if you can, varon.

Foot down, the game's on, we're car-connected, negotiating traffic in our motorway milonga. He leads, then I do, then we're espejo, wing-mirrors almost touching as we race up the open road.

Soon it's time to part. He's going north, I south. Between us, at the traffic light, a couple sit sedately in their Yaris. Through glass and steel they feel the heat of our final, entregarme glances. They shift uncomfortably. Then the lights change.

La Dulce

Confessions of a Saboteur

30th May 2009

I don't do it deliberately.

I hear things, trills and thrills in the music, and I follow them - into embellishment - voleo, picada, lustrada ... lustrada, lustrada... I can get stuck polishing; eventually even my own shin is shiny.

I thought it was fun; I thought it made the leader look good. I never thought I might be sabotaging the lead, ruining the carefully laid plans of my partners. And worst of all, I hadn't realized I was committing the cardinal sin of tango - returning to the lead on any old beat.

Then one Sunday I attended a Tango Laid Bare workshop at Southgate. (It's a tantalising way to spend a day, with boxes of the latest Comme Il Fauts shoes to the left of the dance floor and a spread of croissants, pastries, champagne and orange juice to the right.)

Paul Bottomer was teaching us a nice sequence, when he happened to mention musical phrasing. He spoke about traditional milonga music being composed in 16-bar phrases, so that if one started on the first bar, one could compose the dance in accordance with the musical phrasing, and anticipate the ending, striking a perfect pose on the last note. The odd partner and I have managed that, on occasion. Satisfying serendipity.

But it needn't be, said Paul. Even in salon-style tango, on the trot, on the dance floor, off the cuff, that is, not in choreographed sequence, a definite ending needn't be left to chance.

"Tell me more," I begged.

He did, with the conviction of a zealot and the clarity of an accomplished teacher. The man knows his music; soon he was counting out the beats to random tunes on his playlist and indicating when and how the phrasing changed - the note; the mood, etc.

Mmmm, but don't you have to be pretty experienced to dance to the phrasing, modifying the steps every 16 bars, while leading, negotiating traffic, inviting and controlling adornment? Paul can do it, but he's an undefeated tango world champion. I've seen David Benitez do it, every time he and Kim Schwarz give an impromptu performance after a class. What these maestros of endless repertoire are doing, is grouping moves, spontaneously, in 16-bar phrases. When the phrasing changes, so do their steps. Wow!

But if a Fussy foot came along and hogged too many beats, the leader wouldn't have time to collect the follower and his thoughts in preparation for the next musical phrase. Paul advised leaving the leader at least two clear beats before the next phrase.

I tried it, and it worked. My poor, long-suffering partners all seem to have more in their repertoire than I gave them credit for.

A thousand apologies gentlemen ... and lady.

La Dulce 1-2-3-4; 2-2-3-4; 3-2-3-4; 4-2-3-4.

In search of 'Connection'

13th May 2009

I want to feel that thing that tango dancers talk of; the thing they say keeps them milling round milongas, soliciting strangers for dances. That sensation they speak of when two bodies move as one, led by the music, interpreting it exactly the same, both instinctively knowing what comes next. They say it's Nirvana.

To me it sounds like a cross between a religious experience and the ultimate orgasm; something the scholar, Vatsyayana, would have written up as position 65 in his Kama Sutra, had tango been invented at the time.

One of my tango teachers reports feeling it once while dancing with a stranger who didn't look old enough to be unescorted by his madre. "You, did this!" she marvelled to herself as he returned her, jelly-kneed, to her seat. She admits feeling almost embarrassed to look at him afterwards- like she'd had a one-night stand; with a minor.

Everyone I know seems to have experienced 'IT'. I'm beginning to feel like orgasmically-challenged Annie Hall, overhearing Manhattanites talking about something she's having therapy to achieve.

It's not a though I haven't tried to find the tango Santo Grial. I've trawled the London clubs, hanging round 'til way passed pumpkin time, waiting for my prince to come (or at least to send the Fairy Godmother.)

I have ventured into deepest Wales, where a look at the relentless pebble-dashing of the houses and the unending yawn of sheep-shitted hills makes you wonder why more Welsh teenagers aren't committing suicide.

I have driven down country lanes so narrow I had to breathe in when the postman bicycled past, only to find me and my fishnets as out of place at the local Gardening Club AGM as a noxious weed in an award-winning herbaceous border. Nooo, the green-fingered lot had never heard of a dance class being held in their village hall, perish the thought. Certainly not one of those foreign-sounding thingeys.

"Argentine, you say, duck?"

I nodded, feeling I was facing the barrel of a Weedkill spray gun. I couldn't have been less welcome if I'd arrived aboard the Belgrano.

You might think I'm being too picky; too exclusive about finding my Shiva. Not so. I have danced with blokes in muddy brogues with large protrusion around their nether regions. I'm talking about those ledges that stick out of stout shoes like running boards on old cars. You've felt them cutting up your Comme Il Fauts, chicas. May I make a plea for teachers to insist these clodhoppers dance in their socks? Mind you, Two Left Feet was soft- shod and still managed to mangle me. Then again, anyone who's left the store with two shoes for the same foot underarm, and laced them up in dance class without noticing, is always going to find staying on axis a problem - especially in a giro.

In search of my tango epiphany I have also danced with a man who is a genius. I know this because he told me so. I wish he'd put some of his apparently considerable brainpower to use in finding which of my feet was free.

Trying to sup from the Holy Grail, I have shared dinner with many of my dance partners. Salami, garlic, onions and countless Indian takeaways have all been burped at me on the dance floor in post-prandial oblivion.

I've had to cosy-up to clothes that have clearly been left to their own drying devices in a moldering pile in some dark, damp recess. Stretched across a sweaty, manly chest the stench is overpowering and it clings like shame. My next partner quickly suggested open instead of close hold.

Then this weekend I went to Torquay -without hope; resigned to the fact that I'd be sharing any tango space there was with jivers; resigned to the fact that I might even have to jive again. Sigh, all that hectic heaving about to a monotonous beat. Hadn't I outgrown that when I graduated to tango heels? There'd be no chance of connection there. Anyway, people said, Torquay's tatty.

It is.

But downstairs, in the Secret Disco, in the wee small hours of the morning, the crowded room rolled away and we were two souls touching. And do you know, I don't even think we were tangoing.

Also, my partner wore a skirt.

La Dulce con la alegro mucho

Tango Tyrant

18th April 2009

Friday night found me back at Neg's and very jolly it was too. I took my camera for a bit of shoe porn and had a fine time adding to my collection. I lingered uncharacteristically long upstairs (ain't I getting brave?) happy to watch the dancers and enjoy the music, while chatting to Bb the Wise and Ms Domestic Wildlife. With my eye way off the cabecea ball I was startled to be asked to dance. The gorgeous young Turk smelled of cinnamon and spoke honeyed words in response to my apology. I could have eaten up every last baklava bit of him. But I'm on a strict connubial diet, so I went downstairs to join the LGTN group for some fat-(chance) burning. As I rose from stowing my camera behind the bench, a man I'd never seen before asked me to dance.

He had the most gracious embrace-approach I'd ever come across - wordless yet warm, his focus so soothing I found my breathing synchronizing with his. Was this the Holy Grail, CONNECTION? Before we'd even touched hands?

Things deteriorated rapidly after that.

(After one track)

TT: "Where did you learn these things you do?"
LD: (Noting the beetling of his brow)
"If you mean my mistakes, I assure you I make them up as I go along."
TT: (Unamused)
"That's the trouble with the teaching here; you haven't been taught to follow. "
LD: "Sorry. I've only been dancing three months."
TT: "You can be taught to follow in three hours, but you need one-to-one tuition. You've been in group lessons, haven't you?
LD: "Guilty as charged."
TT: "There's no point dancing with beginners. You won't learn anything but bad habits."

Other things he said:

  • Too many people are getting into teaching and dancing tango without understanding enough about it
  • Most milongas have no business calling themselves by that name
  • British dancers are afraid of close embrace
  • Followers who apologise are just getting retaliation in early
  • The British give blanket veneration to Argentinian dancers; many don't deserve it.

Experienced dancers I have spoken to admit there is some truth in TT's statements. But why did I endure his head-shaking admonitions through three tandas? Because I glimpsed the possibilities inherent in following a very confident and creative lead. But a milonga is no place to malinger, so his rate being the going one, I arranged a lesson.

(to be continued)

Act 2

(Interior. Afternoon. Tango Tyrant and La Dulce are engaged in ardent debate after a seminal lesson.)

LD: "You speak about connection - two people and music, in communion, but I see tango as a chauvinistic dance. It's all about the leader: s/he interprets the music; decides on the steps, on who s/he will deign to ask to dance..."
TT: "I don't see it like that. A woman decides who she will dance with; her decision is based on who will make her look beautiful. You should never dance with anyone who is not better than you."
LD: "That seems unkind. In the jive world the rule is never to refuse. "

(LD remembers guiltily that she did refuse someone on Friday night; he slithered over as she was changing her shoes and asked for a last dance.
LD: (Astonished) "You don't remember me, do you?"
CHC: (Smirking) "I never remember anyone. "
(LD had explained to "Move, woman", why she would never dance with him again. He might remember her in future.)
[Sorry, just me digressing to linger over that 'dish best served cold'.]

Here are some essential features of a Proper Milonga, according to TT:

  • A curtain at the door (I'm still having fun considering the metaphorical significance of this. Why not play along at home?)
  • Quiet (as in, no calling out greetings to friends nor wandering round the room. Definitely no walking of luggage through the dancers - TT was outraged to see this.)

He is adamant about the rules for women who wish to be asked to dance at a Proper Milonga:

  • Come alone; remain alone.
  • Do not busy yourself with your phone or with a friend
  • Sit quietly and stare ahead
  • Display your shoes ("an appropriate amount of leg" is what he actually said, but I'm so cowed, I'm stopping at the ankle.)

TT urged me to see the real thing. Reminding myself of the maxim, "do one thing every day that scares you" [Luhrmann, 1999] I trekked back across London to attend an event which has the TT stamp of approval - Tangology.

Act 3

Lo and behold, there was indeed a curtain across the doorway. One look at the draped red chiffon and fairy lights and my courage dimmed. I bought only a voyeur's ticket. Then I stepped through.

Perhaps I expected that:
"they'd eat live young and when the elders collectively performed a series of six paradas Satan would appear wearing nine-inch Comme Il Fauts and a red silk thong." ~ (Davicle, 2009)

But all I saw was un-Wild Court, with unkind lighting and tables at the edge of the dance floor. In the centre a lesson in progress - improvers tottered through a sequence taught by Eleonora. I seated myself alone at a table and watched the milongueros arrive - some partnered, some not, several single women.

These seemed schooled in TT's milongetiquette. There was no waving, kissing or clustering. The women sat, each on her own, shoes on show, displaying.

I started getting feminist twitchy.

The woman next to me waited over an hour before someone asked her to dance. She was no slouch, either in the looks or tango-follower department, as it turned out.

It was all I could do not to thrust Gloria Steinem at her as I left.

- La Dulce con labios delgados

When I grow up

16th April 2009

I spotted her across the class - small and graceful, silver hair tied back in a thick ponytail; enviable cheekbones. Afterwards I asked if she'd done ballet.
"Still do," she twinkled. "I passed my last exam, the Solo, at 70, and got a distiction."
I found that en pointe exam rigorous at 17. But at 70!
When I'd extracted my eyebrows from my hairline, I asked how old she was now.
"77." (She hardly looked 60!)

Mrs P flamencoed for 30 years. Now she's learning to tango. Mr P doesn't dance. He plays the Paraguayan harp among other instruments and has recently taken up the bandoneon.

And then there is the Old Gent from the Crypt - a ballroom dancer, he turns up to tango regularly on a Saturday night. He is the most delightful vals-er. Being spun around the room by him is like being on a fairground ride. Any error and he bows like a courtier and assures one that every mistake is entirely the gentleman's fault.

Finally, I recommend to you the Nelson Mandela of the North-West - an octogenarian jiver who wears loud shirts buttoned up to the neck and who never fails to surprise me with a new and intricate arm-lead on the rare occasions I still go jiving. Shades of that poem by Jenny Joseph, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple..."

In my case, purple tango heels.

I tried on a pair at Southgate, where the new Comme Il Faut collection was revealed to ravening hordes of milongueras. Ya caramba, it was like the first day of the Harrods sales - ladies of all shoes shapes and sizes swooped on satin sandals in fuschia, turquoise, leopard and lace; they jostled for mirror space and shamelessly hid shoes from the competition.

I found myself in a standoff with a rival size 37-er, she in the left foot of a to-kill-for black-and-white striped stiletto, I in the right, neither of us willing to give ground, or in this case, shoe.

Seated amidst the fur and feathers was a man who knows a thing about footie those blokes down-the-pub only wet-dream of. Senor Boton sat surrounded by women who were posing, preening, bending decollete-low to fasten ankle straps. Several strutted their stuff before him, begging for a man's opinion.

"Now that's what I call a Sunday afternoon's footie," he grinned.

- La Dulce con zapatos nuevos

I didn't know where to look

12th April 2009

I've lost feeling in the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, and my neck and shoulder ache on the left side. I live with an orthopod. and dance with a physio. so you'd think they'd sort it.

"It'll pass," said the one; "I'm not a masseur," said the other.

I felt like a cobbler's kid with no shoes. Had the fingers been working , I'd have given them each one; instead I took myself and my fat lip off to a class in Chester. (Yup, AT is taught beyond the M25.)

This particular class is run by Sharon Koch, an El Corte aficionado. It happens in a riverside bar, called The Groves. At night, the place is wreathed in mist. In the distance one can hear the ancient Roman river god gargling at the weir, while above, Chester's city walls loom like legions, cutting one off from the neon bustle.

On a Monday night only the tango students are in and the little Argentine restaurant, El Boca, is in darkness. I hear the ghostly sigh of the bandoneon drifting out, but it's only Sharon who's wafted across. (She's always a vision, in something drifty, with dangling, jangling earrings.)

The sigh was hers as she pointed out that I was rearing away from my partners. "A wonder you don't have neck ache," she said.

Cheek-to-cheek for me from now on; clavicle-gazing's given me the hump.

- La Dulce con duele

Aeflop's fable

17th March 2009

MJ tangoggers seem to be in the mood for telling tales, so here's mine. It's about a fridge, a rabbit and a reptile.

"Leading a beginner can be like trying to shift a fridge uphill. "
"Beginner-followers have a default mode - backward ochos. You just have to wait for them to run out of steam, like the Duracell bunny," said my Carablanca partner.

I had indeed been doing some skittish skating earlier, so laughed. One doesn't mind criticism with witticism, especially when the lead is patient and equally entertaining off-floor. (In this case, on the subject of the subtle revenges visited upon him by his usual dance partner's jealous spouse.)

I'm beginning to suspect that the domestic politics of the Married Who Dance Away From Home is a rich seam to mine. Last week, after I'd spent ten minutes enthusing about the new 'grip' of a tango partner, my very own Uxorious One pointed out that there really was no difference between a golf bore and a tango bore. Even the terminology sounds the same.

We all have our little revenges.

Now where was I? Oh yes, about to have a nightmare on Theobald's street.

I found Conway Hall very brown and school hall-ish; to me, the upper gallery weighs down on the dance space below. Before the difficult lesson even began, I felt I might be stepping into Monday morning Assembly with a bunch of monitors.

But thanks to the sweetly-lisped instructions of Ms Stazza I did get an inkling of how to do a backward and forward voleo and I didn't seem to be sabotaging the lead of my first five partners.

Then came the poisonous one. A copper-headed cobra he was, who wrestled me left, then right, with narry a chest clue to go on. I stood frozen, rabbit mesmerized by snake. He glared at my stricken feet then hissed: "Move, woman!"

The kindness of friends compensated. The Ineffable was there and cheered me with a few gentle dances; gorgeous Bb got me giggling with girl talk; I met the Tango Commuter and warmed to his humility (and to his philosophy now I've started reading his blog.)

And then there was Mr. Mercy, firmly of the opinion that if the lead is good enough it doesn't matter how inexperienced the follower is. He proceeded to prove it. Mmmmmm!

But oh-oh, oh, I then stepped on a hedgehog - the delicate-looking one who dances divinely. She was understandably prickly at being spiked, though magnanimous afterwards. Nevertheless, I felt so wretched I had to go home.

The Ineffable stepped out to escort me to the tube station.

Moral of the story: manners maketh man.

- La Dulce con cola* between her legs

(*Tail, mis amigos espanoles.)

Waking from The Big (provincial) Sleep

10th March 2009

It was about nine o'clock at night, late Feb, the Holborn pavement outside had the look of hard wet rain. I was wearing my ruby-red dress, the plunging neckline demurely fastened (tango totty I was notty) black lycra leggings and my killer heels.

I was neat, sweet and sober and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed tanguera ought to be. I was going to Negracha's.

Upstairs the joint jumped with steps so sharp I wanted to slash my throat with envy. Among those practiced paradas and elegant ochos I felt like a farmhand in mud-caked wellies. Downstairs looked dangerously urbane too. Long-locked Leroy played neo-tango medleys, tantalizing enough to get my maiden aunt mincing.

My escort eased me onto the floor, his lead calm in the eye of my storm. He was content just to walk, giving me time to collect, to pivot properly, even, eventually, to adorn. It was like a first sip of Armangnac - pure, smooth and deep-down warming. I began to feel giddy.

Tanda-duty done, Ineffable Escort handed me over to a fellow-tangogger. (Tango-blogger.) This broad-chested varon danced me across a sea of sultry sound - I felt steadied as we sailed around the room. His rhythm was romantic; we rocked like a caique on a sunlit Greek sea.

Things got steamy after that - (my only criticism of Negracha's is that it turns into an inferno, downstairs. The outside door needed to be opened earlier.) Many different partners, many different styles, from the bold balletics of the Kray-brother sound-alike, to the good-natured bafflement of Sneakers, who tried valiantly to keep control as my feet ran away with us. (It's not me, Mister, it's me Red Shoes.)

I slunk upstairs, seeking exorcism.

Here, well-behaved followers were doing what they ought to the tinkling sounds of traditional tango. I spotted a former classmate and renowned clavicle-flasher. He went into his routine, (former actor too) undoing his top button and camping-up the pulling power of his throat-hollow. Weak with laughter I relaxed and we danced a milonga without my shoes once trying to go their own way. He rewarded me with an account of a script he's writing; it sounds hilarious. Power to your pen, Davicle.

A few more dreamy dances downstairs, where the music got better and better, then, it being waaaay past pumpkin-time, I had to flee.

Abandoning a red shoe on the stairs, I disappeared into the empty streets.

- La Dulce

Chico, are my cheeks red!

4th March 2009

I've been informed that I was unwittingly rude last week with my 'Culo Feliz' posting.

An Argentino of my acquaintance suggested the word 'cola' , instead, for bottom-wishes... if you catch my drift. More gentile, apparently. The other term, while referring to the same part of the anatomy, does so more colloquially. I clearly got things a little arse-about-red-face.

Lo siento, amigos.

- La Dulce

Paean to my maestro's feet

25th February 2009

Prowlers, in soft, black suede,
a pair of panthers, lithe and strong,
flexing, arching, slinking.
His picados are quick as whisker-flicks
His side steps, limo-long, entice the maestra.

Her glittering toes coquette around him, tracing lacy rulos.
They nose up against the panthers, nuzzling en pasada,
stroking under his shin, rubbing him up the right way.

But see the panther snap and snarl, whipping her into boleo,
demanding parada,
bringing her to heel.

She gentles, pads her acquiescence,
Her dainty heels kiss and make up.
She's elegantly entregarme again,
Dazzling el pantera in the dance.

Happy Bum

25th February 2009

It's been a month since I started to study tango, and today my teacher wished me Culo Feliz! - Happy bum. Apparently my bum does - not-look-big-enough- in-this (tango) so, I am to stick it out... a little. Sort of perk it up, I suppose.

I'm glad something's getting perky; my footwork ain't, though I'm trying till I ache. Soooooo much to learn!

I adore the seminars with the divine David Benitez ... see my paean to his feet. Not since I studied ballet have I found dance steps so technically demanding. I find I now use the studio mirror to check the positioning of my toe, the cant of my ankle; the kiss of my heels - everything except that culo. I'd need a magic mirror for that.

Cryptic puzzle

25th February 2009

Again, I had a good time at this convivial club, but I'm puzzled by the advice I'm getting from THE WELL-MEANING.

"Forget everything you've learned in lessons," said the dark-suited man who then proceeded to hold me close (very) and steer me around the room in what I now realize (thank you, Christopher O'Shea) was salon-style.

It didn't feel like the tango steps I'd laboriously learned. Perhaps there were signals to ocho or cross, but I wasn't picking them up. I felt dreadful and probably looked it too.

When my feet got all a-fluster, the suit tried to soothe me with strokes across my back, but I was in no position to purr. Inside, I was lamenting that I couldn't coolly collect or pivot prettily or even attempt an elegant side step.

Is it me, or just the way it goes in Salon?

Lo siento, maestro.

- La Dulce con culo triste

Milonga and Mackerel

2nd February 2009

Well, I tried my first Milonga; led by a very brave man. He said afterwards that it wasn't a case of leading: "More like just trying to hang on." (To me, presumably.) "Haven't felt like that since I caught a mackerel," he continued. Then he did a very good fisherman-with-St Vitus-dance, impression. (May his rod never stiffen again!)

Anyway, it can't be me; must be that silver-sequinned dress I was wearing. I enjoyed all the jiggling about. And aren't milongas supposed to be jolly? I've noticed though, that there's a distinct lack of levity among tango aficionados. OK, so it's bad form to talk while tangoing and couples are not supposed to look each other in the eye while doing it. And I grant you, smiling into the space over someone's shoulder looks gormless.

So what's a girl to do to show she's having a good time? Swoon?

Given instances like the ichthyoidal one above (I can't be the only fish out of water on the tango floor) where's the fun for blokes? Gerry, a 5-year tango veteran, told me it takes at least three years before a man can learn to lead. And it took him that long to feel the "harmony between man, woman and music; which is why I dance," he pronounced.

Sounds a bit fishy to me.

But then it would, at this stage, I suppose.

- La Dulce con caballa

Tango Quango

24th January 2009

quan-go. |' kwa NG go| Brit. Chiefly derogatory. A semipublic ...body...

Which is what mine feels like after two hours of man- and boy-handling in Beginners lessons. My toes have been trodden on, my knees knocked senseless, but worse, far worst of all, except for a few honourable exceptions, I have not been led.

And me a girl so easily given to that sort of thing.

"Sat" here in seen-better-days jammies and those stilts, I feel my nose growing like Pinocchio's. Truth be known, allowing myself to be led is proving the most difficult tango tenant for me to.... er......... follow. But hey, I can't be the only woman who realized long ago that there is no point waiting for a man to make up his mind; best go out and do it yourself - when you want, how you want. Ain't that right, girlfriends?

But not, in tango, I see.

So I deserve all the bruising and bullying; I deserve the laughter of my long-suffering Ceroc partners who say I simply don't have follower in me. I'm gonna show you, boys. I'm gonna become so slow and amenable a koala will seem lively and aggressive by comparison. This way I will build a better character and...

better buttocks.

Is it just me, or has any other tangela out there noticed a rounding of her trasero? Every time someone puts me into the close-hold position I want to ask: "Does my bum look big in this?"


- La Dulce

Jammies & tango heels - confessions of a late-night wannabe.

22nd January 2009

What do I wannabe? A tanguista (? tanguera ? tangela ?) of course! (Somebody please tell me the correct term for a female Tangophile. Seems to be as much debate about this as about the heel-first, toe-first thingey; clear that one up for me too, while you're at it.)

Where was I? Ooh yes, sat at my desk (as we say in the Midlands) in wincyette and killer heels, tracing rondos with my right toe while I fret about how I'm going to walk, let alone backwards, in this pair of snakeskin suicides?

The heels look long and thin enough to pierce Dracula's heart, but will they bear my standing weight? And I'm told these stilts come in a vertiginous 9cm version too. Dios mio !

But I'm getting ahead of myself... way ahead, considering I'm only two weeks into this adventure. This rarin' to go thing's a habit that's already got me into trouble on the tango floor: - said the gentleman with the Up-Close-n-Personal dance style: "Dancing with you is like driving a Ferrari." (I geared down; purred throatily.) "You turn before I've given the indication and you race away before I've even decided to put my foot down." I don't know much but I do know that was a tango-telling off. Chagrin replaced grin.

It was a good lesson, as was the less (more?) colourful one from the TangoMango Scot who clearly believes novices should be thrown into the deep end. "What is this diagonal glide you're doing?" he burred, just when I was silently congratulating myself on being able to do a backward ocho at all. "Who taught you that shit?"

My lips are sealed.

Un beso.

- La Dulce