Thursday, 30 April 2009

Provenance is not everything

Between 1986 and 1994, this man painted a lot of pictures, using a lot of emulsion paint, and imitating the style of well-known Surrealist, Cubist and Impressionist artists.

Some were sold as originals by those artists, sold to prestigious buyers, for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

John Myatt's good, but he's not that good. There is a detectable difference between a Myatt and a Matisse, which you can judge for yourself by examining both. The reason his pictures sold for large amounts of money is that most people never really looked at them at all, and those few who did, did not really care. Most people only looked at the provenance.

The provenance was forged by John Drewe, who was good at it. And what it purported to show was that galleries and collectors had catalogued the paintings as what they were said to be. So they comforted themselves with the thought that good painters have off-days; which is certainly true.

Myatt took a pride in his work, and did his best to do it well. But the quality of his painting made no practical difference at all until Drewe fell out with his woman, and she shopped him to the police. (There was a fire, and someone died. It's worth reading a fuller account of the scam. You can also commission a Myatt, if you want.)

Notice that once a well-known gallery had bought it, whether or not they were really that impressed, the work acquired a new and perfectly genuine provenance. But that didn't make it a better picture.

The interested reader can choose their own exercise ...

Monday, 27 April 2009

A class on musicality

Long ago (well not that long, but it seems like long) I went to a lesson on how you physically express musicality. It was pitched at recent beginners, and the first half was all walking alone.

It was pointed out that when we walk, we start the movement at one time (in relation to the music) and end it at another where the next step starts, but at what point we pass through the middle is a choice. I don't remember the examples or exercises exactly, but the way I'd explain it to myself is this: If you are stepping on the ones of a waltz, for example, 1 2 3 1 2 3, you might pass through the physical middle of the step, when your feet pass each other, at the 2, or at the 3, or in the temporal middle at 2½, or somewhere else. It's up to you — what do you hear? Try it as you walk round the room.

Then try to lead and follow it, as we did in the second half of the lesson. It was one of those lessons where I went “oh, ok, that's how it works, now I get it, what fun!” — it wasn't necessary to be told twice. But I did need telling once.

You may think it's obvious. I didn't.

It made a real difference, was within my powers at the time, and would have taken me forever to work out for myself. The kind of simple-but-necessary information that enables someone with very basic skills to dance in a more satisfying way, mainly for herself but also for her partner. Free of metaphor and mumbo-jumbo, too.

Realising that that stuff was possible, and might be led, made an important difference to how I followed, and it also gave me options for musicality of my own.

[Since someone is bound to ask, it was Tom at the Crypt, one of the odd Monday-night lessons he does occasionally when Paul and Michiko are away. If you want my opinion, he is a talented and intelligent teacher. But his lessons are rare, and are never advertised, so you will never be able to take one intentionally, unless you take the Monday beginners' course, which is always him. I do know what his last name is, but since their website - El Once in the links - makes it a secret, it would obviously be rude of me to do otherwise.]

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sunday Photo - Oak

“You can cut

Oak - 21st March
the flower, but

Oak - 4th April
you cannot stop

Oak - 13th April
the coming

Oak - 19th April
of Spring.”

A quotation, whatever its flaws, that has always appealed to me.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Tender Horns

A few of us were practicing at The Room, which was a bit warm early in the evening, so we opened the door which leads into the back garden. Later on, the evening cooled, Anthony left, and the door was closed again and locked.

In a pause towards the end, just before we packed up, as I was coming out of an embrace, I saw that there was something on the floor over there, something very small and dark, a strange little shape with horns.

A snail had walked in to join us.

“Look!”, I said. “There's a snail.”

Puzzlement from my partner and others.
What can she mean?
Is this some sort of coded feedback?

A little garden snail, helix aspersa I suppose. It was walking smoothly across the floor as snails walk, in a straight line, towards the music. I don't know why it wanted to come in; the floor is smooth, but brightly-lit and dry, and hardly seemed like a good place for a snail. A very beautiful little creature, so out-of-context, waving its horns and leaving a shiny trail.
“Love's feeling is more soft, and sensible,
than are the tender horns of cockled snails ...”
Love's Labour's Lost

Holding its shell - its, and his, and hers, since all snails are both male and female - I gently peeled the creature from the floor, and it withdrew inside.

I couldn't get the back door open again - it had one of those high-security locks. By the time I reached the front door, the snail had reappeared and allowed me to see its curious textures and elegant apparatus for walking. I only touched the shell, as I thought our skins might be bad for each other. I put it behind a wheelie bin, where it was dark and damp.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tangology @ Wild Court

[Important update 31st August 2009: This milonga is changing its venue to Sway bar, I haven't been there yet. Oct/09 I have now.]

This is a Sunday evening milonga with a class beforehand and the occasional special event. The venue is Wild Court, the same as for Negracha. I hadn't been to it before; I went because people I know and like to dance with recommend it. It starts at eight and ends at midnight, with classes from 6:30.

The Class: I did not take the class but I've heard good things about Eleonora's beginners' class and I saw some who seemed to have taken it and to be charmed with the basic idea.

Layout and Atmosphere: It's at Wild Court, the same venue as Negracha (see review on right), but the atmosphere is different. They only have the upstairs room, which is sort of like a school assembly or exam hall, and I think it belongs to some kind of college. The money table is squeezed in between the main room and the Ladies, and you're already in the nice lighting and warm feel by the time you get there. There's a pretty smiling lady behind the desk, and some interesting leaflets about other events. The doorway into the main room is prettied up with transparent drapery and fairly lights, which does make the going in feel like a pleasant event. Coloured spotlights heated up the room, but the tall windows along the side were opened to compensate, and it cooled with the warm Spring evening. There are high windows at one end and a bar at the other which I hadn't realised was temporary until it suddenly dematerialised at midnight. At the bar end, early Popeye and Wile-E-Coyote were projected on the wall. A partner said he loved this; I felt sorry for the poor hungry coyote. At the window end is a very high two-layered platform. The sense of division between those on the platform and those down below is softened by having some tables along the floor at the foot of the platform, with the same cheery floral tablecloths as the ones above. I sat at one of these towards the end of the evening. In fact I don't think the division is real; the tables up there don't seem to be reserved. But I was reluctant to take one, and took a seat along the wall instead. There were plenty of tables and seats in proportion to the numbers who turned up. I could have taken a table for myself.

Hospitality: I don't think I can honestly say that it's better in any specific respect than it is on Fridays ("still dire"), but the different table arrangements and relaxed atmosphere, the absence of crowd, not being kicked, and the fact that the place seems to have been partially cleaned in the last few months, did make me less annoyed about high drinks prices and horrible loos. [I've updated my Negracha review to say it's cleaner. Good work to whoever made that happen]. The cloakroom isn't available on Sundays, so next time I'll take a bigger kitbag to keep my coat out of the dust. But my things were perfectly safe on a chair. No water or refreshments are included, and signs say your own food or drink is forbidden. The drinks were the same as on Fridays - £1.50 for a bottle of still water, £4.50 for a single G&T. But the taps were working this time, with hot and cold water. So if you ran out of money after the £10 entry, you wouldn't come to actual harm. I didn't ask for a glass of tap water with my glass of wine; forgot. There's no means of drying your hands in the Ladies except toilet paper, and one of three was blocked by the time I arrived. Briefly wondering how the sanitary appliance could be so badly built that detailed instructions have to be posted on the doors, I realised that the instructions were still there but the object itself was, in fact, absent. Those are all venue things, obviously, but I'm whingeing anyway because I think they matter. Adds up to Poor, for an otherwise nice, relaxed milonga.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: Nothing, thank goodness. Such a mercy. Although the platform is very good for people-watching, whether up or down. If you are feeling emotional, delusional, or under pressure, or you have any slight inclination to make a spectacle of yourself, you might consider not sitting up there unless you really, really want to.

What I thought of the DJing: I enjoyed it, it was all right. All traditional, tuneful stuff, reasonable numbers of milongas and vals tandas. There were cortinas, but I think the tandas varied in length. The sound was good and even all over the room, as far as I could tell.

Getting in: £10, more than I expected.

Getting there and getting home: It's a short walk from Holborn, under 10 minutes, and it ends at midnight. But the problem is, it's Sunday and the last trains are earlier than that. I was going to leave at eleven, but a friend kindly gave me a lift home.

The website:, much nicer looking than most, it tells you where it is, and when, and gives you a link to the latest announcement so you can see if there's going to be a performance. I don't think it says how much it is to get in. I had a vague impression that the music would be less traditional than it was; but that might have been just the legwarmers.

How it went: I arrived rather early and there were only two or three couples on the floor. It went well, though. I sat enjoying the music for a while and then was asked to dance when people changed partners. I think it would actually be quite an OK and relaxed place for the patient, prepared beginner to get some dances. At the peak - elevenish - there were 15 couples on the good-sized floor. Plenty of room for everyone. It was Sunday evening, and I danced a lot with friends. There was some really nice dancing. The milonga is nice. I'd go again. The room is nice, and the atmosphere was pleasant. The building's an expensive dump and needs some repairs.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Liquid Chocolate

This is a cioccolata fiorentina. They serve it hot, in an espresso cup.


With a spoon. You eat it with the spoon.


That's it.

Sunday, 19 April 2009


On a day when the sky is perfectly grey, you have to look hard, even with eyes, to see the beauty of the world. In photographs, it dulls the colour. I wish that I could show you the infinite variety of green that occurs on a wet Easter Saturday in Windsor.

I think these cherry blossoms glow almost more than they would in sunlight. This might be a nice light for portraits. I think I read somewhere that Nicholas Hillard thought it was.

I tried dialling down the exposure to show you the richness of green.

Here is Windsor Castle, with two tourists and a silver sky.

Back home on the Monday, the oaks were almost ready.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Cat and the Tiger

I know that everybody has got this from Bild to Oprah Winfrey, but I'm going to post it anyway because I want to say something.

I believe what Cowell says at the end of this. I can see him thinking "a woman like this, who drips good sense and dignity, wouldn't be here if she didn't know she was actually good." Of course we have the advantage of having seen the first bit of this video, and anyone who seemed less delusional would be hard to imagine. We don't know what she's got, but there has to be something.

One phrase is enough, and his eyebrows go "YESSS!!" He's like the cat that got the cream, looking sidelong at the blithering fools beside him. He's a professional bitch, but he's no fool. Sheer poetry. I hope it lasts.

Watch it as many times as you want - he's listening to the first line with actual curiosity, unlike either of the other judges, who are merely polite. But if you're good, it really doesn't matter; either is fine. I think I'd take curiosity over politeness.

A very fine "medium belt", warm and mature sound, brilliant choice of song (low for the range) and great musical expression, dignified appearance, good amateur technique with room for a little bit of work, great breath control that delivers right to the end and right to the back seats, nerves of steel. And I rather like the dignified, elegant, well-made, well-fitting dress; I wonder who made it? It might be from a shop, but I suspect it isn't, because the hem is perfectly horizontal, broad, and probably handstitched, and the fit is equally good top and bottom. Has anyone else even mentioned this? What is WRONG with people?

On a side note, notice the lad in the wings, it's either Ant or Dec, I don't know which is which, briefly using the Northern plural you, in "Yous didn't expect that, did you? Did you?". This is a useful feature missing in Standard English now that the true singular, thou, is used only for gods and Yorkshiremen; and perhaps it deserves wider use.

Thinking about it a week later and having listened to her singing Cry Me a River at the Daily Record, in which I think she sings better and you can certainly hear her better, I don't think it's going to matter if the British press do what they do and try to turn on her. It's just not going to matter at all. The only thing they can really do is try to pretend that she was pretending to be what the school bullies thought she was; patently not the case. Not that that stops them, I just don't think it will matter.

She's right to tell the Daily Record she won't do the wiggle again. It's not necessary.

Hat tip Johanna for the Youtube link - I saw a shorter extract first somewhere else, and realised it must be the same thing Johanna had linked to and I hadn't clicked yet. So I went back and clicked for the whole performance ... Maybe I should watch more TV.

I really want to slap the blonde. "I honestly think we were all ..." yes, that's your excuse, isn't it? Did I know you at school?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tutorial: Public Calendars

Right, I think enough teachers and event organisers have now figured out how to make public calendars, that it's possible to make a useful demonstration of how you subscribe to them, syndicate them, and display them using Google Calendar.

In this demonstration I subscribe to, and embed, ONLY calendars that are updated by the people actually personally organising the events shown in their calendars. Essentially the point of this demonstration is that you can do that, so you don't need to update your own calendar except for events you organise yourself.

Ok, it took me a couple of hours today to puzzle out how this works. I tried once before, last year, and failed. So here are the steps.

Subscribing to public calendars

  1. Get yourself a Google Calendar page. This part is explained well by Google, so just go there. You don't have to put any appointments in it, it just has to exist so you can do step 2.

    Organisers: If you are organising your own events, and you want other people to be able to see them, now just add some events, make the calendar public, and embed it on your own website, or include the link in your emails. You might want to make a personal, private calendar first, then a seperate events one. You can have as many as you want. If, for example, you have events in different towns, you might want a calendar for each location so people can subscribe to just the ones where they are. That part is also explained well by Google. But you don't have to use Google. Anything that makes an .ics file available on the web should make it possible for people to see your calendar.

  2. Subscribe to some public calendars.

    There are various ways of doing this: usually you can just click the button at the bottom right hand corner of calendars when you see them on the web. Like this:
    They do not have to be Google calendars; you can subscribe to any calendar that's on the web in a suitable format. For example, the Tango en el Cielo website has a calendar in .ics format linked from this page. The URL you get when you click the link, ending in .ics, is the one you will need. To subscribe, you get that ready, go to your Google Calendar page, and click "Add by URL".Add by URL Then you paste in the URL, like this:
  3. Subscribe by URLTick the "publicly accessible" box if you want to display the calendar on your own website. Otherwise don't.
If all you want to do is know what's coming up, stop here. Bookmark your Google Calendar page and don't do anything else.

As the organisers update their events, you'll see them on your calendar page. You can now do all sorts of things like importing it into Outlook and having it sent to your mobile, if you're mad enough. Because you're looking directly at THEIR calendars, not copying them into yours, the information should normally be correct, because each bit of it is being updated by the person who knows and cares most about its accuracy. If you find a particular calendar to be unreliable, you can just stop bothering with that one (Settings, Calendars, Unsubscribe) and you'll still have all the others.

Embedding multiple calendars

If you want to embed all the calendars on your own website, make sure that you tick "publicly available" box when you subscribe. (They already are public, otherwise you wouldn't be able to see them, so you aren't changing anything about them. You're just saying that YOU might want to embed them). If you forgot to do this you'll have to unsubscribe and resubscribe with the box ticked.

Supposing you want to embed them, as in the demonstration below, this is what you do.
  1. Click on the little down arrow on one of the public calendars you've now got down the left hand side of your screen. Doesn't matter which. Click Calendar Settings.Calendar Settings

  2. Click the Customise link under "Embed", in the middle.
    Customise ...

  3. Scroll down and look to the left; all the calendars you've subscribed to are listed. Tick all the ones you want to include.Selecting calendars to displayScroll up again and set all the other settings the way you'll want them - they're pretty self-explanatory and it shows you how it will look. Make sure you set a Calendar Title, top left - otherwise the title will be the title of whichever calendar you clicked first.

  4. Copy and paste the HTML from the top of the page into your own website. You should get some result like the example below. Here I've selected "Agenda" view as default, I've set the width to be rather narrow, and I've set "Organisers' Calendars" as the title..

The problem with Bank Holidays

Don't you find that a working week with Friday off feels shorter, but a week with Monday off feels eight days long?

I don't want to know what day it is.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter @ Thames Valley Tango

A friend suggested we meet up at Thames Valley Tango's Easter event. As I didn't have anything planned for my long weekend, I decided to get out of London and have two milongas while I was about it, the Friday and the Saturday. They also do a thing at Christmas, and a regular monthly Tea Dance. There were, I think, three days of workshops and three milongas in total.

The Class: I didn't attend the workshops - I went on impulse, and it was too late to book. They were given by Jenney Frances and Ricardo Oria, and my friends and other students were enthusiastic about the quality, saying it was well communicated, enjoyable, and good on technical fundamentals. I think Jenney and Ricardo normally teach in Edinburgh.

Layout and Atmosphere: The hall is very handsome, more so on a spring evening than it looks in the pictures. It's brick building with a pointed roof, a little set back from the high street, and they put a big banner up on the side entrance that says TANGO, so you can find the way in. It has a high beamed roof with skylights, a stage at one end and a balcony at the other. The floor is light wood, smooth, flat, and even, with white lines for games, which my feet didn't notice. To your right as you go in is an L-shaped arrangement of tables so that one person can be both desk and DJ when it's not too busy, or two people can sit companionably and do two jobs. In one corner under the balcony was a small display of Nueva Epoca tango shoes (made by Werner Kern), jewellery, accessories, drapey bamboo-fibre knitwear and practice T-shirts with messages like "sacada me baby", and "I am not a shopping trolley". There were tables round three sides of the hall, laid out with their ends pointing into the middle. There were enough of them in proportion to the crowd so that I could always find a seat - mostly the same one, where my mug of tea was - when I wanted it, and could perch elsewhere from time to time. The whole hall was very prettily dressed with white net, red tablecloths, tealights, giant pictures of roses, and loops of white LEDs. I think there were fresh flowers here and there. The look and feel struck me as attractive, and relaxed - maybe it was just the contrast with cramped, battered, crowded, frenetic, uneven London. There was a good mix of ages.

Hospitality: Excellent. As soon as I walked in Charles, at the desk, perceived that he did not remember my face, asked me whether it was my first time there, welcomed me kindly and told me where to find the refreshments and the loos. (The possibility that he knew I was me and might write this, is, AFAIK, remote). In the kitchen, through the door in the far corner, were two kettles on the boil, some jugs of filter coffee, lots of IKEA mugs, and ample supplies of the teas, coffees, and biscuits. On the tables were plastic cups and bottles of water, and trays of crisps and those tiny chocolate eggs with sugar shells that make your teeth squeak. All included. The loos were clean, supplied, well lit, and very spacious, and behind the door marked Ladies' there is not only the Ladies' but also a large changing room with chairs, numerous coathooks (where I left my coat and shoe bag on the Saturday) and a full length mirror. One of the loo locks was broken. I was impressed with the bunch of daffs.

Anyone or anything interesting that turned up or happened: On the Saturday, Jenney and Ricardo gave a performance. I think three of the pieces were planned and the last one, my favourite, probably wholly or partly improvised. They performed in a fluid front-on style with quite a few flicks and flourishes, but it wasn't heels-to-ears stuff. And they looked like they still loved each other after a dodgy moment, which was nice.

What I thought of the DJing: It was all traditional and all strong and included a lot of things I know and like and a few things I hadn't heard before. There were (nearly always) cortinas. I think the tandas varied in length, but were mostly fours. There was a good sprinkling of milonga and vals. The last tanda on each evening was different, more what I would call semi-traditional - then La Cumparsita to finish. The sound system was good, and the sound was consistent between tracks and all over the hall.

Getting in: It was £10 on the Saturday, £8 on the Friday. If you went to both, I think the Sunday was free, but I went back to London on Sunday morning.

Getting there and getting home: I was staying round the corner, and there are several other choices of reasonably-priced accommodation within five minutes' walk, if you want to make a weekend of it. My friends had driven from North London, which I think took well under an hour. It's five minutes' walk from Eton Riverside station, which is just under an hour from Vauxhall on the train, and I knitted peacefully all the way there and back. It would probably be quite feasible for me to take the train there for the monthly tea dance. The train ticket would be £16.40 - four drinks at Wild Court, if that.

The website: At, well organised, looks nice, tells you what you need to know.

How it went: Very well. There were people I knew there, to give me a start, so I can't really tell how easy it would be for a total stranger to get her first dance. A simple salon style predominated strongly, and the general impression of dancing was nicer to my eyes than any London milonga I've been to yet. On the Friday I didn't have a single bump; on the Saturday, although the floor did get quite full, I had a total of two, both when dancing with Londoners if I remember correctly. My impression of the dancing in general over the weekend made me think that Charles probably does a good job in the beginner's class. Being out of town, I took one or two risks and had a couple of poor dances, but the majority were good to excellent, and not with people I had met before. Anyway, everything worked out so that I could dance about as much as I wanted to and sit quietly drinking tea or chatting about as much as I wanted to, and I enjoyed the watching a lot more than I usually do. When I wanted to dance, a persistent look sufficed as an invitation. There were also direct requests, but I wasn't pestered. Generally the whole thing was a relaxed and pleasant experience. I don't know how much of that was just the fact that I'd got out of London and felt like I was on holiday, but my friends had the same impression - a "good vibe".

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Out of Office Message

I'm on holiday for the Easter weekend. I'll be back next week.

I'm delegating this post to Ampster

Ampster, who I have danced with and who is a really lovely dancer, has been writing some stories about his development in tango. He started from a ballroom background and has been exactly where some of my readers are now, and in places interestingly different from where others are. He doesn't post a lot of posts but he has things to say.

Have a read.

The Intricacy of Simplicity
My Meanderings through Tango Music
Patience, Patience, Patience

And others.

[Edit: I forgot this.]

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

It's got rhythm

Good trailers have rhythm.

I really enjoyed Zatoichi. It's violent, but in a very stylised, absurd way. (I don't like being frightened). The timing is good, and that feels like musicality. I like opera too, much more than I like most movies.

My enjoyment of this well-crafted trailer is probably enhanced by not understanding Japanese. There are versions with subtitles, but they hardly seem necessary. I can't help feeling that too much dialogue is often a mistake in trailers in almost the same way that talking while dancing is a mistake. If there are words, they should be delivered with full and skilful attention to their rhythm, and properly part of the music, as they seem to be above.

This next film was remarkable for its sound, especially some of the music, but also the sounds of wood and water and living things. But the trailer doesn't quite work for me. It feels both lengthy and hurried, doesn't use any of the good music, and draws attention to Russell Crowe's slightly dodgy accent, which seemed fine in the film.

It was actually a rather good Patrick O'Brian pastiche if you watched it in a cinema with a really good sound system. And, like the books, it wasn't mainly about any of the things that the trailer tells you it is about; specifically not about fighting the enemy. Although that does happen. It was really much better than you'd think from watching this. But that was the clever part; that was what got them the action-flick budget to spend on a thinly-disguised art movie.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

April in the garden of the dead

The oaks are not ready to rumble.

Behind the church, the dryads' ballroom is well-lit.

The forest-floor churchyard is carpeted with flowers.

There are new leaves of ivy, paler than the old.

There are young stinging nettles.

I did get a little bit stung for that one, so let me show you the tiny new leaves and their tiny glass stings.

There's a diligent gardener in this garden of remembrance. Here are daffodils ...

... and magnificent flame tulips.

But the carpet doesn't seem to require much vacuuming ...

... and the wild edges blend into the forest.

But the floor will be dark soon. The canopy is coming.

Oak buds

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Joaquín Amenábar - book now available

You can now get the English version of Joaquín's book/DVD set on "Music for Dancers" here. [Edit - priced in Euros, and it seems they can't yet ship it to the USA.]

It seems worth saying that he doesn't bill or present himself as a dance teacher, or anything more than a reasonable social dancer. He said this more than once in my hearing, when I took some of the classes, and I saw nothing in the classes (or the book, which I've now reached the end of) that I would interpret as contradicting it. What he's teaching is listening skills and musical information. You read the explanations, and do some listening exercises, and then you use walking exercises familiar to dancers to get your ear and body working together. You can then repeat them walking and dancing with a partner, to practice leading or following and listening properly at the same time, so that your brain doesn't trip over itself.

I have not interpreted any of the walking or dancing exercises as generally-applicable instructions as to how to dance. They're not presented as such, and for example, I don't think you would do this with chapters 8, dialogue of melodies, or 12, off-beat. I don't think it's practical, and the results would be mostly bonkers. (Gamecat's sent me a link - the third video down is a non-bonkers interpretation of the music used for chapter 8). The point is that at the end of chapter 12 both your body and your mind - working together - understand what an off-beat is, and why it feels funny if you step on it, accidentally or on purpose.

But I mention this because I've been told that some people do take it that way.

Anyway, the whole thing fills a gap, at least if you think listening skills are something that can (and should) be taught to those who have no aptitude, or should (and can) be taught to those who do. Mine have certainly improved. I don't know whether my dancing has improved or not. If it has, it's probably more to do with fixing my posture. But I definitely hear better now and appreciate musicality better in other people.

There are dance teachers who have something to say, other than merely by example, about what musicality actually means in dance terms. I haven't encountered it often enough to say anything about how far they agree with each other, or not. I assume that they sometimes disagree, which is not exactly uncommon on matters of technique, either. If I do encounter disagreements I think it's my responsibility to decide what appeals to me on whatever basis seems to make sense, just like I do with technique. Some people use a race test; if my criteria are less silly than that, and include at least some reference to the merits of the case, at least they aren't the worst logically possible.

I personally have got a lot out of doing the exercises and exploring the details of music in a much more productive way than I would have been able to alone. Some of the people I dance with have made good discoveries, too.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Throwing Things Away

Today has been a day of getting rid of things. I took a holiday specially to do things I never do at the weekend, because it's the weekend. I have far too much stuff and my flat is a mess. I am not much of a housekeeper, and I don't really need all this stuff. It's time to have less stuff.

I've given away three bags of clothes and a fondue set on Freecycle, and listed a few CDs for resale on Amazon. I've put lots of miscellaneous carboard in the recycling, and someone is supposed to come for some computer books. I've sorted out some more CDs whose resale value isn't worth the trouble, but would sell in a charity shop. I've even closed an unused bank account. Not only that, I've dug out the right sort of glue from my box of sticky things and attempted to repair the dimmer switch on my standard lamp that fell off when my Mum turned it and scared her.

And I feel so much better.

I could also very well sacrifice some plastic and ceramic flowerpots, some pretty painted panels in blue and rainbow colours that have served their purpose, quite a few books on various subjects, and a couple of tango CDs I bought as experiments before I knew what I liked or what was out there. But I'll be gentle with myself.

I can go out and dance with a clearer mind.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Salon Swing

Dawn Hampton and John Dokes. Never you mind what dance we dance, let's watch, listen, learn.

And more of a birthday dance (really good) here. She's 80.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Tango Fire @ Peacock Theatre

Danecers - German Cornejo and Carolina GianniniI enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. It's an hour and a half of live tango music, with a singer, eight dancers, some pretty costumes and a simple set. It doesn't insult your intelligence with anything like a story or plot, and the second half is a bit like watching ice dance championships in a warm room with better music and no commentary or waiting around for points.

It started very well with a funny scene of a domino effect from a flying heel that any London dancer could instantly relate to (I half-wish that what happened, would really happen here, but I don't think there's room). And the first half reminded me that tango, like other forms of dance, really can express other things besides itself, like character, story, and so on. I'm not saying it always succeeded in doing that, but it certainly could and did sometimes. In the second half, the clock-hand legs, ice-dancing throws, and feet flickering on every note pleased the audience in general even if they soon lost my attention. Although I actually kind of liked the headbanging Britney Spears in half (the right-hand half, I think, I could be wrong) of a purple shellsuit, all very fragmented and Postmodern to Piazzolla's Zum. There was also Gallo Ciego, which somehow brought to mind the scene in So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish where they fly upwards out of her flat and astonish a lady in an aeroplane. I'm not sure why that in particular rather than some other random sex scene. But somehow.

bandoneon - Hugo SatorreBy this point, I had noticed that on the platform at the back of the stage were four guys playing great music, so I mostly just watched them. I couldn't see the pianist, but a bandoneón is fascinating to watch being played because of the peculiar way it has to breathe. I'm curious to see inside one. I also learned how some of the puzzling noises that turn up on tango recordings are made; apparently with a double bass, the bow, and a process I can only describe as slap-and-tickle. For some of the second half all the dancers went off and let the musicians do Piazzolla all by themselves; according to my programme the instrumental pieces were Otono Porteno, Fuga y Misterio, and Adiós Nonino. They were called Quatrotango. There was also a singer, Pablo Lago, who was sometimes on stage with the dancers and sometimes just with the band.

Gerardo ScaglioneAs for the dancers, I'm very happy to say that all the women in the cast had, as far as I could tell, eschewed The Plastic; and I think whoever chose them should get a round of applause just for that. Yanina Fajar, who was also the choreographer, is extremely watchable and held my eye all the time when she was on stage. As for the men, they were nice to watch, they reminded me of several people who were exactly the people you'd expect (minus twenty-five years in some cases) and they must have done a good job because generally speaking you mostly saw the women, which is how it should be if it's going to be recognisably tango.

Peacock Theatre, until 11th April. I bought my ticket at 7pm on the day, all prices were available.

Dancers - Nelson Celis and Yanina Fajar

[Edit - jazzed it up with some publicity stills from the website.]


I'm afraid this is disconnected; I started it with mixed ideas of what I meant to say. Anyway:

All the participants in these three conversations would like, I think, to have both of two things:

(a) good dancing - to have a thoroughly pleasant evening
(b) good gardening - to welcome new participants and have a vigorous community, reflecting normal life, that renews itself and is not, for example, so elderly or so insane that any single woman under fifty-five must endure the pity and ridicule of her peers for participating at all.

But a moment's thought about human realities will tell you these aims are sometimes in conflict. Looking at it from the point of view of any given individual, the new participants welcomed in (b) will not necessarily have the same idea of what constitutes (a) as you do.

It makes sense, then, to do a little gardening; to take whatever steps you think may be effective to influence the opinions of newbies in such a direction that you get both. When you're doing a new thing, you're looking for ideas and very happy to give them a hearing.

People adopt the opinons of others they respect. That means that if you want to persuade people of something, it's very effective to behave kindly and respectably, and at the same time to let your opinions be known.

Another very effective course is to catch people's imagination and persuade them to go along, even temporarily, with some aesthetic idea. This is the central skill of any talented performer.

The third obvious method is actually putting your case. If you think one thing is better than another, and you want to persuade someone else that it's so, you have to explore details of what it is you think, and why. You have to put your thoughts in order, specify what they are, find out why you think them, consider why anyone else might want them, consider the limitations of your arguments, consider the problems they'll encounter, put them out there, and give people the opportunity to adopt them, if they like. That's the approach you have to take for someone who's already asking questions, or someone you would like to ask questions.

But, anyway, sooner or later, people also test their new opinions against reality to see how they get on. That's when your case stands or falls. But if you've thought about it, maybe it will stand. Even opinions picked up by affinity or enthusiasm do quite often get examined in the end.

I am a curious person, and rather easily persuaded of new ideas, if they seem convincing. My friends might also say that I hurl the unconvincing ones out of high windows with unnecessary force, occasionally wrongly, but that's a necessary part of the process for me.

But I am not easily persuaded of things that haven't been mentioned, described, or explained to me. Because I don't know what they are.

Without communication, persuasion is impossible.