Happy Tango!

I have just received my copy of Happy Tango, Sallycat’s Guide to Dancing in Buenos Aires, by Sally Blake.  For those of you not familiar with Sally’s blog www.sallycatway.com I would recommend having a look to get a glimpse of what it has been like for one woman giving up her life in the UK to move to Buenos Aires to learn Tango.  She describes her journey very honestly from her arrival, navigating the milongas, purchasing a flat, and finding love.  The book is her way of helping others coming to Buenos Aires for the first time to dance in the milongas, based on her experience.

I have had the great pleasure of meeting Sally last year and she is as down to earth as she comes across on her blog.  I am sure her book is going to be very honest and practical and I am really looking forward to reading it.  You can purchase it from Amazon and The Book Depository.  However, my order on Amazon was delayed by a month, so I’ve cancelled it there and have managed to get a copy directly from Sally.  She might have some left.  You can contact her via her blog.

Ok, now I am going to have some Happy Reading!  Will keep you posted!


I have issues with choreography.  I get brain overload.  I have a really difficult time remembering sequences.  It’s to do with my mental makeup and not one of my strengths.  I hate going to aerobics classes.  I never know what I am supposed to do, and by the time I figure it out, we’ve already moved onto the next thing.  It’s one thing just moving your legs, but add arms and other things, well, I get lost.

Line dancing was the first time I experienced choreography in dance.  (Yes, I do like some Country and Western music)  There is a dance for nearly every Country and Western song.  How people remember them all is beyond me.  We would spend the whole class learning the moves to a particular dance and song.  The following week, we would go over the previous routine and that was usually when I would finally ‘get’ it.  As soon as that happened, we would move on to the next routine – and the whole process would start again!  Although I enjoyed the class and believe I did get something out of it, I could never remember what I was supposed to do until I watched someone else and then it would eventually kick in!  Sort of like being able to sing along to songs on the radio, it’s the only time you can remember the words to the songs.  Once I remembered the choreography, I was able to put my own little spin to the moves if I was comfortable with what I was doing.

When I took up Salsa, I was taught moves.  First we had to learn the Salsa step: left, right, left – right, left, right.  The women had to learn how to read the man and always know where his hands were. 🙂 We had to learn the signals for turns and other steps – always keep your eye on your partner.  The way I was taught Salsa all those years ago is the same way they teach it where I live now.  The class is structured by teaching a routine for the level you are in.  The moves are repetitive and relatively easy as I never do anything more complicated than the intermediate class.  I like Salsa music and I enjoy the dance and the best part is that it is improvised and led by a man.  I don’t have to think too much about it.  It took me a couple of years to be comfortable with this dance and to be able to add embellishments with my arms with ease.

Argentine Tango is also an improvised dance and my favourite.  Most of the classes I have been to would start with some basic moves or exercises and then eventually would lead to learning a sequence.  I do not believe I am the best partner to have in these classes as my mind tends to wander.  I am completely useless in assisting my leader when he doesn’t get it right.  I will follow what he leads, but it isn’t what is always taught in the class.  I am not capable of showing him the correct way to do things.  I know what I am supposed to do when someone leads and that is it.  I will never be a leader or teacher of Argentine Tango if it means I have to remember steps and sequences as I just cannot do it.  Don’t even tell me the name of a step as I will not remember it.  These are just some of the reasons I no longer take classes.  The leader in most classes will not be able to do what is asked of him in class, but even if I follow what he does ask me, surely that is no bad thing?  Why does he have to learn the move exactly the way the teacher wants him to?  If he is doing a move that is similar and having me move in the direction of his intention, that should be a good start.

As I am living in the land of no Argentine Tango (Eastbourne) I am compromising and dancing to what is available to me: Salsa and Ceroc.  I enjoy the social aspects of these dances and some of the music.  In any event, it keeps me moving.  Ceroc/LeRoc/Modern Jive or whatever you want to call it is pretty easy to learn.  I went to a few classes when I was living in London.  My salsa helped me pick it up quickly.  I went to a few classes when I moved here as it is a good way to meet people.  I no longer go to them.  I don’t get anything from it and I can’t remember what I am supposed to do in the routine if it isn’t led properly.  I follow my leader.  They teach it the same everywhere you go.  I don’t like to do anything fancy and most of the guys dance the same way to most songs, so it is easy for me.

However, I am back to having trouble with choreography since I took up belly dancing.  Belly dancing is also improvised, but my teacher works on a choreographed routine over a period of five weeks – to make it more fun she says.  Also, the class is structured like an aerobic workout.  We do a warm-up and stretching, then we do our moves (basically we follow our leader), then we work on the routine, then we have a cool-down and another stretch.  We are constantly moving to music.  The only time the music stops is when we are being shown what comes next in the dance.  Then we take it from the top  each time until we go throught the whole dance.  It is amazing how much hip action can be packed into an hour.  I had a private lesson in order to understand how to do the basic moves correctly as there is no time to really work on that in the classes.  When I first started, I found it very difficult to follow my teacher as I didn’t know what to expect next.  I also came into a routine half way through.  I could have become frustrated, but I just said to myself ‘the heck with it’ and just trundled or shimmied along as best as I could.  When she started introducing arm movements my brain froze and my body along with it, so I just tried to focus on one thing at a time.  It’s easy to sway your hips, but then add a walk, and then arms!  That was just too much.  However, I have persevered and feel that I am finally making some headway, not much, but some and that is a start.  I suppose that is the upside to repetition.  My body is remembering what my hips are supposed to do, so now I can start thinking about my arms more.  I am also starting to get into the music with the dance.  Before, I was just trying to focus on what I had to do and the music was kind of incidental.  Now I am more relaxed and allowing myself to feel the music with the movement.  Learning the movement of belly dance is a whole new realm for me.  Although it is improvised, we are learning choreography and adding new elements of the dance into our repertoire.  There is so much to learn, but a lot of it is repetition.  Even so, I don’t find it easy to remember what I am supposed to do, but then again, I haven’t been doing it for very long.

The goal is to be in touch with my inner goddess.  One day I will move based on how the music inspires me.  The dance will not be led by a man and there won’t be a special dance for each song.  I will improvise my own dance and the music will be my leader and inspiration.

Now, if I can just remember what comes after the camel walk…

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