Interview - Marc Forster

Marc Forster, with his partner Rachel, are well-known on the Ceroc scene as both the inventors of "Cuban Blues" style, and as stylish and innovative teachers, DJs and dancers.

More recently, they have become involved in the Tango scene, and they are now hosting regular Milongas at Ceroc weekenders. Research into their recent "Taste of Tango" workshop has opened the door to understanding why Tango is the most passionate of dance styles.

I caught up with Marc at Berkhamstead one Sunday, for a brief chat about all things Tango...

Why did you start learning Argentine Tango?

While on a dance holiday back in 2005, we had guest teachers arrive midweek. Both Natalia and Ivan (Ivan Arandia - from the Negracha club) had never seen Modern Jive before and many of us had no understanding of Argentine Tango. Before that, I'd only seen it done on TV, shows like Strictly Come Dancing - so I had totally different expectations.

The skill and precision of their opening showcase dance went straight over my head. Although I was used to the more popular strains of Neo Tango music, I felt lost listening to traditional Tango. There were hardly any lifts and not one semi circle in sight!

It was interesting to observe the two different worlds of Tango and MJ coming together. We spoke about the differences about the two styles and talked particularly about the music. As the new DJ at Jango, it was the music more than the dance that sparked the initial attraction.

Amir has been a massive influence. In the early days of Hipsters I would try to copy his style. Many people may remember "The Big Love Show" which, on reflection, marked the end of an era. The idea was to have different dance styles perform side by side to create a 30 minute play with around 50 dancers in all. I was in the Adam and Taz Hip Hop team while Rachel joined Amir's Tango team. After 3 days of rehearsing we performed at the opening of Beach Boogie.

Some months later, we did a second performance of "The Big Love Show" for charity. By this time, Adam and Taz were entering the team cabaret at Britrock. The routine changed and as I couldn't make the rehearsal, they drafted in a replacement. I ended up partnering Rachel with the Tango and making new friends - so I'm not bitter about being kicked off the team! My tears of regret have long since dried on the tissues of broken dreams.

What are the best / worst parts of learning AT for you?

The best part, the turning point, was my first real turn as a follower - experiencing it in a completely manly way, of course. At the point when I was just gliding across the floor, I realized how logical Tango actually is. All the decisions are taken away from you - so you can just mentally relax and enjoy the dance.

The feeling of motion was very different to the way I've been led in MJ before. As a leader, you're so caught up in decisions, you sometimes lose the opportunity to actually experience the dance. And that experience really helped me to understand how to lead in a relaxed manner, knowing that the anticipation of the movement is just as important as the movement itself.

The worst part? It's very scary asking people to dance. In MJ, I never second guess, whereas, with Tango, I worry about the quality of my lead. There are times I connect with the music and feel like a million dollars and then the music changes dramatically and I feel I'm not hearing the same thing my partner can hear. It's a good reminder of what it's like to be a beginner again, feeling your manhood shrink before your eyes as she laughs and laughs and laughs. But I'm not bitter! The ocean of time will wash away the seashells of despair.

Why did you decide to start teaching AT?

For the Money. OK, for the scent of a woman.

Seriously, there is a relationship between MJ and AT which more than meets the eye. I have found my MJ changing as a result of the AT classes I've attended. There's a desire to understand the reasons why and incorporate this knowledge within the MJ framework. It's incredible to see the calming effect Tango induces and am amazed at how quickly people make this transition when learning the basics of Argentine Tango. What's even more amazing is the after effect when they revert back to MJ.

Back in 2004 when we first started teaching outside of our weekly class nights, I made a conscious effort to take risks with our teaching in order to find out where the boundaries lie. As the years go on, this ideology of taking risks still kicks in so when we were asked to come up with a specialist workshop for the London crowd, the words Tango just came out of my mouth. Our choreographed Tango style routines have gone down well and the initial intention was to extend upon this base.

Rachel was ecstatic when I found a Sunday AT class we could go to. I did the beginners' classes and felt alright but the reality of being a beginner in a new dance form challenged all my previous preconceptions of what Tango actually is.

The road to that first workshop was intense. With the help of our friends we decided to keep it real and focus on traditional technique. To cut a long story short, the end result was worth every moment of self doubt. I have faith in the structure of AT and will continue along this path with faith in my heart and a tissue in my pocket just in case the memories of being "kicked off the team" resurface.

What's your taste in AT music?

I'm actually getting a taste for the faster tracks. MJ is a stationary dance - I like the feeling that you can travel around the floor with faster AT tracks.

I also like Blues-y elements, the slow neotango stuff.

(Marc mentioned that he has special mnemonic names for some of his Tango tracks at the moment - "Keystone Cops", "Laughing Policeman", and of course my personal favourite, the "Cry of the Lonely Squirrel". He may need to find out their proper names at some point.)

Would you consider DJ-ing at a Tango event?

Possibly. We are playing Tango early on at Berkhamsted most weeks and we do Milongas at Ceroc weekenders. But I'd need to understand the dance a lot more before I could be confident in doing that for a hardcore AT audience.

DJ'ing isn't just playing what you like - it's being able to understand the dance, and being comfortable with the type of music associated with that dance, otherwise you're second-guessing. To DJ properly, you need to accurately identify the "extremes" of music, and then find a good balance between those extremes, giving dancers music you know they can dance to, whilst continuing to keep them entertained and occasionally challenged.

What's the most difficult part of teaching AT to MJers?

Basically, for me, it's a confidence issue - because I'm a relatively recent learner in AT myself, I suffer the occasional bout of fear that I'm teaching to dancers who are more experienced than myself, which obviously doesn't help. My first class was a seriously scary experience.

On the other hand, this also makes it easier for me to teach beginners, because I know exactly what they're going through, having done this recently myself - there's more I can relate to.

And in teaching MJers, I'm also familiar with some of the common problems we experience, so I can attack those problems right at the start, hopefully giving them good advice to correct those problems.

What are your future plans?

I very much want to continue and to progress teaching Tango to MJ-ers; it's changed the way I dance, and I want to help others to do the same. There are some elementary skills and techniques which transfer to MJ very well. To me, there are a lot of similarities between MJ and AT - they're both very much lead-and-follow dances. Dancing MJ feels different - better, more sensitive - after I've done some AT.

We first started an informal Milonga at the Ceroc Storm weekender in Camber - it was a great success, and we did the same at the recent Viva Las Vegas Camber weekender; it's a regular fixture now, and it's helping me learn more about the music.

In the immediate future, we're doing another "Taste Of Tango" class at the Hafan weekender.

We're also planning to do another Tango workshop in the near future in Rugby - and when we asked our class there what they'd like to learn, "Tango" got by far the most enthusiastic response from people, so it looks like we'll be doing this more and more in the future.

 - David Bailey