Jacqui's Journey

One: Let the Dance Begin

15th November 2008

The first in (hopefully) a series of entries, describing a follower's journey into the world of Tango from Modern Jive.

The world of Ceroc filled a desperate gap in my life when I needed it, and the addiction has grown now to other genres of dance. For a while I have been totally engrossed in watching couples tango at various freestyle evenings and I find myself sitting and observing and being mesmerized by this style of dance more and more.

Having toyed with the idea of starting tango classes I now feel ready to take on a new challenge. Being prone to putting pen to paper and writing my thoughts to justify my feelings, I have decided to diarise my new venture, and so I begin.

Where to start?

I have researched, Googled, listened to advice until my brain is on overload.

So many choices, everyone it seems, has a different recommendation and they are all plausible and valid.

Then there are other aspects to consider:

  • days that are viable
  • times that are suitable
  • venues that are accessible

- together with the fact that if I do these extra lessons something has to give, my husband who has an aversion to anything dance related would not be happy for me to vanish for yet another night of self-indulgence, which means Ceroc freestyles will have to be cut down.

Ho hum, why can't utopia be a real place where we can all self indulge 24/7 and still fulfil all our responsibilities?

Oh such trials and tribulations and I haven't even started yet!

- Jacqui Jacobs, 15th November 2008

Two: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail

10th December 2008

So having decided to 'go for it', thought I should start by doing a bit of research but this time with the goal of making a final decision. My first port of call was to check out the jivetango website, created for those who are interested in switching from modern jive to a little Tango, actually lots of Tango, it does on all accounts seem to take over somewhat.

Yikes, reading all the reviews and choice of classes - again a bit of brain overload as far as the information goes.

Then I checked out the 'Learning Tango' thread on the Ceroc Scotland Forum.

I thought it was fair enough to start from the last few pages as there are a mere 1,600 entries. Wow, all the proper names being used for the various moves and positions, I can't even remember what an 'accordion comb pull crab' is in Ceroc, but this, it is in another language to make it even more complicated!

I don't even know my milongas from my practicas, in fact, I am impressed that I even have the knowledge of the aforementioned words in the first place. If that wasn't daunting enough the people partaking in the discussions seem pretty proficient in the way they are talking and what is more they all understand exactly what each other is saying, I could actually imagine them all nodding and rubbing their chins whilst being really immersed in the conversation... and then there is me.

They are professing to be 'Learning Tango' but to me it comes across that they are pretty well taught!

I will carry on regardless, I am not stupid and not one to give up, so putting that to one side I am of the opinion that I will pick it up as I go along (such an optimist), a minor hurdle I feel.

Finally and probably stupidly, I started delving in to checking out videos and snippets on YouTube and various Google links, way out of my league but so beautiful to watch. My thought was 'Am I kidding myself here? Would I be better sticking to what I know?' but in true Jacqui style have convinced myself not to be defeated before I have even started. So onwards and upwards.

Perhaps too much knowledge is a bad thing...

- Jacqui Jacobs, 10th December 2008

Three: not a failure until you give up trying

11th January 2009

Finally I got it sorted. I actually only had two nights during the week with which to play with, and one of those I have always put aside as a 'Ceroc' night, so that left me with a choice of one night unless of course I sacrificed my usual dance evening which is now looking inevitable.

So to cut a long story short finally went to my first lesson. First impression was that it was a lovely intimate venue and on walking in, one of life's strange coincidences saw someone I knew from the world of Ceroc that I recognised, who was also trying Tango for the first time, it was reassuring to know that I wasn't the only Tango virgin!

I was a good 20 minutes early but the people running the class were really nice and friendly - I told them I was an absolute beginner, with not an inkling of knowledge, and they put me at ease straight away.

Whilst waiting they did try the hard sell and took me straight over to an area where they were selling shoes and before I knew it I was trying on a pair in every colour and style - falling in love with all of them - I then thought, 'hang on a minute I've more or less just walked in the door, haven't danced one step of Tango and being coerced into paying £120.00 for shoes for a venture I may yet find is not for me'.

There were quite a few people hanging around by this stage, they all chatted to me and promised as a 'newbie' to give me a dance later on in the evening, which I thought was really nice.

The class started, it was for 'improvers' first, so I sat watching, they were all so good and the class was in the same sort of format as a Ceroc one. Not understanding the intricacies' of it all thought it looked relatively easy and that I could actually do it with a little practice. I was thinking nice atmosphere, intimate feel, yep I could see me coming on a regular basis.

Then the beginner's class started only two or three extra ladies so that was not too bad, in fact better than I thought. We were shown a basic routine - didn't take it all in, just copied what I was seeing - so no technique involved really - got through the class and a lot of the partners I danced with said I was good at following and that built my confidence. So lesson over it carried on for a 'Milonga' (freestyle to me, but hey I'm doing Tango now, so need to use the right terms!).

Well... all the guys from the beginner class and the ones I met prior to the start of the lessons didn't come near or by me for a dance, and understanding the rule that women don't ask men to dance sat like a lemon for most of the time left. If it hadn't been for the couple of guys I knew from Ceroc and the other new beginner I wouldn't have had any time on the dance floor at all. Even the teacher took me for one dance and was quite put out that I didn't know any signals and didn't have a clue what a 'cross' was and this was after the conversation we had when I had first arrived.

So..... to sum up - glad I went, glad I wasn't cajoled into buying the shoes, loved the venue, love the dance, love the music but didn't feel any warmth from fellow 'Tangoists' and thought the class didn't do anything but give me a little more of an in depth feel of 'Tango'.

It certainly didn't inspire me to return to this particular class.....don't want to burn my bridges there though, will possibly give it a try when I am a bit more experienced to see if I get a different vibe, but as a beginner definitely not.

Ho hum back to research to find one that is more for me.

- Jacqui Jacobs, 11th January 2009

Four: Even a Marathon Starts With The First Step

17th February 2009

So onwards and upwards...during a conversation a friend mentioned to me that if I wasn't getting good vibes from one place don't think they are all the same, I just needed to find one out there that suited me better. Logical reasoning really.

Anyway she suggested that once a month there was a meeting up of Modern Jivers who get together at a Tango club in London, Negracha's to be exact and that I would love it because there would be friendly faces, some of whom I would know, so would be assured of some dances in a friendly atmosphere.

I mentioned this to other friends who said I would be out of my depth, so really was in two minds, but it was also a bit like waving a red flag to a bull and I decided to give it a go, in for a penny - in for a pound!

So, got there, not a pleasant journey I have to say and was thinking 'am I mad'? Full of trepidation joined in the 'beginners' class. It was fabulous, no partner dancing at all to begin with, just pure technique of walking and posture. Spent about 40 minutes doing forward, backward and side steps. The teacher was very helpful, watching everyone individually and picking up on where they were going wrong. I was already feeling more confident.

Went straight on and stayed for the next lesson, which was 'improving beginners', thought that I could always sit out if it was too much. Coped perfectly well, in fact loved every minute. This was definitely for me.

I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed the evening. I met the other Modern Jivers, who had the patience to give me whirls on the dance floor - it was a lovely, social and pleasurable evening.

I was even asked to dance by a couple of the regulars of the club, I danced with one guy in particular, fabulous connection and it carried on for about six tracks. Felt even better afterwards when it was pointed out to me the 'politics' of the one, two or three dances with the same partner, I was chuffed.

So in a nutshell - brilliant evening and I can't wait for the next one. The evening flew by I had actually been there for nigh on 7 hours by the time I left...2 am!! Still felt I could have gone on longer. The classes suited me to a tee, but I wouldn't want to go without the friendly faces of the other Modern Jivers.

Well at least it is a firm date once a month. I feel like from having one foot on the first rung of the ladder I now have two and am ready to climb.

- Jacqui Jacobs, 16th February 2009

Five: It Certainly Does Take Two to Tango

20th March 2009

So with only a couple of lessons under my belt and that wonderful evening at Negracha I was on my way to a Ceroc weekender, a little escape that I have twice a year. I was really excited to find out that there was going to be a 'Milonga' planned for one of the nights and with memories of Negracha still warming my thoughts and believing that with having plenty of MJ'ers around it would be along the same lines ( in as much as having plenty of guys to dance with), and that I was in for a couple of fabulous hours.

Well I was bitterly disappointed, any confidence that I had was completely taken away from me. I was asked for a couple of dances but couldn't read the signals at all and I was awful. Whilst going through the fact finding on Tango before I even started I read that the woman doesn't have to think at all - just flow, the man takes total control, well yes in theory perhaps, but I just felt that some of the leads and signals were so very subtle and not clear at all , so with soft leads and my little knowledge and experience it was dire.

Instead of leaving and heading for the safe haven of the blues room I decided to stand at the by-lines to observe and learn.

I was chatting to two really nice guys, one was a relative beginner but still way ahead of me and the other was very competent and knowledgeable in Tango, he certainly knew his stuff. He did me the honour of one dance but that was his limit on the 'charity' dances, at least that was how it felt.

My confidence already shot we carried on talking and I sunk even lower when I was pointing out ladies whom I thought were really good and he was showing me all the things they were doing wrong, it opened my eyes even more, I knew it was not going to be easy but it just seems that as a dance everything has to be so perfectly correct and precise, you can't just 'swing it'. It has to be spot on. Can everyone do everything to perfection all of the time?

They said the Tango journey was full of ups and downs - I am starting to realise how so but I didn't think the feelings would be so intense....let's hope I'm on my way for an 'up' ?

- Jacqui Jacobs, 20th March 2009

Six: Practice makes perfection

Trying to put my 'weekender' experience behind me, I decided that I had to find somewhere else to go for lessons. Another friend recommended yet another place and I thought I'd give it a try, fingers crossed, the right class for me must be somewhere...

When I arrived, which was much too early (I am so keen), I was made to feel very welcome. The teachers let me sit and watch them go over what they intended to cover in the lesson. I was the only one there for quite a while and was beginning to think I'd come a cropper again, and that it wasn't going to suit me, but then again on the other hand, for today at least, I would get some 'one on one' tuition.

It seemed all at once everyone arrived and the session began. There was a nice number of people, about twenty or so, and we started with a 15 minute warm up, which was helpful and it got me in the 'tango' mindset. The class went on for over an hour, we covered walking and basic steps with emphasis on posture and hold. Everyone was moved around constantly and the teachers themselves mingled within the class, not just watching but actually partnering individuals both as lead and follow to give everyone personal help and advice.

A couple of simple adornments/decorations were shown for both the male and female dancers and I was made to feel confident enough to use them. After the class, a Milonga followed for basically as long as we wanted which was fabulous and although quite a few left straight away, I found the ones that stayed behind were friendly and supportive. Some were just as inexperienced as I, others were a bit more practiced but were only too happy to dance with everyone.

All in all it was a nice venue with very willing and helpful teachers, it was just right for me and after my last 'Tango' jaunt it was just what I needed to make me feel better about my new partnership with the dance.

With Tango it never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to be simple. Practise makes perfect, so they say, and it's going to take an awful lot more practise but at least now I think I have found the place to do it...boy oh boy what a rollercoaster of emotions.

- Jacqui Jacobs, 27th April 2009

Seven: Twice as Nice

My next Tango 'fix' was back to Negracha for a second visit.

I made sure that I arrived early for the beginners class again and really enjoyed it, once more I found the teachers there very helpful. The class was focussed on body positioning, getting good tension between yourself and your partner and the correct etiquette for getting around the dance floor was also explained and clarified.

Like before I went on to do the next class for the improving beginners which also brought to the table disassociation, which at the beginning I found to be quite hard but by the end the lesson I was becoming quite adept at twisting my upper and lower body in opposite directions!

For the rest of the evening and once again I must say far in to the early hours of the next morning, it was a lovely social and fun vibe going on. There were some of the same faces as before joining the 'MJ' group meet up, and the addition of a few new ones too, bringing with it such a lovely atmosphere, we even had cake. I took some lovely photo's too, to remember the evening by.

A little later on we were told to venture upstairs as there was a cabaret about to start and what an amazing show it was. I feel very ashamed that I cannot recall their names but I was absolutely awestruck by their performance, I realise that is was a routine for 'showcase' purposes but it was exquisite to watch.

So Negracha wasn't a one off.

I thoroughly enjoyed another fabulous evening there. I really think that with a good crowd and a venue with an excellent feel about it, it can really boost your self esteem no end, which in turn relaxes you and you can dance that little bit better, and if you don't at least it doesn't make it feel like an awful night.....and it makes the horrible journey getting there and back worthwhile

- Jacqui Jacobs, 3rd June 2009

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