Thames Valley Tango: High Wycombe

Class Date: Monday 25th May 2009

Location: Adams Park, Hillbottom Road, High Wycombe, Bucks HP12 4HJ (Map)

Cost: £9

Introduction

I've been meaning to try the Thames Valley Tango classes for ages - ever since this review last year in fact. So last night I finally bit the bullet.

Getting there

Adam's Park is the High Wycombe's football club venu (Wycombe Wanderers if you're interested). So there's plenty of parking, and to get there you simply follow the football signs. The directions on the TVT site are quite good.

The venue

The previous review describes this well. I was also greeted by the teacher, Charles - it's a good touch to do this, often teachers don't bother.

The classes

The structure is as follows:

  • 6.30 - 7:30: Practica time
  • 7.30 - 8:30: Class 1 (Beginners)
  • 8.30 - 9:30: Class 2 (Intermediates)
  • 9.30 - 10:20: Class 3 (Advanced)
  • 10:20 - Practice time

The teachers do define what requirements are relevant for attending each class, which is nice.

I missed most of the beginner class, but I was there for Class 2 and 3.

Class 2: Vals

We experimented changing from parallel-walking to crossed-walking, using the cross-step as a change point. Quite elegant, really, I can't remember if I've learned that before (it seeems so obvious, I'd be surprised if it hadn't been taught), but it's certainly something I'll work on in future.

We spent a little while simply walking on the "one" beat of a vals track, ensuring we could all hear it, and move to the beat.

We then spent some time on quick-quick-slow walking, stepping on the 1 and the 2, then the 1 again: "1 (Step) - 2 (Step) - 3 - 1 (Step)", then attempting to fit this timing in during the dance.

Irina talked about the musical phrasing, the beats of four - we practiced pausing where relevant to these.

Charles repeatedly emphasized the importance of keeping it simple.

Class 3: Close embrace

The class thinned-out dramatically at this point - from 15+ couples, down to about 7-8.

We repeated the exercise in the previous class (changing from parallel-walking to crossed-walking, using the cross-step as a change point), but in close embrace.

We then tried a new step ("Empulcada"? I think, something like that), which can be done from crossed-walking, basically putting a bit of "swing" into the follower's outside (left) foot when going back. The trick is for the leader to use a curved motion with his right foot when stepping forwards - placing the right foot beyond her front (left) foot before she steps back onto her right foot. The "swinging" motion should then simply happen naturally.

Oh, and the trick is also not to step on your partners foot...

We then extended this swinging motion, to turn into a lead for a back cross - then change-of-weight. The trick with this was not to "swing extra wide", but to provide a motion to the follower of "back then around", in a U-shape. This gives a lovely way to get out of crossed walking, and back into parallel walking.

We finished with working on these movements and adding them to our dancing.

Overall comments

The atmosphere at this class was lovely. The best word I can come up with is "gentle". There was no rush, there were no sets of frantic sequences to learn, there was no problem with communication - just focussing on the rhythm and the basic technique. It's a welcome change from most of the classes in London. Paul and Michiko's classes at the Crypt are quite similar in tone, I think; and it may be no coincidence that those classes tend to produce very good dancers.

Charles did introduce the music, which was good, and which gave a feel for the music and the purpose behind it - very informative.

The dancers were all pleasant, and even though the middle class was quite crowded (30+ people), there were few floorcraft issues.

We spent a lot of time dancing; fitting a concept into our dancing, and being given the time to do so. This is great as it ensures that we can actually use a concept, and hopefully we'll find it easier to adopt it at milongas.

A good class, I'd recommend it, and I'll be going again.

More details: www.thamesvalleytango.co.uk.

- David Bailey, May 26th 2009

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