Tango Synthesis is Here!

22 Apr 2018 - by Graham

As most people probably know by now, when I started teaching tango at Jivebeat it was almost entirely by accident. A random decision to give the regulars at Sevenoaks a tango taster class one evening (you can read about that here) soon became a regular feature, and pretty soon more people were finding us because of the tango than were finding us for modern jive. This was not a problem for us as we love teaching both, but after a few months we started to realise that people were being confused by the name. Tango at Jivebeat...? Is it really tango? Is it "modern jive in a tango style"? How can modern jive and tango be even slightly compatible?

We hadn't thought of this, as since we knew what we were doing we just assumed everyone else would as well. Jive and tango are two separate classes that happen one after the other, and although the music we play varies from week to week we always try to get at least a few crossover tracks into the playlist so people can choose what they want to dance even in the same track. It made sense to us, but a couple of months ago when we were talking to people who had been actively looking for tango classes but who had skimmed over Jivebeat purely because of the name, we realised it was time to make a few changes.

And so Tango Synthesis was born.

If you already come to Jivebeat for our regular classes or X-Tango Milongas then other than a few logo changes you probably won't notice a lot of difference. Tango Synthesis is made up of all the same people as Jivebeat, with the same class format and no plans to split things up any differently to the way they are organised now. Membership, the loyalty scheme, prepayments, and everything else will continue to be run under the Jivebeat name, but advertising and branding of our tango classes and events will change.

Tango content will start to move onto the Tango Synthesis website, but for now it will continue to be on the Jivebeat site as well so Jivebeat remains the one-stop-shop for everything we do. This may change in a few months though as everyone gets used to the new branding, so if tango interests you then start finding the Tango Synthesis website, our pages on Facebook, and any other social media accounts that we may announce.

Welcome to Tango Synthesis! The new home for Jivebeat Tango.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Tango  Nuevo  Neotango  

Our First X-Tango Milonga

26 Mar 2018 - by Graham

On Friday the 23rd March 2018, we held our first X-Tango Alternative Milonga at our regular venue in Sevenoaks. This venture into the world of tango freestyle evenings - milongas - was something new for us and we had no idea how it would be received. How many people like dancing tango to modern or nuevo music? Would anyone come to a tango event run by an organisation with such a non-tango name as "Jivebeat"? Would anyone else like the music I play? But we have been promising ourselves that we would try something like this ever since we introduced tango to Jivebeat classes back in the summer of 2017, so it was about time we got on and did it.

We need not have worried. We had slightly over 40 people that turned up, and it was great to see that people had travelled from all over Kent and Sussex to come and dance with us. You can have a look at some of the photos we took during the evening at the link below...

See the Pictures

We started the evening with a short warm-up routine and a "get you started" class for anyone new to tango. Then at around 8.45pm we dimmed the lights, turned up the music, and for the rest of the evening it was down to me as DJ to keep you all entertained. Obviously I'm not going to say anything about how good the music was as reviewing my own DJ set would be weird 😉, but everyone - including me - seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I'll count that as a win!

We'd also like to give a big thank you to Libusha of Libertas Atelier for bringing all her wonderful tango and dance fashion creations along. If you didn't get a chance to look at them properly at the venue then why not go and have a browse around her online collection. Click the link below to view her store on Etsy...

Libertas Atelier - Etsy store

Next Event

Our next X-Tango event at Sevenoaks will be on Friday the 27th April 2018, starting at 8pm as before. The warm-up class will be a little shorter next time, so the dance floor will be yours from around 8.30pm.

See you there!

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: X-Tango  Milonga  Alternative  Tango  

X-Tango - Alternative Milonga

12 Mar 2018 - by Graham

It has been a long while coming, but we have finally announced our first X-Tango Alternative Milonga, and it's going to be on the 23rd March 2018 in Sevenoaks, in place of our usual weekly class. But what do we mean by X-Tango? What is the difference between that and regular Argentine Tango? And why are we calling the milonga alternative?

The Argentine Tango we dance and teach at Jivebeat is the same Argentine Tango that you will find anywhere else. Yes, if you come to our class you may find that we put the emphasis in different places to where you might expect, and just like everyone else who teaches tango we have developed our own teaching style. But the dance itself is the same dance you will learn in Buenos Aires, Brighton, Bromley, or Bangalore, no matter how traditional or nuevo (modern) your class might be.

The way we teach and promote tango is definitely more 'nuevo' than traditional, and this is reflected in the music we use in our classes. There is a strong tradition in tango that you should primarily dance it to music especially written for that purpose, and preferably music written and released in the Golden Age (from around 1935-1952) by a very select group of orchestras. There is nothing wrong with this at all, and it creates an atmosphere that is highly evocative of the traditional tango clubs that formed in that time. But we believe tango is a dance that also deserves to be enjoyed and experienced with as wide a range of music as possible, so the music we play at our classes and our events leans in a rather different direction.

We play blues, jazz, popular, electronica, metal, and no doubt many other genres too... if the track works for tango then we play it. In fact about the only style we rarely play is traditional tango music from Argentina. This musical mixture means that we sometimes see people dancing other styles at the same time as most people are dancing tango, as some tracks are suitable for more than one flavour of dance. LeRoc, ballroom, traditional jive... we have seen them all in the same room as people dancing tango. And that's more than fine by us!

So welcome to our first X-Tango Alternative Milonga. We could have called it a Neotango or Nuevo Tango event, but as the jury is still out on whether they are general terms or are used to refer to something specific in tango history, we thought we would come up with something a bit different. We tried a few names, and 'X-Tango' seemed the most popular. So it stuck.

If you like tango and want to dance it to something a bit more recent or 'up to date' than usual, then come to Jivebeat on the 23rd!

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Tango  Nuevo  Neotango  X-Tango    

New Schedule: More Tango!

26 Feb 2018 - by Graham

We listen, and we respond. After a few queries about what classes we are running and how suited they are to absolute beginners, we are making a few tweaks to the timing of our class nights that will hopefully make everything a little more user-friendly. Don't worry... we're not losing anything, so we will still be teaching LeRoc and Tango and there will still be plenty of freestyle and practice time. But a number of people have told us that they can't see themselves starting to learn Argentine Tango without a dedicated "beginners" class, as joining into our existing "beginners & progressives" class first time is too scary. So we thought it was about time we did something about that, and here it is!

Starting this week we are going to be adjusting our schedule slightly to fit in a 20-minute "Argentine Tango Fundamentals" session into our class nights, so get out your diaries, sharpen your pencils, and take note... 

Our doors will continue to open at 7.45pm at all our evening venues (as they always have), but after that we're going to be packing things in a bit more than we have up to now. Times may vary a little, but this is what we're aiming for...

  • 7.55pm - Warm up. We will start the evening off with our usual warm-up routine at 7.55pm to get you going, as there is nothing quite like a few stretches to loosen things up before the dancing starts.
  • 8.00pm - LeRoc class. We will begin with the basics as always, then give you a few moves ranging from one of the fundamentals to something a bit more challenging.
  • 8.30pm - LeRoc practice session. Music for a few minutes whilst we sort ourselves out, grab a drink, and check in any late arrivals.
  • 8.40pm - Tango Fundamentals. A dedicated session for the absolute basics of Argentine tango, looking at walking, frame, hold, and some introductory steps and concepts. There will be a short gap at the end of this class for people to grab a drink and anything else that may be in our tuck shop (or the bar at Norwood).
  • 9.00pm - Tango Progressives. This will be our usual tango class, where we start with something fairly straightforward and then add to it and expand it throughout the session. We will keep everything accessible and where possible we will link it to the Fundamentals class to make the transition easier for anyone who wants to give it a go.
  • 10:00pm - Freestyle and Practice. Unchanged from our current structure, this will be the freestyle, social, music, and practice part of the evening. We will start off with some Tango-specific tracks for anyone who wants to concentrate on what they've just been learning, then play our usual mix of Tango, leRoc, and Crossover music until the end. If you want one-to-one help then come and find any of the crew and we will go through anything with you that you like.
  • 11.00pm - Close.

In theory this doesn't reduce our time available for doing anything. We have been letting things drift a bit at the start on some nights and the LeRoc class has often been around 30-40 mins long, so all this does is tighten up the schedule and make sure we get started on time.

And hopefully it will encourage new people to join us on our Argentine Tango journey.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Tango  Argentine Tango  Teaching  

Why is Tango So Hard?

19 Feb 2018 - by Graham

Something we see and hear a lot in tango classes is frustration with the rate of progress that people feel they are making. People come along for a few weeks and enjoy the lessons, but the more they learn the more they realise how much they don't know and they start to wonder what's going wrong. Simple things like walking become a challenge, and we start to hear things like "I don't think tango is my dance", and "I'm never going to get this" by the end of the evening. A lot of this comes from their experiences with learning LeRoc and the rapid progress most people seem to make when they begin to learn it, but is the comparison justified? Or is it only natural that we find learning tango harder than learning LeRoc?

LeRoc is a dance made up of large confident moves, and the size and frequency of the steps tends to remain fairly consistent when dancing to any given piece of music. The "step back, step in" of the basic step sequence is like a switch - it's either one way or the other - and assuming you can tap your foot to the beat of the music it's relatively easy to pick up at least the basics. The lead in LeRoc again is big and confident; you can teach leading beginners to "use big bold arm movements", and following beginners to "follow their arms" early on, and it will soon feel like dancing. The detail in LeRoc, like weight changes, hesitation, and frame, can be added later on once people have already learned how to dance, so progression feels rapid, at least in the early stages.

But tango is different. Tango is a dance of detail. If your weight is too far back or your frame is too loose or open then tango simply doesn't work, so you need to get at least the basics of these things right very early on, and that can be frustrating. You keep treading on your partner's toes so you start concentrating too much on the feet and don't realise the problem is in your frame or your body position. You can't lead an ocho or turn without almost bending double, but try to fix it by moving your arms instead of by twisting your torso more and keeping upright. Everything seems counter-intuitive and the frustration begins to kick in as you try to apply the things you learned in LeRoc to the world of tango, with all the wrong results.

So how do you avoid the frustration? How do you enjoy learning something when your teacher keeps reminding you that "In Buenos Aires you spend a year just learning how to walk", and just when you think that you've worked out where your feet are supposed to go he then adds "Stop thinking about your feet; there are no 'steps' in tango, only movement!"?

Start by concentrating on the basics. Try the bigger stuff from time to time in the classes because it's always worth having a go and stretching yourself a bit, but spend the majority of your time looking at the fundamentals. When you see tango danced on the stage or on Strictly at Christmas it's a big, bold, dramatic dance with all the flicks and tricks throughout, but that's not the tango you will generally see danced in local social dances. There you will see a lot of walking, maybe a few ochos, some rock steps, and then more walking. So get those things right and everything else will begin to fall into place.

But mostly... enjoy yourself. It's dance, and dance is there to enjoy and have fun with, so don't let that get away from you. Find a class or venue that plays music you like, whether that's traditional Argentinian music from the Golden Age of Tango or something much more modern and Nuevo. Find a teacher you like, as everyone will have their own teaching style and ways of explaining things. Go with friends, or make new ones when you get there. And laugh about it when you get it wrong.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Tango  Argentine Tango  Difficult  

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