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  

LeRoc and Tango... a Perfect Match

12 Feb 2018 - by Graham

When we first started teaching Argentine Tango alongside LeRoc, even we had to wonder if we were doing the right thing. They are such dissimilar dances that there couldn't possibly be any crossover, and we were concerned that we were splitting the class for no reason. LeRoc is an open dance whereas tango is very close; LeRoc is all about hitting the beat, whereas Tango has much more flexibility and space in the dance; LeRoc is constructed of moves and set pieces, whereas in Tango the elements are tiny and subtle; and most importantly you can learn to dance LeRoc at a basic level in a few weeks, but Tango can take much much longer. So how could they possibly work together?

As it turns out, they really do. We had been looking at the differences, but there are at least as many similarities and points of contact between the two dances, and we soon began to see the line between them start to blur.


Both dances have a high dependence on balance, but it can be quite a difficult thing to teach in LeRoc. Finding your balance point in Tango can be done slowly as there isn't the same dependence on hitting the beat every time, and this gives you time to find out what it feels like. The same goes for keeping your weight on one foot or the other, as that's an essential technique in both dances but is easier to practise at slow speed in Tango.


Although Tango isn't an on-every-beat sort of dance, being able to dance in time with the music is still a big part of it. Learning to find the beat in tango can be a challenge as you spend most of the time concentrating on your balance and trying to remove bounce, but in LeRoc it's right there front and centre. You step on the beat, on every beat, and if there's any bounce in the dance it's in time with the music.


In LeRoc, Frame is often taught as a secondary thing, something you move onto when you've mastered the basics. But this causes problems as the whole "follow your hands" approach in LeRoc doesn't work if the frame isn't there. In Tango, however, the first thing you learn is frame as the dance doesn't work without it, and although the frame in Tango is body-to-body whilst the LeRoc version is arm-to-arm, the principle is the same.


A fundamental part of any dance is musical interpretation, but in leRoc this is often only taught in specialist workshops or advanced classes. In Tango the concept of musicality is built in from the start, and the techniques you learn there can be applied just as easily to LeRoc as they can Tango.

And these are just a few of the ways that LeRoc and Argentine Tango work together and complement each other, so despite our concerns at the start it soon became obvious that LeRoc and Argentine Tango worked together a lot better than we expected. But more than that, we've seen how you love the format of the classes, and that alone would be enough to convince us that we've got it right.

Jivebeat LeRoc and Argentine Tango... an unusual combination that's here to stay.

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: LeRoc  Tango  

Why Go to Classes When You Know How To Dance?

30 Jan 2018 - by Graham

Something you hear often at freestyles and dance events is people saying that they "only go to freestyles these days" because they "already know how to dance". They never go to classes any more having learned how to dance Modern Jive back in 2006, and they don't really see the point of learning it all over again. At first glance it may seem that they have made the right decision... why, after all, would you pay to go to classes to learn something you already know how to do? But is that really how it works for dance? Can we just learn it once and dance it forever, or do we need to keep ourselves up to date?

I have been to any number of freestyles and social dances over the years, and I have met a few people like this at every event. One of us will ask the other to dance, we'll head out onto the dance floor with high expectations, and half a minute later I've been kicked in the shins, had my thumb bent back on itself, and found that no amount of leading will persuade my follower to do anything other than a First Move, a Basket, and somewhat inexplicably a Double Pretzel. My experience is largely with followers, but my regular dance partner tells me the same is true of leaders as well. She comes back with tales of death-grips, flick-spins that nearly dislocated joints, and a lead that felt more like a bulldozer than dancing. And don't even get me started on dips and leans. You see followers that throw themselves into dips the leader wasn't expecting, and leaders forcing people off balance with no support and no consideration of whether that's something they wanted to do. It is, to put it simply, dangerous.

And without fail, when you talk to these people they all say "Oh, I don't go to classes any more as I learned back in [insert year here] and it's all the same anyway."


Dance is a Sport

If you watch anyone practising their chosen sport you will see that they start almost every session with the basics. Snooker players pot a single ball over and over while their coach checks their cue action for problems; footballers kick balls around cones; boxers skip and punch bags before they go anywhere near an opponent; racing drivers spend hours in the simulator. Whatever their sport, anyone who is even slightly serious about participating will spend more time working on the fundamentals than anything else, because without the fundamentals the rest will never work properly.

Whether you dance competitively or just for the social pleasure of it all, dance is still a sport. It requires a good understanding of how your body moves, a good awareness of those around you, and finely tuned reactions to the large number of inputs you are subjected to on the dance floor. The way you react to those inputs will change over time as your body changes because of exercise or simply because you are getting a bit older, so you need constant revision to make sure you stay on the right track.

Bad Habits

We all pick up bad habits in whatever we do, and dance is no exception. We get lazy with our lead, we anticipate with our follow, and we give or take the wrong signals because it has "always worked like that" when dancing with the same few partners for year on year. But just because it worked "back then" or "with her" doesn't mean it's right or that it will work with anyone else. We all need regular input from someone who knows what they are doing and knows how the dance is supposed to work to correct the little flaws and shortcuts that creep into our routines. 

Dance Evolves

All dance styles go through periods of fashion where some moves are popular one year and then barely seen for the next decade. The way we lead and respond to the lead can adapt and change over time, as new teaching styles become popular and new techniques are brought into the dance. This can be in response to the change in popularity of certain types of music, because new teachers have appeared on the scene that have inspired others to change their approach, or even as a result of a policy change from organisers to try to make things "different". But whatever the cause, this means that the dance you learned ten years ago when you first started is unlikely to be the same dance that people are learning now, and this can lead to some very unsatisfying (and potentially hazardous) dances.

We Forget Things

No matter how good we think our memories are, we all forget things. I can't even remember what I had for lunch last week, let alone what a dance teacher told me a decade ago about weight transfer and frame. Without regular reminders of the fundamentals we start making things up to fill in the gaps, and before you know it you'll only be able to dance with the same three people you dance with every week. No-one else will make any sense to you!

So whatever you do, wherever and however seriously you want to dance, keep up with the fundamentals. Even if it's only for one lesson every few weeks just for a refresher session, find a class you like and join in with the beginners. It will transform your dancing and make it much more enjoyable for you, for your partner, and maybe even for everyone else on the dance floor!

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Fundamentals  Classes  

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