Helen La Vikinga in Sheffield

•Wednesday, 8 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

UPDATED 13 NOVEMBER see below…

We’re pleased to announce that Helen “La Vikinga” Halldórsdóttir will be teaching in Sheffield for Tango in the Peaks on Thursdays 16 and 23 November. The venue is as usual: St Andrews Hall, Upper Hanover St, Sheffield, S3 7RQ. Basics class is at 7:00, Improvers/Intermediate at 8:00.

Helen will be holding a Women’s Technique Workshop on Saturday 18 November at St Andrews Hall from 2:00-3:30pm Cost £15. She is also available that day for Private Lessons for anyone who is interested. Please contact Angie Lawrence on Facebook, or angie.lawrence@icloud.com.

Helen was born in Iceland, but has been living abroad for more than 26 years, the last 11 in Argentina.

She has been teaching and taking part in tango shows with Martin Maldonado, Maurizio Ghella, Javier Guiraldi, Jorge Pahl, Walter Perez, Leonardo Sardella, Gunner Svendsen, Adrián Coria and Fernando Corrado at Tango Festivals and events in Europe, USA, Mexico and Argentina.

Helen works with Argentinean tango as a dance, as an expression, but most of all as a communication and a connection with the other, taking both the leader’s and the follower’s roles.

She teaches traditional tango to “queer” tango and everything in between. The most important is to be able to communicate with your partner and to enjoy the TANGO!

From early  on in her tango life Helen danced both lead and follow and became well known at the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires for dancing the “mens” role ☺.

Helen organised well-known milongas in Buenos Aires: La Vikinga (one of the first alternative milongas in Baires), Bien Pulenta (the first gay-friendly and smoke-free milonga in Baires) and Mano a Mano (open-minded traditional milonga).

Helen also participated in the short film: Tango que me hiciste mal, y sin embargo…

In 2014 Helen, together with Tango Adventure, organised the first TANGO Solstice Retreat in Iceland.

Beside dancing, teaching and organizing tango, Helen designs and fabricates the shoe brand La Vikinga, including both traditional shoes and sneakers.

We’re looking forward to meeting her on 16 and 23 November!

UPDATE: This is what our special guest teacher, Helen La Vikinga, is going to be teaching this week on Thursday 16 November:

7:00 to 8:00 pm – Workshop 1 Following for Leaders and Leading for Followers. This class, suitable for all levels, will teach us how to lead and how to follow, focusing on the tools and attitude required in changing roles.

8:00 to 9:00 pm – Workshop 2 Adornments and Decorations. This class, again suitable for all levels, will focus on simple additions to your dance to make your tango more fun and elegant at the same time.

SPECIAL OFFER! Anyone attending this Thursday’s classes can get a special discounted price on Helen’s Women’s Technique Workshop on Saturday. If you book your place on Thursday you can attend the Saturday workshop for only £10. (The discounted price will apply to those who have already booked, provided they attend the Thursday classes.)

Just to remind you, the Women’s Technique Workshop is on 18 November at St Andrew’s URC Hall, Upper Hanover St, Sheffield, S3 7RQ, from 2:00 to 3:30 pm.


La Recoleta Cemetery

•Wednesday, 7 June 2017 • Leave a Comment

Saturday 15 April: We caught the subte from Palermo, just around the corner from our apartment, on a beautiful sunny day. Strolled round the street market outside the cemetery, bought a couple of hand-made belts from their designer and had an early lunch before entering the cemetery through the splendid neo-classical, Doric-columned gates.

You can take a free tour, but we decided to make our own way, wandering for hours through this ‘city of the dead’ along streets lined with incredible sarcophagi and statues. The 14 acre site contains 4691 vaults, all above ground. Over ninety of them have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government.

There’s so much to see, walking along tree-lined main walkways and branching off into alleys filled with ornate mausoleums in a variety of architectural styles — Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Greek, Baroque, Neo-Gothic. Apparently most of the materials used between 1880 and 1930 in the construction of tombs were imported from Paris and Milan by the wealthy families of Buenos Aires, many of whom still maintain their own vaults. And you really do have to be wealthy to be buried here, with real estate being among the city’s most expensive. There’s a local saying that it’s cheaper to live extravagantly all your life than to be buried in La Recoleta.

Eva Peron is buried here, of course, in the rather plain tomb of the Familia Duarte, regularly decorated with flowers by visitors. Shortly after her death in 1952, President Juan Peron was overthrown by a military coup and the plans for a magnificent memorial were discarded. ‘Peronism’ was banned and Evita’s embalmed body removed from display and apparently ‘lost’. Then in 1971 the military dictators revealed that she was buried in a crypt in Milan under a false name.

Juan Peron was living in exile in Spain at the time and had Evita’s body exhumed and transported to his home where he and his third wife (Eva was his second) kept it on a platform in their dining room. It wasn’t until after Juan returned to Argentina, becoming President for the third time in 1973, and his death in 1974 that Evita’s body was returned to Argentina and buried in Recoleta. Apparently many of the wealthy families of Recoleta’s other ‘residents’ weren’t too pleased about this in view of Evita’s lack of aristocracy and what were perceived as left-wing sympathies.

One final note on this subject: Peron biographers Marysa Navarro and Nicholas Fraser write that the claim is often made that her tomb is so secure that it could withstand a nuclear attack. “It reflects a fear,” they write, “that the body will disappear from the tomb and that the woman, or rather the myth of the woman, will reappear.”

Many of the mausoleums are clearly well maintained. Some, rather eerily, have photographs on the outside wall of the occupants in (presumably) happier times. Others have fallen into disrepair, with cobwebs, cracked marble, broken glass and litter. Although that and the prowling feral cats seem only to add to the strange charm of this magical necropolis — a contrast between classical magnificence and faded glories that you find in other parts of the city too.

As you stroll around you see all the popular graveyard motifs: skulls and crossed bones, marble wreaths, draped urns, gargoyles, winged hourglasses, weeping women looking adoringly up at statues of their dead men, and of course, the ubiquitous stone angels. We took many photographs, but here I’ve collected some of The Angels of Recoleta.

Mate: The National Drink of Argentina

•Monday, 5 June 2017 • Leave a Comment

Julie and I got our gourd (itself called a mate, pronounced mah-teh) at the Feria de Mataderos on our recent trip to Buenos Aires. Thanks Lucas!

Lucas and Melanie kindly seasoned the gourd for us, which apparently you must do before using it for the first time.

A traditional social drink in Argentina, mate is shared with friends. One person, the server or cebador, prepares it and takes the first drink, through the bombilla, to ensure it’s good and of the right temperature. He or she then refills the gourd and passes it to the next person.

This person drains the gourd — the bombilla making a loud sucking noise — and returns the gourd to the cebador who refills it and passes it to the next person. The ritual proceeds around the circle in this way until the mate is ‘washed out’, normally after about ten refills, depending on the quality of the yerba.

Many thanks to Melanie Jarman for her excellent instructions.

“Tango… a kind of magic going on…”

•Sunday, 4 June 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa – A Tango Project (a Sadler’s Wells production) is currently on tour in the UK.  It’s on at The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 June. We’ve booked for the Friday.

From the M¡longa website:

Deeply rooted in Argentinean culture, tango has fascinated and captivated the world with its sexuality, power and beauty.

For m¡longa, internationally celebrated choreographer and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, collaborates with an incredibly talented cast of 17 performers, uniting Argentinean tango dancers, contemporary dancers and live musicians to create a show that brings his own unique style to tango.

Milonga is the term for a tango dance party. Inspired by the late night milonga scene held in the intimate bars of Buenos Aires, Cherkaoui draws on traditional influences and adds a contemporary twist. The result is a seductive and fascinating exploration of tango for the 21st century.

More information available at www.milongatour.co.uk

Incidentally, dancers from M¡longa will be teaching a Tango Workshop Saturday 10 June from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. The price of £32 includes a ticket for the Saturday night performance.

Elements of Musicality: Beat and Rhythm

•Tuesday, 10 January 2017 • 2 Comments

Returning to my favourite subject: musicality. As I said in a previous post, when we first start to dance we learn to dance to the beat, after a while we begin to dance to the rhythm, eventually we discover how to dance to the music. Of course, these aren’t separate; when we dance to the rhythm we’re also dancing to the beat. And when we dance to the music then the elements of beat and rhythm are in there too.

In talking to dancers I find that there is sometimes confusion between beat and rhythm. Put simply, the beat is the steady pulse that you feel in the tune, like a clock ticking. It’s what you might clap along to, or tap your foot to. The rhythm is the actual pattern that the notes of different lengths make, which in a song may be the same as the word patterns. Beside the length of notes, rhythm is also created when some notes are emphasised over others.

Generally, dance music (except for waltz/vals, of course) has four beats to the bar. Beats 1 and 3 are the strong beats (the compás in tango) beats 2 and 4 are the weak beats (sometimes called the back beat or off beat). At its simplest level, when dancing we tend to step on beats 1 and 3. (Although when clapping along to a tune the preference is to clap on the back beat.)

Of course, all this applies to any creative partner dance, not just tango. In jive classes you sometimes hear, “This is a six-beat move,” or “This is a twelve-beat move.” This is only true if you’re limiting yourself to dancing mechanically and solely to the beat of the music. If you’re dancing to the rhythm then how many beats a move takes will depend on how you work with the music.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking in step patterns and becoming a ‘one-and-three dancer’. (And sadly the heavily accented beat of much of what passes for dance music tends to encourage this… but that’s another story for another blog post!) We’re dancers, not metronomes.

“Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.” — Samuel Beckett

Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 3

•Wednesday, 2 November 2016 • Leave a Comment

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Norm’s Last Tango

Norman was a square-dance caller
On a North Atlantic trawler.
Should the crew be feeling low
He’d get them all to dosey-do.

Even in quite stormy weather
He’d gather all the guys together.
“Come on chaps, let’s get dancing.
You’ll find it really life enhancing!”

One day he thought he’d raise the bar…
Which turned out to be a step too far.
How much further could a man go
Than teaching fishermen to tango?

When walking backwards in high heels
He tripped upon a box of eels,
Which quite upset the swarthy captain,
Whose close embrace poor Norm was wrapped in.

He’d planned on cutting quite a dash
But his hopes all ended with a splash.
He’d probably be still alive
If he’d stuck to salsa, waltz or jive.


This the third in the Terrible Tales for Curious Kids series. If you’d like to read more, try here. Vintage photographs of Hull Trawler SS New Zealand adapted from whatsthatpicture.com

The Elements of Musicality

•Thursday, 27 October 2016 • Leave a Comment

Musicality has been defined as “sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music. A musical person has the ability to perceive differences in aspects of music including pitch, rhythm and harmonies.” In dance, musicality means “relating the dance to the music’s rhythm, melody, and mood” as opposed to, e.g., only stepping on the beat. “This is the key characteristic of improvised dancing… Lindy, West Coast Swing, Argentine Tango, for example, view matching your dancing to the spirit and mood of the music as the highest goal achievable.”

In all dances, in other words, we seek to connect with the music and our partner so we may express with our bodies what the music makes us feel.

“Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another.” — Anon

For me, musicality is at the heart of tango, or any dance for that matter. These notes are taken from the handout I prepared for our recent workshop at the Dance Connections Lake District Weekender, 2016. This is our personal list, and is by no means complete; yours may be different. Please feel free to comment and give additional suggestions.

1 The beat. Feel the ‘pulse’ of the music. See also Tango Musicality: The Compás.

2 The rhythm.

3 The pace. Is the pace of the music constant? Are there sections where the music seems to slow down or speed up? Perhaps the beat may remain constant, but the rhythm changes to give the feeling of a change of pace.

4 The energy. Is the music lively and upbeat? Slow and romantic? Melancholic? Passionate?

5 Emotion and Mood. Often related to the energy of a musical piece. What emotions do you feel when you listen to the music? Are these reflected in the way you dance?

6 Instrumentation. OK, we’re probably getting a little too technical here, but the instruments used by the musicians do affect the feel of the song. An extended sweep from a violin invites a different response to that of a plucked guitar.

7 Melody. How does the melody change during the song? Are there patterns of melody which recur, perhaps with variations?

8 Volume. The volume may change during the song. Do we respond/dance differently to the loud parts compared with the quieter sections?

9 Breaks. There are usually easily discernable breaks after each 8-bar phrase (or 12 bars in traditional blues). Perhaps between verse and chorus. Can you hear any change in melody or rhythm pattern leading up to or following the break?

10 More on breaks or phrases. Apart from the main breaks between the 8-bar phrases (composed of 16 strong beats at two to the bar), there are usually other ‘phrases within phrases’ within the melody or rhythm. We could think of these as patterns made by the singer or one or more instruments. (Much as within a paragraph of prose or a section of speech you get separate sentences and phrases.) It can be interesting to play with these too.

All this may sound somewhat overwhelming. But in fact most of us, after we’ve been dancing a while, will respond to most of these factors automatically, without thinking about them. Nevertheless, I think it can be useful to understand what part they can play in our dance.

“Musical dancers never get so caught up in steps that they ignore the music.” — Deborah Wingert



%d bloggers like this: