Client: Hi there, I just have a few technical questions.
Me: I can help you with those.
Client: Oh no, honey, don’t worry. I don’t ask women technical questions. Is there a guy around who could help me?”
Client: I’ll call back when there’s a guy around.
Being a female mechanic, I know exactly how this feels!
Santiago has become both the most frustrating and most rewarding tango experience that Frank and I have had so far. As I mentioned before, we did have some issues finding a club to take lessons with.
We first went to a tango club on Seminario which, although having a friendly vibe on that afternoon, seemed to hold classes that involved more talking than dancing. We were a little hesitant as this teacher was holding a mixed class which ended up with everyone trying to learn different steps at the same time. This appeared to be more confusing then helpful, especially since there was an American guy who was struggling with the basic walk being taught how to do giros.
We watched for a while but decided to try a different class up the road. When we arrived at the class on Bustamante, we were herded into a huge room that reminded me of a school gymnasium. There were seats facing inwards around the edge of the room and I was dropped off at a chair next to some other ladies while Frank was pulled over to the opposite side with some worried looking guys.
Eventually the class began and it was like every terrible school dance that I have ever been to. Everyone had to wait until one of the “teachers” (I really don’t know who they were but there were a fair few of them) came and picked you up. There was some confused musical chairs in between tracks and I saw Frank dancing across the room with an older lady. He didn’t look happy.
The next dance the head teacher came and invited me to dance and I had the same reaction as Frank. Having never danced choreographed tango before, I found myself bored and irritated. Once the dance finished, I snuck over to the dude side, grabbed Frank and we ran out the door.
We returned to the first club to find it closed, even after being told it was open everyday (we still have their card whose motto is “open everyday”). We tried again, the following week and found a different class being held with different teachers. This time we did not feel welcome (especially because we were the only people under sixty) and so we left.
Further down we found another club on Irarrazaval which we almost left because the gate was locked but fate intervened and another couple were buzzed up in front of us. The owners of this dance studio are Paloma and Maximiliano, probably the coolest people with the coolest names in all of Chilean Tango. We organised some private lessons and I actually felt hopeful, they were really friendly and there were photos of them dancing everywhere.
The first lesson was fantastic. These guys obviously compete a fair bit and they are more than happy to impart their knowledge to whoever wants it. They began by breaking down our posture and embrace and giving us tips to walk better. This involved me being poked in the stomach a lot by Paloma as I have terribly weak abs but if I was going to be poked by anyone, it would be her.
They completely changed the way we were dancing. Frank had to only steer using his right hand with the left only supporting my hand. This is a lot more comfortable for me and good practice as we have only just started in close embrace. I was also told that I have to project my rear foot further back when stepping to allow Frank room to step. That’s gonna be hard.
We also went over forward ochos, sacadas and blocks with a lovely embellishment. At the end of the class, Paloma and Maximiliano said that they were never disappointed teaching foreign students as they were fast to pick up new things and had a strong desire to learn. Mmmmm fuzzy feelings all round!
Paloma and Maximiliano float on air.
The next lesson was not so successful. Frank and I could not get a connection and we spent the whole lesson feeling awkward and unbalanced. We spent more time dancing with the teachers than we did with each other and learnt an ocho cortado which was brilliant and once we learn how to walk again, we’ll be busting that one out again.
I really hope that we get the chance to learn from these guys again, and I’m hoping that they will travel to Australia in the future. If you are in Chile and you have time, I would strongly recommend trying to get a lesson with these guys because they are amazing. They are really lovely people, they speak English, are great dancers and Paloma even wears shoes that match her outfits. Although it feels like Frank and I are back to square one, I know that this experience will make our tango so much better. Watching these guys dance make me want to be better. There also may have been a point where I was wondering if I could fit them into my suitcase.
Now to fix my posture!
First walking, then maybe one day we can work on the floating.