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Cafe highlights: dancing the tango and yoof speak

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Clare English Clare English | 14:24 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

It's fair to say I am not a morning person. Even by 10 am I am rarely "raring to go". It takes masses of tea and a lot of effort to push me out of the house early. Yet this is what I found myself doing one Monday morning as I left the house for an earlyish Book Cafe assignment. Destination, Edinburgh. Or was it Buenos Aires? That seemed more appropriate for the task in hand: I was going to take a few tentative tango steps with top dancer turned author, Kapka Kassabova.

Clare English learning to Tango

Clare learning to tango

Edinburgh's rather cheerless Tun building might have been a poor subsistute for an Argentine club but even under the glare of the strip lights, the mood subtly changed as I sat down on the couch next to Kapka to begin talking about her book,TWELVE MINUTES OF LOVE - A TANGO STORY. The prose is spell binding, sweeping you along as if you're already on the dance floor. We learn through her ten years of experience that this most melancholic and expressive of dance forms is really all about your "troubles". Easy to see then how it could take over your life, as it did for Kapka, determining who she loved and where she lived. But, after a decade, she'd felt she'd been, er, tangoed! It's rare to find Kapka on the dancefloor these days and the reasons are many and complex. (ie read the book!)


I've always loved a good dance but formal dancing is another thing; I am the kind of gal you see at wedding receptions, being dragged around a dance floor like a rag doll. Tango is all about poise and style, looking together, and, most importantly connecting "heart to heart" - quite literally. My producer and I had agreed that after the interview I'd try out a few steps with Kapka as my lead, so on came the music. Piazzolla for starters, traditional and very evocative. After a few minutes on that, we opted for a funkier sound, Gotan Project and that's when it happened. I found myself grinning from ear to ear, no longer concerned about being squished chest to chest with a woman I had barely met! Every move seemed sublime and fluid (ok not MY moves) and I was soon gliding across the hardwood floor without tripping up or looking down. Major triumph both of those! I can honestly say that I so get how people can become hooked on tango - it's not just a dance, it's a way of life, a philosophy, a religion, a lover.

Bang back to earth for Tuesday's Culture Café where I'm talking to a sociolinguistics expert from Lancaster University and Glasgow rapper, Loki. The idea was to look at YOOF Speak and find out what teenagers were actually saying. Obviously there are geographical variations, so words in the South East may not apply up north but YOOF SPEAK throws in another challenge.. it is constantly evolving and expanding so it's hard for even the yoof to keep up! I decided to challenge my guests to a few choice words.. who knew what SKET meant? Nope. It's the title of a new film about girl gangs in London and apparently it's not very nice. A sket is a whore. And there's much more where that came from but my lexicon is rather limited, relying as I do on my uncommunicative 15 year old for information. What I can share with you is this.. if you DING-Y (not the small boat!) someone, you are snubbing or ignoring them. HEAVY BEAST apparently means really good. Gosh, its confusing. I wished we'd had more time for the discussion as Professor Paul Kerswill and Loki kept coming up with new things to say about YOOF speak but we can only squeeze so much into one show.

We finished the Culture Café with a nod to the North East where DANCELIVE, Scotland's ONLY contemporary dance festival is on until the 15th Nov. Mary Brennan, arts critic at the Herald was with me and from Aberdeen we spoke to the festival director, Andy Howitt. He's all guns blazing which is funny as Mary told me her nickname for him is Howitzer! He told us about the international line up of dancers on the programme, the home grown talent attending and his own appearance on stage, (part of GRUMPY OLD DANCERS troupe). But the real star of the show was the city of Aberdeen itself and its citizens - they are really embracing this festival. Mary Brennan had an interesting observation. Might Aberdeen do a "Glasgow 1990" and become a city of culture and excellence in the arts? Nothing to stop them as the talent and the determination are there already. We just need to get out of that Central belt = Culture mentality and see what all the other regions of Scotland can do.


Now.. if you'll excuse me, all that dance chat is making me twitchy. I'm off to find some killer heels and a Gotan Project cd. Adios amigos!

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