Sunday, April 28, 2002

April 2002

Another visit to Finland (April 2002)
I have had another lesson with Leena Blomqvist, going into the subleties of Finnish tango technique. All leads are to be taken on the ball of the foot. This is because the tango walk is based on skiing, and naturally one cannot take heel leads while wearing skis. Rocking movements are strictly kielletty (forbidden). I said I had been doing ballroom tango for 41 years and rocks were an integral part of it. Leena said that she had had the same trouble with Åke when she first met him, but had now taken him in hand. I also had a lesson in the humppa. As it is very jolly and rustic sounding, I asked if it was a Finnish country dance. Leena said it was: “It is more popular in the country than the towns. The tango is a Finnish country dance as well”.
The best restaurant in Helsinki, and probably the world, is the VPK (standing for vapaapalokunta, or Volunteer Fire Brigade - it’s in the old fire station) in Albertinkatu, not far from Stockmanns. Good plain traditional Finnish cooking, just like äiti (mother) used to make, as much as you can eat for 7.40 euros. Drinks (fruit juice, milk, home brewed beer, or sour milk) included. Finnish easy listening music in the background, yes including tangos.
I went to the Vanhan tanssikellari at 4 every afternoon when it opened. My partners included Liisa, who thought any idiot could understand plain Finnish if it was shouted loud enough, and a blonde ice maiden who was immensely popular with all the men there. By the time I got a dance with her (she asked me) her blouse was wringing wet. Another lady who asked me was over six feet tall and about 25 stone, with a great mass of frizzy red hair. No messing about: she was going to lead. She put her arm round my neck and squeezed tight. All I could do was put both arms round where her waist would have been if she had one, shut my eyes, and hold on tight. In fact she was a very good leader, and I could follow perfectly. But I don’t think I’ll adopt her technique. I think most of the ladies at Tango West like to breathe while they are dancing. Afterwards she kissed me, or rather licked my mouth. I would say her saliva was about 60% alcohol. I must confess that I then hid until I saw her dancing with somebody else. I never found out her name, but I think of her as “Bernardette” because of her resemblance to a very large and very friendly St. Bernard.


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