There’s something odd going on when …


… you can’t tango but can milonga.

Ok, both are exaggerations, but all the same …

My then-gf and I rented the Tango Movement studio in Moorgate for a couple of hours (a really lovely space). Lessons are fun, but also work. It requires concentration to focus on something new, so I thought it would be good to spend a couple of hours just playing. Not trying to learn anything new, not practicing, just dancing …

I said a couple of weeks ago that my tango high couldn’t last, and I was nervously waiting for a crash – and today was that day. Well, perhaps not a crash, but a fender-bender at least. It wasn’t that anything was a total disaster, but I just wasn’t feeling it. My walk felt more mechanical than musical, my ochos were rushed, and overall I just seemed to have two left feet. For an evening that was supposed to be a fun time, it was disappointing. Especially after I coped so well in a crowded milonga two days earlier and should have been infinitely better in an empty studio.

There were upsides. I’d not really played with cross-walking before (other than doing it accidentally in my first lesson). Tonight, we did, and I was able to switch between parallel and cross walking. It felt clumsy, as everything did this evening, but it did work.

But the biggest positive by far having a try at milonga.

A quick bit of background for non-tango dancers. The word ‘milonga’ has two different meanings in tango. One, the name given to a tango dance event. Two, a specific type of dance. A milonga-the-dance-event usually has three sub-species of dance: tango, vals (a circular form of the dance based on waltz) and … milonga. Yep, you can dance a milonga at a milonga. Don’t ask me why. Probably ‘cos this stuff got named by South Americans rather than Germans. Anyway, the thing about milonga-the-dance is that it’s a very fast-paced form of tango. So fast that some dancers do things which can only be explained by sorcery. End of background.

Milonga-the-dance had always terrified me. I have enough trouble at tango speeds without trying something stupidly fast. Lots of tango dancers – men in particular – sit out milongas, and I was most assuredly going to be one of them even after I got the hang of tango.

But the good news about milonga-the-dance is that the pace means the steps (for mortals) have to be simple. And while experienced dancers do clever things in a mix of single- and double-time, many less experienced ones do nothing more than simple box steps in single time.

Since it appeared I had little to lose this evening, I gave it a go.

Bloody hell! It worked! It was as basic as a milonga can get, but I was actually dancing one! I certainly didn’t expect that …

I’ve already danced a few valses–

More background for those new to tango. A vals doesn’t involve anything not done in tango. It’s simply that the rhythm is different (3/4 rather than 4/4), and the feeling is more whirly, so you tend to do a lot of circular movements and lose the dramatic pauses you see in tango.

My limited vocabulary aside, I’m perfectly happy with a vals, so adding milonga into the mix does – in principle – mean I can tick all three boxes as ‘will attempt, given the right music, partner and mood.’

So my lack of tango fu this evening was annoying, but if you’d offered me a deal ahead of time that I would temporarily lose my tango skills in order to gain milonga ones, that’s a deal I would happily have taken – so I’m considering it a win.

I have a two-hour lesson with Maeve tomorrow. We’ll see whether my tango skills have returned by then. If not, perhaps we’ll make it a milonga lesson …

Photo: Shutterstock

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