A weekend of firsts … My first time going out to a milonga with friends. My first where I didn’t know anyone else there. My first hidden away in the middle of an unlikely-looking industrial estate. And my first time at an overseas milonga …
Steph and I went to spend the weekend with Maral and Mariano in Rotterdam. We had a lovely day in the city, visiting the inside of one of the Cube Houses, exploring the food market (samples may have been consumed) and eating enough food for a week in a lovely Greek restaurant.
A Dutch friend also came down to visit with his partner, so we got two visits with friends for the price of one!
On the Saturday evening, we went to a milonga in Delft, about a 45-minute drive away. There’s not a great deal of tango action in the area, apparently, so most people I spoke to had driven 45-60 mins to get there.
It was a friendly crowd. The standard of dancing seemed high, which was a little intimidating. On the plus side, there was a really good Ronda, at least in the outer lane, with a decent amount of movement and thus opportunity for walking.
I did find the approach to the cabeceo was very different. Most people sat at the edge of the floor were simply not looking around, so trying to cabeceo someone at any distance – as you would in London – was a non-starter. The standard approach seemed to be a very short-range cabeceo, at a distance that would be considered rude in London unless it was a friend: literally three or four feet away. I adopted a ‘when in Delft’ approach, and then got dances.
I danced four tandas, the first with Steph and the others with three other women. The other three were a tango, a vals and a milonga, so a good mix!
Dancing in an unknown place did solve one problem. I’m rubbish at small-talk, so never know what to say in the short spaces between dances during a tanda. But in this case, I was able to ask people where they were from, and they did the same, so I explained how we were there, and that took care of that!
I had the usual issue in milongas, of having limited access to vocabulary when having to deal with navigation, but I was trying to put into practice my plan for moving beyond my comfort zone: doing one thing I don’t normally do. In two tandas, it was walking ochos, which worked well. In the milonga, it was an ocho cortado, which felt particularly scary at milonga speeds, but actually worked beautifully.
A less welcome first
I did have one other, rather less welcome, first: in what would have been my fifth and final tanda of the evening, I was thank-you’d after the first dance, with absolutely no clue why. I was more puzzled than upset, as the dance (another vals) seemed fine.
I obviously knew that most of the valid reasons didn’t apply, and Steph said the only other one would be if the dance was painful for the follower, and she said as she’d danced with me that evening she could also rule that out.
The only theory I could come up with was my tango was too limited for her, but both Steph and Maral said that it’s rude to break a tanda for that reason, and you just need to find something to enjoy, like the embrace, or the musicality.
Maral said it was a useful tango lesson: occasionally it happens, and you rarely get to know why, so you just have to put it behind you. She described a time when she’d had nice dances with the same leader at several milongas, and then suddenly he didn’t want to dance with her any more, and she had no idea why. She said you can drive yourself nuts with it, so just forget about it.
But that aside, a really nice evening!