Dancing with the cool kids at the 3D Marathonga


The 3D Marathonga was a 12-hour milonga running from 4pm Saturday to 4pm Sunday. I had no plans whatsoever to still be there at 4am, but the opportunity to do some dancing early on, have some dinner and return for more later seemed like a good plan.

3D is named after the three original DJs: David, Diego and Daniel. I’m told Diego is no longer involved, so strictly speaking it’s now 2D …

My plan was to get there at the start so there would be a chance to do some walking while the floor was empty. This was indeed a most excellent plan, even if I did discover that Argentine 4pm means 4.45pm even in London. But Steph and I had a tanda with just two other couples on the entire dance floor, so plenty of space for walking, which was a real treat.

There were some beginners at the table behind us, so I invited one of them. She warned me she’d had all of two lessons! But she’d done other dance, and since there was all the space in the world, it was entirely practical – and highly enjoyable – to just walk for an entire tanda.

I invited another of the beginners for the next tanda. She too was two lessons in, but danced a lot of salsa – a somewhat familiar theme! I asked if she wanted to try some pivots and she said yes. I led a forward ocho. She initially took two steps rather than one (which worked fine), then again did perfectly good ochos.

Tanda four, and the next of the beginners. She was three months in, and followed very nicely. Interestingly, I saw her leading later – so great (and impressive!) to learn both roles from the start. I had another couple of tandas with her later, after dinner, and in between we chatted about the challenges of the early months, especially in milongas.

By this time, it was pretty busy, with lots of younger dancers doing much tango nuevo. Mostly with great skill, though there were a few who zipped merrily back and forth across the floor with no reference to the ronda. Skilled or navigational hazard, I certainly wasn’t going to risk cabeceoing any of the Cool Kids!

At this milonga, I wasn’t able to adopt Steph’s earlier recommendation to invite the 50-something women who were standing around without invitations, as I don’t think there were any followers in that age range. This was a predominantly young crowd, with the vast majority of dancers in their 20s to mid-30s, I would say. So I had to go for the next best thing of looking for followers who I’d seen sitting for at least a couple of tandas, and hope that the ‘better a basic dance than more sitting’ principle would apply.

I cabeceod one from across the room – only my second ever long-distance cabeceo – and she was great. Immediately recognisable as a far better dancer than me. Surrounded, as we were, by really high-level dancers, I did feel the need to say at the end of the first song that I was only eight months in, hence a rather basic dance, and she said there was nothing wrong with basic. She recovered well from my errors, and said afterwards that she’d had fun.

The next tanda with another follower who’d been sitting for a while didn’t feel as good. She didn’t seem as responsive, which I’m sure says more about my leading than her following, and combined with what was now a very busy floor with almost zero opportunity to walk, it made for a rather challenging tanda. But it wasn’t a disaster, and I still felt it had been better to dance than sit – and hope she felt the same!

I did receive miradas from a couple of 20-something followers I’d seen dancing earlier, but was pretty confident this wasn’t mutual – that is, I don’t think they’d seen me dance. They were both way above my tango pay-grade, and I think it was just that I looked the part in my rather convincing fake tango trousers (Slazenger golf trousers!) and now-worn shoes. Maybe it would have been ok, but I took the coward’s way out and pretended not to see.

There was one woman who joined the beginners table but was, I think, a more experienced dancer. I’d hoped that might be an indication that she was beginner-friendly, so I attempted to cabeceo her and got a weird response. She held eye-contact, but when I smiled and nodded, didn’t respond in any way. She didn’t return the nod or smile, but also didn’t look away. I nodded again, and she at that point looked away, but not in a very pointed ‘I’m now looking away’ fashion. She then later cabeceo’d me. Some of this stuff will forever remain a mystery. Anyway, we had a nice vals.

The standard of the dancing to the milongas was sky-high. I absolutely wasn’t going to attempt any of those in this company!

I’d chatted to a couple where the woman had been learning for a few months, and decided to see whether I could cabeceo her for a final tanda with the last of my fellow beginners before calling it a night. That was a really nice tanda, though I did have my first experience of trying to lead something my follower didn’t know (an ocho cortado). The first time, I just thought I hadn’t led it clearly (she continued pivoting into a circular ocho); the second time I realised she just didn’t know it, so crossed that off my list. I did manage some giros, but I’m really not happy with these: I’m going to devote a future private to revisiting these from first principles.

Steph had had enough by this point, and I’d run out of followers I was willing to cabeceo, so called it a night at that point. I missed out on the street cred of being there ’til 4am, but I think 5pm to 11pm with an hour out for dinner was a decent effort! And tomorrow is another private, trying to master the one-step cross …

Image: Shutterstock

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