One lesson and four delicious tandas

delicious tandas

Tuesday was the second improver class of the week, with more calesitas. I really like the balance of the Monday and Tuesday classes: the Monday one is always more complex but introduces me to new things, while the Tuesday one is simpler and focuses more on technique.

Tonight, we both entered and exited the calesita via ochos. You could exit with either a front or back ocho. The back seemed to work best when I had enough momentum, while the front was plan B for when things were slower …

Again, it worked well with all my partners – at least, once I’d got the hang of the two exits – so I decided I was now Officially Licensed to use it in a milonga.

After the lesson, I moved through to the milonga and initially socialised. Two friends had been proposing competing plans for Saturday evening: one workshop, and one milonga. I told them to sort it out between themselves and let me know. They didn’t, but by the end of the evening we’d agreed on the workshop. Steph says Veronica is an excellent teacher, so she’s signed up too, but having learned our lesson from last time, we won’t be working together!

Then it was time to dance! My first tanda was a vals with A. I normally like a follower to give me some weight in the embrace. A is really light and dances in open embrace, but very responsive and really fun to dance with, especially in a vals, so it really underlines that it’s all about adapting to your partner. We had a lovely tanda.

The two Ms were in attendance, amusedly wondering whether they would again be M1 and M2 in the blog. Until they advise me otherwise, they do indeed remain so!

I had a tango tanda with M1, who dances close embrace, and I really felt we were communicating well. I used the new rebounds I’d learned on Sunday, and those worked really well. The feeling of going from those into the walk is lovely. I also tried a calesita. That one wasn’t my best effort, but M1 is very stable in her axis, so it worked fine.

There was a time when things got rather crowded on the floor. The couple ahead weren’t moving at all, while the couple behind were uncomfortably close. I lead some ochos so we could remain where we were for the moment. Then the couple ahead finally moved, and I decided to see whether I could progress us in the ronda while still doing ochos. I led a very small step to the left and a large one to the right. Sure enough, M1 followed perfectly. I repeated this several times, and we progressed nicely along the floor.

We’d been talking earlier about the difficulty of recognising when the end of a song is coming, and amused ourselves by keeping score during the tanda. The first one, we nailed it. The second, uh, no. Not at all. The third, we awarded ourselves half marks: we did stop on the final beat, but we were kind of mid-step at the time. But the final one, we decided we just about got full marks: it was a bit of a strange place to stop, but we did at least do so at the end of a step and on the beat. A very enjoyable tanda with bonus amusement points.

A milonga came on. I do love the rhythm, but can’t do any of the traspie (double-time) stuff, and so I feel my dance is very limited. Since I think three songs of single-time forward steps, side steps and rebounds would be too boring, I came up with a cunning compromise plan, which was to invite someone for the third and final song of the tanda only. In that way, I could get my milonga fix without boring my follower.

I started looking around for partners, couldn’t spot any of the usual suspects, but then saw M2 sitting in a corner enjoying some milonga voyeurism. I put my plan to her, and she declared herself up for it. Song three was a fun one, and we had a really good time. M2 declared it a lot of fun, but agreed with my assessment that what was great for one song would wear a bit thin by a third, so I think I’m now adopting this approach as Official Milonga Policy. At least until a milonga rhythm workshop the weekend after next.

A slower tango tanda came up, and I decided this would be a good opportunity to dance it to half-time. I normally dance single-time, and wanted to try half-time as I’ve seen it done and it had always looked like it would feel nice. It does, however, require better technique, so it would be an experiment!

This time I did manage the ‘standing next to someone’ cabeceo with Asia (who has authorised the use of her name). I’ve gone from finding cabeceo a bit weird to now mostly considering it fun! At least when the person you want to cabeceo is paying attention … I haven’t yet found a solution for the followers that are simply not looking even though I suspect they would welcome an invitation.

Asia is another close-embrace dancer, and also feels very stable in the embrace, so I felt like I was giving myself a good shot. Sure enough, it felt lovely. Doing exactly the same simple things – walking, weight changes, rebounds and ochos – feels totally different at a slower pace. I realised this is another great way to create a feeling of variety without having to do anything new.

After the first song, Asia said I must have been working on my ochos, as they felt great. Modesty forbids quoting her verbatim, but a big thumbs-up to Federico and Julia for their ocho technique lesson! It was very easy with her, as she remained in her axis as I did slow ochos, including pivoting her between forward and back ones.

I’d planned on staying another half an hour or so, but realised I’d had four really delicious tandas, and wanted to end on a high note. I was mindful of Steph’s lesson from Saturday, where she wished she hadn’t returned to the milonga after dinner. But there was one last thing I wanted to try before I left …

I asked Asia if I could try something with her in the practica room. I didn’t say what, as I wanted to see whether I was really leading it. It was a move I’d seen done by one of the dancers who spans the improver and intermediate classes. It looked good but simple, so I wanted to see whether I could lead it. It was just ochos, but with a parada on every pivot.

Pleasingly, 30 seconds of experimentation showed that I could indeed lead it. So that’s another tool in the tango toolbox.

On which note, it was time to say my goodbyes and head home. The Tuesday milonga really has become a highlight in my week – can’t wait for the next one! Meantime, I have plenty of things to tide me over. The first of four weekly musicality workshops tomorrow; a workshop and practica on Saturday evening; and the next Spitalfields outdoor milonga on Sunday.

Image: Shutterstock

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