A relaxed milonga, and a plan to tone things down


It could be said that a case might be made for the possibility of formulating the bare bones of an argument somewhat suggestive of the idea that I may have been taking my tango schedule to something of an excess.

Mounting a defence against this accusation would be a little tricky in a week in which I was initially scheduled to have nine group classes, a practica and a milonga …

As it turned out, sleep deprivation caught up with me on Monday, so I opted for a very early night in place of two of those classes and a practica. But seven classes and a milonga is still perhaps a tad on the over-enthusiastic side.

Next week is a little lighter, but even that has four group classes, a practica, milonga and 90-minute private.

So my plan is to complete the current Tango Space cycle of both beginner and improver classes next week, then adopt a rather saner schedule. The new regime will be to drop the beginner classes and do the following:

  • Monday: Practica and improver class
  • Tuesday: Improver class and milonga
  • Weekend: 90-minute private on one, practica/milonga on the other
  • Occasional other workshops (rather than every one ever offered in London …)

I also took an equally relaxed approach this evening.

Improver class

The topic was dissociation, and the class began with switching between outside cross-system walks on the left and right. I’d never attempted a cross-walk on the right before, and it appeared from follower comments that I wasn’t alone in this. It wasn’t pretty, and I shall not be adding it to my milonga inventory.

The second half of the class was on the giro, with the leader doing a lapiz prior to the follower’s back-step. That section began with the leaders and followers at opposite ends of the class to get tuition on our respective roles. I wasn’t at all confident it was going to come close to working, so took advantage of the split class to make a beeline for a follower who I knew to be very stable to maximise the chances.

This was a sound move, and I was lucky with the next follower too, so it did kind of work. But it was very, very messy, and I wouldn’t say I was leading any element of it. It really felt like it was happening exactly as we’d prepared for it: I was doing my thing, she was doing hers. I really need to take the same approach here as to the cross: go back to first principles in a private.


It was a very warm evening, and the rear classroom is always hot – so was a crazy temperature tonight. I was extremely glad I’d brought a spare shirt to change into before the milonga.

There was one regular follower in the improver class I’d never yet managed to dance with. We were both at a workshop and milonga on Saturday, but Greta left early, so we missed that opportunity too. However, we finally got a tanda this evening, and it was worth the wait. There was a playful bit in one of the songs where I pivoted her back and forth between front and back ochos, and she totally got it; I could see her smiling as she too played with the music.

Greta said afterwards that my musicality class was clearly paying off. I don’t think it gets any direct credit, as I didn’t dare try the ‘dancing only to the melody’ experiment on our very first tanda, but it may be contributing to a slightly more experimental approach. Oh, I’m still score-keeping for my endings, and we got them all!

It was too hot to consider back-to-back tandas, so I took some time out to chat, before cabeceoing J, the follower I’d managed to snag for the first giro attempt in the lesson. It’s always interesting, the different qualities with different followers. I mentioned last time one follower who is butterfly light, and how that’s not normally my preference, but with her it works well. J is the opposite: very solid and has a feeling to her that just calls out for lovely slow movements.

As for the ending score card, the first song ended two beats early. I mean, the composer would probably try to argue that I ended two beats late, but I’m pretty sure I’m right on this one. We did get the three other endings, and I’ve realised it doesn’t matter at all what you do: provided you definitely mark the final beat, it feels good.

Time to cool down and chat for a while. I got chatting to a couple at the bar, an actor and a woman who buys and sells vintage clothing. Tim has one arm, and I’d admired his dancing the previous week, noting that he was living proof that a clear lead from the chest can do all the work. He asked how long I’d been dancing, and he said that even 20 years later, he remembered how it felt at that early stage.

Next up was a tanda with a woman from the intermediate class I’ve danced with at several milongas. It’s usually very nice, but for some reason wasn’t working as well tonight. There were several times when I’d thought I’d led one thing and she’d done another, and my recovery wasn’t anything like as smooth as it could have been. This was definitely not one of those occasions when the follower wouldn’t have even been aware I’d been attempting to lead something else.

The tango gods are very fickle; we can be randomly good or randomly terrible, and just for amusement value they decided to demonstrate that you can have a great first tanda with one follower and a not very good one with a regular one.

More cooling and chatting time, this time with E, who had also been at the Saturday workshop and milonga, and we danced afterwards.

E said she found the milonga dance terrifying, and I said I’d been the same, but explained my last-song approach and said I kept it super-simple, with just single-time steps and rebounds. She said she’d be happy to give that a go, and as she was tired and hot, she’d already been accepting invitations subject to beginning one song in, so a one-song tanda sounded ideal.

It was indeed a milonga, and I delivered the promised simple but musical dance. We had fun, and E officially declared it her ‘least terrifying milonga ever.’ I mean, there are probably bigger compliments, but hey, I’ll take it!

At which point, I decided continuing any further would require a third shirt, which I didn’t have on me, so that seemed a good point at which to call it a night.

Of course, no sooner did I declare I was cutting back on classes than I have a WhatsApp conversation later with Greta discussing other options … I really must resist!

Image: Shutterstock

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