Mad dogs and Englishmen …

spitalfields tango

There is something special about dancing outdoors. My introduction to the art had been in a Hyde Park bandstand in April, followed by Spitalfields in May. Another visit to the latter yesterday maintained my newly-established ‘one outdoor milonga per month’ tradition.

It was a very warm day, with temperatures in the 24-26C range, but at least there was a bit of a breeze with it …

The venue normally has a canopy above it. When I got there, however, it had gone. Rene tells me it was removed to accommodate a large screen they’d erected for the cricket, and then while they have it down they are taking advantage of the fact to do some maintenance, so it’ll be gone for a few weeks.

But its unexpected absence yesterday, and the rather warm day, does explain my sun-burned appearance today. Had I known, I’d have put on sunscreen and taken a hat to wear between tandas. But I wasn’t to be deterred, so stayed from beginning to end.

My first dance was with M’s flatmate, who had finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about, and had attended the 30-minute complete beginner session Rene runs. It seemed effective: participants were doing a mix of walking and side-steps, and most were doing so to the phrase. Since it was still only the beginners there at 1pm, there was lots of room to play, and I just walked with her, but she was doing well, so I gave her feedback about keeping some resistance in her arms, and by the end of it she was getting rebounds and back-steps too. Further than I got with my first lesson! She apparently enjoyed our dance, and I’m told it’s my fault if she takes up tango.

It was hot; we had friends back for (rather a lot of) wine afterwards; and I’m writing this the next day … all of which means I won’t attempt to recall enough to give a tanda-by-tanda account. The executive summary of most of the afternoon was that it was hot (did I mention that?), it was crowded and the standard of floorcraft was ‘interesting’ – but the music was absolutely fantastic, and I had a lot of fun.

I tried my new and improved giro with Greta, outside the pista, and it worked well. I then tried it with her and others while dancing and it worked … less well. After attempting it with three followers, with results ranging from ‘worked but untidy’ to ‘almost as bad as they were before,’ I decided to shelve those for now. I need some practica time with this; perhaps tonight. I think the issue is that I still have to think about the steps, and don’t have the attention dollar to do that alongside challenging navigation.

With the very crowded space, and the unpredictability of a number of the dancers (including the inevitable idiot who led a boleo when everyone was packed in with inches to spare), there were a lot of ochos and a lot of circular walking. Having giros that worked would have been very handy! During one tanda, we moved literally 10 feet in four songs. Not exactly helped by one leader who left a huge gap in front of him while he led endless giros, and when I tried to catch his eye realised I couldn’t because he had his eyes closed …

I’m not normally a fan of non-traditional tango music, but DJ Radu was fantastic! He played several non-traditional tandas, and I really enjoyed them all.

I noticed one unexpected benefit of these. I felt freer – like it removed the pressure to dance ‘properly,’ and I was just able to have fun. One of these tandas was with Greta, the others with followers I didn’t know, and with all it was just a few steps, rebounds and some circular walking in a very constrained space, but I didn’t feel like any of them would feel anything was lacking. All said it was fun, so perhaps I’ll become a bigger fan of non-traditional tandas in future!

There was also a delightful Romantica Milonguera tanda. I now understand people who rave about particular DJs. The mix he was playing, and the choices themselves, really stood out.

I’d have been happier if my giros had worked well in real-life, but that was only a minor disappointment. The afternoon as a whole was fun, though I think next time I’ll aim for a somewhat shorter visit, leaving when it gets crazily crowded. I’ll also see if I can get along to one of the evening ones.

Meantime, tonight’s improver class is the cross in cross system. Let’s see how well I cope that that!

2 thoughts on “Mad dogs and Englishmen …”

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