End of a Tango Space era, and a surprisingly good milonga


I don’t know that tonight will be the last Tango Space class I’ll do, but it was my final planned one at least.

Tomorrow I’ll be trying the beginner/improver lesson at Tanguito with visiting teachers Juan Martin Carrara & Stefania Colina. They are covering the next four weeks while Bruno is on holiday, so if I like them as much as everyone tells me I will, then that will be my group lesson plan for the next month …

The improver class

Tonight’s topic was a variation on the ocho cortado. Despite the fact that it was once again Fede and Julia teaching, there were no complex sequences! Which is not to say that the variation was easy – it required good technique – but I’m perfectly happy with sequences that are simple to understand and hard to master.

The sequence was to lead a rebound entry, do two or more ocho cortados, then lead a rebound while still dissociated so the follower does the rebound from the cross and returns to it.

Actually, just varying between one, two and three ocho cortados was tricky enough on its own as followers defaulted to changing weight, so you had to actively signal them not to do this. Speed seemed to be the key, not allowing them time to do so, but I’d still want to practice that a lot before trying it in a milonga.

But it did give me practice at the ocho cortado in close embrace, and that gave me the confidence to lead it in the milonga, so the class was well worth it for that alone.

Fede has been tearing his hair out trying to get me to keep my head forward when leading pivots. Tonight he planted himself in front of me, instructed me to look at him and only at him throughout the movement. That did the trick. Since the milonga is often not moving, I decided using the couple ahead as a reference point ought to work …

There was a shortage of followers tonight, so I was partnered with a guy a couple of times. The first time, with a very experienced dancer, I led. But the second time, with a guy I didn’t know, I volunteered to follow. I realised I had to watch the follower steps first to get the hang of them, but it’s not a difficult sequence so I was able to pick it up quickly. As always, following was a really helpful way to understand what matters about the lead.

The milonga

Choosing to dance only to tandas where the music appeals is all very well, but it could well see me dancing significantly less than I’d like to. The obvious solution seemed to be to broaden my tango music tastes, so I’ve been deliberately listening to Clive Harrison’s playlists in place of my usual ones.

Widening my musical appreciation is a long-term project, however, and I wasn’t feeling massively inspired by tonight’s music. Plus very few of my regular followers were there. One of my favourites wasn’t staying for the milonga, another didn’t seem interested in dancing (with anyone, not just me), and generally it wasn’t feeling like it was going to be a great evening.

I was considering bailing, but decided instead to give myself a good talking-to. I listened carefully to the music in the next tanda, and while it still wasn’t inspiring me, I was hearing things to dance to. I decided that I was going to find my dance.

I had one tanda with a regular follower, and decided to take a chance. Regular readers may recall my problems with the giro in close embrace. It had felt good in a private lesson, then rather less so in a milonga the following day. Since then, I’d put it on hold pending my next private. But I decided to give it a go, and sure enough, it worked well enough that I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about and how I’d managed to mess it up last time.

Next up was a follower who’d ‘booked’ a tanda with me the previous week. Sure enough, while the music didn’t seem likely to make it into my playlists of favourite songs, careful listening proved to be a successful way to find a far more playful dance than I would have guessed. I’ve danced with her four or five times over the course of a few months, and it always feels very easy to do so, so I had a very enjoyable time. And turning the flavour of the evening around turned out to be as simple as that!

Next tanda, there was just one follower who wasn’t dancing but looked like she wanted to. It wasn’t anyone I knew, but I was feeling brave, so cabeceod her. We too had a really enjoyable dance. The same again the following tanda: another follower I didn’t know, and another fun dance.

Four followers, and I lead both giros and ocho cortados with all of them without any problem. I realised that my issue with both in close embrace was really nothing more than impatience on my part: I wanted to be better at them than I was. My technique may not be where I want it to be, but it still passes the ‘clear and comfortable lead’ test, and I can control the pace well enough to dance them musically, so both are officially back on my dance card!

I’d earlier spotted two women dancing together, and had really been admiring their dance. I said as much to them, and we got chatting about leading and following. I said I’d done a tiny bit of following, at which point the leader invited me to do some more in the practica with her.

That seemed like a fun idea, so off we went. I warned her that I was a pretty incompetent follower, and she did find that she needed to make static weight changes super obvious to me, but once we’d got that sorted she was able to lead me really well. Indeed, she was leading me in things I didn’t know how to lead myself! I finally got to have that experience beginner followers get to enjoy: a skilled leader enabling them to do things they didn’t know they could do. It was great fun!

I ended the evening by dancing a tanda in the milonga with her, though with me leading – I don’t think I’m going to be following in a milonga anytime soon! That too was really good, and I decided afterwards to end the evening on a high note.

Postscript: Every time I follow, I enjoy it.

I don’t want to interrupt my leader journey right now by devoting the time and effort it would take to learn to follow properly, so for now I’ll focus my efforts on leading, just doing bits and pieces of following here and there along the way. But once I reach the point where I consider myself a competent leader with decent technique – maybe a couple of years down the line – I’d like to learn to follow too. No reason the women should have all the follower fun!

Image: Shutterstock

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