Sometimes tango can be cruel, when, for no discernible reason, nothing seems to be working. Other times, tango can be very, very kind. Tonight, she bestowed only kindness on me.
I danced exactly four tandas, far less than some nights, but every one of them felt lovely …
It still feels something of a treat to attend the Tuesday milonga purely to dance, with no lesson before it. While I’ve been doing more group classes than planned this month to take advantage of the limited time JM&S are here, it feels like I have a far better balance between lessons and dance.
In line with my new wine policy – namely that one glass loosens my dancing inhibitions without impacting on balance or coordination, and that white is safer than red on the wine-breath front – I had a glass of Prosecco before setting off.
There were, unusually, many more leaders than followers. There were also very few followers I knew, so I wasn’t expecting to do much dancing – but I also knew that a few good tandas could be enough.
I’m not supposed to be doing the tanda-by-tanda accounts any more, but as there were only four in the evening, it’s kind of hard to avoid … No names, no initials, though.
The first was with one of my favourite followers. What now feels like a very, very long time ago, we went from the class into what was to be her first ever time in a milonga. We’ve danced together regularly since.
The occasional glitch aside, we always dance well together. I think part of it is compatible styles and tastes. We both like a lot of forward intention with some degree of shared axis, and enjoy slow dance. I would say that part of it is friendship, but actually that came later, so the balance of it is just the random nature of tango: some partners you really connect with, others not so much. More on that shortly.
We had a really lovely dance together last time, and this time may have been even better. She enthused later, and we were both reflecting on how far we’ve come.
Next up was a follower I haven’t danced with for a while, but is another woman who has a lot of forward intention and we’ve almost always danced well together. There has been one exception, where nothing seemed to work, and I think that was in fact the last time we danced. But neither of us were deterred by that, and we enjoyed a really nice vals together. There were no attempted forced-crosses …
I was chatting with a couple of friends when Fede joined us. We were talking about the learning process, and he said he’d been miserable for the first two years. I’m never going to dance like Fede, but on that measure at least, I’m well ahead of the game. In my first year, I’m enjoying myself!
Given there were few followers I knew, I risked a semi-random cabeceo. Semi because I’d seen her led in a simple but musical dance earlier. Although we’d never danced before, it worked from the outset. There was no shared axis with her, but we were very well-connected, and it was honestly like dancing with a familiar follower. Very smooth, very easy.
I was about to leave, partly on the basis that I was three-for-three on lovely tandas, and partly because I didn’t know any of the remaining followers. But I was then cabeceod by a woman I’d seen dance but didn’t know. She’d seemed from her dance to be very experienced, so I was taken by surprise, but wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. That too was a great tanda, and she said the same.
A couple of brief reflections
Tango can be fickle. One evening, everything works; another evening, nothing.
But there’s also what might be termed consistent randomness. If I think about the followers with whom I’ve often danced in classes, there are three categories.
There are followers with whom things almost always work. We can have occasional off-days, but generally things work well. That doesn’t mean we’ll always get the particular sequence down well, but we’ll dance well together, and we’ll muddle through even when we’re confused by the class.
At the opposite extreme, there have been two followers I simply cannot lead. It has literally never worked with them. At least one of them appears to be a decent dancer – I’ve seen her dance in milongas, and it looks good – but I personally feel zero presence from her. For me, it feels like trying to lead a piece of cooked spaghetti.
Then there’s everyone else. Somewhere between the two.
Some factors, I can theorise. Compatible styles. Compatible tastes. Attitude. Friendship. But none of those factors explain everything. Some of it is pure mystery. That, too, is part of tango.
Reflection two: the cabeceo. A friend joked about my rubbish cabeceo one time when we knew we were going to dance and some of my favourite music was starting. My invitation to her was, just as she had finished putting on her shoes, ‘Let’s go!’. So, er, yeah, that one wasn’t going to win any cabeceo awards.
Generally, however, I’m a huge fan of the cabeceo. Mostly for the reasons described in this piece. It’s gone from something which once felt alien to something which feels familiar and even fun.
It can, though, be puzzling at times! There was one follower there tonight I’ve enjoyed dancing with before, and I believe it to be mutual. Tonight I attempted to cabeceo her without success. There was no clarity to it. She didn’t outright refuse – she never looked at me then looked away. But I tried from a couple of angles, and it did seem that I would have been aware had someone been looking at me as intently. Conversely, when the final follower cabeceod me tonight, I had no idea why. We had a very enjoyable dance, but I was surprised she chose a considerably less experienced dancer she didn’t know on an evening when there were plenty of hungry leaders. That mystery, too, remains.
But perhaps that’s part of the fun of it!
I had nothing else planned before part of the Spitalfields milonga on Thursday and Sunday’s final classes with JM&S, and the Los Angelitos milonga which follows, but a friend is tempting me with a milonga tomorrow using live music as bait … I may not take much persuasion!