Tonight, lady tango was washing her hair

tango bridge

I’d heard mixed reports about the Tango Bridge milonga. It’s always hard to find a consensus view, as different people have different tastes, and what is great for dancers at one level may be less so for those at a different one.

I’m of the view that I ought to try each central London milonga at least once – and live music tonight seemed the perfect argument for trying this one now …

As ever with a new venue, doing a pre-milonga class or two seemed the best plan to get to know followers. I opted for both improver and intermediate classes mostly on the basis that I’d otherwise be hanging around for an hour between the first class and the milonga – though it turned out that wouldn’t have been the case. The milonga starts at 8pm, immediately after the improver class, while the intermediate class is in another room upstairs.

Improver class

Both classes were good. The improver class started with a version of a medio-giro I wasn’t overly sold on, but then had rather a nice … well, I guess a medio-contragiro. A back ocho, then step around the front of the follower as she steps backwards, and pivot to collect together at the end of her step. After that, add a circular back ocho into a parada.

There were too few followers, but we changed frequently, and I was lucky enough to be partnered I think three times with the teaching assistant, who was able to back-lead me to help me get the movements. The two keys for me were to keep opening my right shoulder way more than I thought necessary, and to ensure my parada was solidly against the follower’s foot.

It is a useful sequence. I could definitely see me using the two halves of it, at least. The medio-contragiro is a nice way to turn 180-degrees-ish in a small space, while the circular ocho into parada is a very small variation on things I already do, but works well as a combination.

Intermediate class

This was, happily, on the giro. Hernán assumed no prior familiarity, which was interesting in an intermediate class, and started with all of us doing half of the follower’s steps en-masse. He then built that up into the complete follower sequence, which I found very helpful indeed.

Next, he had us lead giros – but quickly found too many of us were using our arms to lead (guilty), so we did a fantastic no-arms exercise where the follower placed her hands on our shoulders or upper arms, and we had to lead any part of the giro, including reversing any of it at any point. In that way, we could tell whether or not we were really leading it. I loved this, and was amazed how little lead was needed; it was all about the direction.

I also got to follow twice. Once because we were short a few followers, so a fellow leader and I took it in turns to lead, and once with a follower who was curious about what it was like to lead, so I happily swapped roles halfway.

Once Hernán was satisfied we were leading with our chests, we got to put it all together, and then switch between giros and contragiros. A friend was in that class with me, and we were trying to work out whether any one step was better than another to switch direction. I felt the back-step made it easiest to get that springy feeling; Maria wasn’t sure which she preferred; Hernán said the side-step was easiest for the follower as it’s the easiest step to reverse. I reckon it’s massively easier to switch direction at speed, and Steph agreed.

But although my slow-speed changes of direction mostly felt clunky, just the idea of switching between giros and contragiros would have seemed miraculous just a fortnight ago, so I have no complaints!

Milonga

I have to say I wasn’t sold on the milonga. I don’t think any of the improver students stayed – or at least, they were gone by the time the intermediate class was finished. I’d expected most intermediate students to come down to the milonga, but very few did. So it was relatively empty, with no-one I knew bar my friend.

The space was awkward, with pillars in the middle of the floor and the stickiest floor I’ve ever encountered. I carry a small container of talcum powder in my bag, but that didn’t last long! I need a bigger container …

The much-vaunted live music was one singer with his guitar. He was good. I enjoyed his singing, but it needed more accompaniment than the guitar. It was just about danceable, but that was as much as I can say for it – and I speak as someone who normally adores dancing to live music.

But the worst thing about the Tango Bridge milonga for me is that cabeceo is impossible! One side of the room has a wall of lights, so you can’t see follower’s eyes; the other side is in darkness, so they can’t see yours. See the above photo for details.

The norm there was a verbal invitation, and that means roaming cabeceo is impossible too because no-one is looking for it. I absolutely refuse to use verbal invitations with anyone other than friends I dance with regularly (and even then I still usually cabeceo them): I just don’t ever want to put someone on the spot like that, or risk dancing with someone who doesn’t really want to dance with me.

So after one tanda with my friend, and a drink and chat, I headed out.

It’s a shame, as the teaching was good, and I could happily attend the classes again. But as a package of classes and milonga, it’s a non-starter for me. Meantime, it’s the Spitalfields milonga tomorrow evening – or at least, about the last 90 minutes of it, I hope. My third milonga of the week, but not my last …

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