Steph claims I don’t understand the concept of holidays. There is some truth to this. With my background in business travel with extremely limited time off, I’m used to making the most of the time, so there isn’t much lazing around. I’ve always taken the view that you can do that with greater comfort, convenience and economy at home.
However, this morning was a relaxed one. We did nothing more than visit the two tango shoe shops directly opposite the hotel …
Buying shoes is always a little tricky for me as I have size 10.5 feet, and not everyone does half sizes, and my feet are also very wide. I tried on a few pairs, but most didn’t fit well, and I wasn’t impressed by the quality of the rest. It gave me a whole new level of appreciation for Einat’s Balenceo shoes!
Since I will soon have a bespoke suit to go with my bespoke shirts, I may treat myself to some made-to-measure shoes if I can find a suitable place. I’ve got a couple of recommendations to try.
Lesson on giros with barrida
I attended the 90-minute pre-milonga lesson at Mano Blanca. This was entirely in Spanish. Steph had told me not to worry about this, and she was right. I may have missed some tips, but the teachers here are clearly used to having the movement do the talking.
As previously identified, I’d need a lot of work on my barrida technique to get it to milonga standard, so the specifics weren’t of interest, but I was happy to get lots of giro practice.
The only slight hitch was we weren’t swapping partners, and the follower I was working with kept doing an extra forward step. She did it with the teacher too, so it wasn’t my lead, and he couldn’t cure her of it for more than one or two turns. Still, once I knew about it, it didn’t make much difference.
Last night I felt like the giro king. They all worked really smoothly, and I could end them at will. This afternoon I was back to struggling with the timing of the exit. Both may be follower-related: really skilled followers last night who smoothed things out, and an inexperienced one today.
The teacher then started demonstrating some alternatives to the barrida ending. There was one he almost threw in with a shrug and a ‘or obviously you could just do this’ and I was all ‘Wait, what? Show me that again!’ It was simple, looked great, and it kept the couple within their own space.
He showed it again and I tried it about half a dozen times. It was great! The lesson was totally worth it for that. All it was is this:
- Use a parada to stop the giro on the follower’s side-step
- Leave my right foot where it is
- Pivot myself back 90 degrees to the left
- Invite the follower to step forward over my right leg
Experienced tango dancers are probably puzzled as to why I think that’s anything noteworthy. I think it was used with a Tango Space improver class at some point, but that was at a time when my step memory was full before I got that far.
The reasons it’s a moderately big deal to me are:
- A parada is a very clear-cut way to end a giro
- That sequence of movements means we are still within our own space, making it ideal for crowded milongas
- It’s evidence there are more really simple things I have yet to discover!
After the lesson, he was chatting with a few of us, and showed us some balance exercises. ‘Ten minutes a day and your giros will be beautiful.’ He omitted to say for how many days. 3,650, probably. Still, the exercises are simple, so I’ll try them.
Milonga 4: Mano Blanca at El Beso
Yesterday’s milonga was incredible, so I guess the tango gods had to balance things out.
I don’t mean there is anything wrong with Mano Blanca at all. It has a great floor, decent cabeceo sight-lines, a really good sound system and I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. Indeed, I was given a front-row seat with my own table.
It’s just that I now have quite clear preferences for both music and style of dance, and this wasn’t a good match for me. There were vanishingly few lyrical songs, and the music generally to me lacked punch. I like drama. I like singers telling tales of lost loves and midnight strolls beneath the moonlight. The overall feel of this music was more like ‘I got up a bit late, nipped out to do a bit of shopping and then came home and fed the cat.’
I sat a lot because the music didn’t inspire me. Or perhaps it was just me lacking in energy. After less than four hours sleep the night before, I got to bed at 1.30am last night and Steph thought it a good idea to wake me before 7am. Either way, two hours was long enough. I had some pleasant tandas with very friendly followers, but nothing that stood out to me as special.
A friend was over in BsAs on business, and I’d arranged to meet him there at 4pm. My thinking had been that either two hours dancing would be enough, or we could break for a late lunch and then return. I returned to my table after my last tanda to find Steph waiting there for me. Apparently she’d pointed me out on the dance floor to the host, who’d shown her to my table.
There followed a very enjoyable lunch and chat with Paul at a great restaurant we’d discovered yesterday. That time, we had empanadas, this time we had some absolutely delicious steaks. They were huge, even Steph’s ‘small’ one, but I was hungry by then. Memo to self: if you want them rare, order them extra-rare.
For pudding, I had pancakes with dulce de leche, which were absolutely huge and phenomenally sweet. I only managed half a portion.
After that, we had 90 minutes of rest in the hotel before it was time to head to the pre-milonga lesson at Maldita.
Lesson on pivotless ochos … or something
There was a large group for the 90-minute class, but it turned out most were complete beginners – so when they divided us up, there were only about 10 people in our part of the lesson.
It was a long-ish and rather complex sequence. I didn’t really get it, and Steph didn’t even want to attempt it as a leader. However, there was a part of the variation that I may be able to use. It was leading side-steps, and then while you invite the follower to side-step to the leader’s left, you take a forward step to sacada them and can then lead a boleo into a parada. This is similar to the barrida with planeo sequence but simpler. Will file that one away for a practica.
Although the lesson itself wasn’t that useful, it was a very good social introduction to the people who ran the milonga. Which I think was responsible for a slightly weird thing that happened later, but we’ll get to that.
One friend suggested all the pre-milonga lessons might be too much. In London, I use them primarily as an introduction to followers, but here that really isn’t needed. The lesson material is usually too complex for me, but so far I’ve taken simple things from each one, so I’ll probably continue them for now at least.
Milonga 5: Maldita at Buenos Ayres Club
The tango gods smiled again tonight.
Steph had been to this milonga some five years ago, and really enjoyed it – especially the live music from El Afronte. Steph had first heard them perform on the street five years earlier, and really liked them. She was confident I would too – and she was totally right!
They compose their own tango music. It’s a great blend of traditional elements with a contemporary feel in much the vein of Romantica Milonguera – but louder! Check out the samples in the above link, if you wouldn’t mind: it will save me writing a lot more words at 2.30am.
There was also a performance by a couple who go by the name HYC Tango. I’m not generally a fan of very showy open-embrace demos; give me a great walk every time. But they were phenomenally skilled and a huge amount of fun, so I enjoyed the performance enormously.
Everything at BsAs milongas requires a photo, I have learned, and this was no exception. The couple plus a small-ish group were invited to pose for a photo, and for some unknown reason, Steph and I were included in the invitation. I’ve put her in charge of finding all the photos of us from the milonga Facebook pages.
Cabeceo there was a little tricky for a couple of reasons. First, not everyone was there to dance. The band has quite a following among non-dancers, so anything from a half to two-thirds of the room weren’t there to dance.
Second, the light level was very low, and it was all but impossible to establish eye-contact across the floor.
But after a very nice tanda with Steph, I cabeceod a woman a few seats to my left. She was from New York, and a very graceful dancer, so that was lovely. Sticking to short-range targets, I next invited a woman from the class who was sat a little way behind our table. After that, I had to do the roaming cabeceo thing and try to figure out who the dancers were. That worked fine.
Again, I won’t do the tanda-by-tanda thing, and wouldn’t have the energy if I wanted to. Suffice it to say I danced as much as I wanted to, and all were good dances. We left at 1am, when our feet couldn’t take any more.
Most of my tandas weren’t in the same league as La Maria, but I’m not expecting anywhere else to reach that bar! However, this is absolutely my second-favourite milonga so far, and I would ordinarily have raved about it. I love the atmosphere, it’s super-friendly, the music is wonderful and the dancing was great. We plan to go back again next week.