A relaxed afternoon at the DNI Practica and La Maria Rolera milonga

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I got as far as the hotel lobby then had to go back upstairs for my sunglasses; seems I’d forgotten what it was like to leave the hotel in daylight.

I’d originally planned to go to La Maria Rolera to see how it compared to its sister milonga on Tuesday, but Diego was insistent I had to go to the DNI practica, and I’m certainly not going to argue with his recommendations.

I did, though, manage to go to both …

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Milonga 10: DNI Practica

A practica rather than a milonga, but the lines between the two are often blurred, so I’ll keep the headings simple.

The building is lovely! There’s a shop and cafe downstairs, various teaching studios and then the practica on the top floor. It would be a very cool place to hang out when we’re here on a more relaxed schedule.

The practica is super-friendly and relaxed. Amazingly, I didn’t get there for the very start, having lazed in the bath a bit longer. I must be becoming more Argentinian.

It was clear people were there in a number of different capacities. Some were treating it as an informal milonga. I mean, they may have been practicing something specific but it looked like pure dance.

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Others looked like they’d just come from a class and were working on one specific thing. Then there were people like me. Mostly I just wanted to dance, but I also wanted to practice two particular things.

First, the turn Diego recently taught me. I had the basic idea, but definitely needed practice to have it be smooth. Second, the barrida cross I learned at Patio de Tango yesterday.

My approach was to cabeceo someone, just dance with them for the first song, doing my usual simple things, then ask them if I could practice a couple of things. I didn’t tell them what, as I wanted to be sure I was leading them, I just wanted to warn them I’d be doing the same things a lot.

It felt appropriate to be practising the turn Diego taught me in the practica he recommended I attend! And even better that it was working really well. By the end, I absolutely consider it part of my core vocabulary now. I can currently turn about 150 degrees with it, and with more practice will be able to get it up to 180.

Second, the barrida cross I learned in yesterday’s Patio de Tango lesson. I need to practice this more, but it was working and does feel really nice. It will feel beautiful when my technique is fully there. One follower was particularly helpful when I asked for feedback on how it felt. The secret to a barrida that feels delicious to the follower, she said, is to have the bent knee be really soft as you drag the foot. That was shortly before I left, so I didn’t have much time to practice that change, but it made total sense.

I could very happily have stayed there for the full four hours, but there’s another one on Wednesday evening, and I was keen to check out La Maria Rolera to see how it compared to its sister milonga on Tuesday.

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Milonga 11: La Maria Rolera

This was in the same building, but on the ground floor instead of the basement.

It definitely wasn’t the same event. It’s a smaller room with fewer people. The music was extremely good, but not quite as dreamy. There isn’t as much atmosphere in the upstairs room. The floorcraft wasn’t as amazing. But still, I’m comparing it with my absolute dream milonga; viewed in its own right it was a wonderful milonga.

I made the right decision to do both DNI and this, as the two provided a good mix. Both friendly and relaxing, DNI offering a more appropriate environment for practicing and LMR better for pure dance.

I think La Maria was pretty balanced; here, there seemed to be perhaps ten more followers. That was nice for me, but I’m not sure – on this single sampling – that I’d recommend it to followers as much as leaders for that reason. However, I have no idea  how typical today was.

There was a good mix of locals and visitors. Two locals made similar compliments about my dance, but I think one was more genuine than the other! A common question between songs is where you’re from and how many times you’ve been here before. When I said it was my first visit, the first follower expressed surprise. “You’ve only just come here now? After how many years dancing?” When I told her one, she said my dance felt more like a number of years. However, the rest of the conversation was, in brief, that my dance felt more Argentine than European; that I must have had lessons with Argentine teachers (true, in part); that it was so much better to learn here; and, surprise, she was a teacher. She didn’t pitch for business directly, but that was clearly where she was heading before the final song started and I made my escape afterwards.

But the second one was genuine, I think. She asked the same question. I said it was my first visit, and it was my long-planned reward for my first year in tango. “How many years?” she asked. “One,” I repeated. “Impossible!” she declared. I assured her it was possible and that I have good teachers.

One of the teachers from Maldita was dancing there, and he did that very Argentinian thing of greeting me like a long-lost friend with a big hug. You see this a lot in milongas, and it always looks like they are friends who’ve known each other 20 years and haven’t seen each other for an age, but I’m beginning to understand it’s equally possible they just exchanged five words when they met on a bus yesterday.

That’s not the day done – I just had time back at the hotel to write up these two. Next on the list is La Catedral at 11pm, another very famous milonga, and one I’ve wanted to visit ever since I saw it in a video. After that, we’re going on to El Tacuari – the London friends Steph met yesterday are in a party of six and invited us to join their table. Coming soon to a blog near you!

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