I’d caught the end of the intermediate lesson on Tuesday, on leader and follower decorations, and it had looked fiendishly complicated. I very much hoped Luis and Natalia could be counted on for either a more accessible version, or a careful build-up to the final thing.
I needn’t have worried. Not that I could do the final version, which involved the leader pivoting on one foot while doing lapices with the other, but Luis did indeed break it down well. I was able to do my own version of it, pivoting on two feet without the lapices. And my ‘one thing from each lesson’ approach meant that while I wasn’t going to do the whole thing, I did very much like another new way to do a medio-giro …
- Leader takes an outside step
- When follower collects, do a ‘heel hook’ (‘open’ leader cross, with feet at right angles)
- Pivot on two feet while follower does side, forward, and side steps
- At which point you can either walk out of it, or repeat the sequence
This is a slightly simpler version of the one I normally use.
There was one rather cheery moment with Natalia. She came and watched and then said she wanted to feel my lead. I lead her. ‘That was worth feeling,’ she said, and that was that.
Later, when the leader was supposed to be pivoting on one foot, Luis came and watched me dancing with a friend. ‘Good,’ he said, ‘but I’d like you to be pivoting on one foot.’ I wryly observed that I would too. We settled for what I had.
I have a full-on man crush on Luis. He is, as everyone told me, a fantastic teacher. One of the things I love about him is that he really promotes collaborative dance. Tonight we did a specific exercise where it was the follower’s job to pick a moment to slow the dance down so she could decorate, and it was the leader’s job to be sensitive to this and to respond.
For the final few minutes of the lesson, he asked whether we wanted to work on the sequence or on collaborative dance, and there was a clear consensus for the latter – which made me very happy! I love active followers, and it’s great to see this nurtured and even better to see it received so well by leaders and follower alike.
A friend who’d seen me dance on Tuesday while changing shoes after the lesson said she could really see a difference in my dance since BsAs. She asked me if I felt different, and I realised I do.
I mean, on one level, the improvements I made while there are rather small. I made some modest improvements to my technique, and acquired a tiny bit more vocabulary. But I do feel different. I think doing so much dancing, and having it well received by local followers in the birthplace of tango, did a lot for my confidence, and left me a lot more relaxed. Tango in BsAs milongas is so not about the steps, and simple, musical dance is so much appreciated. I still want my technique to advance about a decade in the next year, but I’m very comfortable with where I am right now.
Afterwards, it was time to begin my exploration of new-to-me London milongas to identify the DJs who play the kind of music I love.
Tango Terra had two things going for it: live music (almost always a good sign), and it was just around the corner from my lesson.
I loved it.
There’s a mix of traditional and contemporary music, and it was almost all my kind of thing. Lyrical, melodic, mostly suitable for slow dance. Even the stuff that demanded faster dance was really enjoyable.
I’d been warned that verbal invitations were the norm there, but I happily cabeceod followers. I’d also been warned that the floorcraft can be, uh, somewhat freeform. That was totally true. There was no discernible ronda of any kind, and there were a few leaders there paying little to no attention to those around them. In one notable case, a couple simply reversed out blindly onto the floor. Interesting.
But, like those towns that remove all the road markings so that people slow down and pay more attention, it pretty much works. There were a few whirlwinds here and there, but slow dancing was the norm, so we were able to wend our way around each other. The space is big, and it wasn’t crowded, so I could always find a way through.
I was even able to walk for entire phrases by weaving my way through sufficiently large gaps between the random pockets of static dancing.
I danced with some familiar followers there, and also cabeceod some new ones. I danced most of the tandas, and had just one dance that was less than ideal: a follower with poor balance. Literally all the others were lovely, and collaborative dance was the norm.
I did for a moment think I’d been thank-you’d after one song, and was very surprised, but it turned out she knew the band was about to interrupt proceedings for a birthday vals for none other than Ray Batchelor! She made a point of saying she looked forward to dancing again.
Ray’s birthday vals was, as you’d expect, a lot of fun. A mix of men and women, and a mix of leading and following.
A friend had spotted some taxi dancers at Etnia on Sunday, and what were likely the same ones were pointed out to me at Tango Terra tonight. I literally had no idea that was even a thing in London (I tried to sneak a photo but didn’t manage it).
I did get one verbal invitation, though an entirely welcome one. A woman I’ve enjoyed dancing with a few times bounded up to me with a ‘Do you dance milonga?’ question. Newly confident in nodding, we had a very enjoyable tanda. Even with the random ronda, we were able to carve out a section of floor in the centre for ourselves, so had plenty of room to move.
We were both rather shocked when the house lights went on at the end of it. That, it turned out, had been the last tanda. The evening seemed to have whizzed by, but then the lesson finished at 9pm and the milonga closed at 11pm, so it wasn’t a large dancing window.
Tango Terra was my first experiment in branching out into new London milongas, and it couldn’t have been more successful! Great music, great followers, great atmosphere. I will be a regular there for sure.