Fourteen months in, I’m in a good place

Fourteen months

Tonight was my type of music, my type of followers, my type of dance.

Mara Ovieda was again DJing. There were a lot of lyrical tandas, and the more rhythmical ones still had depth to them. I only sat out a few tandas, and that was mostly because I was busy chatting …

Some of her milongas were admittedly a little obscure, the milonga rhythm buried pretty deeply, but if that’s my sole complaint …

Speaking of milongas, I danced one and realised that there was a lesson here for my tango. It was a fast one, and while the dance floor was mostly very crowded in the tango tandas, there were only about a dozen or so of us dancing the milonga, so loads of room. I was dancing with one of my favourite followers, so had the confidence to really go for it. I was mostly only doing the six-step pattern, but varying the size and direction, and turning constantly. It was huge fun.

And, I realised, I wasn’t thinking at all of moving my partner, I was only thinking about where I was going and trusting her to come with me. I need to take much more of that attitude into my tango.

Things were very crowded. There was one tanda in particular where I foolishly decided the central area might be the lesser evil. It most definitely wasn’t: it was the area selected by people who wanted to do lots of fast giros.

However, the need to take constant evasive action meant that, like in milonga, I was just moving where there was a gap and trusting my follower to come with me. I was a bit worried I was pulling her around, but when I checked afterwards she said not at all.

And I realised that tanda, I hadn’t been thinking much about figures, I’d just been moving. It was 80% Just Made Up, and – with a very responsive follower – worked almost all the time. I think there were three or four times when things went clunk, but I was able to resolve it each time within a beat or two. It still feels messy, but I’m getting there!

There was a simple sandwich variant Laura taught me which I’d forgotten. I’d been trying to remember how it worked, figured it out yesterday then successfully tested it with Steph.

  • Normal sandwich with right foot
  • Then just stay there (no left foot step) and lead a parada to the right

That turned out to be excellent timing. The reason Laura had taught it was because she said sometimes there wouldn’t be room in the direction required for my normal sandwich, so it was good to have an option which took the follower in the opposite direction. Sure enough, that was the case multiple times tonight, so if was great to have that option.

I realised that my confidence level has really climbed several notches. I think mostly because of the Buenos Aires trip, but also because I’m really finding myself in demand now at both the Tuesday milonga and Los Angelitos.

I’m also getting invitations from followers I’ve previously considered out of my league. There were two of those tonight who cabeceo’d me. Perhaps it’s the tango trousers.

I no longer worry about my limited vocabulary. It’s sufficient variety, and I have enough tools for navigation even in conditions as crowded as they were tonight. Getting to that point with it is huge!

Of course, I’m under no illusions here. I’m still a beginner. Any halfway ok leader will get dances because there are almost always more followers than leaders. I also know that my technique still leaves a great deal to be desired.

But I also know my strengths. I get lots of compliments on my musicality. My embrace is comfortable. My lead is mostly clear. I very much welcome collaborative dance. And I laugh when things go wrong. These are not traits shared by all leaders, even some with many years’ experience. For 14 months in, I’m in a good place.

Image: Shutterstock

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