I caught the end of the Tuesday intermediate class before the milonga and it looked like it was a nice turn, so I was looking forward to the Thursday version with Luis and Natalia. But it turned out it was actually voleos*!
*Variously spelled as voleo or boleo, but I suspect the latter arises only because of the Spanish pronunciation. The former also wins the Google Spellcheck Test (try each and see which has the greater number of hits), so voleo it is here …
I’m not exactly a voleo fan – not because I’ve ever tried to lead one, but because I’ve been on the receiving end of stupidly inappropriate ones on more than one occasion.
My view has long been that there are few situations in a milonga where a high voleo will be safe, and unless you know your follower can be trusted to keep it on the floor, it’s just too risky to lead even a small one because they might be unable to resist the temptation to do a showy one. For that reason, I had zero interest in learning to lead them.
But since I was there …
I enjoyed the warm-up dancing, especially as I got to dance with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. The actual lesson started well, with the first voleo technique: the leader doing a side-step rebound while leading ochos. That seemed to be easy enough and was working well.
But then Luis introduced a second, more sophisticated way to lead it. That one I didn’t really get. I think the basic idea was to complete the side-step, but then do a rapid change of weight and continue in the same direction. Only to step somewhat around the follower. Or something.
Chatting with a couple of follower friends after the lesson, it seemed I wasn’t the only leader who didn’t get it. If I ever want to lead a voleo, I’ll stick to the simple method. If.
A couple of friends joined me after the lesson. I’d had an absolutely fantastic time last time, but my only question mark was whether the friendliness then was due to the large Queer Tango London contingent. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case.
The music was again great, albeit eclectic. There was one song which sounded rather like a cross between tango and, well, country and western. There was also one tanda which I’m 99% certain started with a tango song then switched to milonga. I mean, it’s possible the first song was one where I just couldn’t hear the milonga rhythm, but I don’t think that was the case.
But I enjoyed virtually all the music, live and recorded. All my dances were lovely. Ok, there was one particular giro ending I struggled with for some reason (having previously gotten the hang of it) – but both followers laughed with me at that, and with the second one I had it figured out by the second song.
The atmosphere there is the best of all the London milongas I’ve been to. The lighting is done really well and there’s a decent bar, but it’s mostly about the attitude of the people. Everyone seems to be there simply to have fun. I haven’t seen a single wannabe performer, and there’s been no sign of anyone taking themselves too seriously.
Ok, the floorcraft is pretty bad, but the room is large, and the the odd-shape coupled with pillars in the middle of the floor means you have to take a somewhat creative approach to the ronda anyway. So although I’m mentally rolling my eyes a touch at times, in practice it doesn’t really bother me.
I’m really getting over my vocabulary hang-ups! I happily do a mix of simple walking, ochos and a few giros. There was one thing I intended to throw into the mix simply because it seemed both enjoyable and useful*, but I forgot in the moment. Next time.
*I was reviewing a few of the lesson videos from BsAs and found one which is a side-step, then simply pivoting round to lead a medio-giro.
The evening seemed to absolutely whizz by!
A musical mystery solved
I was musing a while back about the odd fact that I find it easier to dance to live music than recorded music. That seems counter-intuitive, given that I’m reasonably familiar with a fair number of tango recordings now, while the arrangement for live music can be very unpredictable even when you know the song. But I tonight solved the mystery: it’s about expectations.
With a recorded song I’ve listened to a great many times, I have this expectation of myself that I ought to be able to express the music really well. I should know what’s coming up, and be ready for it. I ought to be able to be leading linear movement during rhythmical sections and circular movement during melodic sections. I ought to be able to neatly mark the end of every phrases, in circular movement as well as walking.
That expectation is rarely met.
The truth is that I only know a handful of songs that well. Most familiar songs exist in that in-between territory, where I can hum along to them, but can’t anticipate well enough to have everything fall perfectly into place.
With live music, I don’t have that same unrealistic expectation. I know I’ll just have to adapt on the fly, and be playing catch-up. That neither surprises nor disappoints me. So while recorded music is 95% pleasure tinged with 5% kicking myself when I miss something I feel I should have caught, live music is just 100% pleasure.
And cutting myself some extra slack
I’ve so far compartmentalised the different types of tango environment:
- Solo practice: 100% focused on either technique or musicality
- Group lessons: focus split between the sequence and technique
- Privates: usually focused 100% on technique (occasionally on very simple steps)
- Practicas: 80% focused on technique, but still aiming to deliver enjoyable dance
- Milongas: 90% focused on enjoyable dance, but 10% on technique
I think my balance in each case is appropriate, including that last one. A milonga is an environment with a lot going on, so it would be easy to neglect technique. I think having some degree of attention on it in the real-world environment is helpful.
However … Tango Terra is the most relaxed and fun-focused of my three regular weekly milongas (yep, it definitely made the cut!). So I decided I’m going to cut myself some extra slack there and not consciously work on technique, but have it 100% geared to enjoyable dance.
Next up is the Tango Space monthly workshop and milonga (Xmas party edition!) on Saturday, then Los Angelitos on Sunday. May the fun continue!