Back into a milonga after nine, long, tango-less days


My plans for last week and weekend included the Tuesday Tango Space milonga, Tango Terra, Tango Shelter and Tango on the Thames. I got to do exactly none of that, as I was struck down with flu on Monday.

This was the short-and-sharp variety: a couple of days where everything hurt and I couldn’t even get out of bed, but free from symptoms eight days later. The first couple of days were the worst, but it was the weekend which was most frustrating. By then, I felt mostly ok, just tired and not wanting to risk passing it on to anyone else, so I skipped the two planned milongas …

All of which saw me dancing for the first time in nine days at the Tango Space milonga tonight.

It wasn’t the ideal set of circumstances. It was very quiet, with about half as many followers as leaders; few of my regular followers were there; I felt quite rusty; and the music, courtesy of a French guest DJ called Hubert, tended very much toward to the obscure. Some of it was obscure versions of songs I knew, other music was just … obscure.

Which isn’t to say it wasn’t good. I actually really liked a lot of it, I just found it hard to dance to.

Early on, I’d decided it might be an evening of mostly sitting and chatting. But I danced one tanda with one of my favourite followers, despite not knowing the music. While I was a little behind the music most of the time, it felt better than I’d thought it might, and my follower seemed happy, so when I was cabeceo’d for the next one, also unfamiliar music, I decided to be brave.

And that was the short version of my evening. From that point on, I actually danced most tandas, right though to La Cumparsita.

It was far from my best dancing. Most of the time, I felt I was playing catch-up with the unfamiliar music, and I felt out of practice, but it helped that a lot of other leaders were saying the same. And on an evening when I didn’t have the highest expectations of myself, it was actually quite an interesting exercise seeing how quickly I could figure out what was going on with each phrase.

A few other snippets …

There was one fast milonga tanda with a rather frantic section during one song. I was with an experienced follower, so I decided to take a chance and try some purely improvised steps. I only did it for that one section, but it actually worked perfectly. It still felt scary, and I didn’t want to push my luck by repeating it, but I’m continuing my baby steps with this.

I really need to try this in a practica, where I can tell my follower what I’m doing and there’s no pressure.

I’d seen one new face sitting at the side of the dance floor, looking very interested but I’d not seen her dance, so I thought I’d do the friendly thing and invite her.

It was a nice dance. She told me afterwards she was only a few months in to tango. I expressed surprise, and said she was doing incredibly well, at which point she revealed that she was, you guessed it, a salsa dancer.

A fellow leader friend who knows my views on Troilo expressed surprise after I danced a Troilo tanda. I told him that it had been almost intentional too …

I’d been listening to the opening of the first song. I wasn’t completely sure it was Troilo, but I had felt safe in at least accusing it of going equipped. I’d decided not to dance it when one of my favourite followers gave me a pretty full-on cabeceo. I thought what the heck, I’d give it a go.

It was very definitely a game of catch-up, but with a very relaxing and responsive follower, it wasn’t terrible. I wouldn’t want to do it too often, but there was something fun about playing music detective with a musical follower.

And so when the last tanda was announced, and it too seemed to offer grounds for reasonable suspicion of being Troilo, I again decided to take my life in my hands. (I checked afterwards with the DJ; it had indeed been guilty as charged.)

That was a surprisingly good tanda. I did feel like I was driving down a dark and twisty country lane at night, and the music was the sportscar ahead whose driver knew every inch of the road, and all I could do was try to keep its tail-lights in sight. But the music was actually very beautiful. Those few times when my headlights lit up the road to the end of the phrase, I really enjoyed it. The rest of the time I was at least enjoying the challenge. My follower may have been being kind, but when I described afterwards how it felt, she said it had all felt musical to her.

But now I really want a milonga with my kind of music, and there’s nothing on the schedule this week! There’s no Los Angelitos on Sunday, and Tango Terra is on Friday, rather than Thursday this week, when we have tickets for our local theatre. I may have to discuss options with the management … Wish me luck!

Image: Shutterstock

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