I arrived at Tango Terra as it opened at 7pm, left after it closed at midnight and I think in all that time I sat out three, maybe four, tandas.
It was the xmas edition, and very busy. Although it was only my third time there, there’s quite a lot of overlap of followers from Tango Space and Los Angelitos, so plenty of familiar faces – and some great new ones …
A flavour …
There are certain followers where we just have really compatible tastes in dance. I know who they are, and they know who I am, so there’s never any question: we’re always going to dance.
I had this exchange with one of them after our second tanda tonight:
Her: You know the reason I always want to dance with you?
Me: Go on
Her: You just dance with the music – you don’t try any fancy moves
Me: I don’t know any fancy moves
A friend asked me afterwards if I’d had any really special tandas, and I said the whole evening had been wonderful, but what is always special to me is when I dance with a new compatible follower for the first time. When we just click and it’s quickly obvious we both enjoy the same type of dance. I had two such tonight, both to live music (of which more in a moment).
The first was a woman whose dance just flowed, and at the end of each song she gave me one of the simplest and most gratifying responses. She held the embrace for a moment, then looked at me, smiled, nodded and gave a double-squeeze of the hand that felt like a victory celebration.
The second was late in the evening. Quite a lot of people had gone, so I had to go hunting for a follower. I didn’t know her, but she was looking engaged with the music, so I cabeceod her. I’m now semi-Argentine in my habit of taking time to establish the embrace with a new follower, but this time the connection was there from the first moment. It was probably five seconds from entering the embrace to me taking the first step, fully confident we were in sync. The song was a slow tango, and we had a lovely, lovely dance. Then another. Then another.
If you haven’t been to Tango Terra, there are three things you need to know about the band. One, they are great! Two, they don’t do cortinas. I mean, sometimes they say this would be a good point to change partner, but in my limited experience of three visits, generally not. Three, they sometimes mix music rather … eclectically.
So we had three delightful slow tangos and then … a fast pop song! Normally I would have been slightly dismayed at this point: there’s nothing worse than having three lovely songs with someone and the fourth one not working. It was clear we were both slow dance fans, and there was just no way to dance this one slowly. With tango, dancing to the slow beat is always an option; with modern music, that doesn’t always fit. This was the case here, so I just went for it. It worked perfectly.
One tanda, again to live music, I cabeceod one of my relatively new favourite followers. We normally enjoy slow dance together, and especially love to walk. We did that for the first song, though walking was challenging in the crowded room with ‘interesting’ floorcraft. The second song was a super-fast contemporary song, and once more, dancing it at half-pace wasn’t going to fit at all.
Not only was the pace fast, but the floorcraft meant it was a constant game of dodgems, with many rapid changes of direction required to avoid people moving in random directions. But she was following perfectly, so it became effortless.
Later, I cabeceod the same follower for a slow and gentle song. I commented on the contrast with our previous dance when … the next one was a super-fast modern milonga! I knew she didn’t know milonga steps, but I also knew she’d successfully followed me doing random shit at high speed, so did the same here. Again, perfect following. And again, me realising that with the right follower, Just Making It Up is absolutely fine.
I had a similar, though less dramatic, experience with another favourite slow dance fan. We were enjoying some lovely, languorous music, and she does these great back ochos. Halfway through one of which, a faster beat came in beneath the main one. She does other forms of dance, and I could immediately feel her respond to that, so went with her as she turned them into faster, snappier, shorter, walking ochos.
The combination of a really relaxed atmosphere, a follower who has her own palpable response to the music and the ability to turn on a dime is a lot of fun!
I had one tanda with a friend to some electronic music that turned into some kind of modern Troilo. We somehow made some kind of sense of it, though about half of it turned into a battle for survival.
I’d said earlier to someone that one thing I loved about Tango Terra is that everyone is there to have fun. There’s nobody taking themselves too seriously, and no wannabe performers dancing like they are the only ones on the floor. Turned out I was wrong about that latter part.
That tanda was mostly spent trying not to get hit by an idiot who was leading constant, totally out-of-control giros in random directions. It was impossible to predict where he might go next, especially as there was zero connection between what he was leading and the music. I finally managed to steer us to one side so he could overtake, and he disappeared down the line of dance. Phew! Only to find that, two minutes later, he had come back up against the line of dance and was now again next to us!
The band plays a lot of lyrical music, and Martin’s a lovely singer. Tonight we had an extra treat in the form of an additional female singer for part of it. Good pop music, well played and beautifully sung works surprisingly well for tango. At one point we found ourselves dancing to a Back to Black Amy Winehouse cover that I would never have imagined would be so danceable, but with this arrangement and this singer, it totally was.
The time flew by. By the end of it, I had very sore feet but was very happy! I think it’s actually taken over from Los Angelitos as my favourite milonga.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love Los Angelitos for the music and the high proportion of compatible followers, and there will never be a substitute for the experience of being able to walk to Pugliese when it thins out toward the end! But for the combination of great live music, compatible followers, fantastic atmosphere and pure, relaxed fun, Tango Terra just beats it to the line.