Intermediate classes can vary tremendously in focus, from long, complicated sequences to pure technique.
Tonight’s Tango Space class was my idea of the perfect group lesson: half technique, and then a sequence which was really also a disguised technique exercise …
The class started with solo exercise, everyone practicing the follower movements for back ochos. It started with the basic movement, then added a front cross, then a back cross.
I always love doing the follower steps because it really helps me get a feel for what I’m asking a follower to do when I lead. Plus I get a little taste of another world of tango.
We then did an exercise I’ve done once before, and enjoyed both times: with a partner in open embrace, both doing the follower giro steps, mirroring each other, switching back-and-forth between clockwise and anti-clockwise turns.
We then moved onto the sequence, which as always, Luis broke down into very simple steps, having us do just one small thing for one song, then adding one extra element each song.
From a back ocho, do a leader-only change of weight when on the left side, and then step 90 degrees behind with the left foot. 90 degrees so you are still moving parallel to the follower, but now also taking a back-step with her. While doing so, let the embrace slide around so you end up in the Americana embrace (as the move is effectively an Americana in reverse).
Next, take a diagonal side-step around the follower without changing her weight. This was the tricky part for both roles. For the leader, because you have to make sure you are stepping around the follower, not away from her, otherwise you’ll change her weight. For the follower because it’s easy to do an unled change of weight even if the leader does their part right, purely from habit.
At this point, you’re in cross system. Forward step in cross. And, in true Luis fashion, ‘figure out a resolution from there.’ Cruel as this may seem, it’s actually great, because it gets you thinking about the principles. One possibility is for the leader to do a side-step to the right and immediately lead another back ocho, to repeat the cycle as desired. Another is to lead a cross-system cross. But since I’m always looking for the simplest possible resolution, I just did a leader-only change of weight, which allowed us to walk directly out of it.
I would need to practice this a lot, but the side-step around the follower is a very useful movement to have in my toolkit, and the reason I described it as a disguised technique lesson. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll ever use the sequence in a milonga, but I will practice it for that reason.
Los Angelitos hadn’t lived up to its usual billing, but I was confident Tango Terra would – and I wasn’t disappointed!
I’m not even sure how to give tasters from tonight’s milonga, as I could say the same things about almost every tanda: it was absolutely wonderful! Everything was just perfect: the music, my followers, my own ability to switch off my internal dialogue and just dance …
The live music is always amazing. The band is incredible, and Shaun’s DJing likewise.
The evening absolutely flew by, and I didn’t get the chance to dance with half the followers I’d have liked to. I think I danced every tanda but two, taking time out to drink a glass of prosecco and chat to a couple of friends – and even then I don’t think I sat out the entire tandas!
The tandas can sometimes be a bit vague anyway when the band is playing. Sometimes they effectively do a cortina by taking a very short break and suggesting this is a good time to change partners, and other times they just keep playing. Although that can be potentially awkward, without the natural break of a cortina as a prompt to change partner, it can also make for a very free-flowing atmosphere, where people just dance as few or as many songs as they want.
There was one tanda where the band was playing a contemporary song I didn’t know, with both fast and slow sections, and somehow, purely by luck, I managed to correctly anticipate every change to the second. It was just a delight. My follower said afterwards that I knew the song really well and I had to confess that I actually didn’t know it at all, I just got lucky!
Tonight, in the final part of the second set, the band played I think maybe five songs in a row, but I wasn’t complaining – I was having an absolutely amazing time dancing with a woman I’d danced with once before. I didn’t recognise her by sight, and only knew we must have danced before by the way she greeted me, but I did recognise her beautiful dance.
I bumped into Ray at the end, and said this was absolutely my favourite milonga, and he said it’s the one he recommends to everyone who asks his advice when visiting London. One of my followers tonight said this is the only milonga she goes to, and I’ve heard lots of people say this is the best milonga in town, so I’m far from alone in my view.
I’ve so far only been going to the Thursday milongas, as I go to Los Angelitos on Sundays, but I’m going to start going to the Tango Terra Sunday ones too. They are only every other Sunday, so I’ll be able to alternate them with Los Angelitos. So only two days to wait before my next Tango Terra fix, and in the meantime I have Carablanca tomorrow.