Technique in milongas, and taking my chances with Troilo


There was a discussion on a tango forum recently about how much focus we should have on technique during a milonga.

There were two schools of thought. One, that technique should always be a focus. Two, that milongas are places to have 100% of your attention on your partner and the music …

I can see both sides of the argument. But I come down on the side of the first – some degree of attention on our technique – because that seems to better reflect the reality for most of us.

The alternative view is predicated on having plenty of opportunity to work on technique outside milongas. Lessons, practicas and that most elusive of components: a regular practice partner.

I also think that, for me at least, focusing on my partner and my technique are more-or-less the same thing. Aside from musicality and safe navigation, what I want to give my partner is a warm embrace, stability, and a clear and comfortable lead. All of those things are about technique.

My technique priority today was on two pieces of homework from my last private. Ensuring my left shoulder moves as much as my right, and using pauses to check on my head and left arm positions.

I arrived at the end of the intermediate lesson, to find they were doing the end of the sequence we did in the Thursday Tango Space class. There was a shortage of leaders, so I jumped in and managed a halfway competent version of it.

The milonga

Both technique goals were met, with two spontaneous compliments on my ochos, and another follower with whom I hadn’t danced for a while telling me my dance was much more confident.

There were a lot of followers with whom I wanted to dance, and less lyrical music than usual, so I took a chance on some of the faster stuff, and I’d say it was mostly successful. I do need to be more effective in blocking a full pivot when leading an ocho cortado, though!

I took a bigger chance on two Troilo tandas! The problem I have with Troilo is I find most of it too unpredictable. I think we’re in a nice slow lyrical section, and suddenly … bam bam bam! And then as I start walking to the beat, it just stops and goes off on some zig-zag craziness.

The first of these was early on, where Bruno had announced that the next tanda would be a lyrical one but I didn’t catch the orchestra. I’d promised the next slow tanda to one of my regular followers, and I rashly cabeceod her before the music started … But it was 90% good. I eventually figured out that if I was lost, then a pause was a good solution! 

The other was the final tanda. Normally, Bruno can be relied on for a great Pugliese last tanda, but this time it was Troilo. I was all set with one of my favourite followers, but when the orchestra was announced I said I’d be happy to give it a go, but if she could spot another free leader who knew the music, I wouldn’t be offended in the slightest. She said no, we should go for it.

I have to say I was rather pleased with myself in that one. I did somehow manage to mostly keep on top of it. Dancing slowly, it wasn’t such a problem when there were unexpected changes, because I could turn a step into a suspension at the end of it, and if I was leading ochos expecting a slow section, I could instead lead snappy ones. I think that’s the first Troilo tanda where I’d give myself a solid 8/10 for musicality*, and my follower said she didn’t know why I’d made all the fuss about it.

*By which I mean only that 80% of my dance was expressing elements of the music, not that I was expressing 80% of the musical components – which would be a whole other scale!

Between the two was a lot of enjoyable dance, even if much of it was faster than I’d ideally like. But I guess I’m only going to get comfortable with the faster stuff by dancing it, so …

Oh, at one point my partner warned me that the couple behind had moved up right behind me. She did this by stiffening the embrace and not moving. I thanked her, and she said she’d done a workshop one time on how to stop the leader, either for collision-avoidance or because they wanted a pause. I asked her to demonstrate the latter, and it was really simple and effective. I think that’s perhaps a skill that should be specifically taught to followers at an early stage.

Next week is a non-stop tango express. A private with Maeve tomorrow; the Tango Space milonga on Tuesday; Malbec, empanadas and BsAs chat with tango friends on Wednesday; Tango Space class and Tango Terra on Thursday; The Mercer on Friday; practica and private with Julia and Fede on Saturday; and Tango Terra followed by drinks with tango friends on Sunday! 

Image: Shutterstock

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