Getting my fix in while I can, as more London milongas close

Pre coronavirus fix.jpg

I must say that coronavirus was not a category tag I ever imagined creating for this blog!

Tango Terra is always quieter on a Sunday, and more so this week. I think some are now deciding to err on the side of caution where the coronavirus is concerned. I heard also that the Tango Space milonga the previous evening was very quiet too …

I recently outlined my own perspective, but at the rate London milongas are closing their doors, the decision may soon be an academic one. The toll to date is the Mayfair Milonga, Mariposa, Carablanca, I Love Mondays, Tango Garden, Tango 178 and Tango Bridge.

Others remain open for now, but I think three factors are going to conspire against that remaining the case.

First, if I were a milonga host, I’d be adopting a significantly more cautious attitude than I am as a dancer. They obviously have to think about the risk from a much broader perspective, not just how much risk they personally pose, but the risk posed by everyone who attends.

Second, PR. If a bunch of people who attend a particular milonga are infected, that’s going to generate a lot of bad publicity, with some inevitably accusing the organisers of being irresponsible for not closing sooner. I wouldn’t be one of them – my view is that we’re all grown-ups, able to make our own decisions on whether or not to attend, and needing to take responsibility for our own decisions – but we’ve already seen people on facebook bad-mouthing hosts for remaining open.

Third, critical mass. Any milonga needs a certain minimum number of dancers to make it financially viable, as well as to provide enough opportunity for dance. And that’s before we even consider the hard-to-define but critical issue of atmosphere. As soon as enough people start staying away from a milonga, the decision to close it will become inevitable.

That being the case, I made the effort to zip back from a weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon with some haste, despite feeling tired from staying up late chatting and then waking early.

Tango Terra

When I got to Terra, some of my favourite dancers were AWOL, as well as my new Russian friends, but I was not entirely deprived of favourite followers! I wasn’t sure I’d have the stamina to stay to the end, but the time still zipped by very quickly.

One tanda, I had a very active follower who apologised for taking the lead so much. I assured her I enjoy it. I think one of the beautiful things about tango is the very different experiences you can have with different followers.

I have followers who won’t move a millimetre unless it’s lead; if I pause, they pause. I have others who will take advantage of pauses to decorate, and will sometimes suggest a change of pace in movements where the follower can easily determine the speed, like an ocho or a giro. Others with whom there’s a passing of the baton back-and-forth (she fell into that category). Yet others where it’s really them leading more than me.

All can be really enjoyable in their different ways. I’d honestly find it really hard if you asked me to choose between these different following styles. I think it’s very much like me finding my own dance; followers need to do the same. My invitation to anyone who dances with me is: dance the way you’d like to!

Some of the music this week was a little more obscure than usual! There were a couple of tracks where I couldn’t really make much sense of what was going on. Those were, I think, El Afronte tracks. Interestingly, I had no trouble dancing to them live at Maldita, but find they can be more challenging in recorded form.

So this week, a little less dance, a bit more chat, a tad less atmosphere. But still worth hastening back to London, especially if milongas are going to become a time-limited offer for a while!

Perhaps when my regular milongas close, and we move into a new Prohibition Era, we’ll create the tango equivalent of speakeasies at home. We have a wooden floor and enough space to accommodate a micro-milonga of four couples dancing at any one time. Rap six times on the door to a milonga beat for admission …

Image: Shutterstock

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