Completing my hat-trick of ‘welcome back’ milongas

Tuesday saw me at the first post-lockdown milonga in London, and that was followed by the re-opening of Tango Terra on Thursday and Los Angelitos on Sunday …

Tango Terra

Tango Terra was very quiet when I arrived at 8pm, one hour after opening. I didn’t have a pre-lockdown basis for comparison, because I used to do Luis’ 8pm Tango Space class and then get to Terra shortly after 9pm. However, it stayed rather quiet throughout, with perhaps a dozen or so followers actively dancing, and I would guess 20-ish leaders.

Tango Space also had more leaders than followers, but not to such a marked extent as Terra. I’m guessing men are a bit more gung-ho about returning than women. But it’s certainly a great time for followers to return.

I’m also hopeful that we’ll see some positive impact from leaders having to sit out tandas they’d like to be dancing. I’ve always tried to look out for followers who don’t seem to be getting dances, and to invite them, and I know some other leaders who do this. It would be great if experiencing life from the other side makes this a commonplace behaviour.

For my part, it was certainly a different experience at Terra. I usually dance almost every tanda, and this time had to sit out some favourites! It gave me a renewed appreciation for how lucky leaders are usually. Though it was nice to have a chance to chat to some other leaders – not generally something we manage!

It was so lovely to be back there. Even on a quiet night, what was lacking in quantity was fully present in quality. The atmosphere was as good as ever, and it was fantastic to be dancing to live music again! Tim, the pianist, was very much in people’s thoughts.

Los Angelitos

Los Angelitos was also extremely quiet. About a dozen couples in all, and I think perfectly balanced.

The music was wonderful, and many of the followers I love were there. This would have been quality over quantity even if my dancing had been limited, but here I danced almost every tanda.

Having balanced numbers was great for followers, but I also really appreciate it as a leader. It makes for a totally pressure-free experience as there was none of the usual ‘Have I danced with X?’ anxiety – because everyone is dancing. (There was one exception, who seemed to be mostly sitting, so I made sure to invite her for a tanda.)

There’s a very experienced follower there who kind of took me under her wing at an early stage, and is always a delight to dance with. I’d told her early on that even though it’s a milonga, I still welcomed feedback, so she gives me the occasional tip. At the end of the evening, she came up to me and told me I had such a lovely embrace, which meant a lot, coming from her. Her tip tonight was just to be slower to break it at the end of a song. 🙂

Bruno announced an experiment for the penultimate tanda. He would play the same song, by four different orchestras. I’m rubbish at putting names to songs, so can’t tell you which one it was, but it was one I knew. I absolutely loved it! Each version was quite different, so it definitely didn’t feel like dancing the same song four times.

The final version was Troilo. Usually, Troilo and I do not get on. Better stated: I can never figure out what the hell is going on in a Troilo song. There had been a Troilo tanda earlier, and the final song in particular could have been jazz for all the hope I had of following it. But this time, I could!

So that’s clearly the secret to Troilo: dance three other versions of the song immediately before each one, and by the time I get there I’ll be able to hear the song in there somewhere. DJs, please note this approach.

I’d said to Steph earlier than one thing I’m not confident at leading is single to double time. It does work, but always feels like I got away with it by the skin of my teeth and the skill of the follower. She had me try it with her, declared it perfectly good, and gave me the assignment of doing at the milonga. That I did, with several followers, and it worked with each, and felt at least a little less scary!

I had such an amazing time. While I’d love to see more people returning to milongas, there’s also a kind of special feeling about having been there at the final pre-lockdown milongas and against the first post-lockdown ones. Feels like we have war stories to tell!

The fun continues next week: three milongas and a private …

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