Saturday saw a rather special event: the Argentine Ambassador’s Milonga, at the ambassador’s residence in Knightsbridge. It really did feel like being in Buenos Aires!
Admittedly the grandeur of the setting would have been more faded in BsAs, but the crowded floor, the atmosphere and even the heat made for a very convincing impression …
I was still on a high from Negracha, and went to this one with no expectations, but it turned out to be every bit as magical.
The milonga was role-balanced, with (free) tickets available for 90 leaders and 90 followers, plus 20 invited guests for a total of 200 people. The event was fully-booked.
The event occupied three rooms. The main room was crowded throughout, the second one a little less so, while the third and smallest was mostly quieter. That meant you could to some extent choose the environment in which you wanted to dance.
For much of my time in tango, I would definitely have opted for the smallest of the rooms – but tonight I actually spent more time dancing in the most crowded one. For me that was the one with the real BsAs vibe!
Alessia Cogo was the DJ for the time I was there (with Fabienne Inez before her), so the music was of course gorgeous. The sound system was also great – someone had clearly put a lot of work into ensuring that the volume was just right for the numbers of people in each of the three rooms.
I danced with the perfect mix of friends, some other followers I’d danced with once or twice before, and some strangers – and literally loved every tanda. The experience was like Negracha all over again, just on a very different scale!
The embassy live-streamed a short section on Facebook, which happily captured me twice. It’s always really nice to have a photo or video from a milonga. As a frame-grab from a live video, the quality of this one is terrible, but it serves as a memory. This is in the medium-sized room. You can see all three rooms in the video clip.
My rhythmical dance was again effortless, and I again mixed in some rhythmical dance in the lyrical tandas too. My only hesitations were in switching speeds – when transitioning from dancing to the beat to dancing to the singer or violins. But during the course of the evening, I discovered the two keys to this, for me at least.
To be clear, I didn’t work out anything consciously. Indeed, at the time I was just in complete awe of the ability of followers to seemingly effortlessly detect the speed changes. But afterwards, I tried to analyse what was going on, and I think it was this …
To slow down, I just picked the end of a phrase, and slowed the last step to signal a pause. Then I think I relaxed the embrace a little to signal the switch to lyrical dance.
Speeding up, another pause, then perhaps a squeeze of the hand and more energy in my arm to signal a switch to rhythmical dance.
I couldn’t attempt to describe even the highlights of the dance as that was, well, all of it! The blog post would be a novel. But just as a taster, the three final tandas …
I danced a heavenly Pugliese tanda with an advanced follower I’ve danced with once or twice before. That was followed by an absolutely delicious Romantica Milonguera tanda with a new follower. Finally, by arrangement, Asia and I danced the final tanda.
That was in the smallest room, with only a few couples in there, so we had lots of room to play! We could both go crazy with the rhythmical dance. At one point, she asked for more calesitas, and I gave her almost an entire songful, as she was clearly having an absolute ball with them. I’d lead a calesita in one direction, walking to the beat while Asia decorated to it with her free leg – then lead exactly one step to switch foot and immediately lead another calesita in the opposite direction. As at Negracha, the rest of the time the lead just flowed back and forth without having to think about it. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
Ok, not quite perfect: the evening was lacking three things. First, Emma, who’d suffered an injury and needed to stay home and rest. Second and third, I’d assumed there would be Malbec and empanadas, but there was neither. Just water, coffee and the traditional Argentinian dish of … Custard Creams.
I was able to rectify two of the three missing pieces when I got home.
I said I wished they held these milongas weekly! Diego said that he was trying to persuade them to hold them more than once a year – we shall see …
So another absolute dream of an evening. And for the coming week, Monday I’ll be dancing a kind of semi-performance(!); a private with Diego followed by a guided practice session with a teaching assistant on Tuesday; a private with Filippo and Janet on Wednesday; Tango Terra on Thursday; Negracha on Friday; and maybe Terra again on Sunday!