Five hours of wonderful dance, and I feel back on track

I wrote last time about my tango crash, feeling that with my newly-improved posture, it was like I was starting all over again when it came to learning how to dance.

Emma diagnosed the issue and provided me with a way forward, but circumstances conspired to delay my first real-world test until the Los Angelitos 10th anniversary milonga on Sunday …

In terms of reconnecting in the dance with an upright posture, Emma’s advice to think ’round’ made a huge difference. I mentally tried to think of the embrace enclosing the follower.

It’s not like one milonga – even a five-hour one – turned the unfamiliar into the familiar, but certainly it was clear that my dance works in this new posture. All it takes now is continued technique work, and more hours on the floor.

But let’s start at the beginning …

The class: From zero to hero

The topic of the day was ganchos, with a beginner/improver class followed by an intermediate/advanced one. Since ganchos are relatively unfamiliar ground, I decided to do the first class and then decide whether or not to do the second.

I didn’t initially understand the lead for the linear gancho we did, something confirmed by Asta when I tried to lead her! I asked Bruno to lead me, and then it made sense*. It was then working with my partner, and when I checked with Asta again, she told me she had nothing to say, it felt perfect to her.

I was very happy with what I’d got, and there were many more leaders than followers for the second class, so I opted to go have lunch before returning for the milonga.

*I don’t do many group classes, but I’m thinking I should adopt this approach as standard: ask the teacher to lead me so I know how it should feel before I attempt to lead it myself.

From empty to packed in 80 minutes

Spitalfields, Tango Terra and Etnia were all competing for dancers that afternoon and evening, so I was a little concerned when the first hour of the milonga was very quiet. By 5pm, I was even thinking of nipping down to Terra for an hour or two before returning.

But I stayed, and within 20 minutes it was absolutely packed! I think people arrived en-masse from Spitalfields.

It seemed to be about a 50/50 mix of Los Angelitos regulars, and others I didn’t know, mostly at the more advanced end of the spectrum. That was perfect for me, as it gave me the chance to dance with some of my favourite followers, but also put into practice my vow to cabeceo followers above my tango pay-grade.

Two fantastic DJs

In general, I’ve been choosing which milongas to go to. A milonga tells you a number of things, of which the most important is who is likely to show up. But many milongas use a number of different DJs, which is what tells you what the music will be like.*

*Ok, not always. There are some DJs who are less consistent than others – mentioning no names!

Some dancers choose which DJs to go to, rather than which milongas, and I think I’m now veering in that direction.

Ultimately, it’s the music that inspires me to dance, and is a very large chunk of the difference between an ok tanda and a wonderful one. It doesn’t matter how well connected you are with a partner if neither of you are moved by the music.

Given that I now feel comfortable cabeceoing a wider range of followers, then who goes to a particular milonga is less important so long as I know that my friends will show up at one of the ones I go to. So I’m keeping a list of the DJs who wow me, and looking out for where they are working.

Both today’s DJs made my list: Katerina Stoyanova and Daniel Gini. They were great for different reasons. Katerina played a lot of music I love – like a lot of it! Daniel played less familiar music: a lot of songs I knew, but versions I didn’t, and that was really fun to dance to.

Daniel’s DJing also created a hilarious ending to the milonga. Bruno announced last tanda, which I danced with a new-to-me follower whose dancing I’d been admiring earlier. It was unfamiliar, and quite funky, versions of familiar songs. After the fourth, there was what initially sounded like a cortina. Everyone stood and looked at each other. It was just some very odd song. Then it became a bit tango-y, and I shrugged, looked at my follower, she nodded and we started dancing. Then about ten seconds later came the familiar strains of a very unfamiliar version of La Cumparsita!

Five hours flew by

I danced about half the tandas in the first hour, when it was quiet; then just more and more of them as time went on. I hardly sat down at all in the last couple of hours, and really couldn’t believe it when I checked my watch to see there was just half an hour left.

I continued to enjoy rhythmical as well as lyrical tandas. I also danced more milonga tandas, and am now totally free-form in these, rather than relying mostly on the 6-step pattern. Since even I had no idea what I was going to do next, it amazed me when followers seemed almost to anticipate the next step. It really felt like they were telepathic! Or maybe they were leading and I was following, who knows!

I couldn’t begin to list even the highlights of the milonga! I had so many wonderful dances with so many amazing followers, old and new. But I do just want to say one thing, and that’s about dancing with beginners.

I always aim to dance at least a few tandas with beginners, which I’ve always seen as my way of paying it forward. Many experienced dancers were kind enough to dance with me when I could barely tell my left from my right, and it’s only right that I should do the same.

But … it’s not a chore. Indeed, I’ve seen so many beginner followers light up when they get to experience their first tanda in a milonga, that I now see it as one of the highlights of the evening.

I danced with two beginners, each having had just a handful of lessons. Both clearly loved it, and one had the most gratifying reaction. At the end of the first song, she said in an excited voice: “I can dance!” I fully agreed.

There was a professional photographer, so I’ll add some photos when they are posted. In the meantime, one from Bruno, in which I can be seen in the centre at the back – with an upright posture! Diego, Filippo, Emma – your work is paying off.

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