Milonga 1: Sans Souci at La Nacional, with Orquesta Típica Misteriosa Buenos Aires

I’m again numbering the milongas to help me keep track of them, but don’t expect anything like my previous crazy pace! One reason for staying here a month is to take things easy – an absolute maximum of one milonga per day. Yes, really. Honestly. You’ll see.

Knowing my love of live orchestras, Terry had pointed me to Sans Souci. We’d first been treated to a live performance of Orquesta Típica Misteriosa Buenos Aires at La Viruta on our previous visit, and I loved them! Terry kindly made reservations for us, as well as him and Rita …

Marabú yesterday insisted on photo ID for entry, for contact tracing purposes, and I’d felt rather uncomfortable carrying my passport in my pocket all evening. I was pleased to hear from Terry that most milongas were not requiring this, so I opted to just take a photo of my passport photo page and hope that any exceptions would be satisfied with that. It’s not as if we don’t have other options if we can’t get into one!

Milongas do, however, generally insist on reservations, presumably to cope with restrictions on numbers. The table Terry managed to get us was kind of ok.

I should warn, by the way, that most of the video clips are just short and unedited – as before, my plan is to create a video montage of the trip after I get home, so I’ll typically only be using a couple of seconds of each clip – so please expect sudden endings!

With, of course, an amazing singer!

The front desk had taken a passing interest in our vaccination certificates, and most people danced without masks. My own view is that when you’re spending 12 minutes in someone’s arms, masks seem unlikely to make much difference, so I prefer the comfort of dancing without.

Astonishingly, the room seemed pretty much perfectly role-balanced!

The music was generally a bit rhythmical for my tastes, and the floor was super-crowded most tandas, so I was happy to take it relatively easy. I started with a tanda with Rita, and then had to wait a while for music I liked to do the same with Tina.

Cabeceo was rather tricky given that we were at the front by the stage, which was nominally the couples/group area, while the women were along the left-hand side as you look in the above video. Cabeceoing anyone required walking up the very tight space behind the chairs, and then hoping women were looking around as well as at the dance floor. It felt awkward, but did work.

The other issue with the couples tables is traditional men won’t cabeceo the women there unless the men are seen to be dancing with other women. Fortunately this worked out fine, and both Tina and Rita were being regularly cabeceod – though with variable standards of dance …

I probably danced about a dozen or so tandas – and had a great time! It was a predominantly local crowd, and most of my followers were locals. They were all clearly very experienced, and most accepted my invitations for collaborative dance. Indeed, with three of them in particular, I mostly just navigated and followed their dance! Judging by the smiles and hugs afterwards, I’d say they enjoyed it as much as I did.

I was doing my best to put into practice the leading from the spine I’d been working on from Laura. Generally speaking, I Just Dance during milongas, avoiding using them as practice, but every now and then I will give myself a little reminder about whatever I’m working on at the time. One time when I did this (“Spine!”), something really special happened.

It was a crazily crowded tanda, and there was no room for anything more than rotating on the spot or a tiny forward or side step. One moment where no movement at all was possible, hemmed in on all three sides within inches, all I could do was changes of weight. This was the perfect time to try what I’d been doing in the lesson: use a spine lead to change my follower’s weight without changing mine.

This worked perfectly, and my follower smiled. Then a slight gap opened to my right, and I decided there was just enough room for a really tight circular ocho around me. My weight was already on my right, so I left it there, changed my follower’s weight to her left, dissociated as much as I could to prepare the lead for a forward ocho and then … well, I don’t think I did much other than close the dissociation, but it was enough, she understood the rather subtle lead, and it worked perfectly!

With some trepidation, I tried my Spanglish when chatting between the songs. This again mostly worked. But my real triumph was a woman with whom I had a wonderful tanda earlier in the evening, then cabeceod again around 2.30am. There was a moment where I intended to lead her tightly around me, but didn’t sufficiently contain the movement. I had to make rather an abrupt change to avoid a collision. Afterwards she (in Spanish) apologised for ‘her mistake.’ I replied in Spanglish:

No, no tu, mi! Mi no marca … <Struggles> <Has lightbulb moment!> Mi no marca cerrado. Tu baile muy bonito!

That got me a huge smile and a big hug.

I’m not sure what time the milonga ended, but our group was all flagging by 3am. I paid the bill. Terry thanked me, and I said I certainly hoped he appreciated it – the total was almost £3.20!

I danced a final song with Tina, then we made our way out into the welcome fresh (for BsAs) air. We walked a couple of blocks down to Belgrano and waited for a taxi. There were fewer than usual, so it was about ten minutes before we grabbed one.

My Abbey Road interpretation expressed though the medium of taxi-hunting

I told him ‘Maipú Córdoba, por favor’ – the closest junction to our apartment. That worked, and only got confusing when he asked later if we were going to the Sheraton. I said no, not having seen one anywhere near us, and repeated the junction. He still seemed convinced we were going to the Sheraton, but took us to the right place. At this point, the reason for the confusion became clear. There was an upscale hotel on the opposite corner: the Libertador Hotel. Not a Sheraton as far as I know, but who knows with today’s sub-brands. Anyway, he was happy, we were happy, so 15 minutes and £1.40 after we’d left the milonga, we were home.

I was buzzing, so it was 4.30am by the time I went to bed (after a lovely audio chat with a friend who was awake rather early). I planned to sleep for a long, long time.

Narrator: He did not, in fact, sleep for a long, long time, but I think that’s officially part of tomorrow’s blog (the concept of days here is a bit fuzzy).

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