Accidentally achieving one of my goals by going to the wrong milonga

I slept for about nine hours, though still felt that was about ten hours short of the required quota. However, we did nothing in the morning, so a bit of lazing was the perfect start to the day.

This was helped considerably by my foresight. I’d decided that a one-month stay was more like short-term living than long-term holidaying, so had brought with me some key home comforts – including my favourite tea, infusers, and pint mug …

Tailors

I had a couple of errands to run. First on the list was a visit to my local tailor, Miguel Mancera. He’d made me an absolutely incredible bespoke Solbiati linen suit back in 2019 for around a third of the price it would have cost in London, and this time I’d been doing some pre-trip haggling over WhatsApp for six linen shirts.

A suitable deal was struck, and Tina decided to come along for the ride, so we dropped off the laundry then grabbed a cab over there to be measured.

I currently have six (identical) linen shirts, which is plenty for the UK, but in BsAs I can easily get through two shirts in a day – one for general wandering around and a fresh one after showering for a milonga. That requires doing laundry every couple of days, so I wanted to double my stock.

Miguel speaks about as much English as I do Spanish. Last time I’d had Steph as my interpreter, this time not, so I’m hoping I’ll be collecting six linen shirts and not a dozen pairs of shorts.

Next stop was El Rey de Los Pantalones to order some more tango trousers. I had five pairs already, and can rotate these to wear them several times, rather than launder them daily, but I wanted more variety of colour, and they are £32 each, so it would be silly not to. I collect those on Friday.

I’d been reading about the economic situation in Argentina, and it appears that the dulce de leche sector was hardest hit, so I vowed to offer as much help as possible during my trip – making a start today.

Then it was back to the apartment for about 15 minutes of rest for Tina before her second private with Diego, and a slightly more civilised 75 minutes for me.

Private 2: Diego Bado

When it was my turn, I told Diego he had to be gentle with me. I’d been doing very little dancing this year, and both brain and body were about equal in their current states of capability. Diego asked what I wanted to work on, and I said just to be ready for the milongas, and to keep it simple.

We started by dancing two songs. Diego said that my lead was (mostly*) clear, and my musicality was good for lyrical songs, but that I needed more variety in my rhythmical dance. This was not news to me!

There are two aspects of tango I view with terror: cross-system, and double-time. Naturally, it was one of these which Diego insisted I needed to work on when I’d told him to be gentle with me …

When it comes to double-time, my complete skill-set comprises:

  1. The occasional bit of double-time walking for half a phrase
  2. Er …
  3. That’s it

But Diego was insistent that it was what I needed most (stop laughing, Fede), and that he would give me some easy options.

To be fair to him, he was true to his word. The options we covered were simple, as double-time goes. We both felt I had the basic idea by the end of the lesson, and all that is needed now is solo practice. Lots and lots and lots of solo practice.

I promised faithfully to do this, and he told me that once I have this in my body, I must do it at least once per tanda in the milongas. I agreed, on one condition: if I broke anyone’s legs, I was going to give my name as Diego Bado so the hospital bills would be sent to him. He is apparently confident in his teaching, as he agreed.

*There was one asterisk in the ‘clear lead’ part above. Diego said that my ochos needed more ‘oomph.’

I think this is one of those graduating beyond the next ‘lies to children’ level. Beginners lead with their arms, so teachers tell them not to use their arms, only their torso. But once we can be trusted to at least refrain from approaching leading like we’re steering a bus, then we can start to put some energy back into the arms – as a support for the follower, not a signal.

So what Diego wanted from me was something he’d said before but I’d not properly taken on board. So this time we worked on pushing and pulling as a support, it did make total sense to me, and Diego was very happy.

Milonga 2: Milonga Cielo Azul

I love outdoor milongas, and Diego recommended one, in a glorieta (bandstand).

Now, in my defence, I have to say that London typically only has one or two milongas to choose from on any given night. I of course knew that BsAs has more like 20, but it still hadn’t occurred to me that there might be more than one glorieta milonga on a Monday night! So I simply scrolled down in Hoy Milonga, spotted a glorieta and off we went. Which is why, instead of going to La Glorieta del Belgrano, as we had last time, we set off in a taxi to La Glorieta de Versalles.

The length of the taxi ride might have given some clue, as it was around half an hour, and well into the suburbs. Yep, instead of one of the most famous outdoor milongas in the world, we had gone to a barrio (local neighbourhood) one in the middle of nowhere.

However … dancing in a true barrio milonga had been one of my goals for the trip, so it turned out to be an extremely happy accident!

There weren’t many people, but they were really welcoming. There was a jar for donations, and they offered free water, coffee and snacks. It was clear that foreigners dropping by was not an everyday occurrence, and they took a great deal of interest in our visit.

The milonga was very informal. Either cabeceo or verbal invitation was acceptable, and it was not unusual for the dancers to engage in brief conversation with those watching as they passed. I experienced an absolutely delicious example of this!

As we passed the husband of the woman with whom I was dancing, he remarked to her, with a somewhat surprised tone, ‘el tiene el ritmo.’ I may have that inscribed on a trophy.

Actually, there was one example of formality: Tina was most amused when I told her in the taxi afterwards that one of the men had asked my permission before inviting her to dance!

Tina and I danced a tanda, then we each danced with three others before exhausting the remaining supply of partners as people drifted off.

Diego will be happy to hear that I started my homework! I practiced the double-time steps a little in the apartment before we left, and then risked using them in the milonga. I even danced a Biagi tanda! I’m delighted to say the double-time worked with everyone, even if it felt a little awkward to me. But this is just a question of practice.

Two of my tandas with the locals were pleasant, and one was really good! We spent about as much time chatting in Spanglish as we did dancing, but it was a really lovely experience.

Don’t ask me what was going on here – yet another folk dance, clearly! The guy all in black is the organiser, who was teaching it. I briefly considered joining in, but only briefly.

When it ended, we asked where we could get a taxi, and the answer essentially boiled down to ‘Nowhere around here.’ The small amount of data I had had expired, so we couldn’t call an Uber. I needed the help of Google Translate to ask whether it was a safe area to walk to the nearest major avenue. They said not, and one of them, Carlitos, very kindly offered us a lift.

In the end, it was about a ten-minute drive, in what I’m sure was the wrong direction for him, to a place where we found a taxi. It turned out he had been in London last year, and met David and Kim, so I passed on a hello from him!

Diego thought it was hilarious when he realised what had happened, but probably also secretly relieved that he has notched up no hospital bills so far.

Tomorrow we have … no plans! Well, I need to run a few errands, but there will be a great deal of lazing, and then we will see whether we can make it to the correct milonga afterwards.

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