A three-hour round-trip journey to dance in Cambridge, and worth every minute

Five months ago, returning from BsAs, I wrote about my determination to keep the Argentine spirit alive in my own tango – and so far, I feel like I’m succeeding.

I’ve reluctantly conceded that one key ingredient here is dancing a lot more outside of the sub-culture that is London tango. Reluctantly, because I’d love to dance a lot in my own city, and I do see London milongas doing their best to bring the Argentine spirit to London …

At Nacimiento a couple of weeks ago, for example, one of the hosts – Iro – was at the entrance, welcoming everyone with a hug. That’s a beautifully Argentine thing to do. Every London milonga I’ve ever been to, I fully believe that the organisers do everything they can to have the experience be true to the essence of tango.

But just as London is a separate nation to England, so London tango is its own entity.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The reason some people are drawn to London is the fast pace of life, the opportunity to compete for the spoils, the latest fashions, the places to be seen, the in-crowds to be seen with, and so on. It should be no surprise, then, that London tango mirrors much of this: it is clearly what some people seek.

But it’s not what I love about London, and it’s not what I want in tango. So if the type of tango I seek (mostly) isn’t found in London, then there’s an obvious solution.

CamTango

On Monday, Tina persuaded me to join her at one of her favourite milongas: CamTango. It was their final bank holiday milonga of the year, and it completely lived up to its billing.

Sometimes the small things say a lot. The price, for example, was £15 ‘or pay what you can afford.’ Recognising that it’s difficult to have enough seating for all, the organiser asked that the front row of seats be considered free seating, with no belongings left there, so that people could rotate between dancing, standing and sitting.

The DJ, too, had the attitude that he is there to serve the needs of the dancers. I became a fan of Ricardo Peixoto when he DJ’d at Browns recently. When I visited his website, there was a quote about the job of a DJ not being to play the music they personally love – they can listen to that at home – but the music that gets people onto the dance floor. He definitely lived up to that ethos, playing a wonderful set which kept the ronda busy!

I’m not generally a fan of milongas in churches. Usually the floor is terrible, and the music echoes horribly. But while the acoustics were far from perfect, they were good enough (or the speaker placement careful enough) that it wasn’t distracting – and the wooden floor was perfect!

The floorcraft was a delight. Truly this could have been BsAs. Leader cabeceo when entering the ronda may be a small thing in the scheme of things, but for me it both sets and reflects the tone. There were two very visible lines of dance, rather than the London norm of one somewhat vague and wavy one, and a free-for-all centre.

I know I talk about floorcraft a lot, but it really is the difference between being able to dance – with your partner, and with other couples – and having to do some mix of dance and dodgems.

There was also no sign of cliqueness or ‘levels.’ I hardly knew anyone there, and danced almost non-stop. Tina knew more people than me, but said the same.

My partners were, without exception, wonderful. It was completely clear that everyone was there to express the music, and to connect with their partner. Almost every tanda ended with a hug and mutual admiration.

Tina also pointed to a lack of age-discrimination. In London milongas, there is a discernible group of leaders who dance only with young followers – regardless of their own age. Here, there was no sign of this.

The milonga ran from 2pm to 7pm, but by 5pm I was beat! Milonga and Biagi tandas aside, I danced almost non-stop. Tina, too, had run out of energy, so we danced one final slow-motion tanda together, and ended on a high.

The usual weekly CamTango milonga run on a Tuesday evening, from 7-11pm. That’s quite a trek on a school night, but one I will be making on a regular basis for sure. My thanks to all involved in creating a wonderful slice of BsAs.

Festivals ahead!

I’ve booked for two festivals in November. The Feast, of course, but also Tango By The Sea, in Felixstowe.

I’ve recently struck a deal to take more time off, so I’ll be looking out for other festival/marathon options, and have already scheduled another month-long trip to BsAs in March. If there are any festivals between now and then which you would particularly recommend, please let me know!

Perhaps London will never be the tango I wish it would be, but that tango is out there – it’s just a question of travelling to it.

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