Much pleasure indeed at Un Placer

Diego B had given me two recommendations, one quite some time ago, the other just yesterday – but I have my suspicions that the two may be related.

The first, dating back some time, was that I needed to have the courage to cabeceo more advanced followers. The second was to suggest I dance at Un Placer

What’s been interesting to observe about that first piece of advice is the difference in my perception inside and outside London.

Outside London, it hasn’t felt at all intimidating. In a friendly atmosphere where it’s clear that everyone is there to enjoy the dance, and is all about the music and their partner, then I haven’t felt concerned about the level of my dance. From deepest Devon to Buenos Aires, I’ll happily cabeceo followers at every level (perhaps excluding the teachers …).

Within London, however, it feels different. Of course, there are highly-skilled friends, and advanced followers I’ve been dancing with since my very early days in tango. But when it comes to cabeceoing very skilled followers I don’t know, I’ve felt less confident. Especially in a younger crowd, where statistically there’s a higher proportion of dancers more into doing impressive-looking movements than focused on the music and the embrace.

I’d seen some video clips from Un Placer and its predecessor, and it hadn’t looked like a good match for me. The level looked too high, and the demographic too similar to another milonga I’d been to once and not enjoyed at all. I also didn’t see many familiar faces.

It was only Diego’s insistence that it was friendly and that I’d be fine dancing there which had me go. Plus the organiser and DJ is Diego Doigneau, so at least I knew the music would be good (and hats off to him for setting up the sound so well in the challenging environment of a basement with concrete floor).

Un Placer

Wow! I had an absolutely amazing time. It was clear that the typical level in the room was significantly higher than mine, but that proved no barrier.

Now, before I go further, I have to say that there was a notable shortage of leaders. Even with several female leaders, I’d still say the split was close to 2:1 at one stage, and only got close to being balanced in the last hour. It would be foolish to imagine that this didn’t play a role in my experience, given that more followers in that situation will be willing to take a chance on an unknown leader. A more balanced evening will be a far better test.

But … I think it’s possible to tell when a follower is really enjoying a tanda. A hug at the end of it is a pretty reliable indicator, as is asking where else I dance and actually seeming interested in the answer (sometimes it’s just a polite question).

The standard of the floorcraft was a delightful surprise! An informal milonga with a younger crowd doesn’t usually raise my hopes in this respect, but there was only one nightmare leader who kept moving backwards against the line of dance, and leading large boleos on a crowded floor. The outer ronda was otherwise excellent. As is the case almost everywhere, the inner ronda was more free-form, but people were cooperating in using the space.

I also loved the atmosphere. It felt like one of the more underground BsAs milongas, with a Muy Lunes feel to it. It lived up to its friendliness billing, with much more conversation between strangers than is typical in London.

The music tipped more in the rhythmical direction than Diego’s usual mix, but he clearly knows his audience for his own milonga – and there was still a decent balance. Plus I need to do more rhythmical dancing. Just one day after my latest double-time lesson, I felt I needed plenty of solo practice before trying anything new in a milonga, but I did still get the chance to apply Diego B’s technique feedback to the things I already do.

Of course, visiting a new milonga can be a very different experience for leaders and followers, especially when there’s a big imbalance in the numbers. I’m sure I’d have had a much shorter and less enjoyable visit had the imbalance been reversed, and it’s hard to say how I might have fared with balanced numbers. One thing’s for sure, though: I shall be there next week!

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