A rhythmical revelation at Porteño y Bailarín

The two-tier pricing controversy escalated, so now has a standalone post here.

It’s Alessandra’s first visit to BsAs, and in the first couple of days she wanted to spend every waking moment in the daytime out sightseeing, and then every waking moment at night in milongas. By day five, she finally understood that you can only do that for so long! She visited museums and galleries in the day, and had no energy to dance in the evening; I had a quiet day at home, and was out dancing until 3.30am.

All the same, the night was a first: I left before the end of the milonga! Only 30 minutes before, mind, but still …

My original plan was one-and-a-bit milongas, but my afternoon nap turned out to be from 6pm to 9pm, so opted instead to just do the one. Although El Beso is of course home territory, I’d not been to Porteño y Bailarín before.

After the craziness of Parakultural, which had to stack dancers three deep to fit everyone in, PyB felt like the wide open plains. Most tables were occupied, so it wasn’t that it was lightly attended, but the dance floor remained a very civilised place, which sometimes even had space to walk!

It was supposed to have live music, but that didn’t happen for whatever reason. There were some grumblings about this, but I’ve learned to simply shrug and smile at these things.

Rhythmical revelations

The music was very reminiscent of last night: a rhythmical bias in the first hour or so, but good rhythmical music. I decided it was time to go for it, and found I was really enjoying myself. I had no problem at all leading fast movements, nor interrupted steps, nor switches between single- and double-time – all things I’ve felt were difficult, or I wasn’t good at.

It made me realise that it was time to get over myself on this one. It feels hard to me, like I’m right on the edge of what I can lead, but my partners follow it, and when I’ve asked followers for feedback in practicas, every time they say it’s fine. So I need to forget how it feels to me, focus on the fact that it works, and get lots and lots and lots of practice until it stops feeling hard! So I’m going to be hanging out a lot more with my new mate, D’Arienzo.

But that’s not all. One time when I was struggling with either the giro or contra-giro, Diego said something to me that really clicked. “I don’t care what you do with your feet, just create the direction with your body.” As soon as I stopped worrying about specific steps, the giro was instantly ten times easier. I experienced the same thing here …

Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think about sequences of steps when dancing, but I do think about this step. But last night I got into a real flow state with some of the rhythmical tandas, and I found myself just forgetting about my feet altogether. I chose a direction and a speed, and didn’t even think about how my follower was going to step. It just worked. I mean, I literally couldn’t tell you what steps I took, or what steps my followers took, but it worked.

This didn’t happen every tanda. Maybe it was with the most skilled followers, or the best music, or … who knows. But it was wonderful, and I very much hope it happens again! Update: It did, and yes, it is with the most skilled followers.

Plus more general collaborative dance. In lyrical dance, this happens in two ways. First, I’ll create specific invitations, by pausing and relaxing my embrace to signal ‘over to you.’ Second, it will happen organically while we’re moving.

I wasn’t sure how well this could work at speed, and found that there was less organic back-and-forth, but when I created an invitation, it was generally accepted, with me often having no idea what they were doing and simply focusing on following their direction.

There were also those wonderful times when I’m not sure who’s leading. At one point I found myself doing something I don’t think I’ve ever done before: a staccato giro. That is, a quarter-turn per beat, rather than a more flowing movement to the violins or singer. I have to assume my follower created that, but I couldn’t say for sure!

Things were made easier by all the space on the dance floor. I’m not quite sure why the dance floor wasn’t busy – everyone dancing was clearly loving it, and I thought the music was wonderful, but the photo above was pretty typical in terms of the number of dancers on the floor at any one time.

Dreamy lyrical dancing too

Much as I was enjoying rhythmical dancing, lyrical tandas are still my first love, and those soon predominated. Pugliese with space to walk … Ahhhhh! After I danced one tanda, with a lot of walking, a woman stopped me as I was exiting the floor and said “How lovely it is to see someone walking.” Sadly she left not long afterwards, so I missed the opportunity to dance with her.

I didn’t run into any friends there, but a Brit came and introduced himself, and said he’d seen me dancing in Negracha.

At 3.30am, with the room thinning out significantly, I danced an absolutely dreamy Pugliese tanda with a local follower who had an amazingly snuggly embrace.

Sometimes I can be a bit self-conscious about long pauses, wondering whether it feels too pretentious, or if the follower is waiting impatiently for me to get on with it. But there were times in this tanda when a long pause felt like the only thing to do. I try to keep a small sense of movement during these, whether it’s an ultra-slow voleo-type movement, or just hints of circles with my left hand. I could feel her smile during one of these, and afterwards she gave me a big hug and said that too few leaders walk and pause.

I could have kept up my record of closing milongas by staying another two or three tandas, but that felt like the perfect moment on which to end.

I got to bed at 5am, and woke at 9am. Coupled with an afternoon nap (for various values of ‘afternoon’ and ‘nap’), this seems to be my sleep pattern now.

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