If you can’t beat the rhythmical music, join it: Perfume de Mujer at El Beso

Having a strict curfew to ensure I can be awake at 6.30am, my milonga options are now very limited. Almost all of the evening ones are non-starters, as they begin at about the time I need to be heading to bed.

The music at last week’s Perfume de Mujer was pretty much exclusively rhythmical, but my afternoon milonga options were that or– Well, that …

This did prove the case again this week, but if the music won’t come to Ben, then Ben must go to the music. I dug in for three hours of rhythmical dance – and enjoyed myself tremendously!

I’ve twice made table reservations here, and on both occasions later found myself dancing past the table with my name on it … But today they put me at the corner table by the bar, which was far better than the one originally allocated to me, so no complaints here. I found myself sat next to two women, one of whom was yesterday’s dreamy Pugliese/Troilo dancer.

She doesn’t speak English, but her friend’s English was better than my Spanish, and I’m better at scrabbling together some kind of spoken Spanish than I am at comprehension, so we had a conversation where my mutual fan club spoke in Spanish, I spoke in Spanglish, and her friend spoke in both.

She was later joined by a different friend, who didn’t seem to grasp that my toddler-level Spanish was a good indication that I wouldn’t understand much, which made for a less successful conversation! (I’ve now completely revised my approach to Spanish, but that’s a topic for its own blog post.)

While I’m no longer avoiding all the milonga tandas, I had so far successfully avoided the extended cortinas with some kind of rock/salsa/jive/who-knows-what. But one now-regular follower wouldn’t let me leave the dance floor and took it on herself to teach me by demonstration. Facundo and Lilili had a prime audience position for this, and were both greatly amused. Alarmingly, there was video evidence for this on the milonga’s Facebook page (absolutely not, but you can have a screen grab).

My table position was excellent if the women to my left were looking around, but I found that sitting on one of the bar stools was the #1 spot, with the ability to cabeceo almost anyone in the room from there. The only drawback I found was that cabeceos weren’t exactly precision ones for one side of the room, as there was about 1º of difference in angle no matter who you were inviting. So that turned into a lottery, where I danced with the first woman who accepted or did the ‘who, me?’ mime. Since I didn’t know many people there, a lottery was as good an approach as any!

Oh, I did have one completely accidental cabeceo. I was admiring a couple on the dance floor, who looked to be having a lot of fun during one of the extended cortinas. As they walked off the floor toward me, I smiled at them in what I thought was simply an appreciative fashion, but as the first song of the next tanda began the moment I did so, she took it to be a cabeceo. I considered that a very lucky accident!

This wasn’t quite have the utter perfection of my two Champagne club milongas at the same venue, but my tandas were all in the good to great range.

I did have one tanda I initially thought wasn’t going well. My very young follower didn’t seem to be following any rotational movement. With ochos and crosses, she was doing something, but didn’t appear to be following the actual movements. With giros, she went around me, but seemingly without a back-step. However, when I got a chance to look in the mirror at the back of the room, I could see that she was in fact following everything! She simply danced very small, and had amazing dissociation, so her chest remained clamped to mine, and I couldn’t feel what her legs were doing.

I would certainly have preferred to have lyrical music in the mix, and got very little of it, but I was astonished when the DJ announced the last tanda: the three hours had flown by. Instead of La Cumparsita, they played a funky version of Por Uno Cabeza.


Followed by another, jazzy version. A bit of a surprise, but still a lovely way to end the milonga.

I returned to my table to find I’d fallen victim to a crime: both the guy I was sitting with and my mints were gone! (I’m pretty sure we both had TicTacs, and he accidentally pocketed mine, rather than being a gangster specialising in mint heists.)

Tomorrow’s afternoon milonga will see me back at El Beso for the third time this week, for Camargo.

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