End of Season SALE!

Save 20% in all tickets. EnterTANGOTIX at checkout. Great Seats! Free Cancellation!

Excerpt from Stories from a travelling tanguera

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

The dance floor was hidden up on the first floor, with no advertising to show new tangueros where to go. But of course, the strains of a bandoneon are easily picked up by those in the know and it was with delight that I skipped up the stairs to my first London milonga on a Sunday afternoon.

One of the reasons I know that tango is a part of me, is because I feel at home in a dance hall. I know its systems, its rules, and I love what happens there. Here, the old ballroom had a blackened roof with little chandeliers dotted around the place. It had a gothic feel with its black decor and low lighting, but this was contrasted by the impeccably dressed, and seemingly conservative dancers. There was free talcum powder (often a necessity in humidity), large fans and air conditioners, hot tea, cold water and biscuits to sustain those who were clearly working up a sweat on the dance floor.

My first dance was with a Polish guy who really wanted to whip out quite a few fancy steps that were a bit too fancy for this tanguera who had not danced tango for over two weeks. But his enjoyment was clear, and he simply danced in a style that he liked. And the style in here, is of course, Argentine tango with a twist of Englishness. Names are usually exchanged before the first dance and most dancers use an open or awkwardly half open half closed embrace. In Argentina, the women are given the choice to choose how close an embrace they use and most opt for the close embrace where the connection is at the chest.

My observations showed little quirks that were interesting to acknowledge and different to my experience in Buenos Aires. Here, none of the women danced with their eyes closed. By the time I left two hours later, I think I had seen two women besides myself who trusted their partners enough to dance with eyes shut. The floor had a seemingly haphazard style of movement in a general anti-clockwise direction. The floor came with the usual suspects – the guy out to show himself off, the pair of good dancers, the man who danced the same steps in the same sequence in the same rhythm whatever the music, the woman with the sparkly shoes, the couple who chatted the entire time they were dancing, and the ones who occasionally forgot which direction the flow was meant to go - a rather unforgivable error in Buenos Aires.

New attendees were introduced to the group as a whole, which was a good way to ensure we got dances. The MC was a little over zealous in his introduction of me and told the crowd I had landed from half way across the world that morning. How he got that from stating my name and birthplace is rather puzzling. The birthday dance had the women waiting to cut in on the man but with no tapping of the shoulder of the other woman. Just a simple nod to the man at the end of the 8 bar count.

Eventually I was able to find the dancers who focused on simple moves, musicality and connection. It was in these tandas that I felt most happy and comfortable, able to enjoy myself and the atmosphere the room had. The man who lived in Peru and was rediscovering tango after a long break, moved so gently in a slow tango that I was able to adorn the dance and actually interpret the music.

But my favourite person of the day was my new artist friend, David. He sat in the corner of the milonga and sketched, trying to capture the movement and flow of the milonga dancers. We talked about capturing the essence of the dance, and he admitted having never tried to dance tango but loved exploring the challenge of trying to capture it on paper. Armed with a few colours, paintbrush and pencil, he was sketching long rows of couples, showing the crowded dance floor, and managing to capture both the spark of many people dancing and the intimacy of each couple.

I left with my heart singing and an irresistable urge to practice boleos at the bus stop again.


There are no comments yet

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up