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Excerpts from a travelling tanguera - The Tango Community

Photo credit: Nick Kenrick 2014

The skies were grey and threatening and I tried not to let that dampen my spirits as I kept walking down the deserted main street. Cursing under my breath for being so late, I hurried along trying to find any sign of street numbers to guide me in the direction of the small bar that apparently lay within the block of shops. I was on my way to meet friends in a town where, many years ago, I had danced many a milonga. But the facade of the main street had changed so much since my time that I had trouble locating the little bar where the milonga was held. It wasn't until I was almost on top of the front stoop when the strains of the bandoneon reached my ears and through the dimly lit window I could make out dancing partners at the end of the narrow building. 

Breathing a sigh of relief, I shook off the gloomy day and entered into the warmth of the local milonga. A small community of dancers met every week here, and through the strength of their passion this dance is kept alive in this small town. Among the familiar faces, there were new faces - always a good thing at milongas as new faces bring new dance styles into the mix. 

Walking into a milonga during a tanda (set of songs to dance to), can be slightly odd. In this case, all the familiar faces were partnered up and moving through their own bubbles on the dance floor, which meant there was no one to greet me back into this old world. There was time to sit, put on shoes and smile at those others who were unfamiliar to me also sitting at their tables. This changed once the tanda ended, and I was swept up into a myriad of hugs and kisses and exclamations of surprise from those who didn't know I was back in town.

There aren't a lot of situations in which catching up with old friends means dancing with them. You can say a lot through tango, as you bring more than just physical movement to the dance. Connection to both self and your partner are so important and depending on how you are emotionally that day, can affect the way you dance. So the best way to catch up with an old dancing friend is to do that - simply dance. It lets you catch up on the intangible without interruption.

This particular milonga had a wonderful feeling to it. The skies eventually opened up and rain poured down, adding to the cosy feel of the little wooden bar. The dance floor was small and snug, but just with enough space for those couple to navigate with ease. The afternoon was peppered with lively conversation as well as wonderful tandas. On the way home, as I watched the street lamps light up the rain on the bus, it got me thinking about how tango really does bring a sense of community to its dancers. While there are different circles - those who dance strictly traditional or those who have broken the embrace to dance a fluid open style, you are able to find a place to settle and those friends who dance a similar style, at least in my experience, will always welcome you with open arms.  An interesting characteristic since the music we dance to laments solitude, broken hearts, lost love and all manner of seemingly depressing romances.  

I remember those first lessons, where all you seemed to do is practice walking. The stark light of the studio, the glaring mirrors highlighting those robotic movements you are working hard to lose, and the thought that maybe you might never learn how to relax into the movement and gather the grace and flow those dancers you admire all seem to possess in grand quantities. But with time and patience, through repeatedly dancing with those in the community, by reminding yourself that heading out to a milonga at night will actually improve your mood rather than depress you, confidence starts to take over and the tango bug threatens to bite. It made me smile, thinking back to the moment when I knew I was under the tango spell. 

So if you are looking for a change or to do a new activity, just remember - if you can walk, you can tango. And with one class you open the door to invite in a whole new community. 


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