Remember the first time you went to the milonga and saw the magical ambience. You wore your best dress, the pair of trousers you’d just bought, new shoes and a big smile. You didn’t know much about codes, etiquette or what was cool or expected of you. All you knew was that tango made you feel different from anyone in your circle of friends. You had finally found a way to express what was inside, other people to share it with. This is what tango was about.
You wanted to be part of the tango world, to discover the secrets a good dancer holds, and some day, to become a milonguero. You were told there was only one way, dance, dance and dance! And eventually you’d get to where you wanted to be.
The first milonga I went to in Bs As, was Club Almagro on Medrano Avenue. It must have been 1994 or 1995, I had been dancing for some months and wanted to put into practice everything learnt in class, which was very little. That little I had learnt involved only how to do some basic and rustily executed figuras without a clue regarding how to move on the dancefloor, how to navigate or how to share the space with others and flow with the twirling and compact mass of people moving together to the music.
Anyways, I naively invited my partner at the time to give it a try. It was so packed that we couldn’t find a way to break in. We finally found a small clear and we plunged in. As we were ackwardly getting ready to start a basic step, I felt one elbow hitting my side, then another one, then a tird one… and out we were.
The whole experience on the dancefloor must have lasted about twenty to thirty seconds. We had been literally elbowed out by some saavy, (though malicious milongueros) and found ourselves standing by the side, a bit startled, ashamed, not knowing what to do. Looking down, we humbly got back to our table, and after a while began mumbling about what had happened.
We ordered a couple of drinks and watched the pista in awe for the rest of the night. We didn’t dare a second try. It was unveiled to us that we were not ready yet and that we should propably look for other references. It was an enriching night after all. We had learnt plenty about tango:
Tango was smooth and cool. Tango was rage. Tango flowed like water or like wine. Tango never seemed to begin or end. Tango wasn’t methodical, but tango wasn’t messy either. Tango was a conversation between two, a choir of many, a give and take. Tango was the connection and communication between all dancers on the dancefloor.
And we had learnt the hard way about the basic codes in a milonga. But that (the codes) are the focus of another upcoming blog.