Now the world is waking up again, so is the most wonderful of tango traditions, the milonga – the social tango club. Here couples, friends and strangers dance together, changing partners throughout the night and finding connection in a close embrace through which they communicate the movements,
Although David and I don’t get out to the milonga as frequently as we would like – 2 young kids can really take it out of you – we hope to get out more over the coming months. And certainly we have spent many years “milongueando”.
The first time I attended a milonga, in my early 20s, I was mesmerised. It was so different to the world of bars and clubs that I had inhabited up until then. For me it was a turning point: I knew that my social life would never be the same again. It was the milonga where I felt most at home.
I have always loved the gentle pace of the milonga. Although every milonga is different with its own character and energy, there you can find yourself a seat, maybe a table, and take your time. Primarily you’re there to dance of course but in between dances you can have a drink and catch up with friends. There are some nights that catching up with friends can overtake the dancing. And of course you can simply watch. And I never would have imagined that just watching other people dance could be so fascinating.
When I first went to the milonga I spent most of my time watching the footwork. I distinctly remember thinking how “expert” everyone looked and I desperately wanted to understand how the followers appeared to know where to put their feet. I still love watching footwork of course but now my eyes will move upwards to the embrace and to the expression on the dancers’ faces. Because it is in the embrace that you can see the connection between a couple. And the expression on their faces is so revealing.
Non-tango dancers often think that tango dancers look very serious. They might even interpret this as meaning they’re not enjoying themselves. This could not be further from the truth. Although tango dancers may not be grinning from ear to ear, their expression would be better interpreted as focussed and serene. But if you look carefully you will often see dancers with a small, blissed-out smile on their faces.
These are my very favourite moments to observe. Because so often when you see one dancer smile, you know that – over their shoulder – their partner is smiling too. Dancing in a close embrace, with torsos touching and heads side by side neither partner can see the other smile. Nor are they communicating with words. Yet something in the dance, in the embrace and most importantly in the connection between the two has generated this smile. I don’t get tired of witnessing this moment of connection and too often will find myself smiling too.
These photos taken by David at the end of our class on Saturday for me perfectly capture one of these moments. A small smile is playing on Christophe’s lips. And his partner, Tasha, is totally in the zone, with a hint of a smile too.
All this talk has got me feeling nostalgic for the milonga. So it’s lucky that we already have a date in the diary for our next Tango Movement Night Out – Saturday 12 March – our first trip all together to a milonga since before the Pandemic. In other words, it has been far too long. Click here for all the details.