Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Dreaming again...

I've been dreaming again, about a London milonga this time. A smaller, more intimate venue, big enough for 15 to 20 couples maximum, since fewer than 12 couples probably wouldn't make for a varied and interesting evening. The aim would be a concentration on dance and music, and rather quieter socialising. Sort of a dance club, a dance evening; friends, acquaintances and guests getting together to dance. Probably no class: just turn up and dance.

Preferably there would be space around the dance floor for tables and chairs and it would be great to have a venue with sufficient chairs and tables so everyone has a place for the evening. The floor needn't be big, just big enough to make a line-of-dance possible: several people have observed recently that the quality of dance tends to improve when there's less space available. I know a couple of small milongas in central London, but there's not much space around the floor.

One BsAs custom that probably can't be replicated here is waiter service to all tables, which changes the group dynamic a lot. Bars are a focus for meeting and talking, and when the bar is in the actual hall it can become a place where people gather and therefore group and talk, and consequently become noisier. Without that grouping together within the dance hall, milonga evenings tend to be quieter, more dance-focused. In my ideal London milonga, waiter service could be replaced by bring-your-own, or by a bar in another room. & the lighting should be reasonably good; certainly no dark areas on the dance floor.

Not that I'm against socialising: a milonga at which no one talks to anyone else would be plain daft. I'd just like to see a change of emphasis. It's a cooler, calmer, quieter, more intimate atmosphere I'd like to see, both socially and in the dance, and I think it's something worth aiming for. If anyone's already organising something like that but keeping quiet about it (and why not?) I'd be delighted to be on your guest list at some stage!

8 comments:

Anca said...

Sounds like a tango home party :-) Of course, the first thing one needs for this is - a home...

Tangocommuter said...

Wish I had a home in central London with a floor big enough for 20 couples, and room for tables and chairs too... but that's another dream! My milonga isn't really a domestic event. It should be public. I just wish we had a smaller, more intimate milonga where it would be comfortable to dance, and to sit and chat a bit too.

David Bailey said...

I'd very much love to go to that milonga. I think you're the man to organise it :)

Tango en el Cielo said...

Isn't the Tuesday milonga at Vino Latino's Wine Bar fairly close to your description? OK no drinks waiters but you can sit at tables and eat there too.

Tangocommuter said...

Yes, it is: it's one of the 'small milongas in central London' I was thinking about. I've only been once, and I remember it as a slightly awkward shape, but intimate and friendly. I was thinking about Maipu 444, so the wine bar might be a bit on the small side.

More than a physical place I'm thinking of a kind of milonga, an attitude to dancing tango, which might seem a bit foreign here, as we tend to go out to let our hair down, so to speak. That slight formality in tango might be a bit unexpected, a bit alien to us, but I think it can be encouraged by the physical space.

Aisling Tango said...

I find this fascinating, because the ability to "let our hair down" and enjoy tango as kids enjoy playing together is exactly what I find so attractive in (some) European milongas. I am very curious what you think is intrinsically valuable in the formality of BsAs tango?

Tangocommuter said...

I've been asking myself the same question! In any case, why shouldn't we interpret tango in our own joyful way?

I think the answer for me is that I like the beauty and intimacy of it, and I think that needs a certain amount of attention. I've heard older dancers say that it's not tango if it doesn't give you goose-pimples! Perhaps the music itself is a bit formal too. I've never been comfortable with social formality, and I'm less comfortable in very formal milongas, but I think the quality of the dancing falls off if it's not taken a bit seriously.

& aren't the best dancers playful even in formal milongas?

Tango en el Cielo said...

I like the formality of the traditional BsAs milongas. The cabeceo system is the best one I know for getting to dance with the partners you want to dance with. I like music to be arranged in tandas so I can choose the right partner for the right music. I like to be in the company of people who respect the music, who care about it, and dance with attention to it. I like to share the floor with people who are respectful of my space and are trying not to bump and kick me. I like to dance with men who have taken care over their grooming and personal hygiene. I like a bit of decorum, a sense of occasion. I think TangoCommuter has a point that the way the physical milonga space is arranged helps or hinders this kind of spirit. When it works, it attracts the best dancers, at least it does in BsAs. That's why I go mostly to those milongas.

Letting hair down and dancing playfully is an important part of tango too. I suppose in the traditional scheme of things, that's what the practica is for. But I'm glad, when I'm in BsAs, that there is a huge variety of types of milongas, and find that going to alternative ones like La Marshall, or a club de barrio outside the centre now and again can feel like a breath of fresh air!