Friday, August 8, 2008

Question #3: What Was Your First Milonga Like?

What Was Your First Milonga Like?

My first milonga was at the Cell Space, which is a very cool, art studio inside a big warehouse. I walked in and immediately felt the buzz. It was packed with people tangoing in a huge counter-clockwise river of dancers. It was fun, exciting, and a big party.

I watched everyone tangoing and they made it look so easy. Certainly it would be that easy for me, too. I took the floor with my friend and I took her into our embrace prepared to look as smooth as everyone else on the floor.

So, how did it go? Yeah, not so well.

I felt confused, chaotic, and stressed. And this was all with my former salsa partner who is a great dancer. We performed salsa for three years and we've always connected extremely well in our dance. But that was because I knew how to lead her in salsa & because she's such an accomplished dancer. Now I was trying to lead her in a tango, a dance neither of us knew. So, while tangueros floated by us completely in synch, I struggled to know how to walk myself, let alone walk and lead my parter at the same time.

When I went to my first milonga I'd been dancing salsa for seven years, so I felt very comfortable with it. But now for the first time in years I felt like a complete beginner all over again.

Given how difficult my first milonga was, I wouldn't have guessed how passionate I'd become about tango. Tango is the most challenging dance and that's part of her allure.


ModernTanguera said...

I think that seeing all the energy, the beautiful dancers, etc can be a real inspiration for everyone who is still struggling at the beginning! It can be motivating. :)

My first milonga was less stressful than yours, I think - I had taken an 8-week beginner's class twice already and had been practicing with other students for a couple months outside of class. I guess I waited a while to avoid embarrassing myself, but I also delayed the gratification of being at a milonga! I think I was still operating in performance-dancer mode.

Lucky for me, the milonga I went is one that is well-attended by people who attend the practica I had been going to. I knew a lot of people already, and so I was invited by a number of leaders right away. A very welcoming atmosphere! It was perfect. (And I was hooked. I have never missed that milonga, from the very first time I went, except when I have been out of town.)

Anonymous said...

Actually, my first milonga was a breeze. On entering the room I was immediately electrified by the music and the dancers. I found an empty chair and quickly changed into my dance shoes. Then I sat in that chair for the next couple of hours admiring the exquisite dancers. Did I mention that I am leader :

joegrohens said...

My first milonga. Beautiful question.

I'll call it "our" first milonga, because I went with my tango dance partner, who eventually became my girlfriend, and we still are together.

Our first milonga was in Chicago @ Tango Nada Mas (now defunct). We had taken a few private lessons from a local ballroom teacher where we live (Champaign-Urbana). I would say they were very good lessons, and he was and is one of the best dance teachers I have ever known. But he was just beginning to learn Argentine Tango himself, and what he taught had a lot of carry-over from ballroom tango.

Anyway -- teacher said we knew enough, we should find a place to go dance, and see how other dancers do it. The nearest place was Chicago - 2.5 hours away. I called Bob Dronski, said we wanted to come up. He reserved a table for us. (!)

it was beautiful, fantastic, glorious, changed our lives, etc. I remember that all we knew was a few patterns - a few 8-count basics, though I don't think they stepped backwards. We also had learned "the gancho", "the parada (w. sandwich, etc.)" and "the sentada". The sentada cracks me up when I think about it now, and I sometimes lead it for fun. It's actually a classic figure - Pibe Palermo used to do it. And I saw Carmencita doing it on one of the CITA videos.

Anyway .... we stood out like we were Harlequin and Columbina - a couple of puppets. Everyone in Chicago was so friendly and welcoming to us. A lot of the guys asked Carlota to dance, (and of course, were quite generous with the teaching.)

God, I remember that night so fondly. I was scared to death, and managed to dance a total of four songs the whole night (each one separated by a half hour of sweating pulse-pounding recovery).

I learned a lot from seeing real tango dancers dance.

And the part that makes us laugh to this day (more than 10 years later) is that when people could come chat with us and ask us where we were from, they always said "You seem to dance a different style of tango." Yeah, that's for sure.

That was when I started to think of myself as an orillero.

Una Milonguera said...

My first milonga was Niño Bien (in Buenos Aires), I went alone, and it was a complete disaster. I had taken tango classes during 3 months, but with open embrace, and there if you don't dance Milonguero style... you don't dance. Three men invited me to dance, and none of them finished the tanda.
I was completely disappointed and depressed after that...
I told my teacher my first experience in a milonga had been a disaster and he said: "You should watch before dancing". So during 3 months, I went to La Viruta almost every night, just to watch. After that I began dancing... and it was not a disaster any more!

La Tanguera said...

My first many Milongas were absolutely terrifying to me. I had been taking lessons for a few weeks at an Argentine restaurant that had a Milonga following the lessons. A group of friends used to attend the lessons and then have dinner, intending mostly to watch--I used to love listening the music and observing the couples on the dance floor. In the course of one of those dinners, someone asked me to dance--I was feeling totally unprepared, uncomfortable, unready. Somehow I survived and other dancers asked me as well, but in all honestly it took me a really long time to go to a Milonga without feeling that I had to apologize to whoever asked me to dance for being a beginner. Perhaps it would have helped me feel more comfortable if I had taken tango in full force back then, but at the time I was only dancing once a week, so in retrospect it is not surprising that I felt struck by panic. Now, when I look back I'm so glad those first times of insecurity are fully over :)