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September 04, 2008

My first milonga

The "Confessions Of A Tango Dancer" blog asks Question #3: What Was Your First Milonga Like?

This was my response, modestly revised.

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 our 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 Tango Nada Mas in 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.

Posted by joegrohens at September 4, 2008 07:46 PM