Going ‘sola’ in the afternoons

IMGP5917 How many times have you walked alone into a Buenos Aires Milonga where you didn’t know anyone, sat down, put on your shoes and looked up at the single men? How did it feel? Easy? Scary? Exciting? If you haven’t done it yet, do you want to? 

This afternoon I did it all over again after maybe a month of staying securely in the perfect tango embrace of ‘el porteño, amor mio’.  It wasn’t easy. La Ideal felt cavernous when I arrived at 4.30pm. There were maybe ten people in there and some of them were tourists with large cameras and no dance shoes. I knew that when one man danced with me the few others would watch and decide whether I was up to the job. And there was no place to hide because the beautiful smooth marble dance floor was totally empty. As I sat, taking my time to arrange my belongings, put on my shoes, order a coffee… I was scared. What if I screwed up with the first leader? Every one of these guys has been dancing half a very long lifetime, has different tricks up their sleeve, will hold me in the closest embrace you can possibly imagine. I thought to myself, ‘Bloody hell Gabriella, why did you have to leave me to face this alone? Get back here.’

Then to my joy, out of the corner of my eye I saw my saviour arrive, a man I knew. This man knows I have Carlos, has met him, has complimented us on our dancing, has danced with me before. He will dance with me, I will not screw up, then the others will dance with me too. Perfect. And it was so. More people turned up. I danced all afternoon. Yes, I had the full range of experiences: the man who wanted to pose me, mid tango, for the tourist pictures (and tonight I have a pain in my back to prove it); the man whose lead I could not follow until the third tango in the tanda; the man who danced like an angel and made me feel as light as a feather. How come I could follow him like I was a tango goddess, and not the other guy? Ariel told me the other day that when I think I make a mistake it is not necessarily going to be my fault. So why is is me who always whispers, ‘Perdon’? 

I missed Carlos’ heart beating next to mine, but once or twice I felt the deep tug, the soaring joy that is tango connection. In those moments I felt excited to be back pushing my boundaries, dancing into the unknown.  Some things were reassuringly familiar: the gorgeous music; the warm welcome from Lola, the hostess; the grumpiest waiter in Buenos Aires fumbling noisily in his apron pocket for change until I finally told him to keep it. I drank a coffee, a coke, watched Lorena Pastor and her partner Gustavo dance a beautifully relaxed show. I left at 7.30pm, an hour before the end, because my feet were sore, and because I figure it is always best to go while you are winning… and maybe leave a few guys wanting. As I left I said goodbye to my ‘saviour’. He said, ‘Come back next week. Don’t leave for Inglaterra just yet.’

So. Easy? No. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Well let’s just say I’ll be back next week, and maybe even as soon as tomorrow…


4 Responses

  1. so funny – confiteria ideal is where I danced my first tanda in buenos aires – after three days of playing chicken, finally went there one afternoon. Horrible nerves at first but got over it finally.

  2. And, it is where I danced mine too, one Friday night back in March. Sometimes when I still feel terrified now, I wonder how I ever did it back then! SC

  3. oh sally,

    i am still going through that, as a beginner, going to milongas “sola,” hyperventilation during the walk there, spaghetti legs during the first tanda, searching into the music for some sense of solidity and comfort, then figuring out halfway into the tanda that i need to search for that solidity in the strange dance partner in who’s arms i am shaking.

    but the faces are starting to become familiar, and i am occasionally greeted with a warm kiss and a hug, so it’s getting better.

    do you ever miss it — the nerves? 🙂

  4. See?? You were totally fine solita!! And, in demand I’m sure! You know how much I want to be there, though! I love knowing I will be back and we can face that world together again. In the meantime, I have been exploring the Southern California Tango scene even more. This week, I went out 5 nights I think! Santa Monica, an underground milonga in downtown LA, Santa Barbara twice(Nito and Elba were visiting), and Burbank tonight. They are all an hour away and I need extra motivation to drive that far and arrive alone. I’m making friends in this foreign land where I have never lived but I still say, “Bloody Hell, Sally, I miss you!!” You’re the best tanguera partner in crime!

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