August 4th 2017
Today I spent the evening at a tango class. I wasn’t participating, I was covering it for a future issue of my digital magazine. The September issue is going to be about University, and I’m going to show that there are different, non-traditional, perhaps moreso unthought of societies and clubs to join at University.
A colleague of mine invited me to cover it, and after a bit of persuading (from myself to myself) I decided to go along. I brought Alice with me to take photos.
The Milonga (as I learnt it to be called – basically ‘tango event’) didn’t start until 830, and we decided not to turn up until gone 9ish. We wanted to give it time to get into swing, so to speak.
The Milonga was happening in Warwick, which is about an hour’s drive away from our house. It was weird. It felt weird leaving home at 8:30 and driving away to do something.
On the drive up the sun began to set, and it was the kind of sunset that you just have to pull over and take a photo of. Or for me, have to take a photo of Alice taking a photo of.
We got to the hall at about 9:15 and, after a brief dictaphone crisis, went in. To begin with I was pretty nervous. It’s not the kind of thing that I do. Tango is not something I know anything about, I also don’t know anything about interviewing people in that context.
After brief introductions I just stood there for a few minutes taking it in. To begin with it seemed like choreographed chaos. Everyone knew where they were going, but they were making it up as they went along. After the Tanda ended (usually a four song set of dances) my friend from work came over, took Alice and I to a side room and taught us how to Tango.
I wasn’t very good.
Alice was pretty good.
I wasn’t very good.
There’s a lot of thinking and a lot of moving involved. I have to think about where my weight is, where her weight is, where I’m going to move and where she’s going to move. It’s all very confusing, but they all made it look very easy.
Like I said, it looks coordinated and choreographed but it isn’t. They’re just moving with the music, the woman is following the man’s lead, and they’re just going with it.
I spoke with the President and former-President of the Warwick University Tango Society. Thankfully, they were easy to talk to. Like I said, I don’t really have any experience interviewing people in these situations. I wrote a list of questions but turned out not to need them because it was a just a pretty natural conversation. I learnt a lot about tango itself but I was also interested in the organisation, admin and commitment that the two society members put into running a night like this:
There were 80 people there. Not all of them were students – there were actually four different societies there, including the local town Tango club. That meant there was a mix of ages, and of abilities.
That’s something I noticed about tango, is that it’s very inclusive. Every four songs you change partner. After the fourth song ends, the man (usually) makes eye contact with the woman that he wishes to dance with. If she wants to dance, she’ll return his gaze and join him. If she doesn’t want to dance, she’ll look away.
This silent request came from old Argentinian society, where men were too ashamed of women saying no to verbal requests. Instead, there’s this silent etiquette every four (or three depending on if the next tanda is a Tango, a Milonda or a Vals)
I think I’ve explained that right. I got my dictaphone working in the end, but I’m worried that there was too much background music for it to have actually picked up any worthwhile sound.
If not, I better hope that I remembered everything they said.
All in all, it was a fascinating and unique way to spend an evening, and I’m glad I did it.
Until tomorrow, you’ll never make a dancer out of me though.