Last weekend didn’t offer the much needed rest, but was instead filled with more work, including our standing in for our teachers in the beginners’ classes. I was feeling the complaints my body was sending in due to lack of sleep, and with an increasingly gloomy mood I dashed off to one of my best friend’s birthday party.
My mood only worsened because some unforeseen circumstances would always make my going to this friend’s birthdays difficult, and it was happening again this year: with the class being over around 11PM and her living across town, I knew I couldn’t get there before midnight.
When I finally arrived, I relaxed a bit and tried to soak in the atmosphere, but I still couldn’t shake off the frustration of running around all day, barely managing to finish all of the urgent work while not having enough time to do and enjoy some other things which were more important to me. I didn’t want to brood in the corner, so at one point, I excused myself and decided to go to the milonga to cool off a bit. I knew that it would be open until 3am and I’d get there around 2am, so all I wanted was a soothing dance or two and a chance to say hi and goodbye to our new friends from Greece.
They arrived the previous night, to our Friday milonga, and were almost overwhelmed by how warmly we welcomed and took care of them. Tango Natural is in some ways like a big tango family and we really like to spread the love. This night, however, we were the ones in for a surprise.
The milonga was in this big, elegant reception hall, but with only some 20 people there, it felt devoid of energy. I still enjoyed the few tandas I danced, but with almost no people in the ronda, I decided to sit down and talk with our Greek guests.
Soon, a tanda of milonga came up, which I love dancing, especially with one tanguera, Ana. I was about to ask her to dance, but Pablito got up and started dancing with Milena. I caught a glimpse the previous night and I knew he was a great dancer, and now I had a chance to actually look and enjoy his dance. So, when Ana asked me if we’re going to get our milonga fix, I asked her to wait one song.
After the song was over, Ana and I looked at each other and I murmured what both of us were thinking: ”Let’s not dance now. There’s not much point. Let’s just watch.” And so we watched, or perhaps I should say, stared.
Pablito completely blew us away. I think he is the best tango dancer I’ve seen so far, apart from the big names in festivals. His entire body is constantly responding in tune with the music, and his dance is always changing, quick and precise one moment and then soothingly gentle the next, like a multitude of colours and shapes shifting in front of your eyes.
I was looking at his dance with my mouth in a wide, gaping smile, and I noticed that a dozen more people were also sitting and looking. As all of us watched the one and only couple dancing, I felt a familiar tingling that I in no way expected to find here: the elated feeling you get at a festival, after witnessing a wonderful performance by a top dance couple.
As the tandas went by, the feeling only intensified. Finally, I couldn’t sit still any more, and so I invited Ana to dance. As we made the first few steps, we couldn’t help but grin and giggle – it really did feel like we were at a festival. Watching Pablito dance stirred up our own tango juices and now we danced and improvised with an energy that we in no way expected at a half-empty milonga after such a busy day. The tiredness and frustration from an hour ago were all but gone.
The milonga stayed open until 4am, but I think we could have danced until our legs fell off. When we finally said goodbye to our guests, several of us walked a bit more, laughing like kids after a great roller-coaster ride. It was the horribly cold and windy weather that finally made us go home and sleep.
The next day, the festival feeling was gone and several other strong impressions were in its place. I’ll talk about them in the future, but for now I’d just like to thank our Greek friends: that weekend I wanted to get my tango juices going at a marathon in Ljubljana, the first for me, but couldn’t because of the classes – and yet, instead we got our very own unexpected festival.