Level up, Tango?

Last night was Tango at Cafe Medici again!  I usually get there about 15 minutes late (not too intentionally; I just forget to watch the clock) so I end up walking in just as the lesson is progressing beyond the “if you can walk, you can tango!” part.

Anyway, I had a really enjoyable time last night.  We learned (relearned) the grapevine move – where the follow goes front, side, back, side ocho around the lead. (This has an official Spanish name that I don’t remember.)  First, the follows grapevine’d around the leads without touching – I learned I don’t actually know how to balance in my heels while doing ochos!  Oh, well. Once we went back to doing it with contact, I was much more confidant in my footwork.

The teacher uses an interesting method to correct – he’ll get behind the lead and guide their movements during the dance.  The first time he did that to a lead I was dancing with was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had while dancing.  It’s quite odd to be dancing with someone but obviously led by another.  Now, I’m used to it, but it’s still really weird! My brain always gets a little befuddled.

I had a really pleasant time dancing during the milonga afterwards.  I’m finally becoming comfortable with a number of the leads there. I have an easy time transiting from different styles, but it can take me a while to transition between leads and it certainly takes me a while to become relaxed enough to really follow well.  Tango depends much on a subtle lead, so it’s really important to become attuned to your partner.

Oh! Afterwards I was asking Gustavo what he meant by “collecting” during the grapevine, and he told me to just come to the classes at Esquina already.  Wells, says I, making the universal sign for money by rubbing my fingers together.  As it turns out, you can volunteer at Esquina (they’re a nonprofit) and earn time towards their classes, which include several forms of South American ballroom dance and languages!  Super excited! This will give me the chance to, er, level up in Tango!

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Tango Mondays!

Every Monday, Cafe Medici hosts an instructor from Esquina Tango for an hour (ish) long lesson at 8:00 (ish) and then a milonga (tango social dance) until 11:00 p.m.  I’ve been going for a couple of months now, more or less consistently, and I really enjoy it! 

The instructor’s name is Gustavo (sp?) and he’s originally from Argentina.  (Warning: When he gets excited, his accent can be hard to decipher and occasionally he slips into Spanish when he really gets going.  My Spanish is fairly limited to Tex-Mex, but it’s usually easy to figure out what he’s trying to tell you.)

He’s really upbeat and incredibly nice – even when correcting! – and will wander during lessons helping couples.  I generally get a few minutes of one-on-two instruction from him during a lesson, which is very unusual for a free intro lesson.  He also peppers the lesson with nuggets about the history and culture of tango, which is very nice.  It’s always a fun and festive atmosphere – lots of jovial joking and laughter.  A big part of the atmosphere is fueled by Gustavo’s energy and enthusiasm!

Tango is difficult, especially for the leads, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble with anything beyond the basic movements for the first few lessons. Skill levels vary, from brand-spanking new to intermediate (found at lessons) to seasoned, skillful veterans (at the milonga afterwards).  Age tends to vary wildly, as well, though most everybody is 21+.   The really wonderful thing about here is that it’s much more open than most other parts of the Austin dance community I’ve been to.  There are plenty of people who’ll ask you to dance (or accept an invitation, depending on how outgoing you are), especially if you attend the lesson, and it doesn’t take very long to become a regular.