Ask Arlene…About Moving to London and hitting the Milongas

Dear Arlene,
(and everyone else)

can I ask for advise here? I am moving to London (for at least the coming year) end of september. I have started dancing Tango (in Berlin, Germany, where I am originally from) in 2004, but had a major break when I started to work in Afghanistan in 2008 (not much Tango there!). Going to London is of course a chance to ‘restart’! I am thinking of taking a course again to brush me up, and would like to know which ones can be recommended. Also, is there something like a ‘dancepartner fair’ on the net, or is it okay to show up without a partner? Same question goes for Milongas – in Berlin it’s normally no problem to go alone, but I heard different from other locations. Thanks for everyone abloe to guide me here!!

Kristin

Dear Kristin,

My opinion is to forget about ‘courses’.  If you want to meet people and refresh your Tango, my advice is to go back to basics and do the beginner’s classes before a milonga.  After all, you are a woman and you don’t need to know fancy moves.  If your leader is sensitive and reasonably skilled, you will be able to follow whatever he leads.

I have heard that the dancing in Berlin is mainly ‘Nuevo’.  I don’t know what your preferences are.  I am a strictly salon dancer these days.  Regardless, getting back to basics is not going to hurt you.

It is ok to show up alone to a class or a milonga.  Many people do, but there is no guarantee of dancing when you first start going out.  If you want to get dances you must be seen regularly at the milongas as people tend to dance with those that they are familiar with.  It is a bit of an effort, but worth it.  I am basing this on my own and other people’s experiences.  Going to a class before a milonga ensures you meet potential partners.  You need to network.  Make friends with other women.  You will need it and will have someone to talk to when not dancing.

I hope this helps.  Good luck with your move to London and Happy Dancing!

Arlene

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. suzi pickles
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 09:13:32

    Dear Kristen

    As a fellow tanguera who has been dancing tango now for around 3 years – I have recently rented out my house in the beautiful county of Sussex and rented a house in South East London in order to be nearer to all the London milongas, so can welcome you to London and hope you satisfactorily feed the beautiful addiction which is Argentine tango.
    The majority of the London tango clubs are very friendly indeed, but as Arlene says, people tend to dance with people they know.
    From my personal experience, some of them (The Light, The Dome) tend to attract younger, more nuevo dancers, some of them, Carablanca, La Mariposa, tend to attract slightly older, more traditional dancers, others, Pavadita, Negracha, attract a mix.
    I’ve made some wonderful tango friends here and am loving my new tango life in London.
    I went to Berlin for a weekend of tango a couple of weekends ago for the first time – I found the dancers there to be generally of a much higher standard than over here in London.
    If you go to milongas outside London, Bramshaw and Eton have, in general, a much higher standard of dancer and the floorcraft is excellent – it can be “challenging” in some of the London venues.
    I’ve only mentioned the milongas I personally go to and of course there are classes with people like Kim and Davide, Leandro and Romina and Alexandra Wood where there is a free practica time afterwards.
    I think you’ll find us a friendly bunch – there is also a VERY lively group of tangueros on facebook, so you’ll very quickly find yourself absorbed into the London scene.
    Welcome and I look forward to meeting you somewhere 🙂
    Suzi x

  2. Chris, UK
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 09:33:44

    Welcome, Kristin. Prepare for a culture shock. Having danced in the trad milongas of Berlin for many years, I can say London’s tango scene is about as different as can be found in any capital of Europe.

    I agree with Arlene about courses – for people like you wanting to dance in the milongas, they aren’t recommended (except by their teachers). London courses are geared to UK class-style dancing rather than to traditional Argentine tango dancing..

    As to the partnerbourse, London doesn’t have one. The nearest thing is the pre-milongas classes, which many women use to get introduced to guys and to learn some of the routines that they needed for a girl to a satisfactory partner for them. This generally reduces the number of invitations you get from the most experienced guys in the milongas, so you need to consider which are more important to you.

    Many visiting girls find the best strategy is simply to go to the milongas and choose carefully from the invitations they receive. Girls who actually dance tango are a rare and valuable commodity here, so once you are seen to be one by the guys who can dance, you will get good partners.

    And for details of milongas, I suggest you start here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tango-uk/

    Good luck!

  3. Chris, UK
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 10:49:42

    Suzi, I have to say your characterisation of Pavadita alongside Negracha does not accord with my experience. In the times I’ve guest DJed there I’ve seen only two couples doing nuevo, and one were advert-dancing teachers whom I’ve not seen return. Everyone else does social tango dancing, or class-style dancing which nevertheless is less disruptive than normal. I hope no social tango dancer is put off going to Pavadita by your suggestion it has a mix of trad and nuevo. At Pavadita floorcraft is usually as good as at the best trad milongas you mention. I know I have never played nuevo-conducive music there and I doubt the regular DJ Nikki has either. Pavadita is a traditional milonga where anti-social dancing is not welcomed, and it is as different from Negracha as chalk and cheese.

  4. Ann Dobyns
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 16:22:42

    Suzi,

    I spent 4 months in London last Autumn (I’m from the States) and would generally agree with the advice you are receiving with one exception. I took classes from Leandro and Romina, who teach excellent Argentine tango. I have been to BsAs three times and found them to be close in style to some of the best young tango teachers there. They teach salon with excellent technique–all levels.

  5. Chris, UK
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 00:53:31

    That “excellent technique” unfortunately doesn’t extend to simply going around with other couples in the ronda. The few of their students I’ve seen make it to the milongas are a hazard to navigation and to themselves. And their drop-out rate is appaling. Despite that they have been teaching here for many years, I don’t recall meeting even one of their beginner couples who’ve graduated beyond classes. Most stay stuck in their classes until they give up.

  6. suzi pickles
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 17:00:20

    Just to respond to a couple of things – Chris (and Kristin, obviously – since it was your question!) I was not intending to say that Pavadita and Negracha both had a mix of nuevo and traditional – it was either poor writing on my part or poor reading on Chris’s part – I was categorising the age, rather than the style, of the dancers at the different venues. For a follower this is much more important than it is for a leader in terms of where you are likely to get more dances.
    Ann, Leandro and Romina are two of the teachers I was recommending – I wholeheartedly concur with your opinion and I still have lessons with them from time to time, as do some of my fellow dancers, all excellent leaders with great floorcraft and navigational skills!!
    I think you’ll see from this short debate Kristin, that tango is alive and well and kicking in London (kicking ESPECIALLY downstairs at Negracha!!) and there is a wide mix of places for you to go. Enjoy 🙂

  7. Chris, UK
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 17:24:10

    Suzi wrote: “I was categorising the age, rather than the style, of the dancers at the different venues”

    You words “more nuevo” and “more traditional” are very much categorisations of style.

  8. suzi pickles
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 06:46:45

    Chris I was trying to be helpful and friendly to Kristin – what is your intention by being so negative, critical and pedantic?????????????????

  9. Chris, UK
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 12:45:12

    My intention Suzi was to challenge your misrepresentation of a fine milonga and then your misreprentation of your misrepresentation. I thought that was clear. My apologies if it was not.

  10. Chris, UK
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 13:31:12

    PS And I have to add that the difference between and traditional is much more than pedanty and suggesting otherwise is not helpful to anyone.

    But I apologise if my comments about your teachers’ classes have upset you. I did not intend to imply they were particularly worse than the classes of the other London dance schools. I respect your right to state your high opinion of them as I hope you respect my right to state my low opinion of them.

    Happy dancing!

  11. tangoairo
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 12:40:20

    Hello Kristen!

    Welcome to the London Tango scene which I have been part of for quite a while now. The first thing I can say to you is that you’ve already found a great place to start finding out about Tango and Milongas in London. Arlene’s Tango pages was an invaluable resource for me when I started out and has help me discover various Tango Milongas and teachers in London.

    I won’t talk about the different venues or teacher simply because people have different opinons and personally I think you should try out as many of the Milongas, all of which I know have classes beforehand, and then decide on the ones you like best. Most of the venues have regular gest teachers and performances and attract dancers from far and wide, as well as the regular crowd. So it’s always good to check what is going on in advance which may sway your decision on where to go at any one time if more than one Milonga is taking place. Most venues also advertise up and coming events with the use of flyers to be found somewhere close to the entrance, but I guess this is the standard now whereever you go.

    As far as dance partners and finding one are concerned. Well there is no need for this in the UK as people just tend to show up on their own, so I guess this is like Berlin (although I haven’t had the pleasure yet), and this makes it hassle free if you are new to the place.

    I personally tend to go to Milongas in central London as this is more convenient for me and also turn up some time after the class has begun. If I like what I see, I sometimes join in or just decide to watch depending on my mood. Either way I get there fairly early to make the most of the evening : )

    I wish you good luck and hopefully many great Tango dances!

    Tschuss

  12. kristin
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 19:00:01

    Dear all,
    wow, thank you all so much for the really helpfull advise and the friendly words of welcome! Feels much better to go to some Milongas and just see what happens after the first impression of the tango dancing crowd in London I was getting here. Thanks again, and I hope i run into you soon!

  13. Arlene
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 17:29:17

    Dear Kristin,

    I hope you haven’t been put off. There are many more choices than when I first started. This can sometimes be confusing. I tend to go to the milongas I started with, which happen to be the ones that have been running the longest. I am sure you will find your own way. It isn’t scary, and if you make an effort, you can make some good friends. All the best to you. 🙂

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