Not the usual preparation for a milonga. Our mood is subdued. Mid-winter light fades early, and curtains are pulled to keep out the cold. The little Smart car slips across the Tyne Bridge out towards Heaton and the Dexter Grosvenor Dance Centre. Tosson Terrace in north east Newcastle seems the last place you would expect to find a dance studio, and the black door at the bottom of a steep staircase only discloses its secret with the feint sound of Argentine tango.
Tonight is the milonga dedicated to Julian Dockery's life of tango. Julian's last task for us was to choose the music that he would have chosen, and to dance to the codigos de tango that he respected. The lighting is soft, early dancers circulate on the smooth block floor, the tables are decorated with flowers and chocolates, and Tricia performs her last tribute to Julian's memory.
Dance teachers from across the region are here, Robin has donated his milonga evening; Miriam is the DJ; Andi y Angie arrive, together with John Paul; and later Miriam y Dante will perform. Now, Donato's 'Sombra Guacha' brings tangueros to the floor, their gentle movement silhouetted against a flickering slideshow of Julian's youth.
Audrey, Julian's mother, has come from the Cotswolds in south west England for the event. This is the most poignant moment for her as she watches the dancers that shared her son's life of tango - most strangers to her, but in another sense familiar as part of the tango family that surrounded Julian. Their dancing tells his story; moments of joy, of sadness, of friends and of loss.
'Quiero Vierto una vez Naz' by Franciso Lumato and Bianco Bachichi's 'Cumparasita' signal the end of the evening. It represents a passing, but also the embracing of another spirit into the rich life of the tango community that we love.