Monday, 26 August 2013

Milonga de los Domingos

It is Sunday - close and muggy. The August bank holiday has almost come and gone in a shower of rain and an overcast sky. No balmy late summer stroll; tonight is Milonga de los Domingos at The North Terrace, Claremont Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Martin and June are to be our hosts, and we are told by Osher that we shall enjoy wall-to-wall 'Golden Age' tango.

The little Smart car hums tonight with expectation. We cross the eighty five year old Tyne Bridge from Gateshead, and head out to the north of Newcastle on the A167. Claremont Road comes up quickly and there on the left is The North Terrace. This being Sunday, parking is not a problem, although visitors are advised to find an on-street space shortly before the venue.

Named after the small road to which it abuts, The North Terrace is an imposing public house with an 'events room' on the first floor looking out towards Exhibition Park and Town Moor.

We enter via the patio from Claremont Road. After the strong evening sunshine, the bar is dark. Our eyes take time to adjust to the gloom, focusing on two beautiful tangueras sipping Vodka, fresh back yesterday from dancing in Buenos Aires. With sparkling water from the bar, and our dance shoe bags tapping against the stairs, we ascend to the studio. Here is the sound of Edgardo Donato; and there on the pista are two lone dancers. As ever, we are early.

Our hosts greet us with a hug. We glance around at pretty red-draped tables, each bearing a cream summer rose and chocolates. Within moments, we change into our Darcos and Comme il Fauts and the salon fills with tangueros. We notice that here, tonight, are some of the best dancers in the region.

Milonga de los Domingos is a traditional milonga, with tango music from the 1920's to early 1950's, and where dances are procured by the traditional cabeceo. Whilst the evening is warm and close, there is something cooling about this gentle milonga. The mood is unhurried. Tangueros wait, then dance. The pace of the pista is leisurely, respectful and calm. Milonguero style, with close embrace is ubiquitous.

Martin's playlist is truly a catalogue of the Golden Age of tango. But for scale of venue, we could be at Club Gricel, Buenos Aires. Most of the favourite songs, and some traditional tangos new to us, bathe the evening with a suffused glow. Our invitations to dance are with skilled tangueros, who take time and show patience. Between tandas, with a fan in one hand, the tangueras sit and chat. Following our host's example, the tangueros ensure that everyone dances.

10.30 pm arrives too soon. The last tanda of Carlos Di Sarli seeds into the cortina, and the evening is over for another week. Dancers embrace and exchange notes. This is definitely a milonga for the discerning tanguero, showing that Milonga de los Domingos can pitch the North of England against any milonga anywhere.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Manhattan, Harrogate.

It is 18 August, and by rights should still be summer. The Smart car hums along the A1 south towards junction 47. Either side, the fields have turned from green to gold, and the Sycamore trees leaves are lifting with scarlet frills. The evening is soft, and Canaro plays on the MP3.

Tonight is our chance to dance with Dickson and Rosie at their Harrogate milonga. We have been before, and that is why we return. Originally the prospect of meeting with Sarah and Lloyd was an added joy, but that was not to be tonight. Instead, we determine that we shall dance for both of them,

Satellite navigation draws us into Beech Avenue. The Manhattan Club is cast carelessly into a residential estate, surrounded by a few offices and a car park. Were you not looking for tango, you could easily miss it as another suburban accident. As we come to a stop, we know what awaits, and that is what we now can now share with you.

At first glance, the Manhattan is another northern working men’s club. The wide corridor weaves beyond the bar towards the sound of Juan D’Arienzo’s Derecho Viejo. Double doors open into a tango salon to rival those of Buenos Aires or New York. To the right, above staging, is a huge mural of the Manhattan skyline surmounted by dramatic lighting. To the left, the sound booth where Dickson mixes his magic tango playlist. Around the edges are small tables bearing candles, flowers and sweets. And in the centre, a wood blocked floor, as smooth as silk.

We are early, so the pista is ours to play with. A Rudolpho Biagi tanda impels us to dance, with the chance of rhythmic expression, later to be joined by other tangueros who decorate the floor. From there, Dickson’s eclectic playlist encompasses all of the greats of tango from 1920 to 2007.

So, what is it about Dickson and Rosie’s Sunday evening milonga that makes it special? First, is the welcome and the embrace; second is the music and the floor. But above all is the feeling that you have inadvertently stepped into another place – far from Harrogate and England – a place that is licked by the rivers Hudson and Plata – a moment sealed in time somewhere between now and the centre of the last century, where the moment is the dance.