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.