_: Nocturne in NYC by US-based tanguera :_


Nocturne is hosted by Robin Thomas every 3rd Saturday at DanceSport –a dance studio located on the 4th floor of the building next to the Empire State. He is often and rightly credited for having done the most for the development of social tango on the East Coast. Nocturne is also DJed by Robin, and once in a blue moon - by somebody he trusts very much (usually an out-of-town, national-level DJ). The crowd is a nice mixture of New Yorkers and dancers from the surrounding areas, such as New Jersey, Boston, DC, Montreal, etc. It is all the usual suspects. I like to describe them as “the travelling circus”, which is, perhaps, not the most complimentary term, but accurate nevertheless. In a way, it is a miniature festival, and, in my opinion, the best regular milonga on the East Coast.

10:30 I arrive on the early side, with a light alcohol buzz for added confidence: Nocturne is no place for shyness and self-doubt. There is a nice contrast between the brightly lid dance floor with multiple points of entry, and the darker areas with tables, plus a big bar area for people to chill out with a drink, sit, and watch, and gossip.

What will it be today, “A-list”, or “B-list"? The first few tandas set the tone for the evening and L. asks me to dance. The evening is off to a great start, even though I had to warm up with a milonga (not my preference!). The room is buzzing with nervous excitement. The leader/follower balance is tipped favorably, at least for the moment. Good leaders continue to arrive, eager to start dancing. Luckily, the female “cool kids” are too busy getting wine from the bar, and chit-chatting amongst themselves. Opportunity seized! :-)

I come here to dance with my friends. New Yorkers are very friendly, once you get to know them. However, they don’t feel any need to get to know you unless you make a commitment to dancing in their community. I still remember a male friend of mine calling me from NYC totally shattered by the condescending looks and looks of disgust at Nocturne, as he tried asking a couple of cool tangueras to dance. I had to spend a good 30 minutes applying soothing compresses to the freshly wounded milonguero ego over the phone. Incidentally, my friend has since gotten over the initial humiliating experience and is now a regular. Nocturne is a school of hard knocks; there are always plenty of men and women of all ages and levels trolling for dances. Just like in the song, "...if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere".

12:00 Things are in full swing. Tonight, the main dance floor is chock-full of old people and overly enthusiastic intermediates. It is officially not safe, and I escape to the second room (the second dance floor in the back), with A. as my guide. With lots of available space, he pushes me to the max, and we both chuckle when I struggle to keep up. Given the extra large crowds tonight, the main room is also quickly turning into a sauna, and I stay in the pleasantly chilly back room for the next hour or so. Main floor or back room, coconut water is my trick for survival, both for hydration and for staying awake. Taking a long break is not a viable option. I am not a nocturnal animal and can easily go past the point of no return. I don’t want a break, anyway, as the music is great and Robin is exceptionally skilled at maintaining steady energy flow.

12:30 Lyrical intermezzo: four (or maybe five?) sweet tandas with T. My back finally relaxes, and we melt into each other…

1:00 Performance time: high-quality local, national, and international couples performing for a supportive, enthusiastic crowd. After performances are over, the floor usually gets a little bit more reasonable. Not tonight… Roberto Herrera has brought out some resilient admirers out of the woodwork.

1:30 Learned something new today. For the longest time, I could not understand why S. would ask me to dance on a very irregular basis. He would be very enthusiastic and complimentary when we did dance, but then he would avoid me at other times. I was intrigued. So, tonight, I finally found out that he has a non-negotiable list of partners for each of the three styles. I quickly deduced that I was on his vals list. Not very surprising, given that I have a weakness for the combination of dynamism and lyricism, or sentimentality of the form.

2:00 is traditional Chacarera time at Nocturne for some and traditional Ibuprofen time for others, including myself. As much as I love the fun, uplifting spirit of the dance, I have to take this opportunity to cool my heels, as by now, I have been dancing non-stop for 3.5 hours. Time to relax…

3:00 People are starting to feel lazy and there is lots of socializing, or blurry-eyed sitting and staring into space. Young people nowadays have no stamina! Only the hardest-core dancers are still dancing non-stop. But at any given time, there are still quite a few couples on the floor. Almost time for more ibuprofen… my body wants to keep dancing, but dancing “chill”. No such luck! The music is calling, my partners are full of energy and we are flying through the room. The music is super dramatic, a beautiful crescendo to the evening.

4:00 La Cumparsita. I am delirious with exhaustion but very happy. D. and I are finishing on a lyrical note and I am limping off the floor to the sounds of I Am Going Home, Robin’s classic sign-off.  I examine my feet: just a couple of cuts and bruises, no big deal. As a Russian might put it, they “will heal in time for the wedding”.

Till next time,

SVN