Yesterday in our Milonga Workshop, I was working with a group of three followers on their technique.
We were working on a combination of milonga steps: back, change, forward, extend, change, boleo … repeat.
Once they were comfortable - first with the movements and then with the music - I told them they were still missing something: “onda”. Milonga is not milonga unless you give it a bit of “onda”.
Two of them had never heard the word. The third - a Spanish speaker - looked a little mystfied: “Wave?” She asked.
I thought for a second. “Onda” can mean many different things depending on the circumstances. In Argentina, it is not uncommon to hear that a place has “buena onda” - a good energy. If someone dresses well, he has “toda la onda". And if someone does you a good turn, you might say: “que buena onda!” - how nice of you!
When you dance and you give it “onda” it means something subtly different. I grasped for the word in English for a moment and came up with: sass! Ladies, you’ve got to give it some sass! Let the music inspire your movements!
But we know that it isn’t so easy. As a follower - and especially in milonga which is quite a bit faster than tango - your brain is almost completely occupied with just responding to the lead. (And Leaders, yes I know, it is not easy for you either!) Just remembering to do anything else other than simply follow can be quite a task. And of course you’ll also be trying to keep a good posture, extend your legs and all the other technique tips your teacher has given you.
But with time and especially with partners that you have a connection with, this will become less all-absorbing and you’ll feel you have more time to breathe! And - hopefully - you’ll start feeling that you can start allowing your personality to come out.
Remember always that whether we’re learning milonga, vals or tango, our first step is to become a follower and our second step is to become a dancer!