You’ll probably consider this control-freakish, but of all the things you can manage in a milonga, the hardest one is having it end properly. The dancers just can’t seem to work as a team and leave as one happy group. They trickle out one by one and, once this spirit spreads, the party may peter out prematurely, like supporters leaving a soccer match before it ends. In that situation the ol’ Cumparsita, that traditional final curtain, may feel artificial and slightly desperate, like a national anthem played in a half empty stadium.
I have seen it happen sometimes in our weekly milonga, but the phenomenon affects festivals and marathons alike: the beginning is full of excitement and anticipation, the ending veiled in a shroud of melancholy or a certain flatness, as if everybody is already focusing on the next day of work. No wonder there are after-parties, and after-after-parties, to deal with the spleen of letting go. Some compare it to the sadness that can follow after good sex, and this may certainly contribute to the mood. To me it is also a sense of being incomplete, as if something that needed to be said is kept quiet (you may call me overly sensitive).
A good milonga night is like a play or movie unfolding. For a night out, most of us prefer the plot of Sleepless In Seattle to Scenes Of A Marriage, I guess. During the first part of the evening tension builds, with subtle signs of what is yet to come: many welcome hugs, a funny conversation and surprising encounters. Then, the plot thickens. Some intrigue may emerge, who is going to get who? A couple of disappointments may occur and some character development is likely. In all of this, it is the organiser’s challenge to avoid the narrative from trickling down into an anti-climax, like in an arty French movie. I guess I prefer a conventional ending, with the main characters falling into each other’s arms victoriously and the bad guys put away.
So, how to end an evening with a cherry on top? Some say a little Chacarera does the trick, but I fear the anticipation may cause anti-folkies to pack their shoes early. A raffle before the Cumparsita? We are too sophisticated for that. Group picture? Surely not every week. In true movie fashion I could position myself in front of the door, spreading my arms, pleading: “No! No! Please stay longer!” Or better still, I could deliver a pre-battle field speech halfway through the evening, in the style of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: “By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, men and women of the West, I bid you to stand!”. After that, we could storm the dance floor together building fellowships until the very end, returning to our little homes in the Shire like the happy little hobbits and elves that we are.