Yesterday's milonga did not get off to a good start, at all. We had returned to the King's Head Hotel for the first time since March. One hour into the milonga - only about 6 people had arrived. Certainly, milonga numbers in Adelaide had been declining recently, and there had been a tango party the night before. Were we wasting our time yesterday, and that of our few patrons?
Gradually more dancers arrived, yet it was still a relatively modest gathering of about 20 dancers.
About halfway through the milonga, I found myself transfixed. Most people were on the floor dancing sensitively to a tanda of Demare tangos. Something quite special appeared to be taking place. I fear that this will sound weirdly metaphysical, but here goes: I can only describe this intangible phenomenon as a very positive and serene energy linking all the dancers in the ronda. And this continued for the rest of the milonga.
Was it my imagination? Perhaps a case of wishful thinking - wanting the milonga to be a success? Yet other people at the milonga were making similar (unsolicited) observations.
Did the new furniture arrangement in the 'ballroom' influence the mood?
Were the people present so determined to enjoy themselves that their positive energy was infectious?
Was the considerate dancing of each person a factor?
Did the music play a part?
Whatever it was, yesterday some magic happened.
Last week we conducted a brief Q and A. We asked dancers in our group about their concerns in the milonga. Had they experienced behaviours which they didn't like, but didn't know how to respond to? From a tentative beginning emerged quite a number of issues, many to do with plain good manners!
We thought it might be useful to share the concerns and some suggested responses:
are doing big movements, which are either disturbing your dancing or posing a danger. (Assuming that the norm of the milonga is small movements)
At a break in the music, the man could take his partner to a safer part of the ronda.
Where the movements are dangerous to others, ask the milonga organiser to deal with it.
The man can navigate to reduce the space the offending couple has, so that they have
to dance more conservatively in a smaller space – but the man will always always protect his partner in doing so.
Your partner (male or female) uses an
e.g. too intimate (e.g. man putting your right hand to
his chest); stressful (pushing your right/left hand out or up too far; man
pushing & pulling as a means of leading); physically uncomfortable (gripping you too
tightly; man ‘paddling’ your back as he leads).
You can move your hand to the position
that you prefer; if your partner complains, mention that the other position is
uncomfortable; if he/she ignores that, tell him/her that you’ll need to sit
down if he/she doesn’t do as you’ve asked.
If the embrace is too tight, wriggle out of it until you have the room you
Your partner is talking,
singing, whistling, making noises that you don’t like
“I can’t dance and listen at the
“I’m finding your talking/singing/noises distracting” (but not the case
when a milonguera sings the words in your ear in BsAs, gentlemen!)
The music starts –
couples continue to talk in the ronda
Dance within your own space until the
ronda starts moving ahead
If the couple ahead of you continues to talk at length, pass them on the man's left & rejoin
the ronda in front.
You experience collisions,
with no acknowledgement or apology It’s good manners for the man to
acknowledge a collision with a wave or nod. In the case of a significant collision, approach the offended couple
at the end of the track to apologise.
At the start of a
tanda you are sitting and having a conversation
If you’re planning to continue the
conversation and not dance, then keep your focus on the person you’re talking
to.But, if you want to dance, chat and scan at the same time.
If someone approaches you and interrupts your conversation, simply say, “No
thank you, I’m chatting at the moment” or “Maybe later”
Poor lighting makes
the cabeceo difficult Men may need to move around the room
so that the eye contact becomes more visible, but not too close to your
Your partner (both men and women) keeps telling you what they want you to do
“I can’t dance and listen at the
same time”.(man or woman)
“You lead it and I’ll follow”. (woman)
“Let your body do the talking”. (woman)
“My focus is on the music and leading
with my body, not on figures” (man)
Man persists with a
figure without leading it effectively. You don’t understand what he wants Ladies, you could use your body
language (e.g. puzzled expression, shrug of shoulders) to show you don’t
understand what the man is leading. If he persists, and you feel uncomfortable,
tell him. If he ignores that, tell him that you don't feel comfortable and you’ll need to sit down.
Ladies may fear that they won't get dances if they refuse poor dancers
Is a bad dance really better than no
Your dancing may be judged by potential partners before they look in your
direction; dancing poorly with a bad dancer may give them an impression of you as a dancer that
you don’t desire.
Ladies tending to be too
nice … not knowing how to refuse an
invitation from someone they simply don’t want to dance with
Certainly, it’s helpful for experienced women to
dance with beginner men.
However, this doesn’t help poor ‘experienced’ dancers if they continue to
believe that they can get dances without making the effort to improve.
Accept with the proviso that “from now on, it’s with the eyes only!” This
can be done in a light-hearted, yet assertive manner.
When it’s very clear that dancing with a particular man would be a disaster:
“No thank you, I’m afraid our dance styles are incompatible”
Note: Effective use of the cabeceo is a way of avoiding some of these problems altogether.
Adelaide has just finished hosting a lovely long-weekend of tango, bringing together dancers and DJs from far and wide, including New Zealand! No workshops, just social dancing. It was delightful discovering 'new' dance partners and having the opportunity to reconnect with 'old' ones.
This brought me to reflect on a sense of being somewhat short-changed at times. Allow me to explain: I would be enjoying a lovely dance with someone I hadn't seen in 12 months or so, and after 3 tangos the cortina was already playing. Or my new partner and I were just 'getting to know' each other in our first ever tanda together - really starting to connect during the second track of the tanda, and found that there was only one tango left to enjoy.
People who prefer three tango tandas often express the opinion that the arrangement allows dancers to circulate more and therefore dance with more people at the milonga. I can see that viewpoint. However, that argument doesn't seem to work for those of us who perhaps prefer to dance less often, but with partners we really want to dance with. A four tango tanda leaves me feeling pleasantly satisfied and ready to happily float back to my table, rather than the sensation of an unfinished dish being snatched away from me by an over-zealous restaurant waiter.
I'm sure some will read this post and vigorously shake their heads. They might even label my views as anti-tango community. But there you are....
On another tanda note...
I recently came across this interesting background of the origin of the tanda.
I was initially attracted to tango by what I saw and heard when couples were dancing. Obviously, it was an observer's response. Then, I tried to recreate what I had observed.
Like the peeling away layers of an onion, it dawned on me much later that the experience of genuinely dancing tango is largely private, unseen and incredibly satisfying.
Good technique can be taught and developed ....
... frequently listening to tango music will improve your appreciation and response....
....... both will enhance your dance a great deal.
But, in my view, they won't get you beyond a certain point unless you have the right attitude.
So .. what is your state of mind when you dance tango?
Does the music compel you to seek out a dance partner? (Or do you dance to whatever music is put on?)
.... then, are you really present for your partner?
Do you listen to your partner throughout the dance?
..... so, are you always doing your best to connect with your partner and his/her response to the music?
Is your dance governed by the music and your partner? (Or is the next figure your dominant thought?)
.... once again, do you really listen to your partner at each moment of the dance?
Are you prepared to give yourself to your partner? (This implies trust, of course.)
.... and is it your intention to make each part of the dance pleasurable for your partner?
If so, and if your partner is doing the same, then chances are that you may both experience a lovely connection. You know the sort I mean? It leaves you floating on air at the end of the tanda (and just a teensy bit sad), as though you were returning to reality from another dimension.
So, what do YOU want when you dance tango? Just a bit of fun on the dance-floor? Or do you want more?
Recently a friend came across photos of some historic cabarets & nightclubs of Buenos Aires - haunts of many great tango bands. Sadly, they were demolished in the name of progress. One, eventually replaced by a supermarket!
Ever wondered what Pabellon de Rosas, the popular D'Arienzo vals, was about? Well, this collection of nostalgia is also thoughtfully peppered with videos of compositions dedicated to these legendary venues.
On a more recent note, many will remember the milonga venue Maipu 444 with great nostalgia - demolished just a few years ago to make way for yet another bank. It didn't have the architectural merit of those old venues, but oh, what memories those walls held.