Does the following scenario sound familiar? I'll bet it's happening in a milonga near you - wherever you may be!
A beginner dancer musters up the courage to attend a milonga after taking just a few lessons. She's thinking of watching & learning, not expecting to dance. Yet before long, an older experienced dancer approaches and invites her to dance.
Throughout the tanda he proceeds to share his advice with her, so that she may know how to do giros, volcadas, leg-wraps, etc. Being a tango novice, she politely accepts all his comments, including his urgent exhortations to go into the cross or now do a forward ocho. In the process, she's allowed to stumble around, feeling inadequate. I'm sure that you get the picture. You've seen it all before!
We've all been rank beginners. I dare say that most ladies have been assisted in our journey by a more experienced dancer taking us on to the dance-floor for our first real tango. But how helpful is the approach experienced by our novice?
It will come as no surprise that her dancing does not improve. At
the end of the tanda, she leaves the dance-floor with her confidence
One might well ask: What were his intentions?
What could our experienced dancer have done differently?
At milongas, A: do you like to sit at a table with friends & acquaintances, male & female? B: perhaps you simply like to share a table for two with your partner? C: do you prefer the singles seating arrangement, where men sit separately from the ladies?
We all have our preferences, and they may change according to various circumstances. But are we aware of the implications of the choice we make? As for milonga organisers, one would hope that they understand the dynamics which are created with their chosen seating arrangements.
Option A - the sociable arrangement - is popular here in Australia. It allows people to chat freely and at length with those sharing their table. When the mood takes them, they get up and dance together. Sounds pretty relaxed, doesn't it?
But consider the following scenario: A wonderful tanda of Calo beckons and someone (let's call him Trevor) from one table wants to dance with Jane from another table. But she is engrossed in conversation with friends. She is showing no interest in dancing, despite the great music.And to make matters worse, the tables crowded together mean that she has her back to him.
What does he do? What would be socially acceptable? What would you do?
Well, Trevor wastes no time. He approaches Jane's table, interrupts the conversation and asks her to dance. Taken by surprise, she doesn't know what to do. She hadn't been wanting to dance with Trevor, or with anyone for the moment. But now she's put on the spot. Refuse or be nice and go through the motions.
No, the problem was not entirely due to the seating layout, but it is all too common with Option A.
Option C, on the other hand, is an arrangement entirely aimed at facilitating dancing. It allows milonga attendees to signal their availability and intention clearly to potential partners. Obvious body language will indicate whether they're interested in dancing. The rules of engagement are clear-cut. Nobody is imposed upon. Socialising with those sitting nearby is not precluded, but the main objective is dancing.
Does Option C seem a tad daunting? Perhaps a compromise with Option A would suit? Tables can be arranged around the dance-floor enabling friends to socialise or focus on the dancing. When the music inspires, it's relatively easy to scan the milonga for a potential partner.
Choosing Option B sends a pretty clear message of exclusivity of the couple. Enough said.
Sometimes the venue imposes limitations to seating possibilities. However, milonga organisers should be mindful of the social dynamics, including potential difficulties which they may be creating unintentionally. As for the attendees, good manners are good manners wherever you may be.
There are many elements that contribute to you saying as you travel home, “that was a good milonga”. Four stand out in my opinion: Welcomin...
We promote close-embrace tango which is danced socially in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Our focus is on developing musicality, connection and sound technique - essential for this improvised dance.
Robert Youngson & Patricia Petronio
Contact tangosalon(at)adam(dot)com(dot)au to be added to our mailing list.
Telephone 0408 850 079
Weekly classes Monday 8:00 - 9:30pm Tuesday 8:00 - 9:30pm Baptist Hall 144 Tynte St, North Adelaide Cost $10