I’ve sometimes heard this comment at milongas when feeling grumpy about the music and unmotivated to dance. Lots of dancers are on the floor, but most are not dancing to the music. OK, I realise that we all hear music a bit differently. But in truth, I can see little connection between their movement and the music being played. Besides, the music is not calling me to dance.
So what could have gone wrong? Humans naturally want to move to dance music, unless that innate response has been inhibited. (Take a look at Tangotherapist’s blogs on The psychology of musicality & don’t miss the baby dancing!). Perhaps something else could be amiss. In any young tango community (outside of the Rio de la Plata region) most dancers will come to tango unfamiliar with the music. So their teachers have a major responsibility to consistently expose them to it. I mean quality tango music composed and arranged for social dancing (here are some useful guides) – not tango music intended just for listening (eg. Astor Piazzolla – marvellous music, but not for social dancing).
Newcomers to tango are like empty vessels ready to be filled. So if they are fed a diet of high quality danceable tango music, their tastes are nurtured, their tango growth thrives. The music and the social dance form start to make sense - they form a coherent unit. More and more dancers will feel the music calling them to respond in certain ways. They may experience the wonderful union of the music, their partner and the other couples on the dance-floor, and may unexpectedly encounter that fleeting state of tango bliss. And then they’ll want more! But if quality dance music - one of the key ingredients - is lacking, then it’s not likely to happen. Dancers may persist and continue to seek out that elusive tango high, but will leave disappointed.
Those of us in young tango communities who choose to DJ bear a significant responsibility. We can make or break a milonga with our musical choices. In the long term, DJs can influence the musical tastes of dancers in that community. When DJing, I love sharing high quality danceable gems of the Golden Age of tango. I get great satisfaction from seeing dancers responding to the call of the music. Yet DJing is not a task to be undertaken lightly. At a milonga a good DJ chooses music suitable to the dancers, reads & influences peoples’ emotions and helps shape the event. Take a look at Ms Hedgehog’s DJ questionnaire Was that good? and think about your milonga experiences.
Teachers and DJs – I beg of you, don’t ignore an important aspect your role in young tango communities – that of educating and nurturing the tastes of developing tango dancers.
Note. In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that this plea contains a degree of self-interest: at milongas I’d love to enjoy the music and dance!