I go to milongas to socialise and dance. If I want to dance, then I can. If I want to rest and watch other people, then I can. It’s up to me.
But hold on, what’s this? The organiser has decided that everyone has got to stop dancing. It has gone quiet, the lights have come up, and someone has got hold of a microphone. Oh, good grief, it’s ‘show dance’ time. There follows 10 minutes of my life wasted whilst a couple prance around and show off.
Listen; if I want to watch couples dancing then I can sit and watch the other dancers all night long.
And if I want to watch choreographed dances that are only loosely connected to the salon-style Tango that I love then I can stay at home on the sofa and watch them on YouTube.
So I get kind of grumpy whenever there are show dances at a Milonga, and if you want to find me, look in the bar or the loos; I’ll be the one muttering to himself and checking his phone in case there’s a message from Kylie Minogue.
Struggling to get dances? It’s a familiar situation that everyone has experienced from time to time. But it seems to affect some dancers more than others. And boy, do they like to grumble about it. To anyone who’ll listen. Over and over. Endlessly.
But hey, have you noticed that some people are dancing all night long, with lots of partners? So it must be possible, right? Instead of complaining, perhaps there are some people you should listen to. Some suggestions:
Your Tango teacher
People like to dance with good dancers, and they prefer not to dance with dancers who aren’t so good. Simples. If you’re not getting asked to dance then could it just possibly be because you’re not nice to dance with? How do you get better if nobody will dance with you? Well, ahem, that’s what lessons are for; accept it and invest more in your learning.
How many lessons have you been to in the last month? Have you had any private coaching? Do you use practicas to actively work on improving your dancing? No? And you wonder why people don’t want to dance with you? If it’s still not working then try a different teacher. There are plenty out there.
You do know about the Mirada & Cabeceo, don’t you? Perhaps some people are trying to ask you to dance and you just haven’t seen them?
Personal hygiene issues will put dancers right off dancing with you again; sweaty clothes, body odours, clammy hands, or bad breath. Yes, it’s a fact for followers just as much as leaders. There are some lovely followers out there that I’m reluctant to dance with because I don’t want my clothes to reek of their body odour for the rest of the evening, thanks very much. Other dancers strangely don’t seem to have heard of toothpaste, floss, or mouthwash. It’s a close embrace dance, folks; please have some consideration for your partners.
Still not getting dances? How are you engaging with the room, and the other dancers? Are you friendly, chatty, pleasant, upbeat and receptive to approaches? Or looking like a serial killer planning their next attack? Please don’t just slump in a corner and scowl. You can do that at home, for free.
What about the Organiser?
The event organiser has brought together the venue, the advertising, the DJ, the refreshments, the decorations, and taken a big risk on putting on the event. A lot depends on them, but guaranteed dances is something they can’t organise; it’s something you’ve got to take ownership of for yourself. So please don’t whinge to the organiser if you haven’t danced much at their milonga; there’s nothing they can do about it, and it’s not their fault really, is it?
Note: Some organisers try to address the problem by balancing the numbers of leaders and followers. It might help, but do you really want someone to dance with you just because there isn’t anyone else for them to ask? I didn’t think so. Unbalanced numbers are not the main cause of your problem, and balancing the numbers will just mask it temporarily.
Perhaps I need another cup of coffee to waken up my sluggish brain these days, or perhaps it has been dulled by watching too much ‘Top Gear’, but there’s something I’ve never really understood:
Why do some Tango lessons always start with solo exercises?
Yeah, I get that tango is essentially a shared walk. But it’s in an embrace, with the followers walking backwards a big part of the time. So why do these exercises involve walking alone, whilst our arms are held up ‘pretending’ to be in a tango embrace?
Walking alone feels totally different to walking with a partner; the balance, energy, and movement are all changed. So it’s not very good preparation for walking with a partner. Why not try walking together, in a real embrace, in the direction we usually dance in? Perhaps with the music? Oh, hold on, that would be tango dancing. Silly me.
But it does use up some lesson time, doesn’t it
I don’t care how many shows teachers have appeared in, who they have danced with, or how long their legs are. I judge Tango teachers according to what they should be doing; teaching tango that we can use enjoyably & safely with the music at a crowded milonga.
These are my top symptoms of lazy, incompetent Tango teaching at group lessons. Next time you are in a lesson, score 1 point for each of these:
- Teaching a sequence.
- Teaching a sequence that starts with a back step.
- Teaching a sequence containing 8 or more steps (triple score for teaching the entire sequence in 1 go, without any breakdown)
- Teachers demonstrating & talking for more than 5 minutes at a time, whilst students get slowly more bored.
- Students left to attempt it for themselves for more than 5 minutes at a time whilst the teachers ignore most of the group and focus on one struggling couple.
- No mention of the music.
- No mention of floorcraft.
- Teachers wearing trainers / combat trousers / hats / t-shirts.
- Mumbling teachers.
- Teachers staring at the floor whilst they dance.
- Starting & finishing the lesson at least 10 minutes late.
- 0 – 2 Points: Formula 1. The best.
- 3 – 6 points: Formula 3. Nearly there, could do better.
- 7 – 15 points: Banger racers. Amateurs playing.
- 15 – 29 points: Lawn mower racers. Amusing but irrelevant.
- 30 points or more: Wacky racers. A joke, only I ain’t laughing.
I once observed a group lesson by visiting teachers from Argentina that featured all of these, making a 36 points maximum score. Kerrrching!
Lots of people with a collection of tango CDs have a go at DJ-ing. Only a few get it right. It takes a lot of preparation, research, and concentration (oh, and good looks, intellegence, wit, & charm..). Like many things, if it’s done right then it can appear easy. But there are some signs that it could be going horribly wrong:
- DJ with ‘spanglish’ pseudonym.
- Cheap and/or poorly set up sound equipment.
- “I have prepared the playlist for the Milonga in advance”.
- “Here’s a track that you won’t have heard before” (I wonder why?)
- The DJ spending most of the evening dancing.
- The volume too loud. I said TOO LOUD
- Random music mix, with no tandas or cortinas.
- Even worse; occasional cortinas, so the dancers are even more confused.
and a special section for Analia ‘LaRubia’ del Giglio:
- Walking around on the dance floor amongst the dancers to check the sound quality
- Randomly varying the number of tracks in each tanda
- Dancing as a leader and travelling in the opposite direction to the Ronda (i.e. clockwise).