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What makes for a bad milonga?

By | Rant | No Comments

We spend time getting ready to go out to a milonga. Getting smart, smelling fresh, rested, and fed. We leave home in plenty of time, and are looking forward to enjoying a nice night of tango dancing. But often recently I have been disappointed, & not only at London milongas.

As a milonga organiser, I tend to notice indications that tell me I’m going to be disappointed, and there are some things that are sure to get me in a grump (it doesn’t take much these days…):

  • Endless repeated promotional status updates on Facebook.
  • Web site out of date and/or with minimal information.
  • No signage to help you find the milonga.
  • No welcome
  • ‘Cabeceo-friendly’ lighting i.e. bright and cold lighting (it’s a Cabeceo, not an interrogation).
  • Paltry refreshments.
  • Announcement… another announcement… and another…
  • The Organisers spending most of the evening dancing.
  • ‘Star’ dancers performing show moves in the middle of the floor.
  • Salsa break… Jive break… Chacarera break…
  • Music volume too loud. I said TOO LOUD!
  • No sign of Kylie Minogue offering me a Ferrari F1 drive.

I could go on, but it’s time for my anger management class.

The rules of the road

By | Rant | No Comments

Since I stopped taking the pills for my nerves, I like to think that I am a pretty calm individual, no longer taken with dark thoughts of hacking dancers to pieces and burying them in the car park just because they bumped into me or my partner at at milonga.

Good floorcraft makes a tremendous difference to everyone’s enjoyment at a milonga. But the floorcraft at some London milongas I have visited has been, frankly, appalling (Negracha, Carablanca, Pavadita).

Floorcraft is the Cinderella of tango technique.  Teachers spend hours explaining the fundamentals of the tango walk, but can ignore the key skill of dancing with respect and consideration to the dancers around you.

And bad floorcraft is not limited to dancers in London. I can think of several local leaders who resort to using the space in the centre of the floor, and I have witnessed them & others dancing with total disregard for the dancers around them. In a few cases the culprits also call themselves tango teachers, but seem oblivious to the need to set a good example.

Let’s get this straight; a good dancer can use whatever space is available around them, without any need to bump, push, or kick or use the centre of the dance floor. A bad dancer can’t, and so resorts to using the middle of the dance floor. Get it?

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…..

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Since I started taking the drugs, very little these days drives me to violence. However, there is one thing that could still tip me over the edge, running amok on a chainsaw-driven rampage; Dancers who talk whilst they are dancing.

How can you interrupt the delicate musical communication, with chat & babbling small talk?  Are you mad?

The only distraction that I welcome during a dance is the sight of Kylie Minogue offering me a Ferrari Formula 1 drive.  If you are not Kylie then please keep quiet and enjoy the beautiful music and my earnest attempts at musical leading.

Chaca – bloomin’ – rera

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My loathing of Chacarera is well- known. Why? because Chacarera is…:

  1. According to Wikipedia: “A type of folk music that, for many Argentines, serves as a rural counterpart to the cosmopolitan imagery of the tango. .. A closer look at the history of the Chacarera, however, reflects a situation shared by the “official” cultures of many nation-states: While undeniably present in contemporary rural Argentina, it is also the product of a romanticized construction of national identity.”  i.e. it’s not even authentic.
  2. A naff style of folk dance.
  3. Over-used at milongas.  Often a good night’s dancing for me has been spoiled when the music stops, the lights are turned bright, and the Chacarera is announced.  Why would anyone want to interrupt a good night of tango to play Chacarera?  Probably the same people who like to play tandas of Salsa or Jive.

YouTube – you what?

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In the long, lonely hours between planning lessons, preparing music and making cups of tea for my beloved, I often receive an email or Facebook link: “have you seen these dancers on You Tube; can they teach at your lessons?”

There will be a poor quality clip of a tango couple dancing a show dance at an event, with lots of flamboyant movements, travelling at 100 mph around an empty dance floor followed by rapturous applause. YouTube has thousands of such clips of tango dances. The dancers are often brilliant, and far better than I am *sigh*.  BUT why-o-why is a show dance clip on You Tube meant to be an indication of how good a teacher is? Listen carefully: I shall say this only once:

A good show dancer is not necessarily a good tango teacher.

The two skills are totally different.  Yes, teaching requires some dance ability, but it also takes communication skills, interpersonal skills, time management, etc etc … oh, and intelligence, wit, & charm… 😉

If I want to be taught by you, I want to know what you are like as a teacher, not a show dancer. Tango teachers promoting themselves with show dances is irrelevant, like tinned peaches (yuk!). So, it would make more sense to promote a tango teacher by using a clip of them actually teaching tango.

The perfect Tango partner

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What makes a dance partner perfect? It’s impossible to say, but easier perhaps to say what she does NOT do. David Bailey is a sensible man (http://www.learningtango.com) & has summed it up well. He suggests:

  • Not staying on the foot on which I have clearly placed you.
  • Hanging on my neck.
  • Abusing my axis. “I’ll respect yours, if you respect mine.”
  • Not giving me enough weight. It feels like I am having to chase you around the floor.
  • Giving me too much weight. It can be like pushing a fridge uphill.
  • Pushing my head with your head. It gives me neck-ache.
  • Not being able to do decent giros in either direction. This obviously does not apply to beginners but quite a few experienced followers still have not mastered this. On a crowded floor, in line of dance, I need you to be able to do this.
  • Wearing brooches or belt buckles that stick into me. Ouch!
  • Low backed dresses. Sticky!
  • Eating peanuts, salt & vinegar crisps, etc. I know that often they are put out on the tables but do you have to eat them? And smokers: the smell of stale tobacco smoke stays in your hair. Maybe when you pop outside for a quick fag you could put on a shower hat or something.
  • When dancing in open-hold, quit trying to watch my or your feet. Or even worse, when in class, stop watching the teacher’s feet. It means you are looking over your shoulder when I am trying to lead you.
  • Obsessive talking about shoes. Regrettably very common.