Over at jantango (one of the many expats who has, for tango, settled in Buenos Aires for a number of years) she has documented a list of the embraces used by women she has observed in Buenos Aires:
- How do you hug your dance partner?
- How do you hug your partner? — part 2
- How do you hug your partner? — part 3
It’s good to see such a variety of embraces and to know that as a social dance, there does not need to be one single way to embrace your man.
As video embedding is disabled, please head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIkqCQo63Ig to see examples of many of these embraces in action as practiced by respectable milongueros/milongueras. It’s also an interesting educational exercise to consider why certain couples adopt specific embraces.
This post continues on my thoughts concerning tango DJing.
An interesting point was raised in the comment to my post on danceability. In some communities (such as ours in Singapore), the DJ is likely to wear multiple hats, perhaps doubling as the milonga organiser, the MC, etc. The duties may include welcoming the guests/visitors, mingling as well as lots of dancing to get the crowd going. Even in the most of informal setting, he or she is ultimately answerable to the paying patrons of the milonga (and may or may not to the milonga organiser, as the case may be).
This then begs the question, what is the role of a tango DJ?
In some situations, such as in Buenos Aires or in larger communities around the world, the primary goal of the DJ is probably to pack the dancefloor as much as possible by playing great music. For smaller communities, I suspect the answer may not be so clear-cut all the time. Furthermore, as we evolve as dancers, obviously our tastes and appreciation in music will change. For example, I remember vividly how I used to think Di Sarli was terribly boring 🙁 – one of my first CDs was actually the RCA 100 Anons… For others, perhaps it was Pugliese that they had problem handling at first? This means that from time to time there may be a disparity in how a tango DJ perceives a certain piece of music compared to segments of the community, who may be more junior as far as dance experience is concerned. How should the DJ react in such a situation? Listen to his/her instincts or play to the crowd?
This is the type of dimlemma that all DJs are likely to face at some point in their careers, in that each DJ needs to be able to answer, not only to him/herself but also to the organiser of the milonga as well as the patrons. After all, why are people coming to your milonga? Do they come primarily to dance? To socialise with friends, as well as share a few dances with friends? To learn about music? Nevertheless, despite the possibly conflicting objectives, knowing the audience will greatly facilitate a DJ in carrying out his/her duty conscientiously.
While catching up on some blog feeds after a week and a half of internet-free life, I happened across TP’s post on styles in tango (more links in his comments to the post too). This reminded me of a question that I was asked a few times by followers during the Sydney Tango Salon festival: “What style do you dance?”
Now, while I have been greatly influenced in recent years by a number of teachers typically labelled as “salon”, I have also learnt a lot from other teachers of the “milonguero” style, in addition to the things that I have worked out myself. However if I was asked what style I dance now, my answer would be simply “social tango” (which incidentally is the original meaning of “tango de salon” which does not denote any particular style). Sure, I may adjust my arm position or hold slightly depending on someone’s height, build, my familiarity with the partner, the floor conditions, etc., etc., but fundamentally I will not change much in how I embrace, listen to the music, and respect the line of dance, etc.
Unless I am missing something here, does style really matter anyway? If we can find a good connection with another person, dance; if not, smile and look for another partner!
After writing the previous entry which about what we can do at an individual level, I realised that I should also share some things I have tried in the past as an organiser to improve floorcraft or at least minimise degree of disruptions.
- Limiting the size of the dancing space: In my experience, when people see a smaller space they will make a mental note to either limit crazy moves or migrate into the centre of the floor – either way out of harms way for rest of the dancers. For small to mid-size communities, the amount of physical space is usually not a limiting factor. It’s people’s perception of how much floor space they are entitled to which can cause problems. Since 2005, when relatively crowded milongas held at small venues became the norm in Singapore, I have witnessed a marked improvement in space management in our community. On the other hand, the people who seldom visit these venues continue to have problems with navigation even at larger venues! 😆
- Providing appropriate walking space so that people don’t need to walk on the dance floor: I realise this may not be possible for all venues due to space constraints, but some thought must be put into channeling walking traffic away from the dance floor, e.g. providing walking space behind tables, even if the dance floor needs to be reduced slightly as a result. Secondly all milonga-goers need to be “educated” that if anyone really needs to walk along the edge of the floor, give consideration to the dancers, and patiently for the end of the song or a gap before you move in!
- Seeding a few trusty leaders to set the pace for the ronda: This is an active and in my opinion the least unobtrusive way of promoting a smooth flow to the floor. It is really amazing how much what amounts to benevolent “peer pressure” can do to bring some order to the dance floor. This of course brings to mind stories I have heard about the old days in Bunenos Aires, where it was not unusual for a group of milongueros to dance around any serial traffic offenders until the couple was unable to move.
- Providing suitable music: This is a tricky point but in general appropriate is necessary to accompany the mood on floor. For example, clear and rhythmic music can be used to set the tone and warm up the legs in the earlier part of the night. On the other hand, if the floor looks to get chaotic, either tone down the energy level or switch to more soothing music altogether.
At the end of the day, I feel that tango is after all a social dance and we need to be tolerant of other people’s occasional errant behaviours, unless they become habitual and totally unacceptable. I personally don’t want to be too regimental about enforcement of too many rules because, as in life, all humans are fallible at some point and so on the tango dancefloor even the best will err occasionally. Dance and make friends, not enemies! 🙂