After returning from the Sydney tango festival a couple of days ago, I am even more convinced now that good navigation on a crowded dancefloor (or some would call floorcraft) is a separate skill that needs to be taught separately. As visiting maestros at a festival usually have limited time (and in my opinion should be charged with presenting fresh and even challenging concepts for a community to derive the maximum benefit of having them) at any one place, this particular “bread-and-butter” skill for a the social dancers is really the responsibility of local teachers.
Fundamentally I believe good navigation has a lot to do with one’s attitude. Mind you, although the onus is on the leaders mostly, followers can and should play a part too. For example, common sense would dictate that if the floor is somewhat crowded then we all need to be patient, and move slower than usual to avoid collision. The floor space available is shared by all, so legs and arms need to be kept tighter to the body as necessary. Tango is not a race and we are certainly not in competition to see how many rounds of the dancefloor we can complete in one song, so what’s the hurry?! 😉
A good friend Jean-Michel has provided some excellent advice on the specifics for leaders, which is really worthwhile to spend some time to put into practice:
- “Saber Milonguear” Part 1: the obvious codes of the milonga
- “Saber Milonguear” Part 2: the hidden codes of the milonga
To finish off, I will borrow a quote from the same post attributed to Cacho Dante, a well known milonguero and great Tango teacher:
“Bailar bien no es igual que saber milonguear” (To dance well isn’t the same as knowing how to dance social).
Let’s all have a happy and harmonious dancefloor whenever we step into a milonga!
Have been a bit quiet here because of my work.
Following on from my experiences of some milognas in Buenos Aires, noticed that Simba has come up with a list of recommendations for milongas for his friend’sfirst trip to Buenos Aires. The list somewhat overlaps the places that I went to and I highly recommend it to anyone planning to go on their first trip. For the traditional milongas, I would have included also Gricel (not too difficult even for ladies apparently) and Lo De Celia (which can be a little difficult to get a dance if you are new).
Although I had some opinions about this during my trip, I didn’t imagine they’d turn into a full-blown post until I read some recent comments yesterday.
The background is that in SOME milongas, the “archaic” (my choice of word, not the phrase used by the originator) custom of seating men and women separately* – in particular, having the women in a line against one side of the room. In these situations, invitation is done using the cabaceo exclusively. Basically there was the contention that this was somehow demeaning to women and ought not to happen in this day and age. Firstly I want to point out that in such milongas, men will also get be lined up and get a good sizing over from women from the other side of the room! Secondly, as a visitor, regardless of my own cultural background (and hence prejudices), I always believe in the adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, out of respect for the culture that I am visiting.
With the recent increase in milonga venues locally, I foresee a demand for more DJ’s who can arrange decent and danceable music. Now, drawing on my personal experiences and from reading sources online, here’s a basic list of skills I consider necessary for anyone starting out*:
- Understand the role of a DJ.
- Awareness of pros and cons of softwares available for the job.
- Basic approaches on how to a) “pace” for a milonga, b) plan the flow of tandas.
- Start to build up a collection: where, how of acquiring music.
- See/hear some sample tandas to understand the reasons for their construction.
- Develop a ear for danceable music**.
Finally, I think a part of DJ’s responsibility is to get to know your dancers so that you can cater to the right audience!
* Naturally this is not meant to be exhaustive or it won’t be 101 anymore!
** Given that some of the budding DJs may be inexperienced dancers themselves (e.g. as in the case for our community), this may be tough to begin with. One suggestion is to simply watch dance floor to see whether it is chaotic or not, i.e. lots of confused faces that is different to the “not-dancing-to-music” phenomena… 😉