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December 27, 2008

Peer pressure

I am constantly amazed by the positive effects peer pressure can have, despite all the usual negative connotations*.

Since around 2004, we suddenly became aware of the emergence of another group in tango scene in Singapore who had quite different preferences. So, on the one hand, there was a small and young but dedicated group dedicated to social tango – us; at the same time, there is a parallel group more interested in tango fantasia and somewhat nuevo-ish figures.

At the time, the differences were like chalk and cheese. Since there was no interaction between the two groups, each was left to develop on its own and no one really imagined if the two can be brought together at all? In fact, after the dismal experience at the first milonga held at upper club in 2006 which involved both groups, I was ready to write off this as nearly impossible to pull off.

Nevertheless, subsequent rather successful events (some were even at the same venue) showed that with proper consideration of everyone’s needs it was still possible to bring people together and maintain harmony on the dance floor.

Firstly, it is important to recognise that for social dancers with good training, dancing compactly is like fish in water! This is of course not the case for people only schooled in tango fantasia. So, the first thing we set out to do was to limit to some extent the size of the dancefloor – larger than what social dancers can normally cope but, in the spirit of inclusiveness, large enough for tango fantasia so people can still feel comfortable to try a few things and won’t go beserk. It is often a very fine line to walk if you are trying to please everyone…

The rest relies on the main topic of this post, “pressure” from the dancers who truly observe the proper etiquette on the social dancefloor. After all, if 70%-80% of the leaders can adhere to the line of dance and observer the flow, i.e. not stay overly long at one spot, others (newbies and tango fantasia alike) will eventually need to tow-the-line, as it were. From my experience, multiple lanes will form (provided enough allowance has been made) in such a way that the more “social” dancers can always be found towards the outer lane. It is actually unnecessary to spell out explicitly. It does make me wonder why I hear so much about people (or not) following line of dance? Other specific things like not leading/doing high boleos, ganchos, etc., can be similarly eliminated or at least minimised by the senior “social” dancers setting a good example?

Is this or can this also happen in your community? Perhaps the organiser in your area can utilise “peer pressure” to your advantage? However, a caveat is that I think this is more likely to work best in smallish communities where there is an experienced group with a keen interest in promoting social tango. Once the community grows too large, there may be too many hot-shots who have no considerations for others sharing the same dancefloor.

*Naturally “positive” is a relative concept and depends on which side of the fence you are on. 🙂

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