Showing posts with label floorcraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label floorcraft. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Milongueros don't dance steps!

Most social close-embrace dancers will tell you that they don’t know any steps and that they improvise freely. But everyone who watches from an objective perspective knows that this is rarely true.

I agree: Milongueros (no matter if they come from Argentina, Europe or elsewhere) usually dance movements that are well adapted to a crowded dance-floor. Milonguero steps very often are less complex than the figures that are memorised by dancers of other styles. They don’t require an opening of the embrace, they are easy to memorise and to combine with other short sequences in order to create a nice flow and to navigate. Milongueros won’t block the space because they have to finish a huge giro with boleo and they don’t run into the other couples because they have memorised a back step at the beginning of each pattern. This is super! 

But - let’s face it - Milongueros still dance steps.

A Milonguero might not have learned the 8-count-basic, but he will dance the Ocho Cortado and not vary it beyond a certain point. Try to get him to execute it on the left side or - even worse - without the typical quick-quick-slow in the traspié-positions. Or ask him to change into the crossed system without doing a side-step to the left or a quick-quick without the follower on the outer lane. Or challenge him to accelerate the walk with the right font step. 

95% of the experienced leaders will have difficulties doing that kind of stuff, because they are as caught up in steps as anyone else. I encounter these patterns and habits of close-embrace leaders during each class I teach and many of the tandas at Encuentros or traditional Milongas.

And don’t think that “followers” are free of automatisms: Try inviting an experienced Milonguera to do a front step with her right leg into your space in the parallel system. Try inviting her to walk a 1231 in Vals instead of a 12_1. Two years ago, we’ve been visiting the one European capital that is famous for its beautiful women with great embraces. The one where you can find more close-embrace social dancers than in the other European capitals. I had visited this city and some of its Milongas earlier, so my expectations where realistic. But poor Detlef almost started crying, because many of those elegant, beautiful ladies weren’t even capable of standing on their left foot for more than one second without having to change to their right one automatically. They were obviously not used to standing on their left foot!

So, let’s please admit: Milongueros dance steps and their partners are used to these patterns.

It this so bad?

Of course not.

Apart from the fact, that certain steps are an important part of tango-tradition, behavioural and movement-related patterns are helpful in all circumstances of life. They will allow you to cope with stressful or new situations, like navigating in a crowded ronda - provided they are danceable on a small scale. But Milonguero steps usually fit this requirement. In general, patterns offer security because they are predictable. A lot of people need that kind of security. 

We, Detlef and I, aren’t free of safety blankets either. Despite our 15-year-long work with basic principles and improvisation, we have still been socialised with traditional tango-steps. And it is hard to de-programme all of them. But this is ok, because there are moments, when we need to access them. They e.g. help us to function whilst doing a demo. We have of course never danced a choreography and Detlef knows in advance, which tangos I choose for theses occasion. But still: we rarely improvise, when a hundred eyes are staring at us. Not what I call improvisation at least. On the social dance-floor, I don’t know what will happen next, when Detlef invites me to pivot to the left on my right foot in the crossed system. In a demo, the chances are quite high, that an ocho or turn will follow. Detlef’s improvisational and communicative capacities in these moments are as limited as are my perceptive capabilities. Sure, there are demos during which we are super relaxed, invent stuff and communicate on a high level, but mostly we rely on field-tested movements. This is when some steps come in handy. And lots of walking of course... ;-)

Learning figures can also help to work on general principles: The 8-count-basic e.g. might teach you how to combine a lateral with a front- or back-step in a precise manner. The Ocho Cortado is great for practising the counter-body-movement. Steps as examples of how to link or communicate the basic elements can be helpful.

And there is another special reason, why female dancers (maybe unconsciously) like fixed patterns: they allow followers to decorate their steps without communicating actively. Because she can rely on her partner to suggest a movement with a specific timing, many a follower feels free to add an adorno. I rarely see (even very experienced ladies) decorating their steps when dancing with Detlef, as they are much too busy guessing what he will do in the next second. Not every woman likes this, but I am not particularly interested in adornos. When I do them, it is usually a sign, that I can (too) easily predict the movements of my partner. 

By the way: predictability and dependance on patterns does not correlate with the level of dancing. Even a brilliant tango-professional can be predictable. Some of his steps might be challenging out of technical reasons or I might not know the particular movement he is suggesting, so the level of stress might be higher at the start of a tanda with him. But I will usually be able to recognise recurring patterns after the first tango and therefore adapt my reactions - even if his leading is not quite as perfect as his elegance. With at typical Milonguero, the process of adaptation to unknown patterns (if there are any) will require even less time. This can be very reassuring and relaxing. I will close my eyes, get into a flow and cherish the embrace - if it is a nice one. ;-)

But: what I find really interesting, is dancing with someone who has got a beautiful embrace, dances socially and cannot be easily predicted, even if I know him or her very well. This applies to quite some of our students, in particular our Tango-Treacher-Trainees. Last Friday, Ramona surprised me by leading a cross on the other side. An hour later, Saso suggested a shift of weight in a turn instead of the usual side-step - amongst lots of other things with which he makes me smile. These people are real smart, so they might have discovered all of that without our help. But the fact is that we’ve been encouraging them for years to break up all patterns, to constantly better their communicative skills and to - in the rare cases when we analysed a step - try it on the other side and dance it with all kinds of rhythmic and movement-related variations. This is why these Milongueros really improvise in a Milonga. Which makes me proud. And as I am used to this level of improvisation, it does not create any stress. On the contrary: It strengthens the connection to my partners - even more when they are open to the suggestions that I make. A real conversation without patterns requires so much more sensitivity and empathy from both partners. For me, this is more rewarding than dancing the fanciest step.

But there is more to improvisation. It is about dancing to the music.

Most dancers - no matter if they are Milongueros, Villa-Urquiza-adepts or Millennium-Style-Nuevoists - memorise each step with a specific timing. I earlier mentioned the typical quick-quick-slows in the traspié-positions of the Ocho Cortado. Most Milongueros will even continue doing these, when I ask them to dance the movement in normal speed without any accelerations. They just don’t notice and I have to point it out to them. 

But how can you dance musically if you’ve got such strong automatisms? In very simple tangos, these habits will not do a lot of harm. Ok, you might dance an automatic 123_ in a moment that the music suggests 1_34. But as you can hear all 4 beats in the bass section of the orchestra, this is not a grave mistake. But in some tangos this might be just plain wrong, because (certain of) the 4 beats are not played by any instrument: So, will you dance an quick-quick-slow (123_) when the melody requires a triplet, syncopation, a 332 or a plain deceleration at the end of the phrase? Are you free to adapt your movement in such a moment? Will you make your partner laugh out of joy, because you shift weight from one foot to the other together in perfect harmony to the music? Or are you stuck in a pattern?

So, these are my two cents:
Test, if you are really free from limiting patterns. Check, if some steps help you or if they inhibit the connection to your partner or to the music. And if you want to dance or teach steps - I recommend to memorise them bare of any fixed rhythms. Only then, you’re free to dance to the music. And is this not what we all aspire to?

Now … if you are offended, because I have hurt your Milonguero pride, please read all the positive things I wrote about close-embrace social dancers in this and many other posts. But also try to understand: For me, social tango poses such extraordinary capacities to interpret music, to express feelings and to experience connection. I constantly update myself in a process of learning and fixed patterns just limit my pleasure on the long run. Sure, you might say, that's because I do that professionally. But I don't perceive myself as an artist or even as an exceptionally talented dancer. I believe that by breaking up steps and analysing habits, everyone can deepen his or her pleasure in this beautiful dance. This is why I teach, write books, produce DVDs, write this article and have been sticking to Tango for 20 years - despite the sleepless nights, the lack of retirement provisions and the fact that I haven’t had a holiday in years. 

Because it is worth it. ;-)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Quo Vadis Encuentro Milonguero III

Much has been happening in the Encuentro and Festivalito world. And I have to admit, that I am not very happy with the development. Although I love that the idea of social tango and Encuentros is spreading, it actually gets harder for me to find one that I really like. 

Why is that?

As I have already referred to in an earlier post, two sorts of Encuentros are starting to drift apart: the ones who promote separate seating for men and women and the other ones who allow everyone to choose their seats freely or assign gender-mixed places. I have basically stopped attending events with separate seating, as I feel more and more uncomfortable in this setting. Therefore I have lost contact to many lovely people, because they prefer Encuentros with separate seating. I have not been to any italian or french Encuentro since early 2014. That‘s so sad!

Many of the mixed-seating encuentros nowadays attract marathon dancers and from what I hear, many marathons start displaying typical „encuentro features“, like invitation by Mirada & Cabeceo, dancing only one tanda... So the differences between the more „informal“ Encuentros and Marathons seem to disappear. That is generally good, but not entirely as many of the "maratoneros“ still use a quite different (more asymmetrical and in my opinion less cuddly) embrace and unfortunately still tend to make bigger or less foreseeable moves. I really don't want to say, that the "milongueros" are the better dancers, but most of them used to dance in a way, that was better suited for a crowded dancefloor. In an environment where everything is a little more chaotic, those skills tend to be forgotten as well. Everyone will feel more stressed. That makes the risk of getting not-so-pleasant dances at an Encuentro greater. Which is not good from my perspective.

But there is more. There are more. Encuentros, that is. It seems to me, that in 2015 dozens of new ones popped up. I hear of a new Encuentro almost every week. Some of them attract a more local crowd, which is fine, because then, the local communities profit from the development. 
But many new Encuentros are organised by people who have not been part of the „Milonguero movement“ before. They therefore attract another kind of dancer or might even just „stick“ the label „Encuentro“ to an event, that has got none of the defining features. There are even Encuentro-Marathon-Festivals! This is why you have to start doing research in order to check if you‘ll actually get an „Encuentro Milonguero“ when you sign up for one. 
Another outcome: Because of the greater competition, dancers have got more choices. That's of course good and the waiting lists get shorter. But you might end up being alone amongst people you don‘t know because all your friends are at another event. It‘s great to get to know new people, but one aspect of the Encuentros used to be to meet friends from all over the world. 
Even established organisers cannot fill up their events so easily as before and have started admitting participants who don‘t have the skills to share the space in the ronda without disturbing the other couples, without actually offering them the opportunity to acquire these skills. (Think floorcraft introductions before an Encuentro.) This is why it often feels less „safe“ on the dancefloor.

Whilst Encuentros are spreading out, the typical Festivalito (which includes teaching) becomes extinct or have been transformed into genuine Encuentros. This reflects the needs of a majority of visitors, who want to concentrate on the dancing during these events and take classes on other occasions. Unfortunately, normal workshop-weekends are also offered more seldomly, as many organisers switched to offering strictly-dancing events. So nowadays, there are actually less opportunities to learn. And as Tango means life-long-learning... What do you think happens, if people stop learning? I have already referred to the downsides of this development in another post.

Because all of these imponderabilia, I am thinking of downsizing my list of Encuentros/Festivalitos 2015 dramatically. I might only list the ones that I am visiting in 2016 (which are very few!) or have visited in the last 2 years and have actually enjoyed. But then, many organisers will feel offended. Oh dear... This is why I might even decide to not post any recommendations at all. I'll have to think about it...

Stay posted!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Tango rules!

This is a post, that I really wanted to avoid, but I have to write it - or else my head is going to explode!

Triggered by my last article (who was by some misunderstood as a rejection of encuentros) and by another post on facebook, I was once again confronted with a statement that I have heard in many variations, but that always boils down to: „I will never go to an encuentro, because I hate these tango traditionalists and their rules. They are just nazis, who want to block my freedom to move! Tango does not need any rules. I want to be free. I want to have fun!“

These words make me want to shout out:
„What do you think, that a Milonga is? A psycho seminar for self-realisation? A contact-improvisation workshop? Kindergarden? Go get a grip! Really....“

No, but let‘s stay calm and think logically about it.

Tango is an interaction of individual beings. Even more so. It is a social partner dance. Such a kind of activity needs to be regulated in some way. Every form of human interaction is defined by rules. Limitations that tell us, what kind of behaviour is accepted in this setting and which behaviour will be frowned upon or will even be dangerous. Sometimes they are written down and called laws. Sometimes they remain unwritten codes of behaviour. Some are universal, some apply only to one context, group or area. Rules therefore also help define group identities.

You want to live in a certain country? You will have to abide to its laws. Or at least not get caught whilst breaking them.
You want to drive a car? You will have to adhere to the traffic laws.
You want to play tennis or chess? You are going to agree on a set of rules with the other players.
You want to dance viennese waltz? You need to understand that everyone will move counter-clockwise, if you don‘t want to bump into someone else. 
You want to participate in a debate at university? You need to know the rules.
You want to communicate with your grand-mother? You surely will know how to behave towards her, based on a unwritten set of mechanisms that make sense whilst interacting with elderly relations.
Get it?
Even free-form modern dance has its limitations. Or improvisational theatre. Or kindergarden, by the way...
There is no freedom of rules unless you move to a desert island.

The so-called „codigos milongueros“ are therefore no abomination or freak-law and not even particularly limiting. Actually they just describe a certain respectful and group-oriented form of behaviour: 
- To take care not to invade the personal space of someone when inviting him/her to dance: Mirada & Cabeceo.
- To take care of the other couples on the dancefloor: Entering the dancefloor carefully, moving counter-clockwise, keeping the feet on the floor, keeping distance to the other couples and not invading their space. (More details here.)
- Giving everyone the chance to chose a (new) partner according to the music and helping to create an open atmosphere, where dancers do not cling to their favourites: 1-tanda guideline.

A couple of years ago, nobody even cared to write down or discuss these „rules“. Why? Because those who lived by them, knew what they were doing. They shared a cultural back-ground, a common upbringing that ensured, that they would know about them, once they went to their first MIlonga. 
Then came the tourists to Buenos Aires and behaved like elephants in a porcelain-shop, because they just did not know about the setting. They had learned Tango as an imitation of art, a tuned-down version of stage-tango. Their Tango was more of an artistic self-expression than a ballroom-dance. 
I have danced lots of other ballroom dances and I agree: Tango is much freer in its musical expression and allows for much more individual creation when it comes to movements. But it is still a ballroom dance. And with it come limitations. But certain people seem to forget about this simple fact, mostly non-argentines or stage dancers.

And this is the reason, that organisers of encuentros milongueros or so-called traditional Milongas in BA or elsewhere started to write down the codigos. They did not like the chaos that was often the result of self-expressionalist-Tango. They searched for a calm social environment in which they could practise their ballroom-dance. Some guidelines where even „invented“ anew in these last years, I guess because of the insensitive behaviour that many europeans and north americans showed, e.g. when inviting someone to dance, taking it for granted, that the person would just love to do so. The Mirada & Cabeceo where most likely not used in this strict form pre-millennium. Because it was not necessary. Everyone would be careful and sensitive enough to read the body language before approaching someone else.
So, this is why it was just plain necessary to write down the codigos: To assure, that everyone has a chance to agree on a common form of respectful behaviour. Today, the codigos are not the only distinguishing feature of encuentros, but they form (apart from the close embrace) the core-philosophy of these events.

And this is why I prefer to dance at encuentros or traditional Milongas. I can rely on the fact, that people will behave respectfully and carefully in their interactions. This is not the result of nazi-behaviour, but a process of developing a group identity by defining certain limitations. Like chess players do. 
In all those years, I have only met very few people, who did not appreciate the atmosphere that is created in this manner. An atmosphere where everyone can indeed have fun, because he/she is not kicked, creeped-upon or neglected. Given the ideal case.

But I don‘t ask you to agree: If you don‘t like to dance counter-clockwise, if you need your high voleos, if you don‘t feel comfortable dancing with someone new every tanda - don‘t go to an encuentro. That's totally fine and does not need any further discussion. Not everyone has to agree on the same codes.

But do not say, that you won‘t go, because you are against rules as such! 

No Tango event is rule-free! Let's take marathons* - just to mention one setting from which some (but not all) of those come, who criticise the use of the „codigos“. I guess, marathons have just got other rules. There seems to be e.g. the unwritten code to dance at least three tandas in a row amongst some maratonistas. I dislike this idea out of many reasons. Imagine, I'd say: "You block my freedom to move with your bloody rule! I hate rules!" Would that not be plain stupid?

So, respectfully, if you don't like the "codigos", argue against them or just don't go someplace, where they are applied, but don't just tell me, that you are against rules. 

Please come up with another line!

P.S. For those who don't follow me on Facebook or don't read the comments, I would like to add:
A Tango friend who's a Cambridge scholar, just sent me an article by Mary Midgley of which she was reminded by my blog. Midgely writes about games and rules in her essay 'The Game Game': 'the restraining rules are not something foreign to the needs or emotions involved, they are simply the shape that the desired activity takes'.
Highly recommendable.

P.S.S. Just to say it loud and clear to anyone who feels needlessly offended: this is no post against maratonistas. This is a rant about some stupid individuals who position themselves as Tango-anarchists against the so-called tango-nazis. Mentioning marathons in my last paragraph, just serves an example. As I have written in one of my earlier posts, Marathons and Encuentros are much more similar as one might think. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Festivalitos & Encuentros Milongueros 2014

In 2013, there has been an explosion of so-called Encuentros or Festivalitos Milongueros. So, those who love social Tango in a close embrace can nowadays chose amongst several options per month. Funnily, most events have still been sold out, so the demand seems to have increased as well. I have not been to all Encuentros, so I will only list those, that I have visited personally or that are organised or visited by people, whom I know personally and who can vouch for the genuine "milongueroness" of an event. 
Some dates have not yet been set, but I will update this list regularly. Organisers, please send me your dates, as soon as you've got them.

Festivalito Milonguero du nouvel an, Embrun, France, January 2-5
Pasionara Milonguera, Côte D'Azur, France, January 24-26
Encontro Milongueiro A Promotora, Lisbon, Portugal, February 6-9
RDV Milonguero, Bologna, Italy, February 13-16
Mirame - Encuentro Milonguero, Montpellier, France
Viento Norte - Festivalito Milonguero (Tangokombinat Sección Norte), Eckernförde, Germany, March, 7-9 
Encuentro MiLYONguero, Lyon, France, March 28-30
Yo soy Milonguero, Crema, Italy, April 18-21  (read review)
Montecatini Terme Tango Festivalito, Montecatini, Italy, April 11-13 (read review)
Abrazos - Encuentro Milonguero (Tangokombinat UK), Devon, United Kingdom, May 2-4 (read review)
Raduno Rural, Slovenia (read review by Ms. Hedhehog), June 20-22
Les Cigales, France,  (read review by Ms. Hedgehog)
Festiv'à La Milonguita, Gap, France, July 3-6
Dans tes bras, Paris, France, July 11-13
Embrace Norway, Lillehammer, Norway, July 4-6
Stockholm in a close embrace, Stockholm, Sweden, August 1-3
Festivalito Porteño, Constanta, Romania, August 7-10
La Franteña, France, August 14-17 (invitation only)
Silueta Porteña, Hamburg, Germany, August 29-31 (NEW!)
Festivalito Rural, Verzej, Slovenia, August 29-31 (read review) (NEW LOCATION!)
Encuentro Milonguero, Kehl, Germany, September 
Encuentro una Mirada, Bristol, England, September 26-28 (NEW!)
Ensueños, Porto, Portugal, October 3-5
FCA (Tangokombinat, private party)
Raduno Milonguero, Impruneta, Italy, around November 1
Te Quiero Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, November 14-17
Abrazame, Barcelona, Spain, December (I guess there WILL be another edition)

In case that you don't know, what a Festivalito or Encuentro Milonguero is, please check out MsHedgehog's blog. She describes the general features and gives lots of useful tips.

And, as I have been asked repeatedly. These are my criteria for taking an event into this list:
- close embrace Tango with focus on quality of dance and not quantity of moves
- traditional music in Tandas and with Cortinas presented by DJs who know their trade
- invitations in general done by Mirada & Cabeceo
- a setup that allows for Mirada & Cabeceo (appropriate light and seating arrangements) 
- social dancing with respect to the ronda and the other couples 
- equal number of leaders & followers
- in case there is a demo: short, social dance in close embrace, no choreographies
- in case there are classes: social dance only
- duration of event: minimum 3 days
- separate Milongas (no non-stop dancing as in a Marathon)
- no live music during the Milongas
There are numerous local Milongas or more local Festivalitos which might fit to some (but not all) of the criteria, but it is not my goal to give an overview of the whole "traditional" Tango scene.The above mentioned events are of international reputation and will adhere to all the requirements.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Body language for beginners

So... a couple of weeks ago, I was at that Milonga...

It was a very common situation: In the morning, I had been running a couple of kilometres, we had been giving classes all day, we had walked to all the venues back and forth, we had done a demo... You can imagine, that I was quite tired. In addition to that, the music was not really to my taste and there were very few dancers on the dancefloor that would have tempted me. No one will be surprised, that I was not very much inclined to dance. So I sat down in the very corner of the Milonga, watched the dancefloor, talked to some very nice - mostly female - fans of this blog. I was generally in a good mood, but this changed as I had to spend the next hours refusing invitations. 

Why, dear Tangueros?

At this Milonga, Mirada & Cabeceo are not the custom, but should a grown-up person not be able to read body language? People do it all the time in every walk of life, but in many Milongas this common knowledge seems to be lost.

This is why I decided to write a small manual for everyone who‘s planning on inviting me.

Signs that I DON‘T WANT to dance:
  • I look annoyed, angry, gloomy, sad (insert any other overt negative expression). 
  • I slouch on my chair and make a very un-energetic impression. Maybe my feet are in a vertical position, lying on a chair. Or worse: my eyes are closed, my head is falling down and I seem to sleep. (Ok, I avoid falling asleep at a Milonga even under very dire circumstances, but you get my point, yeah?)
  • I turn and look away, when you are looking or walking into my direction. (Alternatively: I all of a sudden bend down and start adjusting my shoe-straps.)
  • I am engaged in a deep conversation that takes up all my attention.
  • I don‘t wear Tango shoes. (The fact that I WEAR them, is no sign that I want to dance though.)
  • I am getting a foot massage.
  • I read in my Kindle, a book or class notes.
  • I play/work on my iPhone or my MacBook. 
  • I eat a meal.
  • I am engaged in some romantic activity: kissing, cuddling, holding hands and looking deeply into my partner‘s eyes. (Well, I would not do that at a Milonga, but IF I did, it were a definite sign, that I don‘t want to dance with you.)
Signs that I WANT to dance:
  • I look alert, friendly, relaxed and in general open for approach.
  • I sit or stand in an upright position and make an energetic and toned impression.
  • I look into your eyes and smile when you approach me.
  • I nod friendly whilst looking at you.
  • I chat lightly with someone but still actively interact with other people.
  • I start looking around almost panicky, dancing with all my body and trying to make eye contact with you. (Now this only happens when a nice Tanda of Di Sarli is playing.)
I guess, many women would agree to this interpretation of body language and use it likewise. And too many men seem to ignore it or just don‘t have a clue. But it is not all their fault. 

Women send out mixed signals: 
  • You look away, but then still accept the invitation. Even I have done that (rarely, but it happened) after having refused too many men during an evening. I lost my nerves, because I did not want to be perceived as unfriendly and got up. But then I danced with little pleasure. That‘s not good! Even I have to be more strict in these situations. 
  • Another typical mistake: You want to dance, but display an angry face - maybe because you have not been invited all evening. Possibly you even entered the Milonga with that facial expression and unknowingly repelled the willing leaders. In the past, I made that mistake often. Now I know, that my chances of getting invites are a much higher, if I look alert, friendly and directly into men‘s eyes. 
But - you see what I‘m aiming at - this is why Mirada & Cabeceo make sense. It is not just a weird custom from Buenos Aires. It is a ritualised form of natural body language - a setting where everyone actually knows and shares the same code. Like moving to a foreign country: it makes sense to learn it's language and customs to avoid misunderstandings. The same goes for Tango. When everyone speaks the same language and knows the codes, awkward situations like men standing in front of women and having to go back to their seats will not occur. And everyone will feel much less irritated.

So, please: Bring back Cabeceo! 

Before I upload this and start my day with a Yoga session, let me just add a small paragraph.

As mentioned above, I am convinced that this body languages comes natural to most people, but some circumstances may only apply to me personally. So, please do not even bother to try and invite me when:
I will sit that one out.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

It's official: I am the Tango police

This was so sweet. 

Last weekend we've been teaching in Celje at the Festivalito Rural. Our friends Saso and Alja always create a unique and very friendly ambiance. After the demo, they like to give us a small present - no flowers but something real useful and personal. Last year, Detlef got an antique iron. (Facebook friends know why.)

This year, it was my turn. I got a complete Tango police kit for interventions at Milongas and it was presented in an extraordinary way:

The music started and Saso - the conferencier - began to describe a typical Milonga, whilst Alja was sitting on the side of the dance-floor and demonstrating the use of my present: 
A nice couple entered the floor and started dancing in a close embrace and civilized way. They were presented the green "milonguero? si!" card. 
Another couple joined them, dancing a little disoriented and bumping into the first dancers. Alja showed the yellow "milonguero? no!" card with a stern expression. (Actually the yellow card should say "milonguero? not yet!" in my opinion. That's a minor flaw.)
The last couple perfectly impersonated an out-of-control guy and a poor woman being dragged onto the floor and forced into weird poses. Exactly as I had described it in my article. They were shown very decidedly the red "milonguero? no!" card.

Great idea! Everyone loved it.

From now on, I will carry my Tango police kit to every Milonga. Evildoers beware! ;-)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The watcher

Last week I wrote about DJing in the heat of the Midi. I would like to write about another incident that happened on the same evening, but had started a few days earlier...

Saturday, Nimes, Milonga del Angel: 
It was the first evening of our intensive seminar at the Mas de Mestre and we visited this well-known Milonga. It‘s been running for ages and although it is a little less frequented in summer, it is still a nice place to be. Traditional music, some good dancers, lots of friends. We know most Tangueros in the region as we‘ve been visiting for more than 7 years.
Unfortunately, you‘ll always find a couple of rowdies on the dance floors and this evening, one guy was standing out: He was doing huge, uncontrolled movements, pulling the women onto the dancefloor, out of axis and into absurd poses. He was a threat to everyone else. You think I‘m exaggerating? Oh no!
One of our students made the mistake of accepting his invitation. She had not noticed him earlier. I wonder why... She suffered for two Tangos, trying to slow him down a little, but then gave it up and finished the Tanda prematurely. Well done!
The guy tried to invite some other ladies of our group (including me) but had no success and continued pulling locals onto the dance floor.
Then an accident happened: the host decided to announce our Milonga, the bully got interested and asked Detlef to give him the address. Which Detlef did out of reflex. I think, he had not seen the guy dancing either. Am I the only one who watches the dancefloor?

Sunday, Aubais, Milonga à la cave Aubai Mema:
I learned about the rowdie‘s invitation on the next evening, when he was abusing new victims on another dancefloor. Why would none of these women stand up and refuse his invites? This is when I decided to prevent such misdemeanour at our Milonga.

Tuesday, Sommières/Villevieille, Milonga au Mas de Mestre:
Our Milonga was already on it‘s sweaty course, when Mr. Bully entered the room. Although I was feeling very uncomfortable with it, I decided to nip any bad behaviour in the bud and approached him. In quite neutral words, I told him that I had watched his dancing during two Milongas and that I would ask him to behave in a more social way at our Milonga, to keep the line of dance, not make such big moves and not invite women by direct invitation but by Cabeceo. He exploded: Who was I to talk to him in such a way? He claimed to be a good dancer who had danced all over the world, knowing how to dance properly in contrast to these other losers. I pointed out that I was - as he well knew - the host and DJ at this Milonga and that it was my responsibility to keep the dancefloor safe for everyone. Especially for the women, whom I had seen suffer a lot with him. He started insulting me, telling me that any child could DJ, that he did not accept my authority and that he would do what he pleased. Never had anyone talked to him in such a way, cried he!
So what was I to do now? He was a huge guy and very pissed-off. I could not throw him out of the room on my own and I did not want to disturb our Milonga. So I decided to wait and watch what happened.
Well... the guy sat and stared at me with a very angry expression. I tried to keep my calm and greeted all incoming guests and friends, behaving all „normal“. After a while he got up to dance and - behold - he moved only half as dangerously as earlier. Then he sat down again.
A little later, Detlef arrived and I told him what had happened. He got really angry about the guys insulting behaviour and asked if he should throw him out. I was undecided because he seemed to be calmer now. Detlef spoke to him nevertheless - repeating basically what I had said, but not throwing him out. Some time later the guy left.

So, have we acted out of line in asking this guy to conduct himself more carefully at our Milonga? Should I at least have waited until he actually started dancing and misbehaving? Or was it o.k. to go there in advance as I had watched him dance at other occasions? I had the impression that - however aggressively he reacted - his behaviour changed after our intervention. When Detlef saw him at the next Milonga, he was obviously not dancing. Is this a good thing or not? Have we scared off a poor guy or have we stimulated a process of self-reflection?

From what he sad - and I believe his reaction - none of the regional organisers or dance partners had ever given him a negative feedback. I knew that they are complaining about him amongst themselves but never to him. This is very sad.

But whose responsibility is it to give feedback when someone misbehaves so badly? The teachers and only in class? Milonga organisers? DJ‘s? Dance partners? Everyone at a Milonga? Who is to judge if someone is just slightly annoying or really disturbing other guests? Do we need more watchers? Do we need a Tango police?

Or is Tango about laissez-faire? Just do what you like as long as you don‘t bump into MY personal space?

I don‘t know... Apart from stressing floor-craft and appropriate social behaviour in class, I always felt it was my responsibility as a host to keep the dancefloor agreeable for everyone. Similar incidents occurred approximately once a year, but the reprimanded‘s reactions were usually positive: people excused themselves and danced more carefully for the next hours. The French guy‘s aggressive reaction might have been a reaction to my ill-concealed anger as he was such an extreme case. But even he seemed to change after it. Maybe I should be more careful in HOW I approach someone, but I won‘t stop doing it. 

I cannot. Must be my watcher mentality!