Sunday, March 2, 2014

Just let me dance!

"Oh, please.  Three teachers
with three songs each?
I could have stayed in bed or
have gone to a Zumba class."**
Watching a tango performance can be inspiring.  I have been deeply moved by a few performances, but mostly they go on too long or do not promote the feeling of a social milonga or small festival.

I am not the only one. Many seem to prefer to suffer in silence rather than challenge what appears to be a majority of adoring tango show watchers.  But what would happen if a show at a festival or an encuentro were offered as an option.  Maybe the majority isn't truly the majority after all.

Wouldn't it be nice if organizers would simply give it a try?  It would be easy:

1. Offer at registration the option for participants to continue dancing in another room rather than go to the performance.

2.  Then repeat the invitation to continue dancing in another room or to stay for the demo/performance at the registration table.

3.  So as not to offend the performers, announce the performance or continued dancing one tanda before it begins, so those who want to dance can escape unnoticed.*

Why have I never seen any of these options at any event that plans a performance?  If nothing else, I would like to know how long will it be?   A recent milonga in Strasbourg, France had a great performance, but it went on too long, and THEN, the organizers came out and danced for everyone. Given the option, I would have been dancing even during the remarkable performance because even more remarkable than a performance is just dancing.

Tell us the duration!  If we know how long the one-couple milonga will go on, we can time it with going to the restroom, getting some fresh air, going to sit at the bar, or going to visit our children if they are not too far away.  You think I am being sarcastic? The tango show went on for two hours at the Fandango Tango Festival in Austin, Texas in 2011 (now in Dallas).  I ate, and then slept for 45 minutes in my hotel room.  I ran down, sure that I was late for the dancing.  I wasn't.  The show must go on, and on, and on . . . and it did!  For another hour.   I played with a teacher's children who were bored stiff.  That was more fun than watching a tango show.

Envision with me a festival performance.  The organizer announces that the room will be split for those who want to see the performance and those who prefer to dance.  In the US this is feasible at most festivals in large hotels. Wouldn't it be interesting if 80% of the people decided to dance?  But why embarrass the performers?  Just offer continued dancing at registration, at the door, and announce the last tanda before the performance.

It's been done!  Tangosutra in Washington, D.C., had great milongueros from Argentina, and featured having no performances.  What a relief!  I don't come to see teachers dance by themselves. I like to see how they can dance among others -- the real challenge of practicing what they teach. That is what I saw. I was inspired to dance near them, and feel the way they dance with the community.  On the other hand, I have experienced some of the worst (asocial) floorcraft from professional milongueros after their performance.  We were all in the way, I guess.

I complimented a man at the Tangosutra Festival (called an encuentro in Europe) without knowing that I was complimenting a tango teacher from BsAs.  Without knowing who he was,  I said, "I love dancing near you.  You have excellent floorcraft."   He had a little smile, and I realized he was probably an instructor.  His behavior on the social dance floor was the best teaching ever, the best "demo" ever. Later he showed me how to protect a woman from a dangerous "rogue" dancer. You can look up the list of instructors at that 2011 festival. The teacher mentioned is a both excellent teacher and a humble man:  Maxi Gluzman.

Performance at a milonga should be an option. Wouldn't it be interesting if 90% of the people decided to stand up and dance rather than sit down and watch?   Dancers can vote.  We can "vote with our feet":

Let your graceful feet do a tango walk
to the other room.   Dancing?  Now that's remarkable.

*If an organizer cannot do these options, the next option is to ask what people want, and that may mean not to have a performance! 

Photo credit **Online News.   :-)


  1. ah Maxi - he is a wonderful person, as a teacher, and as a social dancer. Always a pleasure to be on the dance floor with him.

    I wish we did have the option regarding the performances but I don't begrudge the performers too much. This is their bread and butter. I don't have to make my living trying to build a tango business, (though my business relies on helping dancers) - they do. How would I feel if a festival booked me to perform and then half the room left rather than watch? Sure, it is their, the other dancers, right, as everyone's, to vote with their feet - but it would be deeply disheartening to have practiced and worked so hard to try to create something beautiful - to watch people not even give you the benefit of the doubt.

    This is their art too, and while many performances don't move me too much - I now try to show respect for their effort, their commitment to the practice and work it takes to develop their art that way.

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  3. Mari, I agree that people should respect others, and it is absolutely true that performers work hard. But there is a problem with respect when the organizers and even the performers are not ever curious or willing to respect the desires of many. Maybe it is only a few people. Has anyone asked? I too would not want to see performers embarrassed, but it goes to back the fact that many simply prefer to dance.

  4. Another great article, TT.

    We'll know if these festival organisers ever go into the restaurant business. We'll find our evening's dining suddenly interrupted by an announcement that we must all stop eating and vacate our tables for half an hour in order to watch some visiting "maestros" demonstrate their highly refined eating skills. We'll be expected to enjoy this spectacle because this couple's eating is famous all over the world. They're in town giving workshops teaching we ordinary people how to eat to the same high standard as demonstrated in their show.

    This despite the fact that, in their highly developed style of eating, very little of the food actually gets ingested. Most of it ends up splattered over the walls of the dining room.


    Mari wrote: " I don't have to make my living trying to build a tango business - they do."

    Good point. How much better these performances might be if they weren't from people doing them because they have no other prospect of employment.... except washing dishes and teaching dance classes.

  5. The first tango festival I attended was in 1993 in Palo Alto, California. Exhibitions by teachers were the highlight at the end of the week.

    When I organized a festival in 1995, performances by the teachers were on stage in a theater. The teachers were all performers, not social dancers. I didn't know the difference in those days.

    Festival organizers can decide what to offer on the menu. If dancers prefer to dance, organizers need to listen to them. Let's face it, the performances have nothing to contribute to social dancing, the codes, or floor navigation. They're all about choreography to impress and get people to sign up for classes and get invitations to other festivals.

    It's about time that those who pay their hard-earned money to attend festivals get what they want. If one wants to see a performance, there are tons of videos to watch.

  6. Personally I find demos a good opportunity to catch up on emails, and get in some quality Facebook time, but some people would prefer to dance. What?


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