Tango Argentino > Gotchas for hosting an event?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Tango Distance, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    DW and I have been asked to host a monthly Tango practica event. I was assured it was just unlocking the place, turning on the lights and music, and the reverse at the end of the night. It seems easy enough, I think it would be fun, and it would be a nice way to give something back to the Tango community. I might be able to slip in some more modern Tango music (or, <gasp> even a few nonTango songs) into the playlist, too.

    It sounds easy enough and fun enough, but it's what you don't know that gets you! Is there anything that might make me rethink doing it? While I have been doing Tango for a year now, I have been kind of a slow developer in some ways and am still kind of a newb.
  2. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    You'd need to say more about the intended style of the practica. Many are milongas, in all but name, but with less formality and of shorter duration. At the other end of the scale are informal events where dancers of different abilities and experience come together to practise (mainly), with their own regular partners, and perhaps with some rotation too. Is it an established social group, or a new venture?

    Either way, I'd say that assuming the minimum requirements of a decent floor, suitable for dancing, the main two factors are the creation of an atmosphere that is conducive to the objects of the event, and the quality of the musical selections. For me, the music is of primary importance. I regularly observe a close correlation between the standard of dancing encountered at events and the quality of the music being offered.

    Why would you want to play non-tango music at a practica?
  3. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    There are all the administrative issues. The insurance, the emergency exits, the tax for usic the music (unless you wrote it all yourself).
    There are the snacks, the beverages, the plastic glasses and plates, the paper towels. The microwave oven for the empanadas.
    On each table there is the red doily to put. And also a candle floating in a glass.
    There is the danceflorr to sweep, the talc to bring. There are the posters of Carlos Gardel to paste on the walls. There is the table to make available for the local tango shoes seller.
    Tango Distance and Mladenac like this.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Is it a free practica? If not, someone will have to collect the entrance fee at the door. That in itself is an interesting exercise (ask me how I know). :)
    If you have never done the music before, I suggest you get a separate volunteer dj to take care of it. In any case, prepare, don't approach it lightly: the music is a huge deal.
    Do you only take care of the room itself, and the public bathrooms are taken care of by someone else in the building? If not, do you know what to do if the toilet clogs or the room runs out of toilet paper or towels?
    Is there a drinking fountain or do you provide water? How about snacks?
    Who takes the trash out, and if it is your responsibility, do you know where to put it?
    In some of our venues we have to instruct the attendees which side of the street is OK to park on and till what time, and occasionally call a taxi for out of town people.
    Tango Distance likes this.
  5. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    And yes, of course, go for it, it is a lot of fun. Prepare, get thorough instructions from people who usually run the place, and have more seasoned attendees to fall upon as support and a backup. Good luck!
    Tango Distance likes this.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Make sure you know everything there is to know about the sound system there.
    Make sure you know about the climate control systems (heat, AC, fans, etc).
    Take the time to put together a good playlist.
    Get there early so the setup can be leisurely.
  7. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    As a mere consumer of the Milonga/Practica products, I hadn't really thought about all that goes on behind the scenes! Thanks for all the great suggestions.
    It is a new weekly practica, but the organizer is looking for people that will sign up to host it once a month so he doesn't have to do it all.

    I had been thinking the dancers make the event, but I hadn't really thought before that the organizer could make a big difference.

    Regarding music: I don't think I have ever heard a Gotan Project or Bajofondo song in my area or any newer tango music like that. One DJ was a bit adventurous and played three blues songs for a tanda. It was the only time I have seen a round of applause for a tanda of recorded music. Anyway, it was just thinking out loud it could be fun to slip in newer or maybe even nonTango music. Of course, the customer comes first!
    I'm now thinking a good idea is to shadow the organizer before doing it alone.

    I'll take it as a good sign seeing nothing so far about human drama.
  8. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    You never hear certain music at milongas and practicas for one reason: most good dancers do not consider it suitable for tango dancing. At times breaks are welcome, so people can dance salsa or swing or folk (chacarera), or some unusual tanda as an experiment for a practica might be considered a good exercise, but if you host a tango dancing event and 70-80% of music is not tango, tango dancers will be unhappy and stop patronizing it. Or you should clearly mark your event as "alternative'. The succession of the music is also important in order to not to ruin the mood.
    Shadowing the organizer before doing it all on your own is a great idea.
    When you do it for a while, you will get your share of "human drama", too. No good deed goes unpunished. ;)
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    It really depends on the community, but some places really like some alternative music, while other places will hate it. If I have no clue about a given community, I'll ask the organizer for guidance.

    To: Tango Distance,
    If no one else in your community plays any alternative music, then I would wait a while before being the first to try it. Establish that you play really good traditional music first. Then down the road (after successfully DJing at several practicas), you could try an alternative tanda. Even if they don't like it, most will get over it, if the rest of the music is good. Expect to hear some polarizing feedback (some people really loving it, and others really hating it). Just remember to choose that alternative tanda wisely, (get feedback ahead of time from several people). Emotionally, it still needs to feel like tango, (even if musically, it's not).
    Tango Distance likes this.
  10. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    As a host, you make sure things run smoothly. I'll echo dchester's sentiments that studying the sound system, lighting, and AC controls is super important. If anyone has a problem, you'll be the one they come to to fix it.

    A host also greases the wheels of social interaction. Try to greet everyone who comes through the door. Try to talk to new people, and introduce them to regulars. Small touches, like offering to get someone some more water when their cup runs low, can really make a difference to someone's experience (not that you should try to be a waiter).

    For this reason, it can be difficult to host and DJ at the same time. If it's very informal and practice is the main goal of the evening, then having a playlist of varied kinds of traditional tango music + watching the volume all night would be sufficient. If there's a lot of social dancing mixed in with the practicing and you're creating a playlist for dancing pleasure (alternative can be really fun to social dance to but isn't very good for practicing in my opinion), then you'll have to pay more attention to your playlist and the energy of the crowd. Tough to do that and be social.

    EDIT: I forgot to add - hosting can be a ton of fun! And it's the perfect way to give back to the community, especially if you're not a teacher. You'll learn a lot and come to appreciate the effort that goes into the events you go to. Don't be afraid to dive in and make mistakes.
  11. pascal

    pascal Active Member

    Sometimes there are expectations that you cannot guess.

    I happened once to be a substitute host. Usually there was a dedicated DJ, a dedicated person at door for the entrance fee, and I was only in charge of the snacks. But for some reason the other volunteers could not make it.
    So I had to do the DJ-ing (ok it was a predefined playlist, but the cortinas had to be handled manually), the waitering, greeting of the people, taking the entrance fee and giving change, and saying goodbye when people were leaving.

    At the end a woman came to me and complained that I had not been a good host. It took me a while to realize that, as a newcomer, she had expected to be invited by the host for a tanda.
  12. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    It is a very common expectation. The opposite exists as well: I do not go to certain venues because I absolutely don't want to dance with a host, and I know he would ask.
    Mladenac likes this.
  13. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Thanks for all the advice. I'll not be adventurous with the music and let someone else DJ or play someone else's list at first. I would plan to greet and ask to dance any newcomer ladies.
  14. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    Can't you say no?
  15. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Yes, but in case of that particular people it won't be taken very well. They just don't quite understand about boundaries. And I try to avoid unpleasant situations.
    I also feel it is probably not so nice of me to visit a place where I dislike the host to that extent.
    RiseNFall likes this.

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