Tango Argentino > Having fun at milongas

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Gssh, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I just wrote a post where i recommended beginners to start going to milongas as early as possible, and then i remembered that it took me quite a while actually have fun at milongas. Here is a list of things that i have found to help - this is obviously very influenced by the fact that i am a leader, and where i dance.

    For everybody:

    1) pick a milonga and stick with it.
    I would suggest looking for one of the stuck up, elitist milongas. People are usually much nicer than rumor has it, and you want a place you can grow into, not out of. Plan on going to this place consistently.
    2) learn to enjoy not-dancing
    watching other dancers is a skill that you absolutly need. find people you like watching, and steal shamelessly from them. find people you don't like watching, and try to figure out why their tango is great. see who dances how with whom.
    3) learn to evaluate feedback. In 90% of the cases people who tell you what to do don't know enough to do so. (one of my most impressive lessons in this was a class by nito and elba: after explaining the figure they wanted to teach nito proceeded to show the figure with every single follower in the class, including a absolute beginner. We leaders were quite less prone to tell the followers we were working with that they did something wrong after that :). Also there is something my writing teacher told us once: "If a critic tells you that there is something wrong, they are ALWAYS right. But their suggestion as of what needs to be fixed is also almost always wrong."

    For leaders:
    4) ask people who will give you a good dance. If you did 1) and 2) you will know who dances with beginners, who is gracious, whose ideas of tango are close to yours. You will also notice the followers that never dance - ask them, too. they are either a) really bad dancers b) really good dancers c) also new to tango d) very selective. Both a and b will teach you a lot, c will be much, much better than you in 2 months, but will still dance with you, and d) -well, humilty is good exercise for the soul.
    5) there is always at least one very advanced follower who will be kind to beginners. Dance with her, but more importantly chat with her. You will learn more about the dance from her than from the ones who give you adivce on the dancefloor. If you are in a large community ask her which teacher teaches leaders that she finds enjoyable. Don't be a nuisance, though.
    6) dance only things you know how to dance. If you are not 110% sure you can make something work don't do it. If you feel that your dancing would be too "boring" if you do that go back to 2) - there is always an elderly, overweight, argentine guy in a suit who slowly dances around the edge of the dancefloor, and all he does is waking and maybe an ocho once in a while. And he has usually an amazingly beautiful girl who dances incredibly well plastered all over him. Be that guy. there is also always a someone on the dancefloor who wrestles his partner through all kinds of maneouvers, interrupted only by short pauses where he repeats a move 5 time till it "works", or where he explains just exactly how the follower has to move to make the 40 step sequence he wants to do work. Note that he dances mostly with beginners. Note the frozen smile on his partners face. Don' be that guy.
    7) never, ever stop dancing. If you are stuck - do rocksteps. If you forget how the rest of the patterns goes - do rocksteps. If you don't know where her weight is - do more rocksteps.
    8) Navigation: Stick to the outer edge of the dancefloor - this way nobody will run into you from the right. Stick behind the couple in front of you (with some distance) - this way nobody will surprise you from the front. Don't walk backwards - this way nobody will run into your back. If somebody runs into your left side you can be pretty sure it is his fault.
    9) Frame: If the follower tries to modify your frame, i.e. she tries to move her right hand somewhere else in relation to your body, or makes the embrace closer or wider let her do it. If you are usure if it was temporary (she needed support?) do more rocksteps, stretch your shoulders a bit, and see where the embrace settles. If you still don't know - ask.

    For followers:
    10) you don't have to dance with the drunken guy. Yes, we leaders talk, and if you are mean to one of us we will probably hear about it, but we also know who the creeps are. We also are more than willing to rescue you from the creeps - but if you chat with him and smile then we are not sure if we are supposed to or not. Asking for a dance, starting a converations and so on are perfectly acceptable - again, we have a pretty good idea who the creeps are.
    11) If you say "no" to someone asking you for a dance expect them to not ask you for a while. This has (at least for me, and other leaders i have talked with) nothing to do with "punishing you", but more with the simple logic that if there are women i think like dancing with me, and women who don't i will pick the ones who i feel like dancing with me. There are actually quite a few followers that i really like, but we don't click when dancing.
    12) If someone does not dance with you it is probably nothing personal. Even if i dance only one tanda with each follower i still won't be able to dance with everybody. I activly try to dance with my close friends, and maybe i have 1 or 2 favourite followers, but after that it gets pretty much random - and some evenings i don't even manage to dance with the people i really want to dance with.

    itwillhappen likes this.
  2. Cortado

    Cortado New Member

    100% Spot on. I think that all leaders will agree with that.
  3. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Well, not all followers will agree 100% Specifically...

    If we're new, the creeps are not always readily apparent. That we're sitting and talking with them could mean that they seem harmless at first, or that we're unsure of how, exactly, to end the conversation and get away. It's not as if these guys wear a scarlet "C," many can be perfectly nice and engaging at first.

    If there's a guy who's a creep, please warn us. Don't just see it happening and think to yourself, "Oh look, he's at it again." The same goes for other ladies as well as the gents. I know I wish people had warned me about some guys, and I know other women who wish the same thing. It would have been nice had someone mentioned something. If, after that, we're sitting and talking with them, well then you can be unsure if you're supposed to rescue us or not.
  4. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I can see Peaches point of view - but while i am more than willing to "rescue" somebody if i am sure they are in distress, and have done that a few times, and i try to make eye contact with women talking with "creeps" to show that i am open to ask them/be asked for a dance/conversation, i am not willing to do so before they have decided that they don't appreciate somebody. Mainly because i also know a few select women that, for whatever reason, get along splendidly with the people i consider creeps, and even one of my friends was quite deeply involved with one of them (not only dancing almost exclusivly with him, but also going for late night food after milongas), and she insisted that everything was the way it should be. It ended medium badly, but i know for a fact that she absolutly did not appreciate my patronizing attitude, and that i slandered somebody, and that as a adult woman she very well knew how to handle herself, and that it was me who was creepy for seeing these kinds of things in a perfectly harmless and innocent relationship.

    It stung - still does a bit - because i thought i acted for her best interests, but i think in the end she is right - i have no business in who anybody spends time with. If you decide that you don't want to spend time with somebody i am more than willing to help, but it is not my place to decide this for anybody.

  5. pascal

    pascal Active Member

    1. Yep I picked an elitist one, not on purpose though. It was the first one I tried and it happened to be elitist.
    2. Sure. Not-dancing was the only available option anyway.
    3. There was no real feedback about my skills, as I wasn't dancing. Unles you count the what-is-this-guy-doing-in-our-milonga glance as feedback.
    4. They'd all give good dances, just not to a beginner. No one would. It was elitist. Noticing followers who never dance? Well after not dancing the first time they never came back.
    5. No there wasn't.
    6. Yeah I supposed If I had danced it would have been only with the steps I knew but it's hypothetical of course.
    7. Never stop dancing, uh, the problem was more how to start.
    8. Navigation was only needed when going out, finding my way to the exit through the crowded floor.
    9. My frame, well no follower here ever modified mine, that's the good news.

    Now for one follower who asked me once to come there with her as she was never getting invites:
    10. There was no drunken guy. Elitist place, almost teachers only.
    11. She never had to say "no" to anyone as she was never invited in the first place.
    12. Nothing personal, t'was more a collective behaviour.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Ahh - that sounds bad :(. I admire that you were willing to go on dancing after that.

    So what did you do after that to have fun at milongas?
    Any suggestions on how to bounce back from being rejected so harshly?
    How did you find the milonga you are dancing at now?

  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I see your point. You're right, it isn't your business who someone spends their time with. I guess I just wish someone had whispered quietly to me one time, "Be careful with X." Maybe I'm just projecting. Maybe it's something that's better told to a woman, by a woman.

    FTR, I don't think you were out of line.
  8. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Gssh, I hear you. At the beginning I tried to warn some of my ladies friends about certain leaders (because I wish somebody had warned me!). But after I heard in reply "What are you talking about? I have danced with him, he is fine..." a couple of times, I felt like my warnings were unsolicited. So I stopped saying anything to anyone.
    I guess, one person's "horrible experience" could be another person's "OK". No matter how "horrible" :)
  9. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I would agree on that one, Peaches. I think it would be better to be warned by another female since she would be able to speak from personal experience. I've been lucky that there haven't been any drunks or creeps at my local milongas though.

    And I'm with Pascal about not bothering with an 'elitist' milonga. What's the point of going, if no one ever dances with you? It would probably take five years to achieve sufficient skill to be accepted in those places. Even if the milonga is only once a month, that equates to 60 instances of mostly sitting and wasting your time when you could be at a friendly place actually dancing.

    And Gssh, I love this:
    (sigh) if only there was one of those guys at my local place...No elderly Argentines in sight in my neck of the woods.

    Ugh...I've danced with that guy..make that several different versions of that guy, in every kind of dancing from tango to swing to salsa. At least I know who they are now, and make sure to avoid them. :rolleyes:
  10. pascal

    pascal Active Member

    One day our teacher told us she would begin to organize a monthly milonga. I went with my partner, there was only the two of us, we left after one hour.
    But with time it has become a successful, twice-a-month milonga with all kind of people and levels.

    As for the elitist milonga it does not exist any more.
  11. Twirly

    Twirly New Member

    Great posts as usual Gssh.

    I tend to agree with you on the "elitist" milongas. What does that mean anyway? Sure, if it means snobby, unfriendly people it's probably best to find another place. If it means a nice place that is popular with the best dancers, why not start going there regularly, get to know people and start working your way up? That way you'll improve quicker (think of all the watch-and-learn you can do) and not feel frustrated that there aren't enough good dancers at your favourite milonga as you get better.
  12. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    So there IS justice in the Universe...;)
  13. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    To be honest i have tried to write this from the perspective i had when i was starting - the milongas that were rumored to be "elitist" among beginners in beginner circles were either milongas where lots of argentines spent time socializing - which creates a vastly different atmosphere than when it is a place where people just go dancing - or places where the best dancers dance to the best music. The "friendly" milongas tended to be centered around one teacher, and tended to have a much lower level of dancing.

    In my experience (and after reading Pascals account i realize i was lucky) there have been no really "elitist/snobby" milongas. There are some that have a higher average level of dancing, and that appear a snobby becaue everybody has known everybody for ages, but these have been for me excellent places to improve by watching good dancers and by getting lucky once in a while and get dances with advanced followers, and i found it relatively easy to become friendly with people just by showing up a few weeks in a row. For me i found advanced followers at milongas like that to much friendlier - the single hotshot dancer at a milonga is much less likely to dance with a beginner than if there are a dozen on her level and they are sitting out tandas once in a while, too.

    Is there a follower her that wants to add what she thinks made it easier for her to enjoy milongas when she started going?

  14. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    It's a pretty different perspective for followers, that's for sure. I started going to milongas with a male friend who is a beginner like I am. Almost right away, he was able to dance with advanced followers fairly regularly, simply because he can ask them and they are nice and patient and don't mind dancing with a beginning leader.

    For me, on the other hand, most of the more skilled leaders won't dance with me because I am not capable of showing off the fancy moves they have in mind. Notice I said "more skilled" leaders and not "better" leaders. A "better" leader, to me, is one who is skilled but willing to dance with all levels of followers because it's good to reach out, and because knows that he can still enjoy whatever connection there is, even if nothing fancy is happening.

    I went to one milonga that had more advanced dancers. There I saw a whole row of leaders sit out song after song because they refused to dance with anyone but the most advanced followers, who were always tied up on the dance floor. Those leaders could have asked any one of a whole row of followers who were also sitting down - and those followers were mostly not beginners, I had seen them dance elsewhere and they were more advanced than I, at least intermediate. But they weren't "good enough", apparently. The seated leaders just kept scanning the room and watching the dance floor to find someone who met their exalted requirements. Needless to say, I never returned to that milonga again.
  15. Twirly

    Twirly New Member

    Yes, I also think that's the main reason why some places are perceived as "snobby". People have known each other for a long time and have many friends there already. Other places, often smaller, mainly have beginners or improvers, who are much more interested in meeting new people and dance as much as possible. So it all seems friendlier and more open.
  16. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    Woo hoo! There's hope! Actually, I danced with virtually all the ladies at the milonga. More women than men were there, but what the heck.


    Rightfully so!

    "The higher the pedestal you put yourself on, the farther you have to fall."
  17. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I was a bit dismayed by some of the sentiments expressed in this thread, but presenting my viewpoint would not go over well, I decided. So, I'll share this little gem about the much heralded Savoy Ballroom back in the glory days when it was the birthplace of Lindy Hop, and welcomed both black and white dancers.

    ...the young Leagins navigated his way into the Savoy Ballroom but having finally plucked up the courage to ask for a dance was told "he should go home and learn how to dance before he came back."

    Things could be worse, I guess.
  18. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Ahh, i think you made your viewpoint clear anyway.

    I always thought the mythical, traditional, argentinean way (leaders practice with each other till they are good enough to go to a milonga, beginning leaders dance the followers role till they have enough seniority be allowed to lead by their peers, and followers go to milongas and pick following up because they are being lead by leaders who understand following and leading thouroughly.) was close to perfect in terms of how the learning curve for leading and following works, but i think on the average leaders nowadays are not good enough for this, so i won't advise followers that they should skip classes altogether.

    And there are not enough leaders around that are willing to work on leading/following. I have only really been able to work on understanding the mechanics of leading from a followers perspective as a intermediate dancer - at least some intermediate leaders understand the need to understand the logic of a couples movement from both sides, while beginning leaders don't (around here at least). Doing lots of dancing to develop a feel what works when leading it is only a imperfect substitute, but (at least for me) it seems to work.

  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I started out going to my teacher's milonga which, as you noted, was much friendlier and the level of dancing was much lower. For me at the time, it's what I needed to feel comfortable.

    I only started becoming comfortable at the bigger, more established milongas with better dancers after I attended a local AT "to-do." Over three days of seeing the same people over and over, and being made to interact b/c of the format, and with the change in scenery for everyone which mixed up the cliques of the various milongas a bit I got to know some people. Then, when I went to the milongas (months later, even) people remembered me and would ask me to dance.

    I still go to my teacher's milongas, although I tend to have less fun, out of loyalty and because I've gotten to know some people there and enjoy socializing with them. And I still sit out more than I'd like (well, even one tanda is more than I'd like) and don't get asked to dance by the really good dancers at other milongas. *shrug* In time...
  20. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Hear, hear!

    I've only tried my hand at leading a few times, in the context of a workshop. Just a simple side, fwd outside partner, fwd back in-line, side, close. No big deal. I'm not saying I'm great shakes as a leader (although I was complimented by several other lady followers), but...oy! Some of the men just could not, or would not follow! Lol.

    I'd keep trying to do something to get them to "listen" to me...like not moving. Damned if they didn't have an idea of how things were supposed to go and try their hardest to back-lead it. Wow. And going outside partner was just plain funny.

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