Tango Argentino > "Taxi Dancing" in the United States

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Desert Diva, Oct 11, 2013.

  1. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I'm going to the Albuquerque Tango Festival at the end of October and on their Facebook page I noticed a post that USA Taxi Dancers would be attending the festival.

    "Need a taxi dancer at your next milonga, festival, practica? Currently dancing in the Southwest. A Taxi Dancer is a paid dance partner."
    While I don't know a lot about taxi dancing, I know that it's done in Buenos Aires. However, it's my understanding that it's usually teachers taking their students out to "break in" to the practice of attending and dancing at milongas. Yes, they pay for the service, but dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires is somewhat different than dancing in the United States.

    Sometimes things "hit" me the wrong way, and I found the organizer of the festival's comments to be - well offensive and sexist.

    "I, on the other hand, respectfully think it is a great idea and will fill a void in our community, alleviate much unnecessary and unfortunate suffering, and make many followers very happy. I wish you the best of luck with it."
    I suppose I have some very strong feelings about this being done in the United States, and visions of Richard Gere in "American Gigolo" and dance hosts on cruise ships dancing with aging women came to mind.

    I'm somewhat shy in the world of tango. I'm older but trim, and I'm probably a better dancer than I give myself credit for most of the time. Yes, I have "tango angst, but that's another post. ;)

    I currently pay for group and private lessons. If that's not enough to get me on the floor dancing, then I'd rather sit in a corner and nurse a glass of wine and watch the dancers all evening. I suppose that all of this just "hit" me the wrong way - especially at a festival where lessons and dancing are included.

    I'm interested in what others think about all of this...

  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I am curious, how in your opinion dancing in milongas in Buenos Aires is different from dancing in the United Stated?
    Taxi dancers in Buenos Aires are not all teachers, although some of them teach. Yes, if you take lessons from someone, he normally would dance with you one tanda in the milonga, as a courtesy or because he actually enjoys dancing with you. However, for many students of tango it would be not enough to break the ice and start getting dances. Their dancing is not at the necessary level yet or at times their demeanor does not allow them to participate in the milonha fully(for example, they are too shy to do cabeceo). So, the only way for them to dance in that milonga is to hire a taxi dancer. The taxi dancers are paid by the hour, and are supposed to dance exclusively with a person who hired them. Sometimes one taxi dancer is shared by a small group of people. There is absolutely nothing vulgar about it; it is a learning experience. All the taxi dancers I have encountered behaved in an absolutely professional and polite way with their customers (at least in public). Not all of them are actually good dancers, but that is another story.

    Here in the US at times one needs a partner to attend workshops, and also, when you sign up for a festival, sometimes they enforce the followers/leaders ratio. So I see how there could be a need for a partner for hire, when otherwise one would not be able to attend the event.
  3. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    How do the taxi dancers identify themselves? It would probably be better if the organizer hired dance hosts to dance with women who aren't asked. The organizer bears the entire costs of the hosts, which can be included with other expenses. The hosts get free admission to the milongas. This would probably be better than a woman paying the cost and then be unhappy with the man's ability.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    As milonga organizers, we have a few men who are very good dancers and friends, and who are let in for free (same as in Buenos Aires, there are some milongueros who get free entrance at some milongas). There is no explicitly stated obligation, but those people do socialize and dance with ladies, to the benefit of the healthier ratio and higher level of dancing in the milonga. Also, when there is a shortage of men, the organizers try to dance with every lady at least once. However, to hire people who would dance with everyone who does not get enough dances does not seem possible. Firstly, we cannot afford it, secondly there will be not enough leaders willing and be able to do such job.
    Also, to keep in mind that some ladies would not consider one tanda a great help, they wish to dance much more.
  5. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    "USA Taxi Dancers"? As in an organization? Interesting. I know one mid-level dancer who advertises himself as a "dance escort". Not sure if he's had any/many takers.

    As far as hosts herding aging women around on cruises, hey, it's (usually) a free cruise for the dance host - not necessarily a bad thing, if you have the personality for it.
  6. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    The pricing is very low compared to the ny / nj area.

    Few social organizers will do much besides allowing some men in for free in return for themaking themselves available. Not appealing to the prospective hosts, unless they are ok with free admission.
  7. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I've volunteered to be a lead at a few beginner classes and while I very much empathize with the newbs, it wasn't something I'd want to do on a regular basis - felt like work! :wacky:
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Traditionally, taxi dancing involved a purchase such as buying tickets which were then give to the taxi dancer to "purchase" a dance or dances. It's similar to festivals which sell "script" or will have tokens that can be purchased then exchanged for food or beverages.

    Taxi dancing was common during the jazz age, and the taxi dancers were women.
    One of the places the Benny Goodman orchestra played in their break through tour across the US was a taxi dance hall (although at the time the idea of taxi dancers was falling out of favor). The manager complained that their songs were too long and the dancers weren't turning over their customers quickly enough.

    DesertDiva, you may find it interesting that I considered being a cruise ship "dance host" as a way travel on the cheap when I retire. (I've since decided that it probably wouldn't be a good fit for me.)

    When I went to Buenos Aires for a few days, I was told that I should consider hiring an escort for the milongas, because, you know, it's so hard to "break in." Turns out that I did just fine on my own, and I'm super happy I didn't listen to that bit of advice.

    Sounds like a plan. If you aren't already planning to, I say taking some of the group lessons is a good way to meet guys who will be more likely to ask you to dance since they have already met you.
    And if you decide to travel to Portland for a festival, let me know. I haven't gone for years.
  9. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    I was a dance host on three ships. It's not as easy as free cruise leads you to think. Dance hosts have to attend all dance classes and dance sessions. Hosts can go on shore excursions (at their own expense) as long as there is space. (Paying customers come first.) Cabin?? I was lucky on the QE2 to have my own cabin. I had to share on the other ships. Like dancing, there's no guarantee the other person will be pleasant. On the Amsterdam, my mate couldn't keep his mouth shut about politics.

    On the QE2, I sat down at a lesson while the steps were being shown because I was getting nauseous from the pitching of the boat. I saw the ocean, then I didn't see the ocean, then it returned. One of the pros chewed me out for sitting down until I told him I didn't want to throw up on the women. Then he calmed down, realizing I didn't have my sea legs.

    It was possible to take a relatively short cruise (< 20 days) but today they are longer with the minimum being about 25.

    There are three types of women on the ship. Those who know they know how to dance; those who know they don't know how to dance, and the biggest group, those who don't know they don't know how to dance. The last group think we are ship employees (hosts aren't hired by the cruise line but a private company) and they can abuse us as much as they want.
  10. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    One of the local studios brought in a taxi dancer a couple of times to their milongas and it didn't go over very well. Personally, I would rather not dance than have to pay someone to dance with me.
  11. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    The last dance cruise (Caribbean) that I sailed on was 7 days.
  12. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    Was that a dance cruise organized by a promoter?
  13. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    With the exception of BsAs I only found that taxi dancers were payed by the organizers of a party and not directly by the dancer.
  14. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    A few women told me they pay taxi dancers directly at some milongas
  15. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I'm sure that the person advertising taxi dancing at the upcoming festival I'm attending is NOT being paid by the festival organizer and is looking for individuals to hire his "service." Actually, in the United States I feel that the term "taxi dancer" is a misnomer.

    Everyone has to make a living, but it's not a "service" that interests me in the least. Just my two cents worth...
  16. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    That's my feeling also, but I suppose "to each his (or her) own."
  17. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    Wow, thanks for the fascinating history - I had no idea.

    I had a "pipe dream" that I wanted to work on a cruise ship, because it seemed so glamorous. However, in reality employees work long hours with little time for sightseeing and/or socializing.

    I'd love to attend the Portland Festival someday. Clay Nelson is the organizer, right?
  18. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Have not you heard a song "Ten cents a dance"? Apparently, it was a miserable job.
  19. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    Employees sign a contract to work up to 9 consecutive months at sea, sharing a cabin with another employee or employees. You can't socialize with the passengers and I doubt you can with other employees. Not every employee is needed on board at port so there is a rotation where employees get shore leave.
  20. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    They have a FB page and post on FB Tango Festival pages. Never underestimate the power of social media... ;-)

Share This Page