Saturday, June 15, 2013

"How to NOT get invited", and more on surviving tango festivals (a translation)

Sage advice from a Russian LJ. (And I'm, like, why write my own Tango Survival Guide when I can cite the classic authors instead ;) )
In front of a movie screen?
Moscow, Milonga Me Gusta (2012) (etango image)

Don't sit in the dark corners. Or in front of a movie screen, or wherever you're lit from behind.

Why? In the darkness, they won't see you. In the faraway corners, they won't find you. If the light illuminates you from behind, then the direction of your gaze won't be visible, and your cabeceo will fall flat. And if everyone is looking at a movie screen behind you, then you'd have hard time telling if anybody is looking at you rather than at the screen! 

(DP's comment: Back rows of tables NEVER work. Also it's also amazing how at outdoor milongas, people don't get it that sunglasses make their gaze invisible, too. Lastly, if you're nearsighted, then don't you think that glasses may help A LOT? )

Wanna dance? Then go & stand where all the like-minded, eager dancers gather!

(DP's comment: entry points to the dance floor, especially the ones closest to the dance hall entrance; spots near the water cooler,  bar or, yes, restroom. In the grand old Norse Hall of Portland, the storied "best fishing spot" is near the trash can ... probably not because the trash can attracts the most eager dancers, but because it guards the passageway to the bar & lounge)

The topic of your conversation may be absolutely breathtaking, but it's still recommended that you pause your conversation during cortina (and at the beginning of the next tanda)

Why? Because you don't want to make an impression that you have much more pressing interests than dancing. Ditto heading to the bar / drinking coffee / eating / reading books / meditating with you fav gadgets.

(DP's comment: it's time to look around; perk up, don't look down)

Don't sit in street clothes, and, especially, without your dance shoes. (Do take the dancing shoes off you want to make a break!) "Display your determination and readiness"

DP's comment: in America's air-conditioned halls, a warm shawl over your shoulders doesn't mean that you aren't ready. A slumped posture usually does. BTW sometimes it's hard to tell if a tanguera is "ready" because the body language may be ambiguous, and so you try checking what kind of shoes she wears, but alas, her feet are tucked under a table :)

Also some festival-specific sage advice from the previous installment of the series (more questionable IMHO, but still interesting. I will leave it mostly without specific comments since I think that the advice below won't work equally well for everyone)
"At the best fishing spot"
FRWL Marathon, Moscow, 2015. Etango image

Be communicative; if you know more people, you'll dance more. You like somebody's way of dancing? Compliment them. You like DJs? Thumbs-up them. You like how it is organized? Tell it the organizers.

You don't know something about the place? How are things done? How to get there? Ask around; once people know that you're new to this festival, they won't just help you - they'll get you dances too.

You're too shy? Tango should help you overcome it.

Don't be too idiosyncratic with your clothing, keep an eye on the others' style. If your clothes are soaking wet, or rumpled, then it may be taken as a sign of disrespect. Use different shoes; once your feet get tired in one pair of shoes, they may be rescued by switching to another pair. There is a lot of "black magic" for the tired feet (creams and sprays, ice buckets, reiki, whatnot ... read and listen and find what works for you). 

(DP: For very long milongas, if I'm tired and things go downhill, I practice a "reboot" - a shower and a complete change of clothes ... you see, now it's a different me!)

(... skipping several recommendations which mostly parallel the ones already translated above)

Take care of your food and drink; don't eat heavy meals before milongas

(DP: too often, tangueros feel dog tired simply because they didn't drink enough water and didn't take enough electrolytes. Yes, we loose salt when dancing, and we loose energy with it! I swear by Cliff Cubes, an electrolyte-rich chews favored by distance runners)

Pace yourself! A day with too many classes followed by a night with too many milonga hours may deflate the  rest of your festival!

(DP: being able to take approximately one hour naps helps a lot; coming to a milonga a few hours late, but refreshed, may project an impression that you're tough and determined, and help you get the dances. But don't come to the last few hours of an all-nighter; it's like coming too late to a party when everybody's is already too drunk and you just can't fit in anymore)

Don't stay too far from the venues! It may seem like staying half an hour away isn't a big deal, but it can be a huge deal.


  1. The point that the more people you know the easier it is to dance points out a problem with the cabeceo. It is harder to get a dance if people do not know you with the cabeceo than it is if you just go up to people and ask. The point that it is harder if you wear idiosycratic clothing also shows the cliquish nature of milonga behavior. If you are a non-conformist (how dull without them!) you will need to puncture people's comfort zones by asking them directly, and not relying on the more passive cabeceo.

    1. I know I can already puncture some people comfort zones just by approaching or greeting. They are very uncomfortable with this feeling that an invitation may ensue (even if I don't have it in mind). I used to do it and I don't do it anymore. There are other ways to express one's nonconformity than by making introverted partners tense up with fear, or by making partners with lower self-esteem to accept your invitation just cuz they have no guts to say "no". But it just isn't the point of tango, to make people uncomfortable by disregarding social conventions.
      It goes without saying that there is no perfect system for scoring dances; but lacking a perfection, one may prefer to stick with the traditional approach. My sincere advice is that you should only linger in front of your prospective dance partners if you perfectly transparent so they can score a cabeceo through you body.

  2. If you have the attitude that we are all friends in a big welcoming community, (which contradancers, most tango classes and even some churches have), then you do encourage saying yes.

    It isn't a matter of weakness or lack of self esteem. If you see people as humans and are open to the joy that outsiders or emerging dancers can give you, if you have compassion for those who are going through the same struggles you experienced, and who admire you for doing something that they love, then you see dancing with many people as a good thing.

    High school cliques and other abusive insider groups see the ability to reject someone, to put someone down as a measure of self-esteem. Established immigrants who reject more recent immigrants do not show more self-esteem, they show insecurity and bigotry. This is part of American culture and was part of the competitive, disproportionately male culture in which the tango was forged. It set native born Argentines, against immigrants. One immigrant group against another, city boys against country boys, and whites against blacks. Insider dancers who reject outsider dancers do not show self-esteem. They show that they are scoundrals. When you try to pressure people to treat someone you take to be less developed than you are as a "bad dancer", then you are pressuring people to enforce the cliques.

    Your comment is "slut-shaming". You are saying that if someone is too willing to dance with people you consider unworthy, then they lack self-esteem. Slut-shaming is clearly a form of sexist pressure used by cliques.

    Any scapegoated minority or individual takes the strategy of puncturing the in-groups' prejudices. Overcoming objectification and prejudice demands forcing people to see you as human being, forcing them out of their comfort zone. The cliques should be resisted by everyone.

    1. Your comment is almost as long as the original post, and it's full of baseless accusations. Please take care of the length and the language of your comments in the future! If your goal is indeed "turning tango into a discomfort zone" then perhaps your attitude is a cause, rather than a consequence, of your problems. Avenging social injustices may be a noble goal, but one just can't dance good tango out of spite, or contemptuously. Tango is about connection, about accepting one's own vulnerabilities and accepting others with love, no matter their flaws. Mutual contempt and "war on comfort" just won't get you anywhere.

  3. Mockba, You are trying to bully me into not criticizing an abusive system. You know nothing about my dancing or supposed "problems", and they are not relevent. What is relevent is how cliques prefer a less common communication method that helps them exclude outsiders. A good citizen should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Comfortable insiders already afflict outsiders and criticize them for not following their preferrences. Like any other member of this community, I have the right to point that out. See Youtube video on "The Pirate's Code"

  4. Learned two good old English expressions about people who emerge right in front of cabeceo-ing ladies, and block the view:
    "Your father wasn't a glass-maker" and
    "You make a better door than a window" (~~ turn to the side, I can't see through you)