Thursday, 11 March 2010

Wayward children: 2

So after the warm friendly rush of being in a London milonga again, my first real doubts creep in on the floor. I tend to keep to the line of dance, but that's no protection against being charged by a couple, or rather by a leader pushing his partner ahead of him, intent, I guess, on finishing an impressive move, a short choreography they've learned in a class. It means you can never quite relax. The enthusiasm is wonderful, and it's great that so many people enjoy the music so much, but we go to class and are taught 'moves', so we try and perform them. & since moves are taught in open embrace, dancers aren't looking where they're going: they are watching their feet. Unfortunately 'moves' convince people that their teachers are teaching them something. Walking, and getting the very simplest steps right, and musical, isn't always regarded here with the same kind of respect as in Buenos Aires, where people seem to start off by looking for simple ways of dancing well in milongas.

I'd be very content in a London milonga if the floorcraft was better, and fortunately there's more awareness of it now. But I don't think the problems have much to do with failing to learn 'floorcraft': I think the problems are the result of inappropriate teaching, with teaching stage moves and style to people who are going to dance in milongas. Dancing might be a lot more pleasurable and harmonious for everyone if there was more emphasis on simple basics.

Socially, London milongas are enjoyable. The only question I have is whether the freedom of interaction doesn't distract from the dancing. What do we want? Some of my most focussed and intense tandas have been with partners I don't know, and who I wasn't able to sit down and chat with. Intense feelings thrive on barriers, and perhaps it's possible to enjoy more intense, emotionally rich dances if you know that the barriers protect you. We'd probably not be comfortable lining up on opposite sides of the room, but we might get more tandas at that kind of level if we cooled down the social side a bit.

So I still think it would be interesting to experiment with a milonga which is more dance-focussed. Socially it might seem a bit dull, but the quality of the dance might make up for that. (Of course, there's a Friday night event once a month that has made a start in this direction.) & size has a lot of impact on social events. A lot of people means a great deal more activity: a small milonga with just a few dozen people could be a simple way to a quieter and more dance-focussed event, which would be easier and more relaxing to dance in.


Aisling Tango said...

I'd say it is not the social freedom itself which distracts from the dance, but the way it is used. There is no reason why milongas would not be possible, where people are friendly, relaxed, non (or less) judgemental, or given to gossip and at the same time respectful of other dancers when on the floor. Indeed, such milongas not only are possible but they exist - I have seen a few in Italy, and El Corte in Nijmegen is a consistently happy experience in this respect. Also, I never felt the social freedom of the milongas in El Corte take away the intensity.

One role of barriers which I would not dispute, however, is to protect the tango dancers. All things considered, I guess I'd rather have freedom than protection.

Johanna said...

Ah, the eternal "bad teaching" quandary. I have spoken to numerous teachers who lament having to teach this way, but apparently, that's what the market dictates. Those who have tried teaching the right way have seen their students leave them for someone who will teach them the latest "ada".

Tangocommuter said...

Freedom over protection any day! I was just wondering out loud whether those restrictions have any use any longer.

Nijmegen, tango heaven in Europe, it seems. Perhaps a few Londoners should get together to pay a visit for a weekend when the days get brighter. Thanks for the reassurance, Aislingtango, that such milongas are possible! Any milonga where you can relax and just dance is going to be good.

Johanna, isn't it a sad irony that teachers lament teaching this way, and do it only because otherwise their students will go off to some other teacher who likewise doesn't believe in it? An even stranger paradox that we might not have come across tango at all were it not for the creation of stage tango in the 1970s... So we should be grateful to it!

Aisling Tango said...

Dear Tango commuter,

Actually, there _is_ a small group of London dancers who goes to El Corte regularly. I hope you will join it soon! :-)

Also, a larger group from Oxford who does the same. There is hope! :-)


Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks, Aislingtango! So there's already a small group of Londoners that goes regularly to Nijmegen. If anyone reading this can tell me more, I'd be very glad to hear!