Friday, 30 August 2013

Dancing in the light

Interesting that the two best London milongas I've been to recently are in the afternoons, which are light at this time of year. Best in terms of general dance quality, general courtesy, and the pleasure of feeling comfortable in fairly crowded rooms.

Another pleasure of these afternoon milongas is that strangers seem to chat with each other much more readily towards the end. I guess that's partly the time of day: by midnight most of us might have other priorities, but at 6pm after a lot of pleasant dances the mind opens out to other people.

So it was that I started chatting with someone I know only by sight. 'Such good dancing!' I said. 'Yes', he replied, 'it was light!' 'It does make a difference, doesn't it?' 'I've seen it myself' he replied. 'People are dancing well, and then the lights get turned down and it all falls apart. I've seen it happen!' & I agree: in fact it's something I've written about from time to time. In the worst milongas the lighting is dramatic, deep shadows, bright patches. It's much more of an effort to stay aware of the couples around you. But worse, as we agreed, there seems to be a loss of inhibitions when the light levels go down. People can't see so clearly, and become more careless. Perhaps they know they are less conspicuous. & we tend to think of dance as abandoning inhibition, letting it all hang out, but dance has to be highly controlled, physically. The formality of the Buenos Aires milongas helps maintain awareness of that control.

Of course there are other considerations. People are less likely to drink when they dance at 3pm: it's more normal to have a glass or two at 10pm. Perhaps the time of day rather than the light level is responsible. But it's true that we are all more alert when the light is good: moreover, bluish light is said to make us more alert, and reddish light to reduce alertness. Perhaps we need tango umpires with light meters! 'Bad light stopped dance.'

Joking aside, I really think it's worth looking at the possibility that upping light levels in milongas can improve the general level of dance. As far as I'm aware shady lighting is a disco/club heritage, and historically it's never been associated with any partner dance. True, some of the Buenos Aires milongas have reduced light levels, but by and large the organisers seem to accept the lighting already there in the halls they use for milongas, with no attempt to make it sexy or dim.

6 comments:

Chris said...

I agree, TC. Higher illumination and higher standard of dancing go together. I think this is largely through a selection mechanism. Full illumination allows dancers to better see the dancing of prospective partners and to invite them by look. Inevitably this favours dancers of a higher standard. Interestingly this is also the reason that many organisers dislike it. It encourages what they see as elitism and divisive behaviour, reducing attendance especially if the event is directed primarily at classgoers.

Thanks for this insightful article.

Patricia said...

You make some excellent observations, Tango Commuter. I agree that brighter lighting seems to foster dancing with more care and consideration. Of course, with good lighting the cabeceo is possible and that leads to better dancing, in my opinion.

On a more general note, I've found that dim lighting seems to encourage isolation of dancers, whether seated in a group or alone. They seem less approachable for a chat - as if shielded by the darkness.

Cherie Magnus said...

I completely agree! And that's why I mainly go to the matinee milongas here in BsAs--better dancers, higher levels of light, which not only help the cabeceo but when you're not dancing you can enjoy watching the floor.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Patricia, and I'm glad that it's your experience too that adequate lighting helps. As you say, it makes cabeceo easier, and people often do hide, or seem to hide, in dim lighting.

Hi Cherie, and it's good to hear from you. I'm very happy to be reminded of those matinee milongas, especially in Leonesa and at El Arranque. & to remember the nocturnal ones too... Watching the floor day and night was always a great pleasure! I hope Los Consagrados, with the wonderful tango danced there, is still a weekly base for you and Rubén.

Anonymous said...

Hi
Are you able to name the afternoon milongas you like

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks Anon. I was writing about the difference between afternoon and evening milongas, rather than trying to push any particular events. & as it happens the organisers of the two milongas I was thinking about choose not to advertise their events. They operate by word of mouth. I'm sure you will find your way to them if you're interested.