Wednesday, 1 October 2014

London milongas

Jantango left a comment on my post At Last:

'Are you keeping the venue a secret so those who prefer verbal invitations won't attend? By all means, publish the name, place, and the organizers who deserve the credit.'

It's not that I'm keeping anything secret, and I didn't intend to give that impression: it's just that as I said, this particular milonga is for members only so I've avoided names. Since only members are admitted, it might waste people's time and money if I publicised it, and told everyone how bookings are made; non-members won't be admitted even if they've bought tickets. My aim is to suggest that there is another way milongas can be organised here, and as places for women in particular tend to sell out within minutes of booking opening it's clear that this model is successful. I should have made the general idea clearer. In any case, if tickets sell out that fast, it doesn't need publicity.

'Tickets? You mean you have to book in advance?' I don't know why that's so extraordinary, but it does shock some people. You have to make a commitment in advance to go there? Yes, just like going to a concert or a theatre. Why not?

This isn't a model that makes much sense from a BsAs perspective, not at first anyway. But when you think about it, the 'organizador' there isn't just the person who books the hall and a DJ, and does some advertising. There's also a strong social connection between the organizador and the people who come to dance. They expect the organizador to guarantee and maintain standards of behaviour, on and off the dance floor: the organizador has a responsibility to the people who pay to come to the milonga to maintain standards of behaviour, and consequently has the authority to enforce standards. Here, if you pay to enter a milonga, you have the right to do more or less as you please. But if you transfer the whole transaction to a club level, with membership, then the organiser has authority. The fact that reminding people of codes of behaviour can be done via emails makes it easier.

So, if you are fed up with poor standards of dance and behaviour in your local milongas, it's worth looking at this possibility. It's an informal club, and membership is by recommendation by two existing members. Members agree that dancing is close embrace, with courtesy to your partner and to the rest of the floor. There's a limited number of places, which ensures that the floor doesn't become unreasonably crowded, and that lead and follow numbers are approximately equal. The rules recommend a certain degree of good dressing. It certainly works in terms of guaranteeing a calm, enjoyable afternoon of dance, and I think it's sent a message to London tango, that there needs to be a certain level of agreement on general behaviour. For instance, it's more likely now in other milongas that if you enter the line of dance with a partner you check that the lead approaching in the line of dance is aware that you are there. Before, it was normal that couples simply blundered into the line of dance regardless. (When people danced 'open' they could be aware of newcomers to the line of dance, but if you dance close the lead's view to the right is usually blocked by his/her partner's head, so this has become a problem.)

The limitation of this club arrangement is that there's only a small variation in the people who are there, and I think we all enjoy the random nature of the regular, 'open' milonga, where you dance with and meet new people, as well as old friends. But for any social event to be enjoyable to everyone there needs to be a certain level of acceptable practice. Perhaps we need to work out just how what is acceptable is made known and how it is 'enforced'. (That word is too strong, but I can't think of another one.) One of our regular 'open' milongas has now drawn up a code of behaviour, and the organiser draws attention to it. Since it is all quite basic stuff, perhaps if all London milongas adopted it, even using exactly the same wording, it could very quickly become normal.

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