Friday, 31 October 2014

Milonga problems

I wrote here about the kind of control organisers of Buenos Aires milonga have, which is rarely visible since the rules are by general agreement. Nevertheless, organisers can and do ask visitors to leave if the guidelines are breached, if they feel a guy has been disrespectful to a woman, if a couple dances without due care for other dancers, if a couple or an individual are upsetting people in other ways. London's 'secret milonga' has recreated the order this brings to a milonga by using the structure of a members' club. Only people who are generally courteous can join, and the result is a regular afternoon of relaxed dance. (Sorry to call it the 'secret milonga': of course it has a name, but I wouldn't want people turning up hoping to get in as they'd be disappointed, and the organiser would be obliged to turn them away.)

The 'encuentro movement' is the background to this. Encuentros must have started seven or eight years ago on long holiday weekends in Europe, promising five or six separate milongas on a good floor with good DJs. New events rapidly sprang up all over, events that are role-balanced, with advance booking, where there's agreement about codigos, with the use of mirada and cabeceo, and respect for the floor and the line of dance. Websites like tangofestivals list events: next month, November, seven events are listed, in Istanbul, Italy, Switzerland, Germany (two events), Slovenia, and Lebanon. Of course there's a local base, but there are people from all over, the 'encuentro set', who can afford the time and cost of travel and accommodation to spend regular weekends dancing in a variety of destinations. London's 'secret milonga' offers a similar experience in terms of quality of environment, but monthly and always in the same hall.

One reason why the 'encuentro movement' and the 'secret milonga' have been so successful is that they are highly organised events. You know you will enjoy excellent music and uniformly courteous behaviour. Some of our regular milongas have made a point of presenting good music, and they are agreeably lively events, but the floor can still be confused and difficult, despite suggestions from some of the organisers. From a Buenos Aires perspective our milongas might be poorly organised, as the organisers have little control over what happens in them, and sometimes even little interest in controlling what happens in them, but they are regular sociable events, they really are 'encuentros', meeting places open to all.

Organisers here won't object much to how you behave and how you dance, even if they aren't happy, because they need the admission money, and in any case they don't have the traditional authority of the 'organisador'. The number of tango events seems to increase faster than interest in the dance, and hiring spaces in London is expensive. You might not notice that milongas can struggle to make ends meet. The number of events across Europe has increased the competition, and it's noticeable how quiet weekend milongas (even the 'secret milonga') can be if there's a popular event elsewhere. Of course, every quiet milonga means a reduction in takings, which is probably going to hurt the organisers. This is beginning to create a real problem for London milongas, and there's no easy solution.

So, a highly organised encuentro, or an encuentro that's open to all-comers? Or both? I enjoy the organisation at least once a month although I wouldn't want it all the time. & I look at Normarin1's videos and really hope that London milongas will look like this in a not-too-distant future, busy, cheerful, affectionate, orderly, and with good dancing. Her videos are an invaluable guide to social tango. There's much to learn from them, whether you prefer your 'encuentros' highly or lightly organised.

But if I were asked to choose I'd say: reduce your carbon footprint! Support your local milongas! It might take time, but they will change if enough of us want change.


a german tangodancer said...

In Germany we have the same problems.Encuentros are one way to get better tangodancing.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, german tangodancer. Yes, Germany must be the epicentre of encuentros!

People are voting with their feet, and milonga organisers are being forced to take note. There are good reasons for most practices, so hopefully reason will prevail, and milongas will adapt.