Friday, 28 October 2016


A couple of years ago I wrote about something that got called the ‘secret milonga’. (There were a couple of subsequent posts too.) In effect it was a monthly private tango club in London to which entrance was by invitation. Consequently there was no publicity, and I never mentioned its name because I didn’t want uninvited people turning up there as the organiser would have had to turn them away, which would be unpleasant to all concerned. I wrote about it simply to point out that there is another way people can consider organising tango dancing, another template. It was a private event because that was a way to ensure that the ronda was observed with the same courtesy as in Buenos Aires. You could dance comfortably there all afternoon, no couples would block the line of dance with wild gyrations, or barge onto the dance floor without first looking to see if another couple was approaching in the line of dance. Simple courtesy! Yet at other London events that can still happen, although it is improving. The quality of dance was always excellent, as was the music, it was in a beautiful old hall and the organisers always welcomed you personally as one of their friends – which you were. In effect it was a small monthly encuentro in London. I’ve written all this in the past tense because it recently had to close down. It was called Juntos.

It’s very sad it couldn’t make enough money to continue. Of course it wasn’t intended to make anyone a fortune, but there’s only so much money an individual can lose. A beautiful hall in London doesn’t come cheap, and the booking (midday to 5.30 on Sunday) perhaps wasn't ideal. We are very grateful to the organisers whose ideals were set so high, and thank them for keeping it afloat for so long, and giving us many magical afternoons of dance and music. It’s left a mark on London tango, as has the whole encuentro movement, and people are increasingly aware how essential courtesy is on the dance floor. If anyone thinks of emulating this, I can only wish them the best of luck. It's not easy.


Yokoito said...

I must say I have very mixed feelings towards such events. In Germany running such events as private saves money as no royalties for music are due (don't know about UK rules). I believe, however, that on the long run such fractioning of the Tango community can be damaging as the quality of experience and the attractiveness for newbies may be reduced when part of the establishment pulls out from public events. Of course it is a matter of dosage. But then, of course, there seems to be the same general problem as in Germany with the tight-pocketness of tangoland citizens.

Tangocommuter said...

Many thanks, Yokoito. Interesting to hear that private milongas are more common in Germany, and I see your point about dividing the tango community. This wasn't much of a problem in London - so far as I know, Juntos was the only such event. However it's a problem created by the 'encuentro' movement in general, which regularly draws dancers away from local milongas. At the same time, the encuentro influence is beneficial, as there are times when many more experienced dancers are around. But to my mind the problem is still that people assume that demos given by teachers show how tango is danced socially! These days the demos may be in close embrace, but that doesn't mean they show a practical social dance.

As to 'tight-pocketness of tangoland citizens' I commented that Juntos was supported for a lot of its life by the generosity of its organisers. Given the cost of the hall (I'm guessing, but prices here are high) I'm not sure it was ever likely to break even on a regularl basis. I don't think the timing was ideal either - and there were other events that didn't help. A pity!

Yokoito said...

I didn't mean the organisers but the guests. Again I can only tell how it is in Germany. Typically milonga entry fees are at 6 euros plus or minus. Tango people are not the dream guests for pubs as they mostly just consume water and juice so pubs or other places with decent floors have no real motivation to accomodate them. I think admission at say 12 to 15 euros would not kill given what people obviously are ready to spend for stuff such as tango travel or fashion, and would give organisers some room to breathe.