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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Dodgems on the dance-floor

Ever been dancing at a milonga and felt like you have suddenly been transported to a fairground? Instead of being in a comfortable embrace with your partner, flowing magically with the music, you feel you have both been teleported into the seats of a dodgem car. All your efforts are being directed towards avoiding the next crash.

Sometimes things change dramatically at milongas, even milongas where the line of dance is normally respected and dancers are considerate to one another. For any number of reasons, the dynamics on a night can be suddenly different and the floor-craft unpredictable. When driving on a busy road, you need to assume that the other motorists will abide by the road-rules and will drive in a predictable fashion. If not, you would be constantly on high alert, trying to avoid collisions. Social dancers also require predictability from their peers in order to relax and connect with their partner and the music. Gentlemen, you need to “dance with” the couple ahead of, behind and beside you.

We are all responsible, to a greater or lesser extent, for what happens on the dance-floor. So, what can you do, if you find yourself dancing with a partner (male or female) whose behaviour is erratic? Well, for a start, you might be a little more discerning in your choice of dance partner. But, perhaps their behaviour has taken you by surprise. You are dancing the first of four tangos together and you’re getting worried. You have already collided with another couple, and to make things worse, no apology was made. What are your options?
  1. Go with their flow and not worry about the people dancing around you.
  2. Tighten your embrace, try to slow things down and hope that your partner becomes aware of your discomfort.
  3. Say that you are feeling uncomfortable.
  4. Say that you are feeling uncomfortable and return to your seat.
  5. Any other ideas?
As I have mentioned before, the etiquette of the milongas is based on respect for others. The codes evolved over some time, hence can be considered “tried and true”. Their purpose is to reduce tensions and discomfort, thereby maximising harmony during this social event.
When someone’s behaviour had been inappropriate, I have witnessed the organiser of a milonga in Buenos Aires taking the person aside and explaining what is expected. Some organisers refund the person’s money and simply ask them to leave. Better that than have everyone else’s fun spoiled, as well as the reputation of their milonga. Offenders whose response is “But we didn’t actually collide with anyone!” fail to understand that their erratic behavior means that because of them, no-one else can relax and enjoy themselves.
In extreme cases, I have seen ladies use their prerogative and desert their partner on the floor mid-tanda. What else should she do if he just won’t take a hint and continues to make her look incompetent in front of everyone? And of course gentlemen, you too can escort your partner off the floor if she fails to curb her exhibitionist streak and insists on behaviour that endangers others.
On the other hand, some people are just too nice. They feel uncomfortable and do nothing. They are afraid of offending. Ladies have confessed to being afraid that that person won’t invite them to dance again. And the result? In the long-term they actually do the offender a disservice. The anti-social behavior is reinforced. Sadly, that person won’t realise that their behaviour is inappropriate. They miss an opportunity to reflect on whether their skills need development so they can be more in control of their navigation.
Now, see if you can identify the code which wasn’t followed in this video which was taken in a BsAs milonga (hint: 4.20mins). Unfortunately, it led to a dancer being injured and having to leave the floor.

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