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Sunday, 20 May 2012

There's a woman in your arms!

A few weeks ago, a chance encounter with Pedro Sanchez at La Nacional led to a number of meetings and animated conversations with him. He’s a milonguero, a lovely man, a teacher, a bit of a philosopher and uncompromising in his personal values.

Some of his strong beliefs about tango, the dance, were simple, yet quite profound:
When you have a woman in your arms in a milonga, your bodies are touching. You are cheek to cheek. What do you feel?  There should be a desire to give yourself to your partner, to share with her the emotion that you feel coming from the music, and to communicate your intentions with your body. All very intimate & intense stuff.  (Of course, we must remember that it’s only for the duration of a tanda, otherwise life would get unnecessarily complicated!)
By accepting this description of the dance, a few thoughts inevitably follow:
> Embrace a partner like you would a lover, otherwise why dance with him/her? 
> Why dance with people you simply don’t want to dance with? 
> There’s no room for self-importance. We need to be open to the other person. 
> Personal hygiene and dressing well show regard for your dance partners. 
> Do you want to simply ‘dance’, or do you want to move with passion?
And now for a few final words from Pedro:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Survival of the fittest

Buenos Aires milonga organisers are facing significant challenges due to closure of major venues, paired with high inflation. Last night while walking from the Subte to La Nacional, one of the local dancers was remarking that a popular Friday night milonga at La Leonesa (Entre tango y tango) was discontinued, effective this week. This was due to further increases in the venue hire. She had heard that this would have raised the milonga entrada to a ridiculous 40 pesos, quite beyond the pale for locals.  However, later through a reliable contact at La Nacional she discovered that the crisis at La Leonesa had been averted, presumably through a compromise. In fact, the organisers of Entre tango y tango were distributing discount vouchers at La Nacional to boost their flagging attendances - not the only good milonga which has experienced an attendance downturn due to forced increases in entry costs.

So what are the characteristics of some of the current survivors of these tough times? Lucy and Dany, organisers of the successful El Maipu (Monday nights at La Nacional) have certainly captured and maintained the formula. It’s all about consistently delivering a quality milonga experience with a personalised high care factor. This seems to have a magnetic effect, attracting discerning dancers who value the quality experience.  They know where to get more “bang for their bucks”, especially in these difficult economic times.   However, the consequences for other milongas are unfortunate.
When the budget is tight, experienced dancers don’t want to risk wasting time and money. They value quality above quantity.  If a milonga is too expensive, has inconsistent music which changes mood mid-tanda, or bizarre musical choices,  inconsiderate/unskilled dancers with poor floor-craft, indifferent or unwelcoming organisers, then it may not survive the current climate. One of these factors alone may be enough to turn people off, and the word spreads.  

Perhaps milonga organisers elsewhere in less challenging circumstances should take heed of the hard lessons being learned here in the Mecca of tango.
PP

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The times they are a changin'

Buenos Aires milonga venues continue to undergo involuntary change and attendance patterns fluctuate. So we’ve been talking more about the factors which can make a milonga succeed or fail. Maipu 444, formerly home of Cachirulo, El Maipu, Lujos (on Sunday) and Sentimental y Coqueta, was sold off and closed over a year ago. It is now the stuff of legends. People who experienced those heady days sigh with regret at the loss. Just over a week ago, the intimate El Beso was closed down due to the absence of an emergency exit. Certainly understandable, but that competitive, hot-house atmosphere will not easily be replicated elsewhere.

These organisers all succeeded in finding alternative locations, relocating mainly to larger venues in Alsina, as well as the bizarre choice last year of Villa Malcolm for Cachirulo (Saturday). However, the timing of these changes has been unfortunate. Milonga entradas have not been quarantined from local inflation (Subte fares rose from 1.1 to 2.5 pesos overnight, taxi flagfalls that not long ago were 3.4 are now 8.7 pesos, quality ladies’ tango shoes from 400 to 650 pesos in the last year). Paying 25 – 35 pesos just to enter a milonga is making locals, in particular, think twice about how many milongas they can afford to attend.  It seems that the combination of price increases and venue changes may be taking their toll, at least for some milongas. On the other hand, others are thriving. The question is why.
By the way, this one continues to be one of our favourite milongas:

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