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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Milonga seating - what's the fuss?

At milongas, 
A:  do you like to sit at a table with friends & acquaintances, male & female?
B:  perhaps you simply like to share a table for two with your partner?
C:  do you prefer the singles seating arrangement, where men sit separately from the ladies?

We all have our preferences, and they may change according to various circumstances.  But are we aware of the implications of the choice we make?  As for milonga organisers, one would hope that they understand the dynamics which are created with their chosen seating arrangements.

Option A - the sociable arrangement - is popular here in Australia.  It allows people to chat freely and at length with those sharing their table.  When the mood takes them, they get up and dance together.  Sounds pretty relaxed, doesn't it?

But consider the following scenario: 
A wonderful tanda of Calo beckons and someone (let's call him Trevor) from one table wants to dance with Jane from another table.  But she is engrossed in conversation with friends.  She is showing no interest in dancing, despite the great music.
  And to make matters worse, the tables crowded together mean that she has her back to him.

What does he do?  What would be socially acceptable?  What would you do?

Well, Trevor wastes no time.  He approaches Jane's table, interrupts the conversation and asks her to dance.  Taken by surprise, she doesn't know what to do.  She hadn't been wanting to dance with Trevor, or with anyone for the moment.  But now she's put on the spot.  Refuse or be nice and go through the motions.

No, the problem was not entirely due to the seating layout, but it is all too common with Option A.

Option C, on the other hand, is an arrangement entirely aimed at facilitating dancing.  It allows milonga attendees to signal their availability and intention clearly to potential partners.  Obvious body language will indicate whether they're interested in dancing.  The rules of engagement are clear-cut.  Nobody is imposed upon.  Socialising with those sitting nearby is not precluded, but the main objective is dancing.

Does Option C seem a tad daunting?  Perhaps a compromise with Option A would suit?  Tables can be arranged around the dance-floor enabling friends to socialise or focus on the dancing.  When the music inspires, it's relatively easy to scan the milonga for a potential partner.

Choosing Option B sends a pretty clear message of exclusivity of the couple.  Enough said.

Sometimes the venue imposes limitations to seating possibilities.  However, milonga organisers should be mindful of the social dynamics, including potential difficulties which they may be creating unintentionally.  As for the attendees, good manners are good manners wherever you may be.



  1. But she is engrossed in conversation with friends. She is showing no interest in dancing, despite the great music.(No brainer) If she isn't interested in the music; well don't bother asking. The music fails to attract her attention so don't waste you time. Look for someone who shares your passion for it.

  2. I agree with you, Roger, that Trevor is wasting his time.
    However, in my view the problem is not so much that Jane lacks an appreciation for Calo.

    Perhaps she would normally have responded to the first few bars of "Trasnochando". But in this case that particular conversation was more important to her.

    Had the seating arrangement been otherwise, perhaps it might have been more obvious to Trevor that this was not the time to invite Jane to dance. Had Trevor been a little more in tune with normal social etiquette, the intrusion and discomfort could have been avoided.


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