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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

I like to watch ...

More often than not, I dance no more than 7 or 8 tandas in my 3 hours in milongas in Buenos Aires. I do that partly to conserve my energy for a) the music I really like, and b) the women I really want to dance with. Any single tanda is both physically and mentally taxing, so when I dance I want to put all the meat on the fire.

So how do I spend the rest of my time in the milonga apart from sipping on my mineral water? I listen to the music and I watch the dancers. Sitting at a table at the edge of the ronda, I feel part of the milonga, even when not dancing. But as I watch, I also learn. Of course, I watch the ladies’ pivots, their embraces, their responses to their partners, in order to guide my ‘cabeceo’ in future tandas. But there is more.

I watch the men – their rhythms, changing dynamics, playfulness, intensity; how they protect their partners, how they move their bodies with their partners; and I note small variations in movements that I regularly employ. I notice how their dancing changes with different orchestras, with the emotion of the singers, with the ‘light and shade’ in a piece of music. Not all men dance this way, but those that do are worth my intense scrutiny.

I often wonder about men, and women, who dance every tanda. Might they be missing an opportunity to observe and learn from others?  My advice: STOP. LISTEN. LOOK. LEARN.


  1. I feel the same way as you do, Bob. Last Friday at Elsa's milonga I danced three tandas in three hours. I enjoyed watching the dancing, especially because of several milongueros viejos I hadn't seen in a long time. The music was excellent (although a bit loud), so I was satisfied listening to the music and watching the dancing.

    I see local women dance tanda after tanda. They don't seem to be able to relax at the table or take a few minutes to bask in the pleasure of the tanda they danced. It's about getting to dance the next one. The partner doesn't matter to them.

  2. Jantango, I totally agree with your comment about basking in the pleasure of the tanda just danced. The sensation of a lovely tanda can stay with you for some time, so why not relish it!

  3. Bob wrote: "I often wonder about men, and women, who dance every tanda. Might they be missing an opportunity to observe and learn from others?"

    Often what they are most missing is a relationship with the music. There's no music they dislike because there's no music they particularly like.

  4. Chris, you have identified another aspect of the 'dancing every tanda' syndrome. Some people don't appear to discriminate.

    Of course, there may well be occasions when the music is so good and so much to one's taste, that it might be tempting to dance most tandas - especially so, when one is fortunate to have lots of suitable dance partners available.

    Nevertheless, for all of the reasons already mentioned, I think that there is a lot of merit in taking time to pause and watch.

  5. I dance many tandas -- sometimes even all tandas -- when the music is excellent and my favourite partners are available and eager to dance. There are so many occasions on which I dance far less, and not by choice. When the music isn't good. When there are few people around I would like to dance with. When few people are around who would enjoy dancing with me. (That's oftne the case when I'm travelling in smaller places outside Buenos Aires, for instance). But when the DJ is spinning one excellent tanda after another and my favourite leaders are eyeing me for cabeceo, yes, I dance. And I don't feel as though I'm missing a thing by doing so. Quite the contrary.


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