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Howling at the moon

By | Rant | No Comments

I’ve been the DJ at a couple of milongas recently where there were show dances during the Milonga (not at our milongas, I hasten to add. We never have show dances, for reasons that’ll I’ve made clear in the past ). Both times were an absolute nightmare, for different reasons:

Both times I was only told which tracks they wanted to be played after the Milonga had started, so there was no chance for a sound check.

Luckily, at the first milonga, the selection was in my extensive collection. But then the performance was delayed 3 times because of ‘wardrobe issues’.  Now, it may not seem like it sometimes, but when I’m DJing a lot of thought goes into the flow of the tandas, so a big break for show dances is bad news. If I know when it’ll be happening then I can prepare a good selection Tandas to try and keep the Milonga flowing. But when I have to change my carefully thought out plans 3 TIMES then I start to lose my sunny disposition and start sticking pins into voodoo dolls.

At the 2nd milonga the show dancers didn’t select the tracks for the show dances until just 20 minutes before the performance, when I was given a memory stick. With the wrong tracks on it. Cue much frantic file swapping whilst the correct tracks were found, whilst avoiding interrupting the music currently playing, all the time managing to stay calm and professional, even when the track volumes were at least 10Db different from each other. And, quel surprise, the show dance started one tanda later than scheduled so once again my careful planning was trashed. Oh, and you know what? After all that fuss and drama, the choice of music didn’t seem to make any difference to the performances, after all. My curses were saved for later; they matured and festered before emerging as a blood-curdling scream of murderous intent as I howled at the moon.

Dancers. Your moves may be sublime and your balance jaw-dropping. But please save a thought for the DJ; choose your tracks well in advance, and start the show dances on time. Then even the DJ might applaud afterwards, too.

ooo look – I’ve got a camera

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So you’ve been to a Tango marathon or encuentro.  And whilst you were there you took lots of photos, presumably because you weren’t dancing much. And now you’re back, you’ve decided to post the complete album on Facebook.

Why?? Huge albums of photos from Tango events can be a pointless wastes of time on social media. Typically they’re just endless shots of couples in an embrace. Either smiling or ‘lost’ in Tango blss. They just leave me wondering who, exactly, is supposed to be interested?

People who didn’t go won’t be interested. After all, they weren’t there.

People who were there will only be interested in photos of themselves, and will struggle to find any.

People who wanted to go, but couldn’t, will feel bitterness about what they missed.

Hmmm. So the only person who is interested in all the images is the photographer?

So put the camera down. And start dancing.

DJ shopping

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It’s around this time of year that we start to recruit and select the DJs for our big events coming up at Easter, September, and Christmas.  All together, we need to sort out the DJs for around 20 milongas and this takes many weeks of discussions and emails.

I think that the music is the main fundamental element of a Milonga, and so the DJ is absolutely crucial.  That’s why I get very cautious and careful when it comes to selecting guest DJs. So what do we look for in guest DJs, and why can it get so tricky?

By and large we only ever use guest DJs that we have heard playing at least once.  It doesn’t matter how many recommendations they have, or how popular they are at other events, I will try to check out milongas where the DJ might be a good choice for us. And when I’m at a milonga there are several things that I’m looking for in a good DJ:

  • Do they arrive and set up on time?
  • Do they spend too much time with their headphones on pre-listening to tracks?
  • How much do they walk around the dance floor, checking the music quality and volume?
  • Are they actively using an equaliser with at least 8 channels?
  • How are the Tandas constructed?
  • Are they using BPM or another method to manage the energy within a Tanda?
  • Are the tracks volumes all levelled?
  • What is the mix of familiar favourite tracks and lesser known recordings?
  • How does the mood of the Tandas vary through the evening?
  • Does the music link without pregnant pauses or, even worse, crashing between tracks?
  • How do the Cortinas contribute to the atmosphere of the Milonga?
  • Are they familiar with their DJ software?

It’s not simple, and that’s why it gets so hard to recruit DJs of a good enough standard, and why we tend to stick with the good ones. And that’s also often why I stopped going to some local milongas with a resident DJ.

We are all doomed

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At a well-known regular Milonga in London recently the DJ still hadn’t turned up 25 minutes after the Milonga was due to start.

There was no apology from the DJ, and no apology from the organiser.

Everyone who had travelled to get to the Milonga when it started was kept waiting without any explanation, and the Organiser didn’t even contact the DJ to see where he was or when he would arrive.

We are all doomed.

Get thee behind me…

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Please spare a compassionate thought for poor students in Tango lessons having to line up behind the teacher to follow them as they demonstrate a sequence. Stuck amongst a bunch of other students, with a view that’s more limited even than a UKIP supporter.  It’s no surprise that they don’t really have a clue what’s going on.

Just look at this photo of a Tango lesson in progress; no doubt the teacher loves himself, but what about the lovely people who have paid to be taught how to dance? Only one out of a group of over 14 students is actually doing what is being shown.  The rest are craning their necks and struggling to see, or just looking bemused and lost (like me when people start talking about ‘Game Of Thrones’).  They don’t really have a chance, do they.

And this photo is actually being used to advertise a Tango teacher #facepalm


Talking the Walk

By | Rant | One Comment

Ahem, this might ruffle a few feathers, but it just has to be said.

We hear a lot about the importance of ‘The Tango Walk’ (‘TTW’).  Many lessons start with exercises explaining nuances of TTW according to the latest flavour.

TTW uses strong energy from the leaders core to create powerful travelling energy for the couple, with the follower extending their legs beyond their natural stride. The thing is (and it’s a BIG thing) that you’ll never walk like that at a Milonga.

Encouraging people to use powerful and extended forward strides is quite simply a recipe for disaster. Just look at how much space the couple are using.

Yes, there are elements that are important Tango dancing technique, but trying to perfect your TTW is a waste of time, as you’ll never get to use that technique unless one day you end up dancing on stage, or teaching Tango to people who don’t know better. If you use TTW at a popular Milonga you’re going to crash and collide with a lot of other dancers. Quite simply, it is dangerous and anti-social so it beats me why anyone would teach this to people who want to be able to dance at popular milongas with limited space.

But then I’ve never understood the appeal of cheese & onion crisps, either.

[Exits, stage right, with long, purposeful strides……]

Show dances at Milongas

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I go to milongas to socialise and dance. If I want to dance, then I can. If I want to rest and watch other people, then I can. It’s up to me.

But hold on, what’s this? The organiser has decided that everyone has got to stop dancing. It has gone quiet, the lights have come up, and someone has got hold of a microphone. Oh, good grief, it’s ‘show dance’ time. There follows 10 minutes of my life wasted whilst a couple prance around and show off.

Listen; if I want to watch couples dancing then I can sit and watch the other dancers all night long.

And if I want to watch choreographed dances that are only loosely connected to the salon-style Tango that I love then I can stay at home on the sofa and watch them on YouTube.

So I get kind of grumpy whenever there are show dances at a Milonga, and if you want to find me, look in the bar or the loos; I’ll be the one muttering to himself and checking his phone in case there’s a message from Kylie Minogue.

Nobody likes me – guess I’ll go eat worms

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Struggling to get dances?  It’s a familiar situation that everyone has experienced from time to time. But it seems to affect some dancers more than others. And boy, do they like to grumble about it. To anyone who’ll listen. Over and over. Endlessly.

But hey, have you noticed that some people are dancing all night long, with lots of partners? So it must be possible, right? Instead of complaining, perhaps there are some people you should listen to. Some suggestions:

Your Tango teacher
People like to dance with good dancers, and they prefer not to dance with dancers who aren’t so good. Simples. If you’re not getting asked to dance then could it just possibly be because you’re not nice to dance with? How do you get better if nobody will dance with you?  Well, ahem, that’s what lessons are for; accept it and invest more in your learning.

How many lessons have you been to in the last month?  Have you had any private coaching?  Do you use practicas to actively work on improving your dancing? No? And you wonder why people don’t want to dance with you?  If it’s still not working then try a different teacher.  There are plenty out there.

Your Optician
You do know about the Mirada & Cabeceo, don’t you? Perhaps some people are trying to ask you to dance and you just haven’t seen them?

Your Dentist
Personal hygiene issues will put dancers right off dancing with you again; sweaty clothes, body odours, clammy hands, or bad breath. Yes, it’s a fact for followers just as much as leaders.  There are some lovely followers out there that I’m reluctant to dance with because I don’t want my clothes to reek of their body odour for the rest of the evening, thanks very much. Other dancers strangely don’t seem to have heard of toothpaste, floss, or mouthwash. It’s a close embrace dance, folks; please have some consideration for your partners.

Still not getting dances?  How are you engaging with the room, and the other dancers? Are you friendly, chatty, pleasant, upbeat and receptive to approaches? Or looking like a serial killer planning their next attack? Please don’t just slump in a corner and scowl.  You can do that at home, for free.

What about the Organiser?
The event organiser has brought together the venue, the advertising, the DJ, the refreshments, the decorations, and taken a big risk on putting on the event. A lot depends on them, but guaranteed dances is something they can’t organise; it’s something you’ve got to take ownership of for yourself. So please don’t whinge to the organiser if you haven’t danced much at their milonga; there’s nothing they can do about it, and it’s not their fault really, is it?

Note: Some organisers try to address the problem by balancing the numbers of leaders and followers. It might help, but do you really want someone to dance with you just because there isn’t anyone else for them to ask? I didn’t think so. Unbalanced numbers are not the main cause of your problem, and balancing the numbers will just mask it temporarily.

Take a walk…

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Perhaps I need another cup of coffee to waken up my sluggish brain these days, or perhaps it has been dulled by watching too much ‘Top Gear’, but there’s something I’ve never really understood:

Why do some Tango lessons always start with solo exercises?

Yeah, I get that tango is essentially a shared walk. But it’s in an embrace, with the followers walking backwards a big part of the time. So why do these exercises involve walking alone, whilst our arms are held up ‘pretending’ to be in a tango embrace?


Walking alone feels totally different to walking with a partner; the balance, energy, and movement are all changed. So it’s not very good preparation for walking with a partner. Why not try walking together, in a real embrace, in the direction we usually dance in?  Perhaps with the music?  Oh, hold on, that would be tango dancing.  Silly me.

But it does use up some lesson time, doesn’t it