When am I ready to go to a milonga?
Post date: May 14, 2014 9:48:23 PM
Salon Canning' Milonga, Buenos Aires
I like the advice by Argentine tango teacher Marcelo Solis on this subject:
"Many times a new student asks me:
- When am I going to be ready to go to milongas?
My answer is:
- Whenever you want to go.
The student would reply:
- But I am a beginner, those people in the milongas are too advanced, and they are not going to dance with me!
What you really need, in order to go to a milonga and have a good time, is basic social skills. Basically, you need self-awareness and a good sense of placement. If you are nice, people will be nice to you. If you relax and enjoy of being at a place where everybody is enjoying the experience of tango, pay attention and listen to the beautiful music tango is, allow yourself to be happy (tango should make you happy. Why would you do it if were not so?), the aura of happiness makes people want to be near you.
Milongas are the best places to see people dancing tango. It is the place to see tango in its own environment. It is a great opportunity for you, during your first visits to the milongas, to watch the dance, to see the dancers. You will learn a lot just from watching.
Also, if tango is to become a part of your life, the milonga is going to be your home. Those who do not regularly go to milongas develop an abstract (false, incongruent) image of tango. Beware: there are many “teachers” on that list."
Spot on Marcelo! I would add to this advice that it is important that tango novices go to a milonga without expectations, to be open to and accepting of however the experience pans out - a good approach to life in general!
That said, do not accept rude or vulgar behaviour. One of my students once asked me if it was normal behaviour for a leader to nibble his dance partner's ear, as this was what she had just experienced in her previous dance! You should expect to be treated with respect and courtesy by your partners, and if this is not the case it's appropriate to stop dancing and exit the dance floor. For more on the social codes for social Tango dancing I suggest you visit Tango Etiquette - it's highly recommended reading before your first milonga.
Be prepared that as a follower you might not get many or any dance invitations, or as a leader the same may apply to getting your dance invitations accepted! Be prepared to sit a lot. This may not happen, but be psychologically prepared for this possibility anyway. Take advantage of the sedentary time to observe and learn. It can be fascinating if you make it so. There is so much to observe. To mention just a few
points of focus, you can observe...
Centro Region Leonesa, Buenos Aires
The variety of postures of dancers (which do you prefer?)
The diversity of ways dancers interpret and decorate the same song (who do you find mesmerising?)
The adornments, footwork (and the shoes!)
The connection between couples (who looks in harmony with their partner?)
The cultural rituals of tango, such as how dancers invite each other to dance, and what they do when the song stops
One of my former students used to attend weekly tango classes and attend several milonga each week. For a whole year he never danced at the milonga. He just watched. He obviously gained much from that experience as he is now a very competent social dancer.
A further recommendation is that you try to attend a milonga with fellow students from your tango school. It's a more gentle and enjoyable way to experience a milonga with a supportive group of friends than going solo. Those people will be more likely to dance with you and it can be enjoyable to share your experiences with others in a similar situation.
At So Tango we run regular Milongas for our students to prepare them for social dancing. These are free events - exclusively for our students.