Archive for March, 2008

“Saber Milonguear” Part 1: the obvious codes of the milonga – By Jean-Michel LEDEUR

Posted in Dance, Norms, Quote on March 26th, 2008

Last Saturday, Cachirulo milonga has been “hijacked” by a wild bunch of terrible dancers. Or, should I say, by people who do not know how to navigate on the dance floor and do not care. As Isaac quoted in a recent post, Cacho Dante, a well known milonguero and great Tango teacher said: “Bailar bien no es igual que saber milonguear” (To dance well isn’t the same as knowing how to dance social).

But What Does “Milonguear” Mean?

Isaac talked about navigating well & caring for others on the floor, preserving the social dancing experience. Royce in her previous post talked about dancing small. I agree with both of them but milonguear is much more than good navigation, caring & dancing small.

Let me tell you about Cachirulo first!

Cachirulo is the milonga I’m enjoying most in Buenos Aires. It takes place at Plaza Bohemia, calle Maipu 444, every Saturday from 6PM to 2AM. Hector & Norma, the organizers, pay a lot of attention to details in order to offer the best dancing experience to all.

Norma welcomes you and Hector sits you (more or less according to your dancing level or popularity). Two sides of the room are entirely dedicated to ladies and less than 2 sides to men. The seating is organized by Hector to allow for easy “mirada” and “cabeceo”. The floor is rather small about 72 m² (12 m x 6 m). But the place can accommodate around 160 people. Needless to say that between 9 PM & 1 AM, the floor is usually extremely crowded.

The most famous milongueros of Buenos Aires go there on Saturday because the level of social dancing and the navigation are among the best in town nowadays. Nino Bien, Salon Canning end even Club Sunderland have become “circus” over the past few years, making it unpleasant to dance.

I said Cachirulo had been “hijacked” by terrible dancers. What do I mean ? And who were the “hijackers”?

“Hijacked” means that for 3 hours, the floor turned into a “battle field” where it was simply impossible to dance a tanda without any bump. And I used “hijacked” because most of the milongueros who were there stopped dancing (and so did I) for few hours and we watched helplessly with anger and frustration the chaos of the dance floor.

The “hijackers” were of 2 kinds: few local dancers unfamiliar with the place (it was Easter weekend…) but, mainly, foreign dancers (maybe part of the CITA crowd). In both case they shared a singular ignorance of the codes of the milonga (los codigos de la milonga) and a total absence of consideration and care for others.

The floor was such a mess that Hector had to ask Carlos Rey, the DJ, to remind people about the “codigos of the milonga”, twice that evening.

For those unfamiliar with the “codigos” they are:

  1. Do not step backward
  2. Keep your line of dance
  3. Keep your feet on the floor at any time

These are what I would call the “obvious” codes of the milonga. Obvious for some of us but ignored by more and more dancers. I will refresh your memories on these codes first, then in part 2, I will add others which I drew from my own dancing experience, careful observations of the dance floor and discussions with Cacho Dante and some dancing friends. Those codes, I will call the “hidden codes” of the milonga. Respecting both the obvious and hidden codes will help you, I hope, to “milonguear” better.

Los Obvios Codigos De La Milonga (the obvious codes of the milonga)

1) Do not step backward

For the comprehension, I would add “against the line of dance”. We will see in part 2 how you can step backward in a crowded milonga. This is the most important rule and yet many dancers can’t help but taking regularly a back step against the line of dance. Back stepping against the line of dance will inevitably have 3 negative effects:

  • It will cause some bumpings
  • It will disturb the navigation of the following couple because the dance of the front couple becomes unpredictable and cut into their available dancing space
  • The turbulence created to the following couple will propagate to at least 1 or 2 other couples further back as their dancing becomes unpredictable too.

There is a simple way to avoid stepping back against the line of dance and I will discuss it in part 2 “the hidden codes”.

2) Keep your line of dance

Keeping your line of dance means “do not cross over to another line of dance”: to the inside line when you dance outside or to the outside line when you dance inside. Keep your dancing inside the line you chose and dance small. A simple image will help you picture the mess a change of lane can create: imagine yourself on the highway with a car in front of you permanently changing lanes or permanently overlapping on 2 lanes. How would it affect your own driving? In the same way, a dancer not keeping his line of dance is a social dancing nuisance.

3) Keep your feet on the floor

This rule applies to both men and women but has a special importance for ladies. Do not take your feet off the floor or fly your legs in order to avoid hurting people around you. High heels can cut and pierce easily into the foot of another dancer. Milongueras with experience know how to keep their embellishment low and compact when the floor is crowded. Also the leader should be careful not leading a boleo to the lady that could make her kick a table or harm someone.

These 3 codes are the guarantee of an enjoyable social dancing experience. However, if the codes tell you WHAT to do or what not to do, they don’t really tell you HOW you can dance in a small space and enjoy, with your partner and the other couples, the music and the dance. For the Hows see part 2 “the hidden codes”.