How many tandas does it take to get to the center of the tango?

La Tanguera wrote a nice post about the number of tandas one dances (in a night, in a row, …). It was a fun piece to read after my weekend, which consisted of one 3-hour milonga packed full of dancing and one 5-hour milonga with great dances but lots of breaks in between.

I used to measure what I thought was my own progress ( or what I understood to be as how successful I was as a dancer) by how much I danced. And by this I mean how many tandas I danced a night, as well as how many successive tandas I was asked to dance with a single leader.

I am in an in-between place in my tango journey. I am past the point where I consider quantity to be the highest measure of success. Dancing quality tandas, enjoying the music, socializing with friends … these are the elements of a successful evening. But I am not yet to the point where I am highly selective; I still enjoy quite a range of leaders and styles, and will not always turn down a decent-but-not-great tanda. I still look for a good bit of dancing, although I enjoy the non-dancing parts of the evening.

Actually, the longer milonga I attended this weekend was very interesting. I was there the entire night (a consequence of coming with the DJ), so I endured the slow parts where the faces were unfamiliar and the leaders were uninspiring. But bit by bit my friends trickled in. I talked with someone I had not known much at all before. I spent quite a while getting to know very familiar faces even better. And when I look back over the night, I had some very, very enjoyable dances. The evening ended perfectly with a Di Sarli version of La Cumparsita, one with a gorgeous solo violin part.

The problem with such a long milonga is not the sitting. Sitting and talking was great! You can all laugh at the eager dancer who is learning how to enjoy socializing at milongas. No, the problem was that the energy faded. There were plenty of people there, but it was very slow to start and faded out a lot at the end. A shorter amount of time makes people converge on the milonga all together. It means that while you sit you can still watch a full dance floor with great energy. Five hours is just a bit too long for the size of our community.

But the dancing? The dancing was beautiful. A leader who listens to my breathing, who responds so beautifully to the music and to our partnership … *happy sigh* It was a good weekend.


8 thoughts on “How many tandas does it take to get to the center of the tango?

  1. I think you make a good point — sometimes seeing friends can be the highlight of a milonga.One sentence, though, set off warning bells in my head:“But I am not yet to the point where I am highly selective; I still enjoy quite a range of leaders and styles, and will not always turn down a decent-but-not-great tanda.”Please stay at that point! It’s my personal crusade to try to have tangueras stay the kind people they are both on and off the dance floor. There are painful leads who deserve to be shunned, but as for the others? They’re learning, and must dance with good follows sometimes to get better. Of course, an evening must be balanced, but I hope you continue to enjoy dancing with a range of people. (And it’s a good investment in future great leads — all of the guys I know say that they remember the women who were nice to them, even if they surpass them.)Excuse the soapbox. 🙂

  2. Can I join you on the soapbox? 😉I completely agree. I think it’s very important to encourage leaders who are learning, just as I appreciate the leaders who encouraged me as a fledgling follower. I definitely support that atmosphere in the milongas.What I meant by that statement was that I am not overly selective about styles – happily dancing in many different ways, something I hope will never change but that I hear often does – and even with leaders who are consistent-but-not-amazing. There seem to be a lot of dancers out there who have been at it for a while and aren’t getting any more enjoyable to dance with (at least for me! they may be terribly fun for other followers). But I will still give these leaders a spin from time to time, to see how things go.

  3. Hey, first of all, I’m glad you found my post interesting, thanks for referring to it!I also wanted to comment on the point you emphasize–that you wouldn’t turn out a decent but not great tanda. I couldn’t agree more. When I go out dancing, there are a number of people I dance with–some certainly more experienced (or, if you wish to say, better dancers) than others. What I have found is that there is much I have to learn from all of them, and that wonderful connections can come up anytime–and not necessarily always with the same people. I admit, however, that I have become gradually less inclined to dance with leaders who are not musical, who care more about the steps than the connection, who jerk around and do not respect the line of dance, and those who lack spirit. This does not mean that I never dance with someone who is a beginner, or someone who’s not as good as navigating, or someone who is a bit passionless–but I do wait for the right moment for me to do it: moments in which I’m in better spirits and playful to dance with the begginer, moments in which the floor is emptier to dance with the guy who crashes me around at other times; and certainly avoid to dance to my favorite strong orchestras with the spiritless leader. And yes, my energy to do this is not the same from milonga to milonga, or through the night. I’m sure you understand.And to talk about the last topic in general, I would add that recently Debbi (from an Ever-Fixed-Mark) also wrote a nice post on taking risks and being open to the possibilities to connect with new leaders. I wouldn’t agree more with her. There are times in which it is important to give a connection a chance. One never knows what a wonder may arise.Tanguera

  4. Oh yes, I do understand. I am very happy to be moving toward an appreciation like yours of quality over quantity. The point I made about being more selective is just something I have heard repeatedly – Just recently Johanna made a comment about how more experience will lead me to appreciate the social side of milongas more. This is more of what I was thinking about when I wrote the post, the idea that more experience leads to being more selective and more inclined to sit and socialize and enjoy the milonga that way. I am not quite to that point, although I hope I maintain the attitude you have! 🙂Oh and yes, I remember the post of Debbi’s that you are referring to – that was a very good one, too.

  5. Yeap, I do agree that the socializing becomes more and more important as well (I do remember Johanna’s post; in fact, I was thinking a bit about it, too) 🙂 I suppose it’s partly the fact that we get a better opportunity to strike stronger friendships the more we dance, but also it’s that we are not so worried about having to dance all the time to prove ourselves (or others) that we’ve earned our place as tangueras 🙂 Anyway, this means that all the goodies start coming together 🙂

  6. The milonga is about dancing for me…quality not quantity of tandas. I can dance one tanda and be satisfied for the night. My personal experience in BsAs is that milongas are about dancing, not socializing. When I’m not dancing, I’m enjoying the music and watching others. Are there social places to dance tango in BsAs? Yes. If that’s what you prefer, try La Viruta, Parakultural, Nino Bien, etc.

  7. I agree with the caveats Tanguera made for being picky about a leader — especially when it’s someone who has been dancing for quite a while and simply doesn’t care to improve musicality or connection. I also think that people who do flashy moves at a milonga that they can’t lead properly deserve to be turned down. (Maybe I’m in a grumpier mood than I was during my last comment?) 🙂

  8. I certainly get very tired of being told that I am supposed to be Mother Goddess, World Police at a milonga and that I don’t deserve to be danced with unless I keep myself pure with the best. From Tango-L today: <>if I see a woman dancing with that sort of a man, I am not likely to invite her to dance. The odds of her being a “good” dancer are just too low.”<> As though we had no minds or morals or abilities of our own, and the quality of our dancing depended on the man. Presumably the writer was too ignorant of following to assess a woman’s dancing on any other basis than who her friends are.

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