An exercise in frustration

The music starts. It is the first track of the new tanda. Classify it quickly and make a dance/don’t dance decision. If it’s dance then get busy with the cabeceo.

Your first choice is giving the mirada to one of the tango gods (the old milongueros who are recognised by sight, if not by name, by everyone and who can dance with pretty much whoever they want, whenever they want). Probably half the followers in the milonga are doing the same thing. Tango god is ignoring them all, happily chatting with his friend. At least this night there is only one tango god in attendance. If he decides to dance he can only dance with one of the followers at a time. If there are 3 of them in attendance then mere mortals like you have a proportionally harder time.

You switch your attention to your second choice and see her complete the cabeceo with one of your rivals.

Your third choice is obscured by a.n.other follower sat next to her and leaning forward to catch tango god’s eye.

A quick check on your first choice and she is standing up to step onto the pista, her leader waiting in front of her.

Your fourth choice is obscured by a couple already on the pista. Time is marching on, cabeceos complete, contracts made, the pool of available followers is diminishing by the second. And you’re only 5 seconds into this tanda!

Your fifth and sixth choices are already on their feet and out of the game.

Now, 10 seconds into the tanda 80% of the dancers in the room are on their feet. The dregs and those who chose not to dance are left sitting and you’re one of them. There are a couple of extreme shorties but you’re still exercising a height-ist partner selection policy, there’s a miserable looking sourpuss slouched in her seat who no-one has danced with all evening and a few in pairs or small groups chatting to each other having given up on this tanda and waiting for the next round.

So what do you do? Act nonchalant, pretend that you didn’t really want to dance this tanda. Make the most of the time: listen to the music, watch the dancers, learn and absorb as much as possible. Or order another drink, munch some peanuts or Tic Tacs, visit the little boys’ room, dream about being a tango god, plan tomorrow’s photo outing, …

This exercise in frustration is exacerbated by the excess of leaders present but the situation improves a bit when tango god decides it’s time to move on to the next milonga of the night.

Obviously this is written from a leader’s perspective but a similar experience can befall followers too. Potentially it could be repeated for every tanda of the night.

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2 Responses to “An exercise in frustration”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like every modern jive event we've ever been to :)

  2. Mark says:

    I hadn't thought about the similarities with modern jive freestyles when I wrote this. But now you mention it…

    I think the situation is worse in tango because each tanda you sit out is 4 tracks instead of just one although there may be a chance to pick up a partner after the first round selection frenzy. Conversely it's true that in modern jive people sometimes keep a partner for more than one track, and once the freestyle starts the floor is almost never entirely clear as it is between tandas.

    In modern jive it's a lot easier for both leaders and followers to move to a better position to be able to hook their choice of partner for the next track.

    And of course, modern jive has a tradition of people generally not refusing an invitation to dance.

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