An unexpected occurrence

Lunes de Tango at Club Gricel

Club Gricel is a traditional/tourist milonga venue. It attracts a mixture of locals and tourists of all ages. The codigos are mostly observed but not as strictly as at the traditional milongas. At this time of year the proportion of tourists versus locals is small and there is generally greater observation of the codigos.

Last night, at the “Lunes de Tango” milonga in Gricel there was an unexpected occurrence. A woman danced a tanda as leader. Her follower was a man. This wasn’t an exhibition performance, they were just dancing in the milonga. She was doing a better job of leading than he was of following. They only danced the one tanda this way and it looked to me like they were just experimenting. Such behaviour is accepted in the informal milongas (although rare), and expected in the gay-friendly/gender-neutral milongas but is uncommon in the tourist milongas and might lead to excommunication in the traditional milongas. She was quite young and I think a local. He was older and I think is a long stay foreigner. So they probably knew the effect their dancing this way would have. Looking around I did see raised eyebrows on some locals and heard mutterings from others.

Later the same woman lead a tanda with a female follower, which again was unexpected but caused less consternation. I have heard that if 2 women danced together in a traditional milonga they would likely be broken up by a couple of milongueros and expected to dance the tanda in “normal” couples.

They say things happen in threes and actually there was a third unexpected occurrence last night. A few hours into the milonga when it was at its most busy, the hostess stepped onto the pista at the end of a tanda to make an announcement. How busy is busy? Packed in like sardines busy. Rather like this example at los Consagrados last Saturday (video from Janis). But back to the announcement. Like everyone else I was expecting the sorteo (raffle) and had my ticket at the ready. Instead the hostess requested that people take more care when dancing, not to do high boleos, and to show more consideration for others. I hadn’t witnessed any high boleos or other examples of poor floorcraft, or seen any patches of blood on the pista. Presumably though there had been some kind of incident to trigger this rare event.

It was the first time I personally have experienced such a thing. Anywhere. Collectively we want all dancers to behave well, we expect that some won’t, we grumble amongst ourselves when they don’t and we wish the organisers would do something about it. I don’t know whether to make more of the fact that Buenos Aires is not immune to bad behaviour, or that the organisers here are prepared to do something about it.

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4 Responses to “An unexpected occurrence”

  1. Tangobob says:

    Hi Mark
    You post leads me to a lot of comments. This leader follower thing is infecting dances everywhere, while I can understand why women, left on the sidelines would want to lead, my experience is that those who have learned to lead become poorer followers.
    Call me a miserable old fuddy duddy if you like, but apart from classes men should dance with women, and women should follow. That is why despite much pressure Viv has refused to learn to lead, and in my opinion is the best follower in these parts.
    As for un sociable dancing, I am glad to see that this is being commented on, not before time. I have stopped going to Maipu 444 on a monday after being kicked in the shoulders by an over exuberant flying heel. In our favourite Club Fulgor, Roberto will stop the dancing and tell unsociable dancers to leave the floor.
    Hope you will still be there when we return in October.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Bob,

      I don’t think of it as an infection. I think it’s helpful for both leaders and followers to have at least an appreciation of the other role. I haven’t (so far as I know) danced with any followers who lead regularly. People can dance whichever role they wish to. But there is a time and a place for combinations other than the usual male leader and female follower. Maybe they were protesting there aren’t enough times and places, maybe they were just having a laugh, or maybe they just don’t care what the usual/accepted behaviour is.

      It’s not impossible you’ll see me in October. Time will tell…


  2. Maraya says:

    I was surprised to see two men dancing with each other exceptionally well one Thursday night at Niño Bien. That same night two other men wearing baseball caps sat at a table against the wall observing. My partner motioned for them to remove their hats but they did not comply. When I mentioned this to Cherie she suggested that the milongas are getting looser in their protocol – possibly for the sake of the peso.

    I love to lead – and I started for many reasons but mostly because I just want to dance and I was bored – lack of men and their lack of ability – and waiting to be asked. Unfortunately, there just are not enough places, even in (or especially in?) BA for the ‘less appropriate’ couples to practice.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Maraya,

      Maybe it’s the season for unusual pairings, maybe the organisers value the entradas over the codigos. I don’t remember exactly where or when – my brain is fried from running around with two visiting tanguera friends for the last two weeks – but at one of the traditional milongas in the last week I saw another instance of two ladies dancing together.
      I know several ladies who lead in modern jive but none other than teachers who lead in tango. I’m sorry you find some mens’ lack of ability boring or frustrating. Now that you lead yourself do you have more or less sympathy/understanding of those mens’ lack of ability? What is it about leading that you love so much? I think any event with “practica” in the title should be an acceptable place for “less appropriate” couples to practice. Where they dance after that is a trickier question.


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