Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Help me not be a crazy lady

When I see someone who, when I was so ill-judging as to dance with him, heaved my waist to the right, shoved my head to the left, bounced up and down, rocked from side to side, walked like two-legged drunken deaf spider with no sense of time, and twisted me about with a death-grip - when I see him wrestling a poor innocent beginner around and instructing her in detail and interminably on the dancefloor, it makes me insane.

This is not, heaven knows, an uncommon occurrence, but every now and then there's an example so outrageous that I have not always and on every occasion managed to restrain myself from making faces and mouthing like a loopy lady "don't listen to him!". Nor have I on every single occasion refrained from seeking out the young woman later and saying the same thing.

I probably need to stop doing this, because it's NUTS.

Anyway they can probably look after themselves. I certainly did when I was a beginner; I knew I could follow my teacher, no problem, I knew I could follow other good dancers, I knew I didn't know much, but I knew enough not to listen to that sort. It didn't stop the first one reducing me to tears, but the second and subsequent ones weren't problematic.

So if you are someone who has the skill level and human spirit to gently retrieve said beginner, to dance with her, perhaps in an open embrace, because she'll be a bit battered and probably frightened and probably hasn't been taught close embrace, and if you can give her a nice, musical dance that feels good, and if you are a kind person who can find something - anything - to praise about her dancing: you'll be a hero in a small way to her, you'll be a hero in a small way to me too, and you might just rescue me from a long slide into the loony bin.


Johanna said...

I would likely not be of much help to you, Ms. H. I too suffer from wanting to go out there and boleo the heck out of him...

ghost said...

Ah yes, those dancers :S

I finish a lovely tanda. Thank the lady. Ask the next lady to dance, take her into embrace....and discover she's a nervous wreck thanks to some bozo who's decided that clearly he's leading correctly and the rest of womankind is wrong.

Admittedly this is a little bit evil, but...

I tend to find after this happens, if I do as you suggest there will come a point in the dance when said beginner will make some remark about the previous leader (or sometimes apologise for being so bad before they even start dancing which really breaks my heart).

I then tend to make rather disparaging remarks about "those kinds of leaders", and once she's reassured that although they exist, they're basically idiots, we settle in for a nice gentle dance :o)

I like the mouthing "don't listen to him" idea a lot :o)

londontango said...

Tell them.
I've been told when I was starting out and I listened. If they don't listen to you, then they deserve everything that they get.
You are not crazy. They might even thank you for it.

Anonymous said...

@Johanna: "boleo the heck out of him" - made me think of Popeye's revenge :-D

@ghost: ditto, to be told "last leader has just broken me" - definite tango-tanda-therapy for that one

@MsH: Which Looney-tunes character was the hedgehog again ? :-))))
Seriously, see it often, and while I do try to repair the damage as you describe, I often get beaten to it by some of the other guys.... must say something about certain 'knowledgeable' leaders reputation among the other lads...

OwenMc said...

That last 'anon' one was me, btw - forgot to sign it off


maya said...

I might be a crazy lady already, as I have already done like you did. Sometimes I have said even more things e.g. on the ocassion when the leader was so rude for so long to several ladies (3 in a row, one of them close to tears !!!)that I had to refrain myself from asking him to learn manners.
I join your cry for help.
Oh Gardel, save us from these self-styled pseudo tango teachers/gods.

msHedgehog said...

@LondonTango - what did you listen to - the bad advice or the advice not to listen to it?

@Maya - at least I'm not alone! I'm curious to know how often the men look out for each other the way the women do and make attempts to stop each other doing silly things. I know Ampster has something on a teacher giving him an early and effective hint not to make this mistake, but I can't find the post now.

ghost said...

"I'm curious to know how often the men look out for each other the way the women do and make attempts to stop each other doing silly things."

The problem is there's a "birds of a feather" thing that tends to go on. I barely acknowledge the type of leaders your talking about, let alone have deep and meaningful chats with them. The leaders I am friends with don't behave that way.

The slight exception is the "you could make your life easier if..." suggestion. Works both ways, sometimes a leader will be aware all is not well and ask for advice.

Warnings about dangerous women do circulate though.

To be honest the most effective way i've found is to talk to women. Take the time to convince them that it's not some mad evil plot. And then they tell you all sorts of useful things you'd never had realised....

Oh yeah and learn to follow ;o)

Anonymous said...

leaders - learn to follow. it is SO educational.

trust mehall

londontango said...

@ H,
I listened to good advice, of course!(I don't recall any bad advice.)
The women know what they are talking about and if they say to stay away from someone, there is usually a good reason and not something a beginner might readily understand, but eventually will. The women will also suggest good leaders to dance with or will usually explain why they like to dance with someone. That is why I always say one should make friends with the women in the milongas, that and because there is usually more of us, we also get to have someone to have an intelligent conversation with!

Andreas said...

MsH, we hates them. Don't stop kicking arse.
I ridicule such people whenever and wherever I can. It's not about their skill, it's about their idiocy and awfulness. We gotta make them stop. Or disappear from the dance floor, because they are ruining it for everyone else.
I deal with victims of such idiots all the time when I teach. They hurt others, and they must be contained.

Game Cat said...

Here's my suggestion (feel free to ignore if you have already considered it):

I think the single most effective thing that can help prevent bad male behaviour is.....women telling other women (especially beginners) to be more selective. E.g. don't accept dances from anyone you haven't already seen dancing with another women in the milonga.

Some men, within 10 minutes of entering a milonga, would have made a mental list of who they want to dance with for the next 2 hours.

Maybe women should similarly decide upfront who they DON'T want to dance with. Always watch the dancers carefully - your next partner is probably giving you a preview of what to expect. You could also, if you want, proactively, non-verbally, send out the signals to the ones you DO want to dance with.

ghost said...

@Gamecat - I think the women need to go one step beyond that. I've noticed the women do gradually exchange information and those kinds of leaders end up either dancing with a fixed partner or pouncing on the visitors.

Now if the women were to warn the visitors as well as increase the rate at which they trasnfer information life would be better.

Course if teachers get involved and either tell the guys to stop doing it or the women not to put up with it, that helps too.

msHedgehog said...

The women, even beginners, DO exercise a fair amount of discrimination among people they have danced with at least once. But as a beginner, you're not going to get many dances at the best of times, and you'll dance (once) with anyone who asks you. You don't know anyone so you can't ask for advice, and anyway you have no way of knowing who to ask for advice, and no way of knowing good advice from bad except for the physical experience you get from those dances. Without that experience, visual information is not very useful.

Once you know any of these things, then it stops being a problem, because practice is much more important than quality. The damage, if any, gets done before the point when you are realistically in a position to discriminate.

The reason this particular guy is talking to beginners is almost certainly that no-one else will dance with him. That is already the case.

I feel the advice to exercise discrimination is superfluous at best, and at worst just comes from geostationary orbit.

Game Cat said...

Ms H -

For beginner women, I agree with you. In which case, I would suggest....go to milongas with more experienced women friends.

In general, I think the benefits of discrimination by women hold true.

msHedgehog said...

But where do you get these more experienced women friends? You get them by going to milongas (or possibly classes) for an extended period. You don't have them your first ten times. And if you've got through the first ten times, it really doesn't matter.

And the day I am not allowed to go somewhere without a friend, is the day I am not allowed to leave the house.

ghost said...

"But as a beginner, you're not going to get many dances at the best of times, and you'll dance (once) with anyone who asks you. You don't know anyone so you can't ask for advice, and anyway you have no way of knowing who to ask for advice, and no way of knowing good advice from bad"

Ok how do you solve this problem? And it should be solvable. In a number of my other hobbies, rules and understandings have evolved over the years to do this. Usually coming down to "play nice with the beginners". Actually "play nice with everyone" is a pretty good idea too.

I'm pretty sure no-one at LGTN lectures beginners for example.

Game Cat said...

Ms H,

That's right. If you don't already have a friend who's happy to bring you to your first milonga, then organising a group from a class (men and women) is a fairly good alternative. Some groups self-organise, and some I've seen led by a more experienced friendly person.

No one is saying you can't go solo, to milongas or anywhere. You just have to be more prepared to deal with a potentially bumpier start.

For men, I would guess most in London start out in milongas on their own (all - please voice if you observe otherwise).

Flor de lino said...

If I could give advice to beginner followers in general it would be NOT to go to milongas too early. Find a good intermediate class with leaders who actually lead. Go to the milonga only when you are confident that your base technique is there and that you can follow. I started going to milongas after more than 1.5 years of regular classes and I'm glad about it - I skipped the undesirable leader problem for example. And I don't feel I've missed out by not going sooner - I can dance for the rest of my life if I want to.

The counter-argument is that good leaders can make a beginner feel good on the floor so she will both enjoy it and progress faster that way. But for every good leader there are many good followers so what is the incentive? Both leaders and followers have to earn their respect on the floor and that takes time, effort and commitment.

Game Cat said...

FDL - Sounds like good advice for followers. In fact, in the context of the original cause for this thread (i.e a mis-behaving leader), it could be even more applicable to leaders.

Isn't it a bit like driving a car on public roads? If you can't do it properly at a minimum level, you will likely cause harm to others (not just yourself).

msHedgehog said...

To be honest I feel shocked that we've even been discussing the woman's behaviour at all. She is NOT the person whose conduct should be under discussion here. She is NOT the person with the power or obligation of preventing this physical and mental abuse. She is NOT the person we should be telling "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen till you're better and have a few friends". And I speak as one who can stand some heat and give it right back when necessary; none of these fools and boors has ever given me much of a problem. (Although if I had decided, after my first milonga, never to come back, I would have had some justification). It feels outrageous to me that we're dispensing prevention advice to the victim here. We should not be talking about her behaviour. I can't tell you how angry I feel at seeing the way that part of this conversation has has gone. I'm ashamed now that I spent one sentence above on defending or explaining her conduct, which needs neither defence nor explanation.

We take it for granted that the situation can only be improved by a change in HER. The possibility that HIS behaviour might be changed, or the question of how that might happen, are barely considered, if at all. I think that's just wrong.

That's how I feel about it.

Flor de lino said...

Gamecat - I agree, in my opinion beginner leaders shouldn't be dancing in the milongas until they've acquired the necessary minimum level of skill (leading, musicality and floorcraft).

However, I do think that men should be encouraged to go the milongas from early on. Not to dance, but to observe and figure out what skills they need to dance socially. This is impossible to learn in class. A woman can become a great social dancer just from good quality group / private lessons - but a man can't. So my advice to beginner leaders would be to go to milongas from early on, in order to to get to know the music, the people, and to really think about what it takes to dance tango socially - it is not something a teacher can teach you.

Flor de lino said...

Ms H
My advice to followers is not based on criticism of their behaviour as such. All I'm saying is that in my view they are not missing out by delaying going to the milongas because it doesn't much impact their learning curve and once they start going they might enjoy it more and with less stress. In the context of this post it is definitely a second-best solution. But unfortunately we do have this abhorrent leader problem and unless those men miraculously disappear beginner followers will remain vulnerable. For one that you can warn there will be many suffering, and many potentially not returning.

I admit, I also do not think that milongas are for beginners in general.

Andreas said...

@MsH: You are absolutely correct. To me, this points back to the much-discussed codigo thing, in the full context. If tango is treated as a couple of moves, this is what you get: anythinggoesiness in all respects. Tango has to be understood as a whole, and of course it does begin, but not end, with the teachers. And proper behaviour needs to be part of any sane syllabus. You know what I am talking about.

ghost said...

@MsH – I’m also rather aggrieved at the various misguided individuals who go around physically assaulting, raping and murdering other people. While I agree that this behaviour shouldn’t exist, I have to accept that it does and that I’m unlikely to be able to stop it over-night. I can however show people (ideally pro-active) ways to protect themselves from it occurring.

Thus whilst we are solving the problem of these leaders' behaviour, it seems only fair to offer their potential victims some methods of protecting themselves until such a time as it’s unnecessary.

From an early draft of Battle for the Planet of Tango

“The turning of the millennium was a lawless age. It was the age of the Hoggers. Crazed dancers tearing mercilessly through the milongas leaving swathes of chaos in their wake. Each week many innocents fell before them in the arenas.

A few angels still prowled the milongas secretly bringing hope and joy to those who truly sought to dance, but the remnants of bloody feathers steadily built up on the dance-floors, trodden into the dirt. Sometimes they spoke tales of the past and a far away land where people actually danced at milongas. But most dismissed such stories as unbelievable myths.”

Taking up Andreas’ point, let’s say I as a man and you as a woman see one of these kinds of leaders “instructing” some unfortunate beginner. Is there any accepted codigo as to what we should do? Because if there is I’m not aware of it. And that I think is the stumbling block at the moment. We're healing the damage after it's been done, but preventing it from happening in the first place has to be a better solution.

msHedgehog said...

@ghost: You are correct and reasonable. My point is that we have all heard more than enough of all this preventive advice by the age of eleven. More than enough; as Gamecat clearly suspected we might have. But I couldn't take up his offer to ignore it, since I the point is an important one to me.

Nobody defends the propositons that preventing this stuff is the woman's 'blame' or 'responsibility', because those propositions are indefensible.

But neverthless it is always her task, and the remark that it is not our blame or responsibility is always preceded or followed by detailed instructions as to how we should perform these responsibilities that we don't have, and how we should prevent the things that we can't prevent, and how we should avoid the blame that doesn't fall on us. And this advice is given to us from birth and for the whole of our lives and is always more or less the same.

Since the behaviour complained of is better in some places than others, without the raw material being superior, clearly it can be reformed or influenced somehow. It would indeed be lovely, for once, to hear a discussion of that.

ghost said...

“Since the behaviour complained of is better in some places than others, without the raw material being superior, clearly it can be reformed or influenced somehow. It would indeed be lovely, for once, to hear a discussion of that.”

Fair ‘nuff.

A few things spring to mind.

As far as I know, this isn’t a problem in Ceroc. It is noticeable in Ceroc that beginners (both men and women) won’t go to freestyles (milonga equivalent). As one lady put it “If you can’t lead it properly, you shouldn’t be doing it in a Freestyle”. Manhandling and stupid moves still goes on I’ll grant you. One battle at a time. Freestyles also tend to be monthly rather than weekly. You’d certainly be hard pressed to go to several in a week. So the advice to wait until you’re ready that Flor and Gamecat are offering does seem sound. And indeed by removing beginners from the equation, possibly stops the whole phenomenon dead in it’s tracks.

You once said that you thought it wasn’t that the majority of people were deliberately evil, but more that they were unaware of how to behave. The LGTN description includes

“Practice moves are not to be done on the dance floor but to the side out of harms way”

which hopefully heads off lecturing on the dancefloor.

So maybe the first step is simply to make people aware of what’s appropriate behaviour. Apparently a venue in London (can’t remember which one) has a list of simple guidelines that’s either on display or on the tables etc.

Making a clearer distinction between practica and milonga would also be helpful, along with the differences in expected behaviour for each. Also instilling the habit in Practica that if something’s not working, the best bet is simply to ask the teacher.

Where is the behaviour particularly exemplary? Any ideas why? What do they have in common?

msHedgehog said...

I have known Carblanca to put a well-written, friendly A4 sheet on tables with this kind of pointer in it; but they don't do it all the time or regularly. I think maybe they do it when they expect an unusual number of beginners from a related class. (I've also known them to print out the playlist and put that around).

When I say places I am thinking towns rather than milongas. Everywhere else I've danced, the general behaviour and average standard of dancing has been better than London.

Everywhere else I've danced has also been a smaller town where individual teachers have a lot more influence. I have the impression that they think that teaching people not to make this kind of mistake is one of their responsibilities, and they carry it out successfully.

In London, I feel that influence has collapsed under the weight of competition and numbers. And maybe more so because the competing products are in many respects indistinguishable from each other. In a small town, even a teacher who is producing bad dancers, has a pretty good chance of producing well-behaved, bad dancers. In London maybe you just don't see the clueless ones often enough to have much influence on them. They probably tend to rotate at high speed. (And of course some teachers aren't really interested in social dancing, so naturally wouldn't think of trying to influence how people behave. But that's a different question).

I do feel that teachers and organisers are in the best position there is to influence behaviour. People admire them, listen to them, and want to imitate them. I also feel that the lack of influence is at least partly a matter of marketing, and that that the influence of teachers and organisers might be increased again by differentiating what they offer a bit more clearly. (But maybe only because that might create multiple, overlapping, but relatively manageable communities with more direction, focus and cohesion). So it tends to turn into a bigger question for me.

ghost said...

Not directly disagreeing with you as I think there's a *lot* to this, but some more pieces of the puzzle -

Smaller towns have fewer teachers and also fewer places to dance and fewer dancers. It takes time for the women's grapevine to pick up on bad behaviour. I suspect if an evil leader wanted to, they could stay "one step ahead" by circulating through the many milongas. However if there were only two milongas then they'd get caught and avoided more easily. They also need a significant influx of beginners if you're going to get enough dances for the whole night, though there is a variation whereby one lucky beginner is selected for an evening's instruction.

Does the circular in Carablanca seem to work? It shouldn't be too hard to suggest to teachers that they produce somthing similar on an A4 / A5 with their school logo at the top and class info at the bottom so it would double as a flyer.

The idea of teachers differentiating more clearly is an interesting one. How would they do it though? Social / technique / moves. I'd kind of argue that they already exist in the naming of the classes. After all different people attend different classes by the same teacher.

Feel free to change these but

Technique - technique
Advanced - moves
Practica - bit of both

Hmm, what's social? Milonga maybe?

msHedgehog said...

I think it has at least some effect, at the very least on who chooses to go there; but there are other marketing problems that are far more serious, so it's hard to tell.

Technique/Moves/Practica - I think that's a total non-differentiation for this purpose. Real differentiation would involve not just announcing what you taught, but actually describing it in a coherent way and backing that up consistently with action. I have not seen anyone here attempt that (I think Andreas does a nice job of the description part here). In content terms all the classes seem virtually the same, though some are much better than others.

ghost said...

I like Andreas’ take on things :o)

Hmm actually looking at the descriptions of the schools I have a reasonable amount of experience with

“Inform and introduce people to the magical world of the Argentine Tango.
Provide beginning to experienced Tango dancers with the highest quality tuition available, in all areas of the dance and music, and to expose them to as many styles and complementary techniques as possible.
Immerse the public at large as well as Tango dancers in entertainment of the highest calibre, in dance, music, performance, theatre, literary and all other Tango art forms.”
~ Rojo Y Negro

“‘The Tango is a sensual dance. Instead of satisfying, the Argentine Tango tempts. It is a dance made of contrasts: from exasperation to ecstasy, of domination and seduction, of sweetness and intimate affection’ (Homero Manzi Jnr)

Tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire’
~ Tango South London

They actually do back that up. Couldn’t find any kind of “this is what we do” for Negracha.

Carablanca has
“Carablanca is London's longest-running tango club. The friendly, informal atmosphere ensures that beginners and visitors mix easily with the regular dancers.” and although I haven’t been there, they do have a rep for friendliness and considerate dancing.

“In content terms all the classes seem virtually the same, though some are much better than others.” I suspect “better” is going to be defined differently by different people though, depending on what they want.

Which raises the question – what kind of teacher produces the kind of leaders we’re talking about?

It is noticeable that when I went to websites of shall we say “move-based” teachers (figuring they’d be more likely to create move-based students), descriptions such as Andreas’ are non-existent on the what / how they teach and seem to be more about their history / qualifications. It’s interesting that several people claim to have been responsible for starting tango in London….

My current theory is that most beginners simply start out with whoever’s physically closest to them and then branch out from there. So if you’re in say Greenwich, you’re probably not going to start learning in Carablanca regardless of how they describe themselves. So beginners on the whole remain a wild card.

Beyond that, if a school actually has some kind of statement of the what/why/how they teach it would at least appear to be a good indication of what they actually do.

msHedgehog said...

Rojo y Negro's is the only one there that I'd read as anything but the purest boilerplate waffle. (And I agree that it's a fair description of what she tries to achieve). The rest of them are perfectly contentless clichés.

As an absolute beginner I did at least attempt to make a choice based on what information I could find about the approach and content and attitude, and that did work out well for me. But there was a random element too, and that's probably greater for most people.

ghost said...

:o) TSL’s make sense in context though. There’s a lot of ways you can dance tango. As a form of mediation, keep-fit aerobics, an intellectual puzzle, a choreography of moves and so on. I think “sensual” rather than “sexy” is probably the key with TSL. Sexy to me implies more external – how does the dance look to the people watching it. Sensual means internal. The woman is not there to be manhandled through moves while the guy tries to remember how the triple back sacada sequence went. Likewise she doesn’t do an adornment just because there’s a gap in the music. Every moment of the dance is to be savoured by both through the connection.

Her classes also have the interesting distinction of being the only ones I’ve been to where women regularly blush. She does tend to produce dancers who savour walking to the music though.

Having said all that I’ve changed my mind. I had a look at the sites for the venues you’ve reviewed. This is what you get.

Tango Matrix
Paul draws on his intimate knowledge of the dance to demystify for students its technique and style while enhancing its inherent mood and mystery for those who just love to dance!

The Welsh Centre
What’s good about us?
1. The atmosphere: friendly, welcoming and warm.
2. The playlist: lots of traditional music, powerful musical arrangements and refreshing new tunes,
respectfully adapting the classic structure of Tango playlists to the taste and requests of our guests.
3. The dance hosts: skilled in Tango and Tango etiquette, will make sure you can dance the whole night,
in case you come with no partner.
4. The dance floor: fantastic, spacious and perfect for anyone and any style.
5. The food: free for everyone, quality Mediterranean buffet, suitable for vegetarians

Since Corrientes opened its doors in the year 2000, its founders, Mina and Giraldo have developed a club which captures the atmosphere of traditional milongas mixed with more avant garde tango tendencies from Buenos Aires.
The club has been visited by important tango artists: musicians, dancers and teachers.

La Milonga de la Luna
Body awareness for a more efficient technique.
Technique for a better quality of movement.
Quality of movement for a subtler interpretation of the music.

Tango Fandango
Too long to reproduce here

which to be honest I don’t think would have helped me terribly as a beginner, though I’d probably have gone with La Milonga de la Luna.

It is noticeable that Rojo y Negro is the only one with a Mission Statement. So yes, maybe some more clarification, Mission Statements would indeed be a good thing.

Thinking more about me theory on beginners and some of your earlier posts, assuming the majority do go to the nearest class (how long did it take you travel to your first class?) and there is overlap, then they probably stay for a while learning whatever interests them. However they reach a point where what they’re interested in diverges enough from what the teacher is focused on for them to go elsewhere. My guess is the lecturing leaders want to learn complicated moves fast and gloss over the basics. So they try to lead moves that inherently doomed from the get-go. But because they don’t realize the problem is with their basics, they assume the problem must be with the follower. Presumably they either keep bouncing around milongas looking for new moves / a teacher who can give them flashy moves fast; or they give up and use Youtube, possibly with a partner. If that’s right, it’s going to be a nightmare to correct the problem :(

Andreas said...

Let's see. It seems to me it has been established that we can't control where and what people learn or get in their heads, especially in a scene as big and diverse as the London tango scene. And also it must be said that there are hopeless cases that no teacher can turn into a decent dancer, and nothing short of mind control or threat of violence can neutralize them.
So the next port of call is the milonga, which is anyway where the problem becomes a problem. And frankly, to me the milongas seem to be worsening the problems instead of alleviating. Here's why: a milonga needs structure, in several ways. Lack of structure leaves people in a cultural limbo (culture here referring to "tango culture" or "milonga culture") that produces the anythinggoesiness so visible in most UK milongas. Structure comes from several sources, and they are named in Simba's excellent post about how to organize a milonga here:
Usually milongas are a dog's dinner here in Devon, too, but my own Milonga Marina, curiously, wasn't, although we certainly had the same people there. It's just that nobody wants to be frowned at by me ;-) and also we have a proper setup (nice-looking tables around the floor etc) with proper music in tandas with cortinas that has an overall energetic arc over the evening. People get to dance a lot, they clear the floor during cortinas, there's never a rush to grab a partner, people are relaxed and there's a friendly buzz in the air. Oh yes, and to those who keep saying the codigos don't work here, the cabeceo was the main method of inviting. Another side effect is a clear line of dance, simply because everyone feels less frantic and can actually savour the music and their partner.
All this creates a calm, relatively stress-free and friendly environment that allows people to be less self-centered and much more communal. What can be seen in the St Wendel videos is not a result of people being nicer in Germany than here, it is to some degree a clientele used to actual social dancing in the as-opposed-to-antisocial sense of the word, but mostly the overall structure of the milonga.
Now there might still be totally incurable idiots around, but they will not feel encouraged by the general lawlessness, and also I think it is easier to ostracise and shame them, and either turn them around or drive them off.

Andreas said...

I guess basically what I am saying is: Create a sane environment and sanity just might prevail.

msHedgehog said...

I definitely think that the small attentions to 'animal' behaviour Simba described have a LOT more influence than most people realise. That's one of the reasons I mention 'layout' and 'hospitality' when I do the milonga guides, although I don't know enough to work out what they should really mean. It goes without saying, to me, that the raw material is much the same everywhere, with minor and self-cancelling variations.

I find it very plausible that these things have a lot more influence than teaching as such - partly for the many reasons discussed above which limit the influence of teaching, but also because these things are just very powerful. Layout is very powerful. Ask J. Sainsbury. There's a reason why the things at the checkout are those things there and not something else or somewhere else, and the reason is that layout works.

I have only just started to notice that DJing can also be powerful - but I find that increasingly plausible too. (It certainly sends people up and down stairs in a fairly predictable way).

Are you sure it's not Lynn with the frown? hehehe

Andreas said...

I got the frown, she got the shotgun. Now ya better not dance to the cortina, mate... ;-)

msHedgehog said...

I can see it now ... BANG!

ghost said...

I think the places with the best natural flow on the dancefloor have "dead" spaces around the floor where you can't sit and the worst have continuous seating. Does that match other's experiences?

Andreas said...

@ghost: No, that doesn't match my experiences at all. What would be in those "dead spaces"? Why would they benefit the flow?
I think Simba's article is just about perfect, he says it all, I have no gripes and nothing to add.
Make sure you also read the comments there.

msHedgehog said...

@ghost, I don't think I know what you mean. It might be coincidence to do with *how* the seating is laid out. Do have a look at Simba's piece. I think I might close comments here, as layout is a very interesting topic in its own right which I think I'd like to consider seperately.

ghost said...

I did, it's very interesting, but Simba didn't explicity mention the idea of dead space. If you look at the picture at the top of his article, it's possible to sit anywhere around the dance floor. If however you removed all the chairs in front of the stage that would create a "dead space" where you could no longer sit. Another example is having the table where you pay / shoes / cd player are laid out on one side of the dance floor rather than tucked away. I think it creates a space that people can move into and so enhances the flow, but it could be coincidence as you say - lots of variables...

AnnK said...

Going back to your discussions about code of conduct: I have had an experience some while ago with a guy who claims to have been dancing for fours years, yet felt compelled to correct me on the dancefloor during a milonga, suggesting that I would improve very much by taking private classes. I told him off straightaway and actually became so upset that we entered a debate about dance etiquette, something I was taught already at the age of 15 due to ballroom lessons which were normal for people of my generation and nationality. (Notice to self: speaking like that makes you officially "not young".)
Furthermore, any website maintained by tango devotees as well as plenty of books mention etiquette and explain what to expect during class, practica and milonga. When I mentioned my learning, I got surprise as a response together with the notion "We Londoners are far more relaxed".

Having spoken to several visitors from other countries, I have gained the impression, though, that the London tango scene is perceived as lacking "grace" and being slightly rude. It seems to me that some teachers do not want to introduce manners and codes of conduct - even if made aware of such observations or experiences - for fear of loss of income. Sadly, they are right. They are left behind with those that do indeed not put much focus on behaviour and lose out on those that do.

What would help those followers new to tango who have just been lectured? Part of the "problem" is that we all are drawn to tango so much that we want to dance it on social events, even if our skill level is not yet entirely set up for it. We know it and this is what makes us hooked to taking classes regularly - we have eyes to see how and what other people dance on a milonga and we want to get there, too.

It seems to me that these nasty experiences of either being lectured on the dance floor, receivers of angry looks or even a dreaded "Thank you" after the first song are what most followers in London go through.

Behaviour is part of the reason why I don't go to milongas at the moment, my "Thanks but I'm afraid I will sit this one out"-list is longer than the list of leaders I'd like to dance with. In the meantime, my advise would be to continue with taking classes, technique or otherwise, as your improvement will eventually, and usually very soon fend, them off.

It would be great if a lady would come up to her and remarked not to worry and offering some kind words, space to vent, and maybe, if she likes that person, have a male dancer offer her a dance to "obliterate" that bad experience. And next time a nod and a smile so that she may feel welcome to the crowd.

I think that would help.

TangoTom said...

I understand that, in the old days, guys used to dance with guys until they were judged ready to dance with women. On the few occasions when teachers have put me in the 'follower' role, I have learned a great deal from the experience. There is only so much you can get through the use of your imagination and, frankly, with the teacher mimicking your mistakes as a leader, the personal experience of these mistakes, in the role of follower, is a clincher. Plus, you get the chance to make some mistakes in the other mode, which also increases your empathy with 'followers' in general. I think teachers should encourage more male/male dancing for those serious about improving.

But this is unlikely to address the issue of bullying. Although I have had some unpleasant experiences with followers who don't like to follow or who had no patience for my fumblings as a beginner, these paled into insignificance alongside my wife's experience of boors and bullies, some of whom told her how wrong she was, only to be roundly corrected by the teacher on some occasions.

What would happen if all the readers and contributors to Ms H's lovely blog pages were to contact all the London teachers and request that they spell out this basic etiquette to ALL BEGINNERS... 'Feedback between dancers should never be given, without permission. It may be offered but must never be imposed. It should always be balanced - two items of positive feedback for each suggested adjustment. If someones feedback to you breaches these rules, you should probably ignore it. If someone's feedback seems confusing or rude, discuss it with other dancers and with your teachers. There is no need to tolerate unpleasant behaviour from dance partners.' Would that work...?

msHedgehog said...

@AnnK "We Londoners are far more relaxed"?!? Apparently he thinks he can relax and behave as boorishly as he likes, and make someone else's evening as unpleasant as happens to suit him, and he was surprised when someone dared stand up for herself. You must point him out to me at a milonga some time. I have heard of someone who behaved equally boorishly for the purpose of selling lessons with himself: a pretty ridiculous operation. Someone who can't behave like a gentleman on the dancefloor is thereby disqualified from teaching any partner dance, I don't give a toss what else he can do.

LimerickTango said...

I seem to remember it being mentioned on this blog that it was very rare for teachers to dance with their students. Perhaps if they did then when the unfortunate follower receives a lecture she can react along the lines of "well I've just had a tanda with teacher X and he said nothing* so I don't know what you are going on about"

*because they should know better

msHedgehog said...

@Limerick, Yes - that is the most effective cure. Partly because it fixes any problems the woman actually has, but mainly because it gives her knowledge and the confidence that goes with it.

My first teacher did dance with me regularly, at least in class and sometimes socially, so I knew I could follow a good dancer. That's a very effective defence.

Anonymous said...

MsH, I think you are fundamentally wrong when you say the woman "is NOT the person with the power or obligation of preventing this physical and mental abuse." Every woman has that power - it is the power of saying No, Thank You. You're getting upset about women who don't say No when you think they should. Well, is that really any of your business?

ghost said...

Milongas are basically ecosystems - everything is interlinked. What one person does has an effect on everyone.

A milonga where all the women have a comfortable mechanism for choosing who they dance with will be different from one where they don't and indeed different from one where some do and some don't.

Whether a woman can say "No" depends on the dynamics of the milonga, unless of course she is willing to say "no" walkout and never come back again. Indeed whether no=no or no=maybe or no=yes will depend on the milonga.

And as it affects everyone else, then yes, it is everyone elses' business too.

Anonymous said...

"Whether a woman can say "No" depends on the dynamics of the milonga, unless of course she is willing to say "no" walkout and never come back again.".

Nonsense. It depends on nothing but herself. She can say no to any guy she doesn't want and then wait for any guy she does want. That's how it works in milongas all over the world.

"And as it affects everyone else"

It does not affect everyone else. Who a girl says Yes or No to is her own business.

ghost said...


Are you speaking as a guy or a woman?

Sadly some people who believe that people must say "yes" to them will then behave incredibly rudely to people who say no to them. I've seen lectures, tantrums, heck even groups making snide comments. Now sure a woman can chose to sit there calmly and ignore this, but why should she have to?

Let's say she says "no" to one guy who then throws a tantrum. You don't think that will have any effect at all on the other women who see this?

And taking the example in the original post where a guy dances with a beginner and manhandles her - you don't think that will have any effect on how she dances with the next guy or if she comes back at all?

msHedgehog said...

@Last anonymous: you misunderstand my point completely. Frankly I am fed up to the back teeth with people constantly questioning and criticising our choices, and then leaving us swinging in the wind of harrassment and hatred when we are foolish enough to actualy dare to make them. Either the environment supports real freedom of choice, or it doesn't. That depends on the behaviour of everyone there. The freedom you refer to is entirely imaginary unless it is supported by actually existing social norms and not by lip service.

Anonymous said...

Yes of course that bad dancer will have an effect on the woman and that's why the woman who doesn't want to be treated like that says No.

The only guys I've seen throw a tantrum at a refusal are the ones who (think they) learned to dance in classes, where yes indeed women must accept any guy they are given or leave. The milonga is a completely different situtation from class. In the milonga it is a good thing if that guy's tantrum affects other people, because that will help him and them learn that he's in the wrong place. He shouldn't be in the milonga a=inviting women until he'ss mature enough to accept that the woman has the right to choose.

ghost said...

Apologies to MsH, in re-reading the blog and comments I can see I've strayed from the original intent.

The argument is simply that men should not take it upon themselves to instruct beginners while dancing in a milonga. I whole-heartedly agree.

Yes, it's possible to solve this by making it the woman's problem, but it makes far more sense to simply have an etiquette in place that simply says "DON'T DO THIS!"

Anonymous said...

MsH wrotes "Either the environment supports real freedom of choice, or it doesn't."

Please name even one UK milonga where a woman may not say No to a man.

ghost said...

"Please name even one UK milonga where a woman may not say No to a man without fear of repercussions."


Anonymous said...

Yup, that will be useful too. Please name one.

msHedgehog said...

The majority of them. There is ALWAYS reasonable fear of repercussions: everyone is perfectly well aware of the kind of things that will be, and are, said. Snob, bitch, unfriendly, elitist, up herself, thinks she's X. Enough of this silliness.