DJing well is a tremendous amount of work. Owning a lot of music is not enough; it also requires knowledge, taste, and immensely time-consuming preparation. I'm not interested in doing it, because it's far too much work, and I'd rather be dancing. It's only done well by people who really like doing it for its own sake, and who really like doing the work that's required.
Uninformed dancers with no expectations create bad DJing and help it persist, and bad DJing limits the overall quality of dancing by making social dancing much more difficult than it needs to be.
I'd like DJs to be more appreciated. This checklist aims to help the dancer, especially the beginner, think about DJing. It assumes no more musical knowledge than the ability to tell the difference between tango, milonga, and vals, but it does partly rely on tango music making some sense to you and making you want to move. Some of it is very subjective, but some of it is not. Enjoy the usual bitchy bits.
Start at 0. Add or deduct points as shown to compare DJs. You might choose more than one answer for some of the questions. If you wanted to customise it to your priorities, obviously you could change the scores. I tend to penalise bad performance on the more mechanical, measurable things, because there's no good reason for getting that stuff wrong.
Was any of the music unsuitable for dancing tango socially? For example:
- It asks you to stand still and pose, like a pillock, rather than dance
- It is impossible to keep exactly with it unless you know the particular recording by heart
- It strongly suggests big, fast dramatic movements and sudden changes of speed that are rude and impractical for social dancing in the space available
- It is great dance music, but brings out the worst in the dancers who are actually there.
If in doubt, look at the room as a whole: giveaways are that the line of dance stops flowing and collapses into chaos, there are lots of crashes, and most of the actually-good dancers sit down, hide, or go for a smoke unless somebody grabs them. If that's what your place is normally like, adjust your judgement accordingly. [Edit: What you are looking for is whether the DJ, or an individual tanda, makes a difference].
- None of those problems happened (+10)
- One or two dodgy moments (-5)
- Several dodgy sections (-7)
- Tanda after tanda, I was bored, bruised or both (-10)
Were you ever caught out by a piece that did not fit in that tanda and caused difficulty, embarrassment or disappointment to you or your partner? For example:
- A jarring change of mood or style mid-tanda, so that you felt you had to unscrew your head and screw it back on again
- A misleading opener that meant you missed out on a tanda you would otherwise have liked
- A weak or disappointing piece in the middle, or to finish
- Excessively jarring changes of speed
- A mixed-up tanda of music you would have preferred to dance with two different people - or some of it not at all.
- None of those problems happened (+10)
- Once or twice, maybe a matter of opinion (-3)
- More, maybe a matter of opinion (-5)
- Once or twice, definitely! (-7)
- More than that (-10)
- All the flipping time! (-15)
- Good - I could feel the music and really get into it (+7)
- OK - I could hear it everywhere (+5)
- Poor - I couldn't hear it clearly enough to get into it properly - muffled / no detail / no depth / too quiet / loud-but-muddy / distorted / too loud because DJ is deaf (-5)
- Not applicable, the equipment at this venue is poor so I can't tell (0)
- No (+5)
- One or two, not sure (0)
- More than that (-5)
- Yes (+5)
- They made people happy, just not specifically me (+3)
- No, they were generally annoying (-3)
- They didn't do the job, I couldn't always tell what was a cortina or they didn't play any (-5)
- Not applicable - this milonga has a no-cortinas policy (0)
Were there enough vals (V) and milonga (M) tandas in proportion to the tango (T), and were they played in a regular pattern so you knew where you were?
- About right - somewhere in the range TTVTTM or TTTTVTTTTM, whatever made sense given the length of this milonga (+5)
- Not enough - TTTTTTTTTTM or something (-5)
- Too much - TVTMTVTMTVTM DJ WTF? (-7)
- So chaotic that I couldn't tell - TT VV TTTTVTTTTTMTMV, or something. (-10)
- "Tanda" isn't the right word. (-15).
- Yes (+3)
- No (-3)
- Yes (+4)
- No, they used all the time available and just stopped there (0)
- Yes, all or almost all the time (+5)
- Yes, as much as necessary in the situation (+3)
- Less than that (-3)
- No, they went out for a smoke and the music stopped (-10)
- No, they put on a playlist/CD and buggered off (-20)
- Yes, outstanding - e.g. drove home and got some better kit, found another computer (+7)
- Met expectations - worked around it, fixed it (+5)
- Drama! But dealt with it (+3)
- No (-5)
- Not applicable (0)
- No (+2)
- There was one cock-up (-2)
- There were some problems, understandable in the circumstances (0)
- The DJ was clearly unprepared (-7)
- No (0)
- Yes (-5)
- Yes, and that couple included him/her self or his/her spouse/partner and/or at least one of the couple who had just been performing (-10)
- Yes, but, I was ok with it under the circumstances (0)
- Yes, it was fun, I enjoyed it / I didn't mind watching (0)
- No, it was a tedious mess, nobody could dance to it, or it took up the last hour before the last train! (-5)
- It was annoying but it was required by the guest teachers or the venue (0)
Was the music:
- Pretentiously salted with the undanceable, the obscure or the inappropriate (-10)
- Thoughtlessly arranged over time, with good things spoiled by being too close together (-5)
- Ok, but one-paced, too much of one kind of thing (+5)
- Good, but with a strong DJ style that just isn't my taste (+10)
- Appropriately varied, with a good mixture between rhythmic and lyrical and dramatic, given the situation (+15)
- Brilliantly mixed, with every tanda feeling like a perfect change after the one before (+20)
- Confused and chaotic. (-7)
- Low. I couldn't get started, or my favourite partners couldn't. (-5)
- A bit flat, I liked the music but somehow didn't really feel like getting going (-2)
- Good, it was going consistently well (+5)
- Beautiful, it really came together with varied good feelings (+10)
- Fantastic, I had a great night, everyone was buzzing, everything flowed and I was also really happy when I was sitting down (+15)
- Not at all, maybe one or two tandas with the right person (-5)
- A bit, same as usual really (0)
- More than usual (+5)
- All the time, and taking more risks than usual with partner choice (+10)
- It was genius / it was a revelation to me / it transformed the place or situation for the better.
- It was very good. I was very happy with it.
- It was good but had some flaws, or it was well-done but not my thing.
- It was good and consistent, I could trust it, but maybe it wasn't inspiring.
- It was generally innocuous and didn't cause me any serious problems.
- Not good - it was weak or annoyed me a few times.
- It was poor. I couldn't trust it. If something good came up, I had to grab someone.
- It was bad - I, or my desired partners, just didn't want to dance. No point in staying.
[Edit 24-08-2012: Cet article maintenant disponible en Francais. Merci, Ben de El Recodo Tango.]