Friday, April 1, 2016

5 most common international DJing mistakes

Imagine a hundred and more top dancers from all over the world at an elite tango event, traveling maybe 10 hours and spending more than 500 euros for a weekend, just to dance 3 or 4 tandas all night, leaving milonga long before the last tanda. Strange? Trust me, this happens more often than one can imagine... and all just because of the music.

In this post I will try to explain the most common mistakes DJs usually make in their sets on international events.

Being a DJ on international event is quite different than DJing your local milonga. I've been DJ for almost 5 years, but things I learned on my almost 3 years of international experience are the most valuable. I also travel intensively to international encuentros almost every month last 3 years.

I have seen good DJs and I have been disappointed by the bad ones. I have been pleasantly surprised by the sets of some people, and been pushed to leave milonga early by the music of some which are considered good. I learned a lot from my own mistakes also.

In this 5 points I will try to sublime these lessons, hoping that this post will save some milonga from finishing long before La cumparsita. It will help organizers to recognize a good DJs and the DJs to think about their approach.

So, here is what you have to be careful about if you are a DJ on international tango event:

1. Competing with the other DJs at the event – and therefore, forgetting about the audience. It is not a competition. You do not have to be different, do not try to be better, you do not have to play pieces of music others do not have, do not be original, you do not have to play something they forgot to. If you focus on comparing yourself and your set to others, you completely forget that you are there for the dancers – not for the other fellow DJs. The musicalizador should not be afraid to play some track just because other DJs played it already – if it fits to his/hers concept, it must be on the playlist. Focus on the right things – do not miss the point.

2. Saving the best tandas for “when the right time comes” - The right time usually is when the tanda came in to your mind. Later will be too late. A good DJ, should learn to trust his/hers guts. I learned this the hard way: I saved the perfect tandas for later “when the right time comes” and later was right time for other tandas. This DJing tactics usually results in lowering the quality of your set.

3. Experimenting – International events are places imagined as a point with condensed quality of dance – which means, good dancers and good music. People come to these events and they want to dance, you do not have to surprise them with special music. Of course, it is always nice to refresh the mood with some forgotten or “new” track – but this refreshment should be tested before. This is why international DJs should have their local experience, where they test their tandas. Please, do not screw up the international events for testing your ideas – people traveled thousand of kilometers and spent a lot of money to be there for their dance, not for you to experiment on them.

4. Slowing down – I've heard this many times and, in my experience, it is nothing but a myth: when the people are tired, you should calm down the energy of your set. As far as I am concerned, the truth is the opposite – when people are tired, the DJ needs to give them extra energy with his/her set. If people are tired, they can dance slow, even on a very energetic music, but nothing drains the mood of the milonga more than slow and passionless music. In my opinion this is number one mood killer on international events.

5. Disconnecting – My personal guiding principle is that “DJing for tango is like dancing with all dancers on the floor at the same time; and making cabeceo with all dancers that are sitting around”. This means that you have to connect with people around and never to forget that you are there for them. I hate to see a DJ's face glowing from the bright light of the screen of his laptop – the brightness should be enough for him/her to see what is there, but not so much to interfere with his ability to see what is going on around.

Of course this post is not a rulebook. Everyone has his/hers own experience and opinion which might be different than mine. If this is the case I would be glad to discuss about them in the comments sections bellow or in the e-mail conversation.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cultivating the tango community

Have you ever been frustrated of how your tango community develops? Did you ever left the milonga in your town with bad feeling that people do not respect others on the dance floor? You can do a lot to influence this situation, I can tell you from my personal experience. In this post I will try to point few things one should never forget in the process of helping the tango community to grow and develop.

People who realize that their tango community is not developing well are usually minority at the beginning. Since we have so much passion for the dance, tango activism can be really emotionally draining process.

Having this 4 points will help you do that process without big frustrations. They are sublimed from over 5 year experience I gained in the cultivating the tango community in my town.

1. Enforcing the codigos – There are a lots of stories from the Golden Age of tango about milongueros having to do cabeceo twice: with the girl with whom they wanted to dance, and with her mother also. Yes, there were times and milongas where the girls went with their mothers. If the mother do not like the behavior and the manners of the milonguero, he would not get permission to dance with the daughter. So guys were under constant watch and they had to behave properly. There goes the myth of the milongueros as a gentlemen – they were forced to be such.

Ask a lawyer or a judge – every law is just a piece of paper and has no meaning if there is no force to make it reality.

Today there are no mothers to do the policing. Without control the crowded danceflors can become mayhem: from acrobatic dangerous dancing to aggressive and vulgar sexual behavior. Of course, noone can stop someone to do things he likes, but this behavior can destroy the mood of the milonga. And of course, it can be damaging for the reputation of the tango as a dance – which is not that good anyway.

In the contemporary milongas the role of the policing is given to the organizers. Every organizer who cares about the reputation of his/her milonga should enable to the dancers to respect the codigos and to prevent and punish any misbehavior (the punishment can be from judgmental glance to preventing them to enter the milonga again). The rules should be explicitly stated, so everyone understands what is expected of the dancers.

In my personal experience as an organizer this improves the mood of the milonga. The behavior of the dancers in time becomes instinctive and I (as an organizer) do not have to do “the policing” anymore. Sometimes, if someone misbehaves, the other dancers prevent and punish his/her behavior. Nice place to be.

2. Educating the community – The organizers have to explicitly publish what codigos should be respected in their milongas. But this is not education – it is just statement, a condition by which a dancer is accepted to become a guest. The rules are just named and it is expected from the dancers to already know what does those rules means.

Educating about the meaning, the history and the usefulness of the codigos is a job for the tango teacher. I have this feeling that the teachers in most of the places I traveled in Europe do not work on this task. Too little or not at all.
Why is that so? I guess that many of them just forget (or worse, just do not care) that the goal of teaching tango is to prepare the students to navigate easier in the milongas – to have great time and to allow others to have good time also. Codigos and behaving in milongas should be very important part of tango curriculum – not just steps, technique, musicality, connection...

I guess Argentinians learn it because it is part of their culture and it is probably often mentioned. But how an European who lives in environment with little or no contact with tango culture, should know about the codigos?

The organizers can help in educating also – with organizing events who will bring the tango culture closer to the community – events like movie projections, public lectures and debates etc.

3. Do not waste your time – No matter what you do, there are some people who are lost forever. This means that some of the more experienced members of the community, who were never taught about the codigos – will never accept it. I do not know what is it in the people that blocks them from learning and changing their behaviors, but trust me “it” exists and stops their improvement.
So do not waste time teaching them. If they do not accept the idea of proper behavior on milongas, the organizer can forbid them to enter the milongas or can make them minority and let the other respectful dancers make the pressure on them. This social pressure sometimes works.

This was one of the reason why I started teaching tango – I wanted so bad to go on milongas where people respect each other and where the rules enables predictability and good mood. You can only have influence over the people who are beginners, who are new to the community – do not waste time with the already formed dancers.

4. People are people – Whatever you do, please, please, do not forget that you are dealing with people. I, myself, had to learn it the hard way. Do not enter conflicts without reasons, allow people to keep their dignity and their beliefs. Cultivating healthy tango community is long process. Sometimes people need time to understand how and why some things work in a certain way. Do not be arrogant in that process, allow them to mature. Better use the method of leading them, than on forcing the tango culture over them.

Have fun and love your community. No matter how disrespectful are they towards the codigos, those are the very people with whom you share your passion for the dance.

Have in mind that those are not rules, but sublimed experiences I had. If you disagree or if you have different experience please contact me. You can also write to me if you have more questions on this topic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tango Community Survival Manual

When I first started dancing the tango I was confused. I did not have a regular teacher, and the ones I did have often gave me contradictory pieces of advice and lectures.

I guess that many of the beginners are in a similar situation. That is why I decided to formulate some of my experiences into the six most important pieces of advice for survival in the tango comunity.

Tango is not a standardized dance. There is no right way, only a way that may or may not work out for you.

My point is this – when you dance your aim is to make your partner enjoy the dance. Everything else you do has to serve this purpose.

Here are the six things that everyone beginning to dance in general or to dance the tango should be aware of:

1. Be your own teacher – Your doctor can establish a diagnosis and prescribe you therapy, but it is up to you whether you will take their advice and what you will do in order not to get sick again. Tango is similar: your teacher may tell you what to correct in your dance and provide you with directions, but it is up to you to what extent you will apply it.

Sometimes not even your teacher can tell you what you need because the most important things in tango cannot be seen from the outside. It is great to have a mentor and to follow them, but it is even greater to be your own mentor.

How to become your own teacher? Here are a few recommendations:

- Ask – Ask the more experienced dancers what they think of your dancing, ask your partners (be careful not to overdo it) and ask for honest constructive criticism. Ask questions to define the best characteristics of your dancing and how to make it better. Taking this into consideration, define what you need to work on. Ask your teacher how to fix it.

- Read – Tango happens in the head first. The right mindset, the right thinking about what you do is the base for everything. That is why you should read as much as you can, watch interviews, think, compare, search for answers to the dilemmas you may have.

- Watch – People are mimetic beings – that means that most often we learn by copying what we see. That is why you should compile a collection of your favourite videos and watch them from time to time. Learn by copying, put yourself in your idols’ shoes, do what they would do, think the way they would think.

2. Build your own style – When you dance it is very important to be recognizable. Think of how you would like to be remembered by those that you dance with. As the guy that dances milongas beautifully, the gentleman that fills me with positive energy, the girl with the soft embrace, the lady that does a wonderful giro? You may dance unbelievably well, but you may sink into the grayness of mediocrity if there isn’t a single thing that you will be recognized by.

It goes without saying that you need to know to dance to all types of music and to have all the elements to be complete, but you only need one element to be recognizable. After choosing what you like and what you have a talent for, focus on it to perfect it better than all the other dancers. In this manner, everyone will always want to dance with you.

3. Give selflessly – You cannot hide anything in tango. I am not familiar with another human activity in which every detail of the soul becomes so apparent. If you hold fear or frustration while you dance, they emerge to the surface; if you are in a good mood, it can be clearly seen; if you have had a bad day or if you are tired, you cannot hide that from your partner.

Irrespective whether any of the above examples apply to you, one thing should never cross your mind – to be selfish. What does that mean?

Tango is a dance for two and it can be truly wonderful provided that these two people connect to one another and dance together. If they are not able to do that, the dance becomes as pointless as the conversation of two people that don’t listen to one another, but think merely of what they themselves are saying.

Thus, always dance for your partner. Give, help, do everything in you power to make them enjoy more. It will come back to you multifold.

At this point I would like to point out the opposite case: when you think about your partner too much – in this way you are blocked and can’t enjoy. If you don’t enjoy yourself, you can’t give joy to others.

4. Hygiene comes first – This is a continuation of the previous recommendation. If someone hasn’t taken the time to shower before a milonga, or brush their teeth, and has come to dance like this, then they are selfish. I rest my case.

Nowadays there are thousands of personal hygiene products and it is absolutely not allowed for one to reek of sweat or their last meal odor. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses: ‘I come directly from work, so I couldn’t find the time’, ‘I’ve been to a pub’, ‘You will have to excuse some people, they just smell more’ etc. There is no acceptable excuse.

Smokers are a distinct category that comes to dance, wearing their smoky ‘ashtray’ smell with them.

5. Accept people the way they are – There isn’t a single tango community without clans, groups, fractions and other divisions. People divide based on many factors and quite often they speak against each other.

I know many people that gave up tango dancing because they were bothered by these divisions – these people expected that the tango community would be an idyllic family whose members love each other and always hang out. This is an illusion. Just like any other group of people, there is personal animosity, past relationships, future relationships, ideological differences and the like.

My recommendation is to learn to keep a certain distance from these things and not to idealize. Mesmerized by the sweet sensation of dancing it is easy to get charmed and suppose that people are better than they are. Tango is such a phenomenon that helps people’s hidden passions come to the surface, no matter whether they are good or bad.

Thus, stay close to the people who are close to you and establish fair communication with most of the group.

6. Travel – You can’t truly feel the splendor of tango without traveling. This especially refers to communities that are small and closed. That is why every experience abroad may give you new impetus and inspiration.

Additionally, traveling abroad may help you get a new perspective and new understanding of how things stand at your tango scene. Tango trips are not always expensive. The organizers of different events will help your trip to be cheaper, and often the friends you have met at different events may prove quite helpful.

What is your experience? Which of your past experiences may serve others, especially newcomers to the tango community?

translation from Macedonian: Jana Nichota

Friday, September 19, 2014

No birthday if not tango-birthday

Last week was my birthday. I've never been specially excited for my birthday celebrations. This time also - just some foggy feeling of alertness, like you wait every moment someone to enter the door and to bring good news. Know that feeling?

But that is not the point of my post. What I noticed is that, that feeling of alertness is much smaller in comparison to 27 february, which I celebrate as my tango birthday. To some people it might seem funny, but I know exactly when and where it happened. And I know it happened around 23h that evening.

Yes, people should chose what day to celebrate as their birthday. To chose something that make them feel alive, and to celebrate the day when they started to do that. Because when you start to feel alive, that is the point when you are born. And for me it was when I started to dance tango.

Friday, September 12, 2014

DJ-ing on Linux - my first impressions

DJ-ing on Linux works better than Windows
As I promised, I write today about my first impressions of using Linux - how it effects my work on DJ-ing and organising my music library. Well, I'll organize what I have to tell in few short notes:

1. Mint is very elegant - Whatever I do, I want nice ambient, and the Linux distribution I am using called Linux Mint offers me just that (its tagline is "from freedom came elegance"). The theme I am using reminds a bit of Mac OS, but what is important to me is its simplicity - as you may noticed from the design of this blog, I prefer simplicity. For me less is really more.

2. Apps work just fine - The biggest concern I had about Linux is its usability as a primary working environment. Would I find all applications I need to do my job? Untill now, I have all I need. In Windows I used Foobar 2000, here VLC is player prefect for the job I need. The default file browser is perfect for checking music and I set Audacious to work on my external sound card to listen to the tracks before I play them. It works just fine. VLC has very good sound adjusting options and good equalizer.

Even before Linux I used Audacity to edit tracks and prepare cortinas - so this is perfect solution for me. I regret only that I wont be able to install Sound Forge and to learn to use it, since I've seen my radio technician made miracles with damaged tango tracks.

Downside is also that I will have to learn Gimp, photo editor - all these years I got used to Photoshop.

3. Sound is perfect - I cant really talk about sound quality because, first, I don't think I have enough qualifications, and second, I changed my laptop. But, as I know the quality of the sound depends mainly on the hardware. I already played 3 times (on one international event, and 2 times on my milonga) on my new laptop on Linux and I can say the sound is perfect. I give credit for that mainly on the busted sound attributes on the model of laptop I chose.

4. Rock solid - What I feel really good about is reliability. The system and applications are rock solid. No crashes until now. I experimented with many applications, and didn't had problem.

The applications are also set to give you exactly what you need - I mean the chance on accidental clicks are almost zero, thing which happened to me in few occasions on milongas; I also saw other Tango DJs have problems with this, and its very embarrassing to interrupt tanda just because DJ accidentally clicked where he/she shouldn't.

Overal impression is that the changing from Windows to Linux is step forward. I feel more stability and better sound comes from my sets, and I work in simpler and more elegant environment.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Supermarket códigos

What a huge topic I am starting today! This is just the tip of the iceberg. I will start today with what I call "supermarket effect". Since about this topic I will talk in more posts in the future, I wont enter in detailed descriptions - just this: it is when men in milongas act like they are in the supermarket and they go around to pick up girls for dance as a customers with a basket, as girls are passive objects on the shelves. Said that, I want to notice - this practice has nothing to do with cabeceo.

I gave this short introduction just to prepare you - I was being sarcastic when I wrote those rules. I had to do it becouse many men really follow this list of instructions.

So, the "supermarket códigos":

1. man should stand when he invites. This way he shows that he is a man of action. No-one notices a sitting man. Sitting on your chair means you don't want to dance

2. men should move around to search for their favorite dancers. The organizer have to make possible for the men to invite from every point in the venue

3. if cabeceo from distance doesn't works, you never go directly to invite. Simply sit near to the lady (you probably know her from before) and talk to her. After five minutes chat she is ready to dance with you

4. be aware of the inviting points. Milongas usually have inviting points, standing there around other men who go there to invite means you are available, ladies usually looks towards inviting points. When you are standing at the inviting point try to be in the front row, this increases your chances

5. it is always good to have a lots of ladies friends with whom you dance. Your social skills are the key factor in arranging dances, we dance social tango don't we?

A new post? Oh finaly!

Its not that I don't have what to tell, nor that I have lack of time to write... Its just I don't feel "the itch" on my fingers to write down what I want to say and to click publish. For some things I believe the best way is to let them ferment, and after a period they will get on the surface - one way or the other. When I started this blog I was aware of this, so I didn't made any promises.

What happened in the meanwhile? I have little more experience from the encuentro world, learned some very important things about musicality and, of course - for me very important, I bught a new laptop, said goodbye to Windows and transfered completely on Linux. I promise you new post about my first experience in DJing on Linux.

... So, see you next post!