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
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
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.