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Yet another milonga story

A few days ago I visited a local milonga where a professional couple was scheduled to perform. The couple were there almost from the beginning of the milonga and especially after the show they danced a few tandas with some local dancers. The leader had of course the luxury to lead and create most of the dance when he was dancing, deciding on the vocabulary to use etc. As a good social dancer… you never noticed him in the rhonda with “loud moves” although I am sure he was quite pleasurable for his partners.

I paid attention to the follower of the couple and I noticed how the different leaders that had the chance to dance with her behaved. What grabbed my attention in particular was a young local dancer with quite advanced technique that asked her with the normal cabeceo to dance with her a Pugliese tanda.

I was sitting out. Having developed a sensitivity for Pugliese, I opted to not dance and instead enjoy the music watching the couples on the floor. Whenever my eye caught the aforementioned local dancer he would try to perform a kind of complex fancy move or sequence. In one such case… just in front of me… he tried susch a move and he hit her slightly with his heel. A few seconds later I saw her moving her head signing that to him that she was ok and there was no problem.

The professionals

This brought to my mind another story our teacher told us from a marathon he attended some years ago. Again a well known professional leader asking an also professional follower to dance in a social setting… in a marathon milonga. The tanda finished and she returned back to her place furious. She was angry with the leader becasue he danced the whole tanda doing all the more complex moves he could do. She was furious because in the end she did not enjoy at all the whole tanda although her partner was a very good dancer.

The secret ingredient

Why am I telling all these? Because no matter how many years of classes you have taken… no matter how many hours you spent in milongas… no matter the number of events you participated… there is one thing that noone can ever teach you. It’s called empathy. The ability to place yourself in the other person’s position. Imagine being a professional dancer practicing for hours every day… technique… moves… sequences… choreographies… all those things. And then you go in a milonga. What would you feel like? For me being a software engineer is like going for a coffee with friend from work and having to discuss and solve algorithmic problems. Of course I might enjoy the conversation… but this is what what I do all day… I would prefer to discuss something lighter and different.

Similarly, I would expect that the followers in the previous two stories would rather dance a couple of relaxed, easy going tandas than doing one of the same as they do every day for hours. It doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to figure it out.

Empathy on this simple level can certainly make you a very good social dancer and moreover it will certainly help you enjoy so much more from your dance. It is a sign of maturity and respect to your partner who after all (being a professional dancer) could have easily denied your cabeseo. Having said that, I would like to slightly alter my previous statement in the post about the nonexistent levels and what matters to count. After this… I would argue that there are levels that really matter in Tango… but these don’t have at all to do with your ability to execute steps and figures or communicate emotions. They are the levels of maturity in your behavior. But for this trait no teacher or class can do you any good. It requires many things and most importantly deep introspection and self improvement in order to get there. Personally… I am still getting there.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is the response of a young woman to a rich man who is trying to conquer her heart with his richness and glory. She tells him that she is not looking for a rich man to offer her luxury but someone who can understand her feelings. I think you can get the analogy.


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