Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Tango in Tight Spaces" survey results!

Last week I ran a survey for the tangueros in our Tango Mojo community, and any women who lead, to find out how people are dealing with dancing in tight spaces, crowded milongas, and "traffic jams".  People are asking for the survey results. 

We had 61 responses to Part 1, and 48 responses to Part 2.  

In this long article, I'll give you the survey results in 3 sections:

a. An "nutshell" summary of what all the tangueros communicated in Survey Part 1.  I found the results surprising!

b.  The complete, unedited report of all the tangueros responses to Survey Part 2.  Most of the responses were so unique and special that I couldn't easily group them into categories.  See if you can identify with any of them. 

c.  A few tangueras' responses for Part 1 and Part 2, which I pulled out separately, because they were not from the leaders' point of view.  However I included them in their entirety, because I thought our tangueros might want to know what's going on in some partners' minds!

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Part 1 of the survey had these 5 questions:

1. When you arrive at a milonga and see that it's very crowded, what are your thoughts?
2. How do you usually deal with dancing in tight spaces?
3. How does it affect the quality of your tanda when you have to dance in restricted space? What do you experience deep inside?
4. What about when the traffic comes to a complete stop for more than a couple of seconds?
5. Is there anything else that you'd like to say about your experience with dancing in crowded milongas, in tight spaces, and when the flow of dance is at a standstill?

We tallied the responses from tangueros by interpreting the detailed answers and dividing them into 5 categories. 
Includes one response from a female leader too.  

Here are the Part 1 survey results:

1) LOVE dancing in crowded milongas/tight spaces and feel competent: 7 

2) Happy to dance in crowded milongas/tight spaces, coping very well, perhaps with a little compromise:  18

3) Are developing coping mechanisms, have a positive attitude, getting better at it:  

4) Experience more discomfort than pleasure, often with high stress and/or anxiety: 24  

5) Dance a lot, but no experience yet in crowded milongas: 2

Tangueras responses: 3 (Posted in full, at the bottom of this post, with other tanguera responses.)

Total responses - 61

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Part 2 of the survey was just one more question.  48 people responded.  

We tried to tally up the responses and put them into categories, as we did above, but in this cases the responses were too unique and special!  

So here they are in full, below the survey question.  We did not edit any of the responses, which come from countries around the world!  (I even translated one response from Russia, using my high school/college Russian, and checking only a few words with a dictionary.  So proud of myself.)

How would you answer the question?  You can type your response in the comments section below this article!

Single question from Part 2 of the survey:
If you could wave a magic wand and in an instant be dancing in tight spaces joyfully and to your complete satisfaction, what would that look like? What would change from the way you're dancing now?

Men's responses (plus one female leader):

  • I would feel more confident
  • No couple would bump into me, no one would lead dangerous boleos around my partner . I would like to have a wider repertoire of moves.
  • Continuous movement
  • It would look like the couple dancing on the table.
  • The intensity would increase. The senses would be more enlivened and every breath every heartbeat would count.
  • Nothing will change in the way I dance.
  • To effect turns more compactly and comfortable to my partner
  • The space would be all mine, with no intrusions from other dancers from the front or the rear.
  • More confident and relaxed and also focusing more in the partner
  • When there are some couples near me I'm induced to move at the same speed and, sometimes , with the same grade of agitation (as molecules in a gas). I'd have to do an effort to calm myself and my way to traslate music in movement.
  • I'd have a larger selection of steps for small spaces, better balance, better musicality and greater confidence(the things I said would lead to that probably).
  • Sure, you could turn me into Ricardo Vidort, that would work for a start. What would change? Oh, everything, of course. I was watching the video (believe you posted it) of a milonga in B.A. where the camera lingers on Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas. OK, they're professionals, but I'd sure like to move like he does when he leads those turns. Amazing stability, balance, and intention - and smooth as silk .
  • It would look just like Ricardo Viqueira dancing on the table (that cute Japanese "Fish" included please) or just like Murat dancing in this tiny space in the middle of students crowding him. All the corridas with long strides, I love, would have to go.
  • It takes two to tango and it would mean dancing with a very advanced woman... and it would look something like the table top demo that you showed... only I wouldn 't want to do it for more than one song..what would change would be to find women as interested and invested in the dance as I am.
  • I come from a ballroom (big movements in lots of space), then Latin (less space), then Salsa (tighter space especially Cuban style), and lastly Argentine Tango but not in tight spaces. One wish from the magic wand would be to still move "big" but gracefully amongst the other dancers - anticipatory floorcraft. The other wish would be to radiate a protective shield around the two of us in which the woman feels particularly safe. 
  • Joyful, playful tiny steps and turns that are clearly lead and easy to follow as well as an embrace that can dance with musical breathing
  • I'd look like I wasn't dancing in a small space and trying to take small steps and make small movements.
  • A) That the crowd around me really want to dance with me and everybody else on the dance floor, flowing together with very elastic movements. B) (Maybe I misunderstand your question) I have only been dancing for 18 years. I believe I'm walking in the right direction (pun intended), but honing, honing, honing is still the agenda . Fortunately we both (my dance partner & I) enjoy the journey immensely :)
  • Controlled and elegant
  • Do not have a clue.
  • I'd own a milonguero's walk. Within a soft and communicative embrace and out of my sense of purpose and intentionality, she would commit fully to one weighted foot and extend instantly and in direct proportion to the size of my clear but patient downward mark. I'd nail my departing heel to the floor until physics demanded release . My right shoulder would not sag and my collar bones would tug upward on my floating ribs. I'd neither hunch over nor project my head forward. I'd know the music sufficiently well to anticipate major/minor transitions and temporal variation. I'd suppress the urge to speak with posture-embrace-musicality mantra.
  • It would look SMOOTH. Doesn't really matter what I was doing, just as long I didn't stop and start again. The music doesn't reset, so why should I?... if it looked and felt smooth as I changed direction in moving toward a free spot or away from a bottle-neck, then I would be happy!
  • It will probably be , not as busy , simplified , more pauses , accenting more the tension and relase .
  • Well, it depends on how well the floor is moving...if it's still moving forwards but at a slower speed then I need a way to handle the pressure from dancers arriving from upstream (this is important to me because a couple of particularly perceptive followers have said I feel more tense when I get pressured like that, and I don 't think it's right that I should be transmitting that feeling to them; so I think I either need to relax my attitude to the upstream dancers, or else develop some way of flagging to them that they'll have to wait until the floor clears ahead of me). On the other hand, if the floor is stationary, then I will be inviting a lot of small movements that don't generate persistent forwards motion - when this happens, I know that I quickly exhaust my repertoire, so I would like to develop a wider variety of small moves - eg, different variations of the ocho cortada, so it doesn't feel like I'm repeating myself.
  • I consider myself an advanced beginner to beginning intermediate dancer. Therefore , what I need most is just more dance time. Where I live we have a small group of dedicated tango dancers. I have to travel over 200 miles in order to dance at larger milongas. When I have it has been fine, I just simplify my dance to fit the space. Everyone else seems to be doing the same. I try to pick my spot to lead a nice Giro or do sacadas. Generally it goes well, but I still need more dance time with different partners.
  • Would involve very small steps or maybe no steps, only leading with the frame. More flamboyant moves like boleos and ganchos would be out, indeed impossible. Ochos and giros would predominate but even the turning involved in these could prove difficult in a restricted space.
  • I would be more musical, have more variety in my small space dancing, and be better at maintaining the line of dance.
  • Absorbed in the music and each other in close embrace, we move together but without dramatic figures, feeling each pulse of the music in our bodies uniquely and without boring repetition -- playfully and sensually.
  • I would move effortlessly with my partner with rhythm, variety, confidence, playfulness without having to think too much about stepping on feet, bumping knees etc.
  • Not a whole bunch. Smaller steps, concentration on the Angles instead of down the line. And through her axis not around it.
  • (Translated from Russian:)  I didn't understand the question.  I think that it's good to dance in a confined space. That's mastery.  
  • the difference is that now i am sometimes too focused and anxious what to do and most of the times i am repeating me and sometimes this leads to losing the flow ,,, if i were so confident to tango in tight space my mind would be concetrated to the music and to my partner
  • Imagnie the couple dancing on a table. Followers tell that it feels very nice to walk together and they dont like to be at the same spot for too long!
  • want to let go of control and thus experience to forget time and place
  • I would be confident that my partner enjoys the dance even with lot of pauses and small moves.
  • I would move without worry that I will hit on someone.
  • wld b more cofident tht I wont hit or b hit by accident on z dancefloor ...
  • A place where everybody cares about the other dancers, be polite, where the ronda is fluent and tangueras and tangueros happy to be together, in a tight embrace, it is no more important that there is large or narrow space. It is the tango paradise :)
  • My embrace, both close and more importantly the standard one. Leading with my shoulders I could do all the figures around my and follower's axes.
  • I am trained to dance in tight spaces (and I already saw that Ricardo Viqueira video ) but fluidity is still an issue.
  • I would be feeling relaxed n confident, moving comfortably, not stepping on my partner 's feet or knocking into another couple or being stuck in a corner trying to get out or dancing only small repetative steps with my partner feeling bored or feeling my muscles tensed up and my chest slouching!
  • I would know how to take steps of satisfying length, link them together rhythmicly and still not go anywhere.
  • The ability to dance using very small steps while almost stationary without looing the rhythm.

* * * * * 

A few women's responses 

- to Survey Part 2.  We thought you'd be curious:
  • I will be relaxt and enjoyed tha dance, be more concentratet on my partner and the magic of tango and not totaaly stresssed
  • I have been dancing for 15 years and my teachers are and were performers at Cirque De Soleil in Las Vegas, I took 7 years of lessons 3 times a week, plus Saturday Milongas and sometimes Sundays. If I had my magic wand I would make everybody collect their feet on every step. I am always improving and everyday I can do something better.
  • I would be dancing with my partner and enjoying each other. What would change I would have the mobility to move freely back wards forward,step by step, feel the strong connection being in tune with each other dancing, feel more passion with each other, feel the connection in the embrace, pivot,comes natural, enjoying the beautiful,touching feeling dance together with my partner as we dance.
  • When I dance tango at a very crowded milonga, I appreciate the leader leads me save and with great creativity, and the leader looks positive at the dance floor as a big organism and finds the small places with entusiasm - it feels like magic - and I don't need a magic wand :-)

- to Survey Part 1 (questions at top of post):

"I just dance with my partner on the outer side it is comfortable and we dance with ease,it feels great our connection.","It doesn't bother me or my dancing partner.","A feeling of Joy, I feel the love connection, it is a beautiful feeling with my partner.","We stop and talk with each other.","Very peaceful within us!"

"great!","I keep my feet on the floor for boleos and everything else and try to prevent my partner from bashing into someone if I can see it's about to happen.","a little frustration at not being able to ake big steps","I hope my partner is good enough to lead in in minimal movement steps."

"I think I have to bring more curage to come to crowded places and dance, and not stay away. Its a difficult one but the only way to learn.i do get frustrated by leaders hoe do back steps and ladys doing high kicks....."

"I look after a nice place to sid near the dance floor. Not to far away. I some times must overcome a feeling of 'drowning' in the big ocean of tango dancers. ","I find it okay, if the other dancers respect the rules at the dance floor. If some of the other dancers are bumping into me in a regular time, I some times decide going home again or find a more quite milonga. I do not like if a couple take a lot of space, and all the others must be ware of them. Fx if the woman do high boleros even if there is a risk of kicking other couples. ","I find it like a great challenge to do some nice small steps and get a nice feeling with my partner. To have a feeling, that the leader takes good care of me, even if there is a little space. If there is a nice flow at the dance floor, it doesn't matter how crowded the milonga is.","It's okay to make some small turning around ore some rebounds. I find it nice if the leader is creative and get the best out of the situation. If the leader gets irritated, it afects me in a  negative way, and I loose my energi and concentration.","When I get a feeling from the leader, that it dosn't matter, how many 'problems', there are at the dance floor, because he likes dancing with me and takes responsebility for, we have a good time in the tanda."

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Did you get through it all?  How would you have responded?  Which "tight spaces" category would you be in right now? Did you identify with anyone's comments?  Please comment in the area below!!


  1. Helaine, this is easily one of the best post ever published at your blog. I recognized myself but also I would be able to assign some of the replies to some of my tango mates. And it's interesting how sharing those perspectives can help each other as tangueros. The women responses are a real plus for us, leaders; it's the precious other side of the tango that we have to take care of with the maximum empathy at all levels. I would really encourage you to develop a questionnaire for tangueras (that does not lead) with the same concept in mind.

  2. Many of the responses are predicated on what seem to be "ballroom" dance values. I have a DVD from an 80+year old milongero taken where he goes dancing in BA and it is shoulder to shoulder but everyone is careful and respectful and they all come off the floor smiling. So many people want to perform and learn "FANTASIA" which is large in movement so people in the back of the auditorium can see the movement. If you want to showboat and flail rent a stage and perform! Go to the milonga La Garua in Seattle and watch the way tango is danced by Guardia Viejo style dancers and see the difference in attitude.

  3. I'm wondering if it would have been useful to ask how long people had been dancing as part of the question. I suspect that the needs of beginner/intermediate dancers would differ from someone with 10 or more years of practice.

  4. Couldn't agree more with "anonymous" about showboating and tango fantasia at a crowded milonga. Those dancers take up an awful lot of room and their movements often threaten other dancers on the floor.