Thursday, November 12, 2015

A good debate about tango floorcraft!

Last week I posted a tanguero's question to my Facebook page, and invited him and about a dozen others to engage in a discussion about it.  It turned into an interesting debate!

The entire discussion follows.  It goes to an inside page of this blog, because it's long.  But I think it's worth reading all the way through.  I've used only the participants' initials.

Now I invite you to read the discussion and add your thoughts in the comments area below!

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Helaine:  This just came in from DP in Texas.
"I'm curious about [your words] "respects line of dance".  Let's say there's a traffic jam ahead - through no fault of mine - with a big space behind me because the trailing couple has that jammed up. Is it not acceptable to use that space so long as you don't impact the trailing couple?"

RC -  I would not use the space behind me. Tango in the U.S. already suffers enough from so many leaders not following codes and rules. Why make it even more difficult?

DP - How does using that space make things more difficult, aside from, perhaps, giving inconsiderate, unskilled, or unobservant dancers a bad idea?

RC - Others would see it. And start using the space behind them more is my assumption. Just keeping an actual line of dance seems to be an insurmountable task for most leaders I see.

OB - Dance in your space and wait until trafic start up again... But keep dancing do not stop!

AW - I try watch 2 couples ahead because I dance as I drive a car, sparingly on the brakes and no sudden jerks or changes of direction.

MP - rock step, rock step, rock step. ocho,ocho,ocho, etc. do not reverse

RB - I'm not sure what's "acceptable" in B.A. or elsewhere but I'd stay where I was and maybe take a small back step as part of something else. I wouldn't move back into the space behind me though to dance. However, I've seen experienced (and good) dancers . . .

Then come back and leave your comments below.  (A link at the bottom of the full article brings you right back here.)

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In the next few days I'll be inviting you to a free training about how to dance without stress in crowded milongas! If you're not already receiving emails from me, and you'd like to attend the free training (online), just email, and my assistant will tell you how you can attend.


  1. Hello Helaine, I read a blog post of yours about Gabriel Misse and read your opinion on toe-dancers. I'm am curious what your opinion is on Osvaldo Zotto since he was also a toe-walker. You must have encountered him on several occasions if you attended the festivals in Miami. Did you feel emotion from watching Osvaldo and Lorena dance?

  2. Hi Anonymous! Thank you for posting. Wish I knew who you were. :) When I was just getting started 20+ years ago, and for the next few years, I was very inspired by Osvaldo and Lorena. I would see them and take workshops with them at either Tango Fantasy festival in Miami, or at the Tangomania Summerfestival in Bologna, Italy. They were purely show dancers; that's what most of the professionals that toured were doing, with no trace of social tango in their choreographies. I wouldn't say I was emotionally moved by performances like these, but I was inspired by Osvaldo's and Lorena's artistry. I'm giving you a link to a video here: to me it's a lovely choreography. But Osvaldo is walking heel first! Watch carefully!

    1. Thanks for your insight Helaine! I'm just a nobody from a small city in the states who happened to stumble upon your blog! Interestingly, Osvaldo and Lorena had a profound influence on my teacher, who often speaks how he enjoyed watching them dance at milongas in BsAs (and about how Lorena was such a versatile dancer who could dance beautifully with anyone...Tete, Gavito, Flaco to name a few). I hope you don't think Miguel Zotto to be a pure show dancer, he's more of a milonguero than his brother! I'm quite surprised you don't mention your teachers in your about page. Of course there is no room to name them all, but it would be interesting to know the ones who have had the greatest influence on your dance!

    2. Nobody who dances tango is a nobody, Anon! Yes, Lorena is wonderful. I'm so glad that she seems to be happy in her partnership with Pancho Pey. I totally agree with you that even Miguel's show tango comes from his roots in the milonga. Miguel once told me that when he was 19 and for a few years (who knows if that is true) he would sit in milongas and watch, and didn't dare dance, until he had observed enough. Good point about adding my list of mentors to my about page! Thanks for that; I'll work on that.

      I've enjoyed this discussion. Would be nice for you to stay in touch, Anon. Please consider subscribing to my "9 Surprising Tango Tips" (link via in right sidebar).

  3. Hola from Greece!
    Such a wonderful topic thanks to our brilliant maestra Helaine ! Just a small input from us….Considering the fact that every community has its own different qualities and peculiarities , it is essential to define and adjust accordingly the dos and donts.
    In Europe Tango Communities these days for example there is an on going conversation and worries about behaviors that make milonga an non -welcoming place for beginners.
    Because the “advanced” guys are commenting and disapprove the entrance of beginners in the ronda. They cannot tolerate their perfection to be spoiled by some rookie who even if he “knows” the etiquette about floor craft, is not capable to apply it.
    Well, we all have been there. Dancing with skills and respect is a multi -task -brainstorming –improvising- magical thing. “So, learn it well before you hit the dance floor.” Says the advanced snob. And guess what is the reply of the newbie?
    So its all about numbers. We would love to know more about the original settings of the situation that Helaine describe. How many sq meters the dance floor? How many couples? Local milonga? Festival? What is the amount of the hard core of the local community who organized the milonga? How many teachers in the city?
    I would be happy to have a huge Buenos aires scene. With dozens of milongas per night, and lots of praktikas for the newbies. No reason for them to cause chaos in the “advanced” serious tango situation.
    But if your community is small, or on a critical pivoting point of expanding, then you have to be extremely careful on your behavior to the next generation of tangueros. The older dancers for sure remember themshelves when setting up the community, how things were.
    What a milonga used to be back then, and how little was associated with a proper dreamy milonga of any big city.
    Now , if you are lucky enough, to grow on an already big tango scene, you should respect the fact that others before you, for the love of tango, set up something ,so you can act “advanced” now.
    The amount of newcomers is shrinking. This is a fact (in Europe) that is making milongueros revising their strict manners and tolerate little more “non acceptable” dancing.
    We need these people. Behavior above all. Do not bring Bas reality in your local reality.
    All the solutions that you mentioned are proper. Change lane, go back, stay on spot. Adjust.
    But above all behave.

    Lots of love Frini & Dimitris
    We love you Helaine!

    1. So wonderful to hear from you, Frini and Dimitris! After all the years since my last visit to Chania, or yours to Umbria, you two are still big as life in my heart!

      Thank you for your thoughtful post. You make an excellent point about the danger of alienating beginners. Don't you love it when a community has a culture in which the advanced and intermediate dancers make a point of welcoming beginners and helping them become "members of the family"? That kind of culture comes from us, the educators, organizers, and hopefully other "old-timers" . . . but unfortunately, it's not always the case! (Of course it can be hard when members of other schools come as guests with an exclusive and impatient attitude.)

      Practicas and practilongas are such an important way for beginners to get comfortable and good place to practice floorcraft. I wish the rules and etiquette of the line of dance were taught more regularly in beginners' classes. When floorcraft and elementary musicality (phrasing) are taught from Day 1 as part of the basics, beginners not only dance better, but also feel more confident and are more respected when they join the larger group.

      The details of the situation you're asking about, Frini & Dimitris, came from David in Austin, Texas. Only he can answer those questions. Maybe he will!

      Much love to you both, Frini and Dimitris, and to the whole community of Chania! I hope it's not long before we are together again!