Slow tango: rules for organising a traditional milonga

SlowTangoHere is what I would consider the minimum set of rules and recommendations that a traditional milonga should enforce and aim for. The model here would be the Slow Food movement that resists globalisation and consumerism and aims to create local, convivial living and economics.

Instructions to participants upon entry

  • This is a traditional milonga, please abide by traditional customs.
  • Please wear appropriate attire: formal or smart casual; no shorts, sports shoes or jazz/hip hop shoes.
  • Only traditional tango dancing. Show tango, nuevo tango, same sex dancing and teaching are not allowed.
  • Please aim to follow proper milonga etiquette: using cabeceo to invite partners, dancing in the line of dance, dancing the whole tanda and changing partners between tandas.
  • If you’re changing shoes please do so away from the dance floor or, if available, in the changing room.
  • This is a place to dance, enjoy the music and the atmosphere. Please keep loud chatter and activities like taking selfies to a minimum.
  • If you’re “woke” or into “social justice”, great! However, we’ll appreciate it if you keep it to yourself. We’re not interested.

Goals and recommendations

Traditional milongas should aim to

  • create an authentic ambience for traditional tango in terms of music and decor.
  • promote a focus on dancing and proper etiquette through the organisation of seating, in particular, placing the seating close to the dancing floor and promoting a separation of men and women such that they face each other.
  • provide appropriate music in terms of the choice of music and sound reproduction. The person in charge of managing music should have adequate knowledge and understanding of traditional playlists and basic audio equipment in terms of software, DACs, amplifiers and speakers to design an adequate auditory experience for the dancers.
  • create intimate, high quality events, with good quality decor and sound equipment and expert choice of music, rather than packing a large space with a lot of participants and playing loud music on budget PA systems. It is better to use a small space like a cafe with more limited dancing space that is easier to control for sound than a large space that is much more difficult to control for acoustics.

Things to avoid

Traditional milongas should refrain from things that take away from the convivial and intimate atmosphere and distract from the activity of dancing and listening including:

  • loud marketing of the milonga, avoiding loud promotional posters and images
  • seeking to get as many people as possible to attend whether or not they have dancing experience and understanding or at least interest in traditional tango culture
  • excess promotion of teachers, performers, “DJs” or other “personalities”; people in attendance pay at the door and for the food and drinks
  • excess promotion of the purchasing of overpriced workshops, festivals, shoes and dresses as this takes away from the convivial atmosphere
  • using the milonga as a “practilonga” where students who are still learning and practicing their moves in practice shoes, socks or informal clothing and don’t know how to follow the traditional codes.

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