Part I: Poison

(Courtesy www.morguefile.com)


We all have milonga pet peeves and, from the comments I hear at the milongas and read in blogs, tango dancers have a lot of the same pet peeves. (Which makes me wonder why they happen with such regularity?) They range from small annoyances to behavior that can be physically harmful. Left unchecked it can make dancers decide to avoid certain people at the milonga of course, but also to avoid the milongas/venues where inappropriate or uncomfortable behavior is tolerated - or worse, where it is encouraged. 

I know the U.S. isn't Buenos Aires and I truly don't have that expectation. However, I would think many of these things would be common sense in most social situations - not just dancing. For some reason, they are not. 

(In no particular order - as always, your mileage may vary.)

1. Intrusive behavior. One example is when someone (particularly a stranger to that dancer) without any kind of welcome acknowledgment, approaches another dancer abruptly, gets in their face, and verbally asks him or her to dance. To get within inches of someone's face, or worse put your hand on them, and say something like 'we should dance this' is simply bad manners. It's presumptuous and often makes the recipient feel awkward and obligated to dance.  As I said, if you don't know that person - it's particularly rude.
2. Negative generalizations about followers or leaders, to include things like, "there weren't enough followers in class today - just goes to show that followers don't take tango as seriously as leaders - oh I was just kidding" #jokingbutnotreally. (The reverse statement referring to leaders is equally irritating.) Honestly, this is a big enough topic to warrant its own post. All I can say here is that generalizations are rarely helpful and neither is trying to guess another person's motivation. Keep conjecture to yourself.
3. Running commentary and talking over the music through the entire tanda - especially negative comments like the above. Socializing is part of the milonga but if you're talking the whole time - how are you hearing the music? And if you're not listening to the music, how are you dancing? Or connecting with your partner?
4. Correction/feedback/peddling of services while dancing at the milonga. Unacceptable, period. I'm not keen on it at the milonga at all, but it's particularly offensive when you're dancing with someone.
5. Another item to file under intrusive behavior, interrupting a couple while they are dancing, especially for any of the reasons listed in #4. It interrupts the connection of that couple to each other and to the music. It also stops the line of dance while you chit-chat. What is so important that it cannot wait until the cortina? (Warning, if you interrupt my partner and me while we're dancing to Cascabelito, and it's not because someone has been bumped or kicked, the building had better be on fire.)
6. Dancers who are talking loudly enough that they can be heard from every corner of the milonga - especially when they're doing any of the items listed in #4. Speaking loudly during the tandas prevents the other dancers from enjoying the music. I've been guilty of this and called to task on it in the past. It can happen to anyone. But when it's non-stop through the entire milonga, the dancers notice. It's distracting and can sour the mood and flow of the milonga.
7. Flash photography. I've written about this before, and so have many others - repeatedly. Photography without flash is one thing - I'm not happy about it if it's intrusive and interfering with dancers, but if it's not interfering with the flow of dance and dancers, I don't usually have any problem. Bright, especially flickering strobe-type flashes interfere with the dancers and with the flow of the milonga. (Do people not realize that those flashes actually hurt some peoples' eyes? Especially when it's done within a couple of feet of their face!) 
8. Stepping on, colliding, or kicking another person without any acknowledgement or apology. This is common sense - not even a dance issue. If you hurt someone, apologize. Why does this even have to be on the list?


A couple of those items happening in one night is annoying, but pretty common. Most of the time I can manage to have a very nice time at the milonga despite them.

When three to five of those things happen in one night, I start to question if I should leave early - or if I should have come at all.

If more than 6, or worse all of them, happen in one milonga, it pretty much poisons the milonga. I leave early, usually as early as I can, and debate whether I should return to that particular milonga at all.

In the very worst case, when all eight happen, and are most notably exhibited by teachers/organizers, I question whether I should continue to invest my energy and emotion so deeply in a dance/music/culture that I love so much - but is starting to take its toll on me. 

I find myself looking in the mirror and asking myself - should I even continue dancing tango in this city? What makes me want to do this so badly? 

Mi amigos, that is a very heart-breaking place to end up. 

7 comments:

Ghost said...

I can sympathise with this :(

A few thoughts.

This too will pass. I've found stopping going to a milonga and going back in a years time has helped 90% of the timeas the problematic people have moved on or the setup has changed in some way.

Nothing to lose. If you're really not going to go to certain / all local miloongas for a while, it might be worth going to the organisers about your concerns and seeing if they're willing to do anything about it.

Set up your own. Realistically I can hire a small venue with a proper dance floor for two hours for about twice the cost of going to a milonga. Invite some friends along and voila.

Go to Practicas instead. They tend to be treated as milongas, but in my experience don't tend to have anywhere near as much poison. I suspect overall I've actually spent more time in practicas than milongas.

Look at travelling. Sharing the journey with friends / staying overnight or having a meal at each others house etc can make heading out of town a lot more viable.

Anonymous said...

One of my biggest pet peeves is women who do not respect the couples at a milonga. My community has a few women who believe it is their right to dance with a man even if he is there with someone else. They will stand near by him, clingy, and making small talk until he feels guilty enough to ask her. Three times I have had the same woman do this to me and my date. Twice she hang around us all night and on the last tanda she declares, 'This is the last tanda, you have to dance with me!'. I was always taught the first and last tanda should be reserved for your date, it's something special. Why can't these women respect that?

Tango Therapist said...

Some pets cause us all to sneeze and have watery eyes. Cannot someone put up a sign at every milonga: "Don't feed the Pet Peeves!"? :-)

Mari Johnson said...

@Ghost - thank you as always for your thoughts on this. I do love practicas - unfortunately they're scheduled mostly when I can't go do to work demands. :-(

Also I have let the organizer know my concerns. I'm till waiting on a response with some trepidation. My strongest desire in the travel category is to go back to Buenos Aires of course. As far as hosting my own milongas, unfortunately it comes down to the scheduling. I don't want to conflict with other milongas and the "free" times are conflict with work demands and school work. So there we are . . .

Since I'm not alone in my concerns, I hold out hope that things might improve. All I can do really is try to set an example, which I admit I'm not as consistent as I should be either. I'm trying to keep in mind the The Four Agreements and proceed accordingly. (Wish me luck- I may need it.) :D

Mari Johnson said...

@Anon -- I agree with your sentiment and unfortunately see that often on both sides. I wish it weren't so. I've found that most people have no idea when they've crossed a line. I have had to delicately, but firmly, draw some boundaries with a few people but thankfully it doesn't happen very often. I wish I had better advice on how to accomplish this, but all I can recommend is don't reward the behavior you're trying to discourage. I'm guilty of this, so I know how hard it is to say no. Good luck to you - and thank you for your comment.

Ghost said...

You’re welcome and good luck :o)

Some thoughts on clingy people.

First I ask myself do I object to dancing with this person, or is it just the clinginess that’s annoying me? If it’s just the clinginess, then I’ve found the best solution is to dance with them as early in the night as possible. We both get to dance, they go off and leave me alone and I don’t spend the rest of the night being irritated.

If I object to dancing with them, the most important thing I’ve found is to accept that and not try and decide if it’s a reasonable objection. Yes, in the main it’s because I know they’re going to cause me pain, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to dance with some people. If they’re just hanging around and making small talk, I’ll deliberately end the conversation and wander off somewhere else without asking them to dance. If they continue and outright ask me, then I remind myself that they are *asking* for a dance and as such I can politely say “no”. At this point I apply a 3 strikes rule. Basically each “no” gets firmer and less polite.

Someimes I’ve found the best option is to leave eg I was watching the floorcraft, trying to understand the underlying patterns when someone verbally asked me for a dance. I politely said “no, thanks” at which point she shouted “What? Are you saying I smell or something?!”. So I simply got up and went home. One other fruitloop whose dancing caused me considerable physical pain actually complained to the person who ran the milonga that I wouldn’t dance with her any more. But thankfully people like that are rare and the “wait a year before going back and they’ll have moved away” strategy worked in both cases.

It’s also worth having a word with your friends. Some people are a bit more adept at having a “quiet word”. Others will come and rescue you if they know you don’t want to be around someone.

Mari Johnson said...

@Ghost - very good points, and a lot to think about. Thank you for your encouragement. I think consistency is going to be key in getting certain boundaries established. It might be rough going in the beginning, but hopefully it will get easier. :-)