"If there was more room on this dance floor, I could really dance some tango!"

I have heard variations of that same sentiment more than a dozen times over the past couple of months. And when I don't hear the words, I still feel it in their lead - the frustration, the impatient sigh. The dance my leader has in his head is not possible to dance on the floor in front of him. I can feel him crane his neck, quickly turn his head, shorten his breath - looking for daylight between the other couples on the milonga floor. The simple fact is, and has always been, you can't change the floor.

So change the dance in your head.

"If there was more room on this floor . . ."

Tango was born on the crowded milonga floor. That's where it lives and breathes, in the small spaces between bodies, between breaths, between the notes. When the space gets too open, the connection drifts away or maybe it just evaporates.

We get this moment, this alignment of music and connection, only once and then it's gone. Dance for this moment, not for the tables - and I will dance for you.


Elizabeth Brinton said...

I prefer a crowded floor, where all the dancers are in synch, than a sparse floor with flying boleos and rude egotistical behaviour. You are right to point out that tango comes from crowded floors. Thanks Mari.

happyseaurchin said...

just this weekend i had a great night
but at the start it was terrible

it was crowded
but sometimes that works out just fine
if people are moving well together
if there are enough people actually listening to the music
it was completely chaotic
with people suddenly appearing
being squeezed etc

i know this is partly a state of mind
and when with a partner in the zone
nothing will get in the way

the flow on the floor
the group-think
is definitely a major factor on how things go

and as for an open floor
love it
because i can close my eyes a lot more often
and really sync with my partner's movement

Anonymous said...

heard that one before...always shocking when it comes from more experienced dancers...mostly we don't notice so much any more (or I don';t and he isn't bothered even by poor floorcraft anymore). I think close space vocabulary is just a slightly different mindset and once you "get it", it's easy to tune people out. Too bad not many people are either teaching it, or most people may thing it is "too easy" for them, not realizing the subtlies involved with it.

AmpsterTango said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AmpsterTango said...

I have heard that many times from other leads. My advice to them is that, leading in small spaces is a lot harder than leading and dancing large. Their excuse is, "I can't express myself." I advise them that you are dancing for your partner, not just for yourself. In the back of my head it just tells me that they don't/can't dance ala milonguero and is just inexperience/insecurity talking.

There is no room for error when dancing small, and you really, really need to know how to lead. Otherwise, what you described is what happens.

Anonymous said...

well said Amps, as usual. Dancing small has it's own mindset, really, though the key concepts aren't that hard. You just have to think a little differently on a tight floor.

I also prefer a tighter floor myself (but I mainly follow)...with a competent leader. A tight floor with an incompetent leader is going to be bad in any case.

Eduardo Castro said...

In a crowded floor “I could really dance some tango”. It presents the opportunity to express myself as a tango lead. I can’t dance memorized patters. I have to be creative, I have to dance for my partner, making sure I don’t hit other dancers and other dancers don’t hit my partner. By following the music, I become part of the flow in the dance floor.

It's harder to navigate on a crowded floor and the ability to improvise is necessary. Close embrace is a must.

Check out the article by Stephen and Susan Brown:
Learning to Dance Argentine Tango Improvisationally

Anonymous said...

I didn't find anything particularly interesting in the article, myself. Dancing small isn't necessarily about just making the steps you know smaller, though there are certainly elemetns of that. You have to think a little differently and be open to a lot of rhythm and tempo changes you might not normally think of doing when dancing in a larger or less crowded space. It is also, IMO more difficulat for leads to develop a clear and precise lead on a small scale and give the same amount of intent as they do when they are dancing larger- most of them just seem to go "muddy".

Eduardo Castro said...

Thanks for sharing you opinion Bastetsbeads, What I find interesting on the mentioned article is the point about improvisation on a crowded floor. As a beginner to intermediate dancer (3 years on and off) I tend to memorize patterns that do not work on the crowded floor. I am going to apply the “think a little different” and “be open to rhythm and tempo changes” next time I am in a crowded milonga. The best way to learn is to try it out. Thanks for the tip. And you are right; I don’t have the same amount of intent and clarity on my lead in a crowded floor.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to be rude about the article, but dancing close really has less to do with learning lots of different vocabulary and thinking differently about what you do know and using it a little differently than you might on a large or not crowded floor, so I hope you didn't take it that way. Even someone talking about the need to understand small space dancing is a step in the right direction. :) I mostly follow, and wish I had more advice to offer (other than go take classes in Portland if you are able to) but I can instantly tell when a lead is lacks clarity or is hesitant or not comfortable in his space on the floor. That really makes me nervous when I am being moved backwards down a crowded floor.

Anonymous said...

that should have said...less about vocabulary THAN thinking about using what you know differently...

Mari said...

Thank you everyone for such wonderful contributions to this topic. This is on ongoing journey for me and I get new insight pretty much every time I dance.

Senthil said...

I am just back from a weekend featuring some of this frustration. I have enjoyed crowded floors and managed to go into tango trances when it no longer matters if you are dancing alone or on a string hung 20 feet high surrounded by alligators... But sometimes it just doesnt work. Not all crowded floors are the same. When someone leads a big fat backward kick, lands a heal on your knee, looks straight into your eyes and breaths fire on you as if you were meant to leave 2 mtrs distance behind him, something is fundamentally wrong. And I dont think this is a beginner / experienced dancer issue all the time... Tango does have some huge egos scattered around. I am starting to believe this has to do with the attitude that is inculcated in the milongas... To give a specific example - Tangoloft in Berlin - Even though there are no tight rules on floorcraft, packed crown etc... somehow things work....