Tango teachers - Help! Please teach the codigos.

This is another one of the ranty sort of posts that I've been debating about releasing from it's "Drafts" status. I may regret this, but I think it needs to be addressed.

Milonga Manners

My first milonga at Esquina Tango included the mini-beginner tango class (as it quite frequently does) and part of that class included instruction on using the cabeceo and other points of tango etiquette. This information was reinforced frequently by other tango dancers and teachers in the community. Even though I've been guilty of some missteps in navigating milonga protocol (see previous post on the folower's responsibilities regarding the cabeceo), I do try very hard to respect the codigos. Most of the "rules" of the milonga are there to keep everyone feeling comfortable and, in the case of the cabeceo, to save face. Because most of the dancers I encounter honor the codigos, I'd started taking for granted that everyone knew about them - that is was part of our tango education.

(I have been corrected on one code in particular, regarding correcting on the milonga floor- not for doing the correcting, but for soliciting that kind of feedback during the milonga. I have been guilty of occasionally giving my permission to be corrected or reminded of something I have a habit of doing wrong. I've since been reminded that that gives the wrong impression to not only the person (leader or follower) doing the correcting, but to other partners who might be led to believe that it's okay to correct and be corrected during the milonga. It also puts my partner in the position instructing. So that is my breach of etiquette.)

But now I face another conundrum. At a recent milonga, I encountered someone who seemed completely unaware of tango etiquette. I have danced with him on two occasions and both times he seemed not to know that there are certain things you do not do on the milonga floor. There are personal questions you . do . not . ask. In "talking up" your own impressive tango experience and your teachers, you do not repeatedly instruct and correct your partner in an obvious manner, in front of a table onlookers, while stopping the line of dance. It's humiliating. Some things are more of a gray area. If your chamuyo is a bit lacking in finesse, that's not really poor manners as it is awkward. The fact that your tango education includes counting steps isn't really a matter of manners either, but counting to instruct your partner, is.

I probably should have said more than, 'can we move on?' But to say more, I felt would have put me in the position of correcting and instructing on the milonga floor. And addressing it to only him might not solve an even greater problem - that his instructors aren't teaching these things. I really don't believe this leader was trying to be rude at all. I'm sure he thought he was being helpful, and that his behavior would be desirable. I think he simply has not been taught how to behave during the milonga. So do I discuss this with him? Do I let it drop and risk letting him continue this way and just hope at some point he "gets" it? I would want someone to tell me if I were making people uncomfortable. (And, as I said above, they have.)

For the sake of thoroughness, the often cited, best resource on milonga etiquette, see Ney Melo's article, The Rules for Inviting. Also see Miles Tango's articles (for followers and leaders at the milonga) at Barefootango.com .


Heresy said...

Nice article, Mari. (Kristin here!)

For what it's worth, I probably would (gently) take it with this person if there's a chance you will end up on the dance floor together again...but not going with the "I'm right, you're being a jackass" angle. (Even if he is, it won't accomplish anything, as you probably know!)

I would do so with the "sandwich" rule - that is to say, sandwiching the frustration with something positive.

Perhaps along the lines of "I appreciate your earnestness in helping me improve, but my own tango training has emphasized NOT openly correcting and instructing your partner during the dance. I'd love to discuss tango technique with you (maybe not, heh, but this is the polite part) but preferably when the conversation can be the full focus, after the milonga is completed."

Something like that. And..if he takes issue with it, then his problems are far deeper than tango etiquette!

happyseaurchin said...

communicate through the tango
and if he is not going to respond with dancing movement
then walk

it is all part of the tango
the dance has many levels
even off the floor

i have been guilty of talking during a dance
but i usually restrict it to between dances
and only to suggest an experiment...
the last one went so well
we danced so well
she described it as enlightening

that's not to say i don't my foot in it more often than not :s

Frances R said...

All the teachers I have worked with taught the codigos in their classes.
The problem is, not all the students listen, learn, and respect.

Mari said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. Frances R - I would like to think that this student was not taught and therefore not just ignoring the codigos, but you're right, it might be being taught, just not practiced. I'm sure I will see him again, so it might be time to gently pull him aside and have a word or three.