The floor at Friday night's milonga was enormous. All of the dancers I asked agreed we could have fit a couple of hundred dancers on that floor. Instead we had a few dozen. A nice crowd - but we still had what seemed like acres of room. With all that room you would think there would be no need for any leader to overtake another couple on the pista. (That's what I thought, anyway.)
And yet a couple of tangueros not only tailgated and overtook another couple on the right side (the other leader's blind side, which is why you don't do it) - but they overtook many, many couples - practically "lapping"(1) the other dancers on the floor.
I couldn't keep the "Are you *&%$# serious?" look off my face when a leader repeatedly got within a few inches of my partner and me (leaving a full 6+ feet between him and the couple behind him), and then passed us. Twice. It's not like we were holding up the line of dance either. We were maintaining the same few feet of distance that most of the other couples were keeping. And it didn't matter who I was dancing with - Mr. Race-car-driver raced up behind, and then past, nearly every couple on the floor.
It's not like this subject hasn't been well covered. Here are 10 pages that cover this topic online.
1. "In Tango, the rule should be 'never overtake, unless absolutely necessary' ". It's not a race, there's no requirement to achieve or maintain a minimum speed - the enjoyment is in the dance, not in the amound of ground covered." -- Milonga Driving
2. "Avoid passing. Tango is not a race. If the dancer in front of you is advancing more slowly than you would like, alter your dance so that it is more circular and less linear. Learn to dance well and happily without much forward advancement. " -- Tuscon Tango Festival
3. "One shouldn't attempt to overtake nor should one let too much distance evolve to slow down the couple behind." -- Tango Etiquette
4. "Keep your distance to the couple in front, and avoid overtaking." -- Thames Valley Tango
5. "There is a simple truism that eludes too many of our tango friends: Tango is not a race: there is no finish line. Therefore, there is no reason to overtake." -- Tango-L Essay
6. "Avoid passing the couple in front of you. NEVER pass a couple on their right side (your left side) while in the line of dance. (It continues to amaze me that some experienced dancers routinely do this.) " -- Tango Chose Me
7. "This means that I’ve started cringing when I see people switching back and forth between lanes, overtaking, and making everyone else in the dance floor cautious about getting hurt." -- Tango Padawan
8. "You will be expected to dance in an anti-clockwise route around the dance floor, not overtake, and dance appropriately i.e. no drops or aerials etc. " -- Ms. Hedgehog
9. "With respect to passing: Don’t do it unless there is a major accident." -- Tango Student
10. "No passing or overtaking. This is absolutely important, it may challenge you to figure out how to dance in a tight space that is barely moving." -- Niko Salgado
There are dozens more links and resources on this - just check with Google. Also, every teacher I have had has told us not to pass unless absolutely necessary - and especially not to pass on the right side. So please enlighten me - why is this such a difficult concept for some dancers to grasp?
- Don't tailgate.
- Don't overtake unless there is no other option for maintaining the line of dance.
- And if you absolutely have to pass another couple, do not do it on the right (the other leader's blind) side.
(1. Overtake (a competitor in a race) to become one or more laps ahead.)