Why is this so difficult?

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.)


Captain Jep said...

Couldnt agree more. It's unbelievable how often it happens. But I'll play devils advocate anyway :

Don't tailgate

When you're trained to dance within your own space alongside other dancers, it's easier to do that if you are CLOSE to other couples. You'll see it when you watch. Leaders are often scared of big spaces between them and the couple in front. They get nervous. They feel exposed. The couple in front of them then acts like a sort of magnet.

The funny thing is, when the leader gets close to the couple in front, the magnet effect still happens - they just cant help getting close enough to tailgate.
Weird but true.

Don't Overtake

Everyone seems to have their own idea about the speed you should dance at. Some think you should be in constant motion. If you're not, the leader behind you may wish to overtake.

The other thing is that leaders feel more comfortable if the people around them move in a regular fashion. Moving erratically unsettles them.

All of which goes to say, if you dance predictably, the leader behind you wont feel the need to overtake. It's a bit like driving erratically on the motorway. What do you do if you're the driver behind? You try to overtake.

Dont pass on the right hand side

Well, people who do this would say they dont want to disrupt the "lane" to the left of them.

Personally however I cant play devil's advocate on this one. It's just wrong. And leaders who do do it are idiots.

Anonymous said...

Some people may get the car driving analogy to keep the system sane:


Unknown said...

The sad fact is that no matter how hard you try you will never have control over what other people do on the dance floor (or anywhere) so there is no reason to get upset.

I agree tailgating is the worst thing that you can do as a leader, in fact is is rather obnoxious to not leave room for a another couple to take one step in any direction... with that rule in mind, as long as a couple stays within one step from the edge of the dance floor they should never be passed on the right if they are in the outside lane. In my experience couples in BA who move to far away from the outside of the floor Will be crowded to an inside lane (read snakepit)...Normally there will be at least two lanes, sometimes more and these lanes will move at different speeds, thereby either lane might be "passing" dancers in another lane (no problem as long as the "leave room for at least one step in any direction" rule is observed).
I know a follower in Denver (who shall remain nameless) that will verbally destroy leaders with bad floor craft dancing near her between songs (I've seen her do it twice, once the guy almost started crying, I swear) Not very social behavior, but the point gets across.
In the interest of education dawdlers are also a problem so the best way to keep "with the flow" of the milonga is to try and split and maintain the distance between the couple in front of you and the couple behind you.

Anonymous said...

If the lane is well defined, there won't be room for me to pass on the right side of a couple in front of me. I have to go to the outer lane to do it. So I am not passing at the blind spot of the couple, assuming they are dancing within the lane.

However, if the couple in front of me zigzagging, I will pass them only when they zigzag into the inner lane leaving a big gap in front of me. In this case, I could be in danger of being hit by them zigzagging back while I am trying to close the gap.


Frances R said...

I so hear you, Mari. Last Sunday at my local milonga in the same situation (almost empty floor) not only the leader kept tailgating, but the lady kept kicking high in the air! Did not stop for a second after she kicked my ( thanks God it was only) skirt.
Whenever I bring the issue up with the local folks, the usual perpetrators go: "But here is not like in Buenos Aires! Our milongas are roomy! We don;t need to follow the rules! We shall have freedom of expression!"
Nightmare. What else is it to be said or done to stop that?? (banging head against the wall in despair).

AlexTangoFuego said...

I'm with Anon on this - with the traffic/driving analogy: http://insearchoftango.blogspot.com/2010/12/friendly-word-of-advice-5.html

Although in his examples, his "Milonga Idiot", doesn't speed, weaving in and out of traffic, or worse, passing cars along the right shoulder.

Traffic, in the ideal scenario, flows smoothly when everyone is traveling at roughly the same rate of speed. No one tailgates, leaving plenty of room between cars. This allows other drivers to signal and change lanes smoothly and effortlessly when they need to. But, even with plenty of open space to change lanes, the ideal driver will stay in their chosen lane for as long as practical. If a vehicle seems to want to merge, the driver will simply let off the gas pedal to allow a little more room. The asshole/idiot we encounter most of the time will actually speed up to close the gap and preclude merging. Then, the driver who wanted to merge has to put on the brakes, and those brake lights travel back through the column of traffic inducing the dreaded traffic jam. Speeders who weave through traffic only make matters worse, actually slowing the traffic flow.

As for speeders who pass on the right - well, I won't tell you what I really would like to do with these folks.

Texas used to be called the "Drive Friendly State".

It all comes down to the Golden Rule. Dance unto others as you would have them dance unto you. It's being well-mannered, polite, considerate, and accomodating. Showing good taste, and exhibiting good form.

Genteel. Gentlemanly. All of those things that seem to be missing across the board on our world today.

Dieudonne said...

Mary! I feel you.
It seems to me that we dance Tango/drive who we are. Tango is a place where we dance our emotions, and in order to access them, we tend to relinquish our social conditioning, that acquired veneer/social shield that we carry around with us to negotiate our lives on a daily basis. As we do this, what we really are inside comes up, the nice polite genteel gentleman/woman that we think we know, becomes what we see on the floor, someone who is a "@%#*" you to the other dancers and the World at large. We have to do something about this, they did in Argentina in the old days. Maybe we should make all dancers sign an agreement with consequences such as scalping, spine removal...better stop. Just kidding :-)

StR said...

First, I should say that some of the tailgating is coming from beginning leaders who don't have much of the rotational/in-place vocabulary yet. Been there, done that.
In the beginning we are taught mostly progressing moves: walk (including cross), back ochos. Front ochos help to slow down the progression, but you cannot do them forever. Giros/molinete may not be yet in a comfortable active vocabulary, much less so variations of those.
So, the only way to dance to the music is to have substantial translational motion along the line of dance. Rock steps back and force can help to slow that down, but only to some extent. Besides, they can be hard to lead properly for a beginner.
Having been told by many reputable people/instructors that "just walking nicely" is sufficient for a good dance, I've always been confused (and I still am - I think it's just a myth), how people can "just walk" in the crowded milongas.

A big help in that regard was given to me by an instructors (thank you Alex!) who suggested a motion of one foot in any of the 3 directions without a weight transfer (not even a rock step). It turned out to be rather easy to lead and allows to play with music without progressing forward.
(I hope that followers don't get sick of that in extremely crowded milongas.)

So, I think we all should show some understanding for the beginners.

What about more experienced driv.. err., leaders?

In Tango:

On one hand, I've been annoyed by the people who unreasonably and constantly tailgate in tango (as well as on the road).

On another hand, I've been equally annoyed by the people who don't provide reasonable movement: Tango has a line of dance that supposed to be constantly moving. The speed can and should vary, depending on the music. But even on a crowded floor, I don't want to stay within 5 feet for the entire Vals/Waltz song.

On the Road:
There is something about driving in rural Texas: too many drivers (especially in large vehicle) don't care for the surroundings.
I dislike the drivers who, while driving below the speed limit without any reason, block the rest of the traffic (e.g. two pickup trucks on a two-lane divided street or freeway, driving side-by-side at 5 mph below the speed limit.)

So, what would I do? In both cases, I'd try to tailgate "softly" (and safely), as a hint to move on (we all can sometimes get distracted and slow down without realizing that). But if I see no reaction, I usually create more distance while I have to drive behind that slow leader/driver.
However, when a safe/polite opportunity occurs (e.g. break between the songs), I try to avoid getting stuck behind that inconsiderate driver for the rest of my journey/tanda.

I would confess, that sometimes, especially when such a congestion happens early in the song, I am guilty of switching to a different, usually inner lane for rest of the dance. While some consider this a "no-no", call me selfish, but I think it is acceptable (as long as it is done in a safe manner, and not repeated constantly).

The floor craft in general, in most dance scenes can and should be improved. And I take my virtual hat off for the instructors who spend time in classes discussing and practicing etiquette and skills of the floor craft.

El Loco said...

I agree in priciple to all the above;
with some exceptions

1. Corner drift..one couple takes a more circular line at the corner to another who go right to the corner.It just happens.
2. In more relaxed milongas that I run with newbies, I tall them to keep up and keep their distance, but the centre of the floor they can do what they like as long as it doesnt interfere with the line of dance.

Marika said...

How did I get so far behind in responding to comments!?!? Thank you for all the comments - the dialogue has kept going on Facebook and in the practicas and milongas around here too.