Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What is the Optimal Space for Tango?

In Tango, there is such a thing as too much space...


You would think that having a whole dance hall to ourselves, we would enjoy our tango more. 

Strangely enough, spaciousness makes us bicker.

"Why are you dancing so oddly?" Man Yung would ask.  "I think high ceilings and big rooms must make you feel nervous - maybe exposed and naked?"

"Nothing of the sort," I replied.  "Your dancing annoys me when there's lots of room to move.  You expand your You-tubey whirling and kicking just because you can, and it's a pain in the ass to follow!"


"Hey Man Yung - what if you throw a few more people into the room?"

"That's not so good either - we might behave ourselves more because there are other couples around, but this is Toronto Tango and you are bound to get one or two maniacs who light up at the prospect of there being space.  The next thing you know they are charging up and down the dance floor re-enacting their own amateur, furious-footed version of 'Forever Tango'" like the other people sharing the floor don't exist."


"How about light to medium density?  Around, say three to five couples per 100 square feet?"

"Only the very crazy will try to do their death-defying "Show" in these conditions.  That's good in a way, but then the over-confident and slightly deluded will still think they have enough space to execute unexpected boleos, volcadas/colgadas, ganchos, enganches and shin-stabbing 'gems'.  And oh, watch out for the big steppers - dancers who have been taught that the right way to dance socially is to do great big stiff-backed stiff-legged ostrich/giraffe-like walking and giros.  They'd be able to dance under these conditions and they will turn the dance floor into their own special kind of bumper-car hell because they can't help but take these nice, long, elegant strides right into ya instep."


"What do you think about Buenos Aires crowded?"

"You will need lots of patience.  It may take about a tanda to go all the way around the floor because you are really inching along under these conditions, but being able to dance in this kind of crowd can be rewarding.  Hopefully, all the big-stepping, high kicking dancers would have sat down and given up because any undisciplined movement will cause a major collision, and getting the evil eye every second you are on the dance floor is no fun."

"They'd have to wait until the end of the evening to dance then!"

"That's right.  If you have the skill to dance a really crowded dance floor, you can't try to do too much - just small steps, and tight turns on the spot.  This means that you can't think about anything - no figures, no combinations!  You have to react and go with the flow of the music and the movement of the people around you.  It's easier to be present, to really feel what it's like to dance Tango - and under the best conditions, you are dancing collectively with everyone in the room to the same compas. Some of most spiritual experiences in Tango I've had were under these circumstances.  Awesome stuff."


"What do you think of 'Major Tango Festival Crowded' then?

"This is not a matter of density, but of attitude!  You get a congregation of all types from all over.  Some dancers may be well-behaved but you are definitely going to get some who can't wait to show off at the expense of dancefloor safety.  Didn't they pay good money to attend the festival? and by golly they aren't going to restrain themselves from showing the world what great dancers they are and what they have (just) learned from the workshops!  I don't think it's easy for a festival organizer to encourage good floorcraft or to tell irresponsible dancers to tone it down - an event of any magnitude is expensive and if you are planning for next year you don't want to lose any customers by telling them off.  The downside is that if the organizers don't enforce good floorcraft, it's going to be a free-for-all on the dance floor. Have your first-aid kit and neosporin handy!"

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