Sunday, October 16, 2016


When we first thought about starting Tango, I called up a local instructor to find out about classes.  Even then as a complete newbie, I had enough common sense to ask a very important question:

"What kind of shoes should I wear to Tango classes?"

And I got the most STUPID answer:

"Oh, you can wear any shoe you want!"

What the heck.  And the Tango teacher's resumé said he had experience dancing.  Some shoes are NOT suitable for dancing any dance.   You cannot pivot properly in shoes with too much traction.  Try wearing work boots or soccer cleats to Tango and injure yourself for sure.

Man Yung being "manly" went ahead and wore regular street shoes to Tango.  Now, they weren't as bad as work boots or soccer cleats, but they had scoring on the sole to make them less slippery on the sidewalk.  He was fine with them for a whole year.

"See, you can wear 'regular' shoes to Tango!  No need to shell out $200 for a pair of Tango Shoes," he said.

Lucky Man Yung and his knees of steel.

But then, one night after a milonga, he got home, took off his shoes and blood GUSHED out from the bottom of his foot.  The bad shoes and the extra force he had been using to pivot had worn a hole in the ball of his foot.

"I think you should get yourself a pair of proper Tango Shoes, you silly ass," I said while scrubbing at the bloody carpet on my hands and knees.

Now, shoes you can control, but floor, you cannot.  Same principal - a floor with too much traction will hurt you.

In the summer, we have a number of outdoor milongas in Toronto.  The floors are usually pavement/asphalt or very rough wood.  When we go to these events, I watch all the dancers dance in awe.  They make it look so easy, they dance like they usually do in indoor milongas.  How can they even pivot?  Knees of steel, or they must be taking some rockin' joint strengthening supplements.

I can't do it.  I have bad knees and I keep on telling Man Yung "Take it easy!" and "Don't do anything more than walk!" but sometimes he forgets when he gets carried away by the music.   Fortunately, now we are a lot older and more experienced, he realizes that the best way for me to manage an outdoor milonga with a floor from for me to sit it out.  Or for us to stay at home.

Maybe I'm just a wuss (just look at all those people merrily dancing on horrible sticky/rough floors like it was the most normal thing in the world!) but the quality of the floor is really important to me.

Just because a floor is "wood" or "sprung wood!" it doesn't mean that the floor is great for dancing.  I've reinjured my knee over and over again on deceptively "good" wood floors.  I remember a local milonga announcing proudly that the floor of their venue had been "newly" and "beautifully" polished.  And indeed, the floor was very nice to look at, shiny as a mirror - but with a coating of varnish so sticky we were like flies stuck on fly paper.

And then we had the experience in which we kept on arguing whenever we danced at a particular venue.  At first we thought it was Fung Shui, but no, it was the shitty (wood!) floor.  Man Yung would keep on shoving me because I wouldn't "go" and I would keep on going too fast/anticipate to overcompensate for being stuck on the floor.*

* Now that I'm leading with Man Yung following, I am experiencing the same when the floor is bad.  He thinks I'm shoving, and I think he is going too fast.  All because of the floor.

Not all the floors in Buenos Aires milongas are good either.  I hated the wood floor at Porteño y Bailarin - we only went once and that was enough, I didn't want more permanent damage to my knee.  The tile floor at Confiteria Ideal was also horrible to pivot on.  Conversely, the wood floor at Centro Region La Leonesa and Salon Canning, and the tile floor at Glorias Argentinas are slippery (maybe even overly slippery) and great for turns.  

However, even slippery floors can be hard, without enough "give" that make them fatiguing to dance on.  One of the most surprisingly comfortable floors we have found is in Lo de Celia.  It's a tile floor with great "give".  We can slide along that floor for hours without getting tired, it's like dancing on a cloud!

The quality of the floor can make or break a milonga.  Time and time again we experience new milongas in Toronto held in some unexpected places, with floors (sticky gummy wood!  painted concrete!  lino! plastic laid on concrete! COME ON GUYS, ARE YOU JOKING?) that weren't intended for the kind of pivoting required in Tango.  The milongas have great attendance the first couple of times... and then attendance drops off because of the damn floor.  We ask ourselves, "Did the organizers even try out the floor before they decided to rent the venue?"  I'm sure they must have, but either they did a very cursory trial of the floor, or they have knees of steel and they just love dancing at outdoor milongas.  I certainly couldn't handle a floor that sticky and I'm sure a lot of their patrons couldn't either.

The problem with less than ideal milonga floors is so prevalent in Toronto now I went onto the internet to see if there is something I could do with MY SHOES to help the situation.   I found the following website with lots of tips:

It has great tips for dancing on too slippery and too sticky floors AND there are ideas making shoes more slippery.  

I've tried using gaffe tape (hard to find, even online) but I find that it makes my soles more sticky.  I guess that would be good for people having problems with floors that are too slippery.

Tenacious tape (used for tent and waterproof clothing repair) was one method that works for me but it's quite expensive.  One box of Tenacious Tape (around $6.00) suffices for taping the soles of two pairs of ladie's shoes, or just one pair of men's shoes.  It makes slightly sticky floors a lot better but it won't transform really rough floors into ice rinks.

Sometimes there's nothing you can do about the floor.  All we can do is to pray for organizers to try out their floors before they launch a milonga, or ask for a second or third or fourth (or fifth!  Or ask us!) opinion, because it is better not to start an event on a terrible floor, than to start and then watch the milonga fail just because of floor issues.*

* Man Yung says, "Irene, the problem isn't the floor.  It's our LACK OF EXPERTISE.  If we were more EXPERT dancers, no floor will stop us.  Look at all those people performing on the road in San Telmo and Calle Florida!

Show Tango on a floor like this???  You must be kidding me Man Yung.  Knees of Steel!

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