We set out to give dancers an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback to tango organisers (it can be difficult to give face to face feedback to people you know well). We did this over two separate periods: June – December 2013 and January 2014 to July 2015. Over 2000 votes were received. We published the results of our first survey in 2014 (click here for results). Here is our analysis of the feedback provided during the more recent period. We know it is not a scientific exercise and votes are highly subjective, but we hope it is helpful to both tango organisers and tango dancers.
Dancers were asked to rate milongas according to the following criteria:
Music: Choice of music, smooth transitions, danceability
Ambience: Atmosphere, facilities (including dance floor), friendly organisers, sound quality
Getting a dance: Friendliness of dancers. Are there plenty of leaders offering dance invitations or is it a bit cliquish? Are numbers right or are there usually more followers than leaders (or vice versa)?
Milongas were divided into 5 areas/ categories:
- Midlands and the North
- Tea dances
Our apologies to clubs in areas we didn’t manage to cover.
We have excluded from our analysis newish milongas and milongas where there were less than six votes. A full list of milongas we looked at is set out below.
A Guide to rating was provided:
5 stars = Excellent
4 stars = Usually good
3 stars = Mostly acceptable
2 stars = Quite a few aspects not so good
1 star = Very poor
Overall average satisfaction levels were good in London, the North and Midlands and also for Nuevo and Tea dances (between 3 and 4 stars), but dancers appeared to be less satisfied in the South. Milongas which achieved the highest overall ratings (4 stars +) were Tango Garden in London (4.45), Tango FFS in Church Crookham (4.35), CamTango Tea Dance in Cambridge (4.2) and Papa Caliente in Reading (4.15).
Average ratings in the South (excluding nuevo and tea dances) were only 2.4 stars with a frequent thumbs down for music quality and “getting a dance” by followers (see below for a possible explanation). Here is a more detailed breakdown:
Dancers gave the highest satisfaction ratings for music quality to London; a number of nuevo milongas and tea dances also did well. Followers tended to give slightly higher ratings than leaders. Scoring particularly well for music quality were Tango Garden, La Milonga Ideal (Warwick), Papa Caliente and Tango FFS (both nuevo) and CamTango Tea Dance.
Several milongas in the South scored less than 2 stars and very few achieved 3 stars or more. Is this because there are far more milongas per head of population than the rest of the country? Are dancers spoilt for chance, or is the effect to dilute numbers going to a milonga which affects everybody’s enjoyment?
Milongas with a better than average rating (ie. 3+ stars) for music were:
- London: Carablanca, Corientes, El Portinito, Negracha, QueerTangoLondon, Tango Etnia, Tango178, Tango at the Light, Tango Garden and Tango Instinct
- South: Sunset Milonga (Hatfield), Tango Menuda (Cranbourne)
- Midlands & the North: Builonga Porteno (Leeds), La Milonga Idea (Warwick), Manchester Tango
- Tea: CamTango, Eton Matinee, Flores del Alma (Caversham), Salon Tango Cats (Bedford), Westcourt (Canterbury)
- Nuevo: Papa Caliente, Tango FFS
Dancers seem reasonably happy with the ambience of a venue, although ratings in the South were again below the other areas/categories. Once more followers tended to give slightly higher ratings than leaders. Scoring particularly well again were Tango Garden, Papa Caliente and Tango FFS. Tea dance Flores del Alma in Caversham also scored highly.
Only Tango Menuda scored reasonably satisfactorily in the South category.
Milongas with a better than average rating for ambience were:
- London: Carablanca, Negracha, QueerTangoLondon, Pavadita, Tango178, Tango Etnia, Tango at the Light, Tango Garden, Tango Instinct and Tango on the Thames
- South: Tango Menuda
- Midlands & the North: Builonga Porteno, La Milonga Ideal, Strictly Tango (Preston) and Manchester
- Tea: CamTango, Flores del Alma, Eton Matinee, Westcourt and Salon Tango Cats
- Nuevo: Papa Caliente, Tango FFS
- Getting a Dance
Leaders and followers voted separately because their experiences at milongas are different, naturally.
Tango Garden scored very highly, as did CamTango and Tango FFS
Milongas with a better than average rating for “leaders- getting a dance” were:
- London: Carablanca, QueerTangoLondon, Tango178, Tango at the Light Bar, Tango Garden, Tango Instinct, Tango on the Thames and Zero Hour
- South: Sunset Milonga
- Midlands & the North: Builonga Porteno, La Milonga Ideal, Strictly Tango and Manchester Tango
- Tea: CamTango, Flores del Alma, Tango Salon Cats, TangoUK (Bramshaw), and Westcourt
- Nuevo: Junction 8 (Maidenhead), Papa Caliente, Tango FFS and Tango Thamesside (Caversham)
“Followers – Getting a Dance”
Not surprisingly followers were less satisfied than leaders in “getting a dance” at milongas. Just two milongas scored highly – Tango Garden and CamTango Tea Dance.
Followers seem to be having a tough time at many milongas in the South with a number of milongas scoring somewhat poorly.
Milongas with a better than average rating for “followers – getting a dance” were:
- London: Carablanca, QueerTangoLondon, Tango178, Tango at the Light Bar, Tango Garden, and Tango Instinct
- South: none!
- Midlands & the North: Strictly Tango
- Tea: CamTango, Flores del Alma and Salon Tango Cats
- Nuevo: Papa Caliente and Tango FFS
- Yum Yum Food (Tea Dances)
Consistency over the whole two year period
Our first six month survey was based on a smaller number of milongas, without a breakdown into traditional, tea dance, nuevo etc. Furthermore, we did not divide voters into followers and leaders. So the two surveys cannot be compared easily. Nevertheless we feel we should mention that of those clubs that were listed in both surveys the following have consistently been in the top three of their category – London: Carablanca, Tango at the Light, Tango Instinct and South (incl. nuevo): Tango FFS, Tango Menuda and Thames Valley Tango.
We offer a few general thoughts arising out of these results.
- First, congratulations to those clubs with high satisfaction ratings, especially those who have maintained a high standard over several years.
- The highest satisfaction ratings seem to be achieved by afternoon milongas and by specialised nuevo/mixed music milongas.
- Some milonga organisers, mostly in the South, may need to take a look at the music they are offering. Is it what dancers what want to hear? Perhaps it is not varied enough or the sound system is poor? Or perhaps transitions are not very smooth?
- Many followers in the South seem to be struggling to get enough dance invitations. Perhaps organisers should look at the culture of the milonga? Are numbers balanced? Is it cliquish? Are organisers doing enough to help new dancers feel comfortable? Our personal view is that when there is a shortage of leaders three-song tandas are preferable to four-song tandas, which exacerbate the sitting out period.
- Finally, given the large number of milongas in many parts of the South a new influx of tango dancers is needed! Well done to all those clubs who continue to bring on beginners.
- A number of milongas scored 4+ but we have only highlighted those that received a minimum of 10 votes (8 votes for the Midlands and the North where voting was lighter)
- Where leaders and followers have voted differently we have taken the better result to see whether the milonga is 3+ or 4+ stars
- We have not mentioned milongas that are no longer functioning
- 57 Milongas were included in the analysis:
Carablanca Tango Club, Corrientes Social Club, Negracha, Negracha Basement, Tango Club, Pavadita, Queer Tango London, Tango 178, Tango at the Light Bar, El Portinito, Tango Etnia, Tango Garden, Tango Instinct, Tango on the Thames, Zero Hour, Builonga Porteno, La Milonga Ideal, Strictly Tango, Tango Manchester, Tango Warwick, CamTango, CamTango Tea Dance, El Berretin, Eton Tango, Flores del Alma, La Falena, Salon Tango Cats, Eton Matinee, Sunset Milonga, Menuda Tango, Milonga Caminito, Milonga de Traditionale, Milonga el Arrabal, Milonga Liso, Papa Caliente, Reading Tango Club, Salon Tango Cats, Sunset Milonga, Tangamente, Tango Arrabelera, Tango Chique, Tango Conexion, Tango de la Rosa, Tango FFS, Tango Highdown, Tango Journey, Tango Melodia, Tango Nirvana, Tango Secrets, Tango South, Tango UKTea, Tango de Salon, Thamesside Tango, Tango Uno, TangoUK, The Hove Milonga, Westcourt Tango
- The full results can be found here: London, South, Midlands & North, Nuevo, Tea
18 August 2015