Kathy Goodwin is an experienced and popular tango dancer, as well as a milonga organiser, based in Berkshire. She speaks Spanish and has just comeback from another trip to Buenos Aires, this time, for over 2 months. We asked her about her experience of visiting the well-known milongas in BA alone. This is what she told us.
“I have to admit I was rather disappointed with the number of dance invitations I received. Here is my view of how things work. There seems to be an imaginary points system in operation. The ladies who score the highest points get the most dances, and these ladies tick all the following boxes:
- They have a reasonable level of dance
- Are young
- Are pretty
- Are well-known in that venue, and
- Are known from other venues
The lowest scoring ladies will be those who are older, not so good looking and unknown in that venue or any other venue, and are weak dancers.
Even if you are a brilliant dancer it won’t automatically zip you up to the top of the points table unless you are known, because you won’t get a chance to show off your dancing skills in the first place. So it helps being pretty as they will be more likely to take a chance and invite you up. If you are stunningly pretty, you don’t even have to know how to dance, you will get lots of invites and offers to teach you how to dance!
Here are seven things you can do to increase your chances in the points system:
- If time is limited, reduce the spread of milongas you go to so you can at least become a well-known face in some of them. I recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of at least one milonga so you can “pop in” frequently. There is nothing more disappointing than getting dressed up to the nines, investing in a taxi ride to some far flung milonga, and then sitting twiddling your thumbs all evening.
- Go to milongas where a dance class is held prior to the milonga. The people you have danced with in the class will be more likely to invite you to dance in the milonga.
- If you are not being asked to dance, get yourself seen. Get up and stroll round the room, or take the longest possible route to the toilet, smiling at possible leaders as you go.
- Take classes with a dance teacher who takes his students out to milongas. This way all his contacts present at the milonga will automatically be available to you. I had one of my best evenings this way.
- Favour La Ideal over Salon Canning. Somehow I always got dances at La Ideal and rarely at Salon Canning, which was often so full of people you couldn’t see to receive a cabeceo, or have any space to dance if you managed to receive and accept one.
- Oh, and only go to El Yeite if you like Nuevo and count yourself among the “in crowd”.
- Look happy – visualise with emotion and excitement that someone is coming over to invite you to dance. I was pleasantly surprised how often this seemed to work.
Finally, always go with a positive attitude, determined to enjoy the evening whatever the outcome – you never know what the night is going to bring. Occasionally all the above points go out the window, yet inexplicably you receive plenty of dance invitations. And if you don’t, observing the different dance styles and generally “people watching” around the room, is also an interesting activity.
And a further word about the cabeceo. The system is still fully operational in nearly all venues, but sometimes the layout doesn’t lend itself to the cabeceo being seen. A face to face invitation is then often used and often operates alongside the cabeceo. A question I often liked to ask the locals was “will the cabeceo still be operating in BA milongas in a hundred years’ time”? I was surprised to find the answer was usually “yes!”
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