29 August 2016

Vulture season

Yes, I know I shouldn’t teach in the milonga. But the beginners are really grateful when I do.

It’s that time of the year again. The summer holidays are over, and tango season is starting. Beginner’s courses are being held, and into the milongas comes a new crowd of tango students, all eager to learn more about tango and to be included in the community.

Cue the tango vulture.

He's a special kind of bird, the tango vulture. He's dependent on a constantly renewed supplement of fresh tango meat, oops sorry, fresh tango students, because he’s being avoided by any tanguera that has danced for a while. Unwilling to do any improvement work whatsoever on his own tango skills, he gets his daily fill of admiration from those who can’t yet distinguish between an advanced dancer and a long-term beginner.

So how does the tango vulture convince the beginners of his competence? Yes, you guessed correctly. He teaches in the milonga.

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This is the deal with teaching in the milonga: It Simply Isn’t Done. It’s impolite and patronising, especially if it’s done to make oneself look good at the expense of another person. Being taught in the milonga is like moving to another country and trying to learn the new language and then being invited to a party, but every time you try to say something, no one will be listening to what you want to tell them. Instead, people will be correcting your grammar and your pronunciation - and they’ll do it openly, so it becomes even more apparent to everybody how little you know. Maybe someone will even take you to another part of the room, away from the conversation, to practice verb conjugation with you.

“Yes, but she asked for it!”

It doesn’t matter what she asked for. She’s new on the scene, she’s eager to learn fast, and maybe her teachers didn’t think of mentioning the difference between a class, a práctica, and a milonga. Yes, she’s wobbly and bandy-legged, but she’s in the milonga to dance, like everybody else. The milonga is a place where everybody should be treated as grown-ups. Yes, I agree that the milonga also is a place with some difficult moral dilemmas. But let’s not make things even more complicated. There are lots of nice guys who dance with the beginners without any hidden agendas, proving that being a gentleman really is super easy.

Here’s how it’s done:

1) Dance with the girl. Keep your leading clean and, above all, free from the creepy ganchos.
2) If she asks about something, say “Everything is fine! Let’s dance and have fun!”, then
3) shut the hell up.

The Argentine tango is one of the most personal and intimate dances that exist. It needs to be based on two things: trust and respect. The beginner girl is putting a lot of confidence in all you leaders when she says yes to dance. What she should get in return is respect. If she does not get that, she’ll notice soon. And then she’ll be moving on.


Since I normally see this happen to followers, this post is voiced accordingly. Sadly, there are follower vultures as well. If you’re a follower vulture, all the above applies to you.

Credit goes to Iona “Terpsi” for the expression “long-term beginner”.