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22 June 2015

Dancing in the dark

Event organiser: “People don’t want light milonga venues. One girl said that if it’s light, everybody will see it if she makes mistakes.”


Dancing at a milonga never felt scary to me. It’s just a room filled with amateurs dancing with other amateurs. We all make various amounts of “mistakes”. I do understand that if one feels insecure about one’s own dancing, one might feel more exposed or vulnerable in a brightly lit room. You probably feel like there’s a huge spotlight directed at you and that everybody sees your clumsy ochos in glorious detail. The rational argument is unfortunately that even in semi-darkness, we can see your clumsy ochos. And we don't mind clumsy ochos. Really. But I guess that this has a lot to do with feelings, which we should respect! I’d still like to mention a couple of reasons why dancing in a light room could be worth trying.

First, there’s mirada + cabeceo. Yes I know, not everybody uses it. Maybe you don’t. But there is an increasing amount of people who do, and if the room is dark, it’s really difficult. When everybody’s faces turn into grey discs with black shadows around the eyes, it’s hard to figure out which mood people are in and where they’re actually looking. You’re probably missing out on dances yourself because of this, even if you don’t use the mirada actively, because someone will always be looking around for a hopeful face.

Then there’s our general physical comfort. If you’re in a dark room for several hours in the night, you’ll probably become more tired than you would in a well-lit room, since your body believes it's bedtime and your eyes are constantly trying to adjust and focus in the dim light. It also could be that some leaders will have more trouble navigating if the room is badly lit, because it becomes more difficult to gauge distances and read the other leaders' intentions.

Organisers, you’re probably facing a bit of a dilemma regarding this. But my guess is that if you change the lighting in your milonga, people will get used to it after a while. If you’re afraid of losing your guests, you could make the adjustments gradual. This is easy to do in venues where there’s a dimmer on the lighting and you pay attention to your changes in the settings. Or you could make changes after the summer break, so the transition feels less sudden.

When I’m sitting and watching the dance floor, I see mistakes all the time. Why do I see them? Well… first and foremost because people are laughing. And you know what? It makes me kind of happy to watch this: People trying, failing a bit for a second and laughing about it before returning to their deep focus. I think mistakes are a good thing. They’re part of what keeps the milonga alive, vibrant, and human.

Plus they’re not mistakes. They’re just moments of misunderstandings.

So, shy dancer: don’t hide. You’re learning a difficult dance, and you’re dancing it in public. More than anything, I think this proves that you’re actually super brave and should be proud of yourself.