Milonga driving

13th February 2009


Inspired by this information on Motorway Driving, I thought I'd do a similar version for milonga dancing. Hopefully this doesn't hammer the analogy too far into the ground...

Like many (most) historical partner dances, Tango is a progressive dance - you move around the room.

However, as most dance halls are rectangular, not hoop-shaped, this typically means there's space for two or more "lanes" of "traffic" in the average hall.

First, do no harm

Safe milonga dancing has some similarities to safe motorway driving - in both cases, the most important thing is safety.

Leaders, the most important basic principle is to keep yourself and your partner safe and secure throughout a dance. Fancy moves, wonderful musicality, dazzling footwork - if you're not safe, these mean nothing.

Preparing for milonga driving

As with so much else in life, preparation is everything. Some simple tips:

  • Make sure you know how many lanes there are.
    Some milongas will have only one lane, most may have two or more, some may be a coomplete free-for-all. It's worth spending a little time in a new venue looking at the flow of dance before joining it.
  • Know your capabilities.
    Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are "undertall", be aware that you are more likely to have a large blind spot on your right-hand side - your partner. If you have long legs, be aware that you are likely to naturally take larger strides than others.
  • Choose your lane.
    Typically, the most experienced dancers tend to stay on the outside lane, and the least experienced are on the inside. It's worth deciding which lane you want, before setting out.

Joining the milonga

Some of the most difficult parts of the dance are the start and the finish. Admittedly, the middle can be no picnic also...

But in terms of milonga driving, the start is probably the part that requires the most judgement. Like joining a motorway via a slip road, you need to remember that you are the "odd one out" - the one who has to fit in with the flow. It's not up to the other couples to slow down for you - you need to fit into their flow.

Obviously, the best and easiest way to do this is to get into position at the start of a tanda / track, and then move when everyone else does - but often people will join a milonga in the middle of a track.

So if you do this, you need to ensure that you match the speed of your dancing to the rest of the traffic; otherwise you will become a hazard to both yourself and other couples.

And you also need to identify a decent-sized gap in the traffic, so that you can join in the dance with minimal disruption.

Lane discipline / overtaking

Lane discipline in Tango is far more strict than in motorway driving. In motorway driving, the normal rule is to use the left-hand lane unless you are overtaking, but overtaking is not in itself problematic.

In Tango, the rule should be "never overtake, unless absolutely necessary". It's not a race, there's no requirement to achieve or maintain a minimum speed - the enjoyment is in the dance, not in the amound of ground covered.

However, sometimes you simply have to overtake - for example, if a couple simply stops for some reason. On these occasions, the general rules are the same for both: allow time and space. Check all around you, and give other dancers plenty of space before starting any manoeuvre.

And, of course, once you've changed lanes, pay the same amount of care and attention to changing lanes back...

Leaving the milonga

You will normally leave the milonga at the end of a track - fairly simple; everyone stops moving, you can thank your partner and move on.

However, on rare occasions you may need to exit quickly - for example, if your partner is injured. If so, make sure you take the same care and attention as you did on entry - make it clear to the couple behind you that you're leaving, take care and attention, and don't compound the problem by bumping into people on your way out.

Remember, just because you've stopped dancing, no-one else is obliged to - as always, you should aim for minimum disruption of the flow of dance.

For more information:

 - David Bailey, 13th February 2009