War On Hoggers

6th May 2009

(More Unlocking the Milonga articles.)

"The only solution is to kill 600 people in one night. Let the UN and Bill Clinton and everyone else make a scene - and it is over for 20 years." ~ Alan Clark


Mr. Clark was talking about the IRA, of course. But I can't help feeling his general sentiment - "get rid of the worst lot and the problem is solved" - is very tempting when you see the chaos a few thoughtless dancers can cause on a milonga floor.

Most dancers - most people - are kind, courteous, and friendly. At least 95% of the people at a milonga are lovely gentle people. They take care of their partner, they're there to meet friends, to have a good time, to learn and of course to dance.

And then... there are the hoggers...

The hogger phenomenon

These are the people for whom "lane discipline", "floorcraft" and "courtesy" are strange and unknown terms; they are effectively a foreign language. Which is ironic, because the average hogger will often be conversant in a foreign language (Spanish).

Often, these are experienced dancers - note that they are "experienced", not "good" - who have developed a reasonably good visual repertoire of steps and movements. It's even within the bounds of possibility (admittedly, damn big bounds) that they are indeed good to dance with.

However, they're a complete and utter nightmare for anyone dancing near them.

They zoom along the floor in manic fashion. They overtake. They undertake. They stop suddenly. They whirl their partners around like crazy people. They take massive steps in crowded areas.

In short, they're hoggers of space.

So why do people dance with them?

Well, I'm glad you asked that.

The short answer is, "They look good".

Up until a certain point, I think most of us have pre-conceived notions about How Tango Should Be. We've seen the shows, we've seen the cabarets, we've watched the Youtube videos, and so on. We think that tango is about the flashy stuff - the leg kicks, the dramatic powerful movements, the lunges and so on.

Yes, OK, we may have "learnt" that it's "about the walk", we may even believe we believe in that, but deep-down, I think a lot of us still think it's all about the kicking.

Typically, though, I also think that most of us eventually evolve our views, and realise that those teachers were right all along. By and large, followers, especially the good ones, don't care about these flashy moves we've spent so much time learning. They just want to dance, in a connection, in an embrace.

It is all about the walk, and if you can walk well, hordes of drop-dead gorgeous followers will fight to the death over access to your body for just one tanda.

So most of us start - eventually - to work on our walk, we finally internalise what we've been told.

So, my theory is, hoggers never progress beyond that stage - they keep working on the moves, more moves, more moves... They don't care about the walk, and so they just don't "get" tango.

One solution: The Conspiracy

One positive proposal is to develop, from the ground up, a "floorcraft conspiracy" in London.

Effectively, this is an attempt to use a small number of couples, co-operating, to manage an entire dance floor.

I have some hopes for this - in tests, it seems to have a leveraging effect far beyond what I'd expected. If I'm right, then the force-multiplier of 3-4 couples should be enough to bring a large degree of harmony to a dance floor. We shall see...

However, whilst this will hopefully inspire those 95% I talked about earlier, I'm not sure if this will tame the hoggers...

So, possibly, some harsher measures will be required. OK, not "Alan Clark harsh", but ideally, some kind of group penning-in action, until the offender gets the message and either changes his behaviour, or leaves - either way, a win-win for the Good Guys.

 - David Bailey, 6th May 2009

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