Get out of town

22nd April 2010


I've now been to a number of milongas in the UK, outside of my home town of Lundin.

One thing I've noticed about the "out-of-town" venues, is that the atmosphere seems to be consistently more friendly, creating a far more harmonious dance environment.

People move - more or less - at the same speed around the floor. They keep a steady amount of distance between couples. They don't - by and large - bump into each other. And when collisions do occur, they apologise immediately.

Compare and contrast with some London venues, especially the central ones, which are more like a dogfight on the dance floor - where it's common to see everyone maneuvering to get the best space for themselves, taking advantage of every inch to display flash movements, walking against the line-of-dance, and so on.

So why the difference?

Some possibilities


Are people out of London simply better dancers?

I'd say "No". There are a lot of people dancing Tango in London who are experienced at dancing tango.

Whilst experience doesn't always correlate to ability, and whilst of course it depends on how you define "ability", I don't think there's an inherently-greater pool of dance expertise outside London than inside it. London has more teachers, and they've been teaching longer, than most other areas.


Brutally, people dancing in city locations are often a younger crowd than those of us our in the sticks.

This is the same for most dances - for most leisure activities, for that matter - simply because the younger crowd tends to go into town, and the older crowd tends to live in the suburbs and travel locally.

So it's possible that, with an older crowd, they're less aggressive, more polite, or more considerate than a younger, testosterone-fuelled bunch.

Single-style teaching?

For what it's worth, here's my theory.

London is a complete mish-mash; there are literally dozens of tango teachers in the London area.

Whilst this is great in terms of choice, it also means that there's no way for any teacher to try and impose a single "ethos" or culture regarding the dancing. Most London teachers don't even try. So you end up with a "lowest common denominator" effect, with dancers from different schools all mixing together at a single milonga, with their styles inevitably being different.

However, in smaller locations, well-established teachers (such as Ruth Zimmerman in Devon, Charles Long in Thames Valley, or Steve Morrall in Southampton) can help create such an atmosphere; and they have done. If the "floorcraft message" is consistently repeated at all classes and milongas, it's probably produce results.

Consistency stifles choice, but if the teachers are good, it can raise standards.

And you'll know if the teachers are good, if those locations start to be thougbt of as "tango hubs". For example, Totnes - the place is tiny, but it's got several full-time tango teachers there.

David Bailey, 22nd April 2010

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