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Building a Better Tango Scene, Take 2

Perhaps the local dance scene isn't all that you would like it to be? You could complain, you could move towns, you could stop dancing altogether (??!!) or you could progress from being a tango consumer to being a tango scene builder and try to build a better tango world.

This doesn't have to be a big commitment or even a big deal. You could help new dancers or visitors to feel welcome, help organizers to clear up after their milongas occasionally...every little bit helps.

Perhaps you'd like to do a little more to help things along? Here are some ideas.

Support Promotional Events

We've been lucky in Welli that the Argentine Embassy has organized lunchtime milongas at the railway station with live music provided by 4XTango. This is a GREAT opportunity to get tango into the public eye. Consider taking a break from dancing at these events to chat to people who stop and watch. They're more potential new friends, right?

Encourage New Organisers

A fact of life is that everyone accumulates history with other people, some of it good and some of it not so good, and collectively these politics act as a handbrake on tango scenes. It's off-putting for new people, can be tiresome for established dancers and also for those directly involved in that there may be milongas which they feel unable to attend. This has a domino effect on events as many people don't dance where their friends don't dance, and so there's less for everyone.

We'd like to think that everyone should get on with everyone but the simple fact is that some people simply ...don't.

This is why new organizers need to be encouraged. They will also accumulate history with people but it will be different history to the previous organizers, which at least gives everyone else something new to talk about for a short time!

An easy way to grow new organizers is by having guest DJ slots at established milongas so that they can gain confidence that their tastes in music won't be the death of any milonga that they touch. It also helps them get a feel for what musical structures will appeal to their local market. An evening of cortina-less tango nuevo might be popular in Paris but might not succeed in Wellington. Then again, we wouldn't get anywhere if we didn't experiment a little and if none of the current organizers are running the kind of event that you want then why not give it a go? Perhaps there are other people feeling the same who will help make your milonga a success?

Teach What You Know

If you'd like the local standard of dancing to improve then perhaps you could help things along? Have you considered teaching what you know?

Purists might say that this is a terrible idea and that only good dancers should teach, however those purists may not have noticed the situation in BA where almost everyone that one meets at a milonga hands you their business card. (Or perhaps it's just that I'm really crap and it's only me? Oh well...)

The reality is that the standard of tango teaching varies a great deal from city to city, and within cities, and glass houses are everywhere so let's not cast too many stones about the place. Every dancer must find their own way and can make their own decisions as to whom they will listen or pay money for lessons.

My view is that there is no harm if people are clear that they are teaching what they know, emphasising that there is a big tango world out there with other teachers, and that they are introducing new people into an amazing lifestyle.

However if people are selling their teaching as the One True Tango then they'd better be prepared to justify why that is so, because there are an awful lot of One True Tangos out there.

You may not feel like teaching is your thing but you can encourage people towards teachers that you respect. It doesn't have to be a negative against other teachers, just a positive affirmation of your preferred ones.

Improving Your Own Dancing

It's easy enough to bemoan the lack of good leaders/followers in your area but are you trying to improve your own dancing? Are you part of the same problem for someone else?

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that dancing with better dancers will help you improve. That better leader may help you feel that you are improving by protecting you from your problem areas, and that better follower may flatter your lead by merely guessing what you wanted rather than you having led it. It's a social dance after all, and we're all hopefully trying to get along while chasing those Tango Moments.

If you'd rather not take lessons locally then how about snagging a cheap weekend flight to another city with a different set of teachers? Ask for recommendations from friends and acquaintances and go into the lessons with an open mind. None of us find magic teachers every time but it's all part of the process.

Make it your own 2-3 day tangofest. Pick a couple of days where the destination has a couple of milongas and take a few private lessons during the day.


  1. Thank you for this article. It gave a me a push, and it worth to read it as dancer and and as an organizer too!

    1. That's so cool, Endre, thanks very much! 😊


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