Tango Cherries – successful event = happy follower?

Embracing each other, credits: Marta Kossakowska, hrum.nl
Embracing each other, credits: Marta Kossakowska, hrum.nl

Recently there were quite some discussions ongoing on Facebook, about successful events, and what does it mean exactly. So here come my 1 and a half cents about it.

As a frequent traveller in tango, when do I count an event as a success? To make a long story short: when I felt well. And this already shows the difficulty: we can not predict how an event will be, because our feelings depend on so many different things.

There are at first some more technical, infrastructural, but indispensible prerequisites for a feeling-well-weekend:

  1. A wooden floor. No excuses, yes in Buenos Aires we dance on stone floors, but actually there I go for 4 hours of milonga, not for 36 hours of music played and maybe 20 hours spent dancing and chatting in the dance area.
  2. A good sound system. The older I grow the less I want to accept pain in my ears because of half deaf DJ’s (or DJ’s who do not care about the sound, how ever technically they manage that), or bad sound systems with displeasing buzzing, or simply too loud music. It is quite simple: on the dance floor the music shall be clear and loud enough that I don’t need to hold my breath to hear it, and outside of the dance floor I want to be able to hear what it is and be able to chat without screaming or tiring my voice.
  3. Air Management. You need proper heating or aircon, depending on the weather, and it should be self-adjusting or organizers need to check frequently. Neither leaders like to sweat like hell and change shirts after every tanda, nor do followers like it when they feel deep frozen when sitting more than one tanda. The system should be noise-free (no squeaky ventilators, please!) and draft-free as well.
  4. Structure of the room: it is crucial to have enough seats for at least all followers and some leaders, because most followers prefer to sit thanks to their high heels, even if it is only during the cortinas. I always appreciate furthermore to have a chill out area available. There dancers can relax, drink, chat (music should not be loud there), eat, and even sleep a bit. For the dancing I prefer an intuitively detectable pick up zone: it is very useful when there is an area, where leaders maybe standing (at / around the bar) and followers sit and both side clearly signal – through being there – that they are available for dances. This is especially helpful if it is an event where people dance consecutive tandas, and / or the dance floor is quite big (so mirada/cabeceo through the whole room is difficult), or when the light doesn’t allow a long distance cabeceo.
  5. Lights! For the daytime milongas I really like it when there is daylight in the dance area, and maybe even a nice view outside. For the night milongas dimmed lights are more cosy, but the balance to have enough light for cabeceo and mirada and few light for dancing is not easy to reach. The model of some milongas in Buenos Aires, where they switch on and off the lights for cortina and first half song to enable cabeceos I did not see so far in marathons or other events. I guess it is too much hassle.
  6. Some good DJ’s. Here our taste differs, that’s totally right. But over all I prefer DJ’s who connect with the dancing crowd, feel the needs of the dancers, who do not just play their playlist (how sophisticated it might be!). Who know about different volume levels in their songs and deal with it properly, and who do not want to impress dancers nor organizers with songs nobody knows, ever heard of, or are hard to dance to. A surprise tanda in a set is nice, if it is embedded well in the other tandas, but mostly people want to dance to songs they know (especially leaders) and like (all).
  7. Some good food. Hungry people are unhappy people. Cheap food nobody really likes. Beyond this I personally prefer events with common organized meals, or at least with an affordable priced restaurant at the venue. Often I feel too tired to organize friends for meals in unknown cities, so I can just hope to follow a bunch f friends who go out for dinner.
  8. A decent bar: a good wine, or cocktail, and good coffee is the icing on the cake of a good marathon.
  9. Some good sleeping options. I like most when I can stay at least within walking distance of max 10 minutes around the venue, but preferably in the same building. And for me it is important to have the opportunity to book a single room when none of my favorite room mates are registered. Sleeping options ideally cover different budgets of participants.
  10. A well-balanced crowd. Well balanced not only in term of roles, but in terms of dancing abilities, nationalities, and mindset. An event can be perfectly balanced with a group of intermediate dancers and a group of high level dancers, as long as the roles are balanced in that sub-groups. If you have many good followers and few good leaders (or vice versa) – good night my friends. If you have a big group of people from nationality A, who usually don’t speak very much english, and tend to stick close together in dancing, chatting, and dining, and some other group of international travellers from nations B to Z, who want to mingle … bad combination. And I don’t talk about events with way too many followers, it is stressful for both sides. Leaders can not take any break without being traced from 15 pairs of hungry eyes, and followers tend to sit way more hours hoping to catch tandas and being deeply frustrated soon.
  11. A reasonable price: in the end we need the impression, that spending our time and money was worth it. Whatever this might mean for every single participant …

And now we come to the more personal, non-fact, and soft part of it – what do I need to feel to feel good?

  1. The feeling fo being welcome as a person, and not only a paying participant. Means: caring organizers (example: I remember an event where you could not find any mobile number of the organizers, because they did not want to be disturbed by guests, and where the check out of the associated hotel was at 10 o’clock, but they opened the brunch and dancing at 14 h, keeping tons of dancers sleep deprived with suitcases hanging in a little town with few cafes and kiosks to kill time …).
  2. Your friends are there, or people are friendly and integrate you in their circles, if you travel alone and happen to not know many people. So you feel socially integrated and have some great chats, maybe make new friends, or get drunk, or whatever you count for it.
  3. The feeling of being appreciated as a dancer. Means: dancers of +/- your level ask you for dances, and not only your friends, but as well unknown dancers get in contact with you (that is a reason to travel, to dance with people I don’t know yet). Means as well: local tangueros/-as have an eye for too long sitting guests, and open some virtual doors for them (e.g. introducing you actively to other friends, dance with you the first tanda when you arrive and don’t dance for the first hour). So you have a significant number of tandas with different people you enjoy more or less, but no suffering tandas because of rambos on the dance floor, squeezing embraces, lacking musicality or painful tensions in the dance caused by your partner.
  4. Picking success. Means: most of us scan the room in the early hours after arrival and look for potential dance partners. Later you feel especially good when you manage to dance with exactly these people, and when your impression from watching them turns out to be a pleasurable experience in the dancing itself, too.
  5. THE tanda. If you happen to catch an event where you meet this unknown (or known, but not seen for a while) dancer, who catches your mirada with a perfect cabeceo, and in the very first embrace you melt away and think: “omg, hopefully this tanda never ends”, and after one or several tandas you glow from inside that we would not need any more light inside the room because of your shining – that is the ultimate button to press to have been at a “successful” event. Honestly I believe that many of us traveling tangueros/-as are searching this experience, this mind-blowing, soul-warming, body shaking tangasm.

All the above mentioned points need to be fulfilled somehow, more or less, to catch a good time and THE tanda.

Dear organizers, I know especially the last feeling-part is not going to help you to make good events. You mostly can not influence it, and different persons in the same event will have different feelings. But you can try to facilitate it, and I think for this approach you might find some points in here.

Your mileage, may differ and I am completely aware of that!

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