Traveling – Single follower in a new town
Having to travel is part of the business life for many of us. And from a certain point of tango addiction on you definitely will check out the milongas in the cities you travel to, to go out and see some non-business-related people. Not only do you want to go out, you want to dance. And not just to dance, you want to have blissful tandas. So, how do you prepare for it, and what can you do?
For sure this post is useful for leaders as well, but since I write about my experiences, it is a more follower focused post. And I don’t want to teach the already experienced followers among us, I feel more to write something useful for women maybe going not very often to milongas where they don’t know anybody.
If you have your travel schedule ready, check first if you have friends or at least some known people in the city you are heading to next. If so, contact them a couple of days before your arrival and ask for recommended milongas. Try to find out as much as possible about the music played, dress code, style of the event, and location (especially how to get there and how to get in!). Ask your friends or acquaintances if they are willing to accompany you, this makes things smooth and easy.
If you happen to not have any contacts you can follow two strategies:
- Go on your own. This I recommend for dancers with a decent self-esteem as a dancer, good dancing level, observing skills, and non-verbal/mirada- & cabeceo-skills, as well as when you speak the language of your target city, and/or know quite well the local culture.
- Try to use your network, e.g. on Facebook, to find contacts before you travel – ask your friends if they know anybody, and let them establish the contact. I would do so for example if I planed to travel to Korea or Japan, which would be unknown for me, as a European dancer, in terms of language, culture, and habits. To have some local people who know you are coming, and willing to guide you, help you, and socialize with you (not necessarily dance with you!), gives a lot of safety and fun.
I will focus now on the most “scaring” way, the way on your own. Given you know where the milonga is going to happen, and how to get there, I recommend to arrive arround an hour after the beginning (earlier when the milonga lasts less than 3 hours). Prepare yourself on the way to be in an easy, relaxed and curious mood. Nobody can guarantee that you will have a nice night out, but you can at least come with a good mood, a will to socialize with new people, and the will to dance.
Change shoes and clothes outside the milonga room, enter the room upright and with a smile. Do not hide!
What I find very useful is the following approach: First I look for a free seat not really in the spotlight, with a good view of the room all over, where I sit down and observe first of all. I try to understand the structure of the room: where do people sit, where is the bar (probably leaders will go or stay there while buying drinks), are there groups detectable, where are the followers that want to dance? I observe people doing cabeceos or verbal asking for a dance, I observe if there is a “pick up” zone (where followers can be sure to be asked for a dance), or other spots of social interactions, and if people rather sit or rather move.
Second I focus on the dance floor and try to find leaders I would like to dance with. I observe where they go after dancing, where they sit, and where their preferred followers are located. Sometimes milongas have tables with skilled followers, or corners where the good dancers mingle, or where the local teachers sit. These places are often close to the DJ table. Try to find out where your potential dance partners are located in the room.
Be aware of leaders who search “fresh meat”. They will probably spot you very soon, and maybe approach you to dance with force. Let’s say it this way: my experience tells me, that usually the good dancers will rather not go to you directly after your arrival, asking you or grabbing your arm to dance. Most of the leaders I know are curious about new faces in the milonga, but they prefer to have seen you dancing before considering a dance with you. Exceptions may occur, especially when you are young and beautiful.
When you feel you know enough, find a seat where you are visible (light from above), but not blinded by light in front of you, and where you can easily establish eye contact with your selected leaders. Practise mirada! Choose the leader for your first tanda wisely. If you get stuck with a leader you can not follow well or do not enjoy dancing with, it will influence the following dances a lot. The goal should be to have a beautiful first tanda, so that other leaders watch you and take notice of your presence, as well your mood and your energy will profit a lot from a successful first tanda.
When it is difficult to establish eye contact, or finding a proper seat, or whenever I feel there is more activity needed, I mostly change my strategy into some more moving around. You can stand here and there, using your mirada, go to the bar, and talk to the leaders there. Sometimes a chat with the followers (at the bar, in the change room, or bathroom) helps a lot, like when you mention that you are new here, and ask for some recommendations with whom to dance. Friendly local people will (as leaders) maybe dance with you, or (as followers) introduce you to some of their friends.
And then things usually get going. Follow the flow.
If not? Hmmmm. Consider talking more to strangers, having more drinks, enjoying the music. There might be milongas where it is very hard to get dances, but usually you will find at least one friendly soul to open some doors for you. You might not have the best night ever, but eventually you will be proud on yourself to have been going there, and in the best case you made new friends, had blissful tandas, or some fancy cocktails, or all together! It is – I guess – in any case better than a lonely dinner in a hotel restaurant followed by some mini bar drinks and a TV show. Because it is life what happens to you, adventure and unpredictable moments.
You can tell your friends stories when you are back home, because there always happens something interesting/disgusting/impressing/surprising and maybe even something changing your life … 🙂