Tuesday, 16 September 2008

River Tango - layout matters

River Tango is a good thing and a fun idea, but layout is a serious problem.

If you're sitting, you're stuck, and if you're dancing, you're equally stuck. It's just too difficult to get from one to the other. There are two rows of seats on three sides of the dance floor - the fourth is the stage. The corners are blocked by large display boards which also protect the speakers. The only way in or out of the second row of seats, which are locked together, is at the end, like in a theatre. The only access to the front row is from the dancefloor itself. And the only way of changing partners without sitting for too long is by negotiation and arrangement on the dancefloor. It's physically possible to climb into the seats from behind, but they are surrounded by an interested, persistent crowd.

Just turning up and getting a dance is very hard work.

You can't circulate. You can't find or speak to anyone you know, even if they're there, unless you walk right away from the dancefloor and huddle at the back of the crowd. You can't avoid any partner you like less unless you resort to hiding. You can't really gamble and dance with a stranger because there's no way of telling who knows what's happening and who's just a spectator. If you've found someone you like, you'd be crazy to let go, or both of you'll be sitting getting cold for the next two hours. You can't make eye contact because you can't find an eye in the crowd.

As a milonga I don't like it at all, but there were lots and lots of people hardier than me. The temporary floor was a good one, much better than last year. When I arrived at about half past three I saw some people I know who might have danced with me at a real milonga, but I couldn't get close enough to see the floor at all. I went into the Tate for a while, and had a coffee. Then I craned between shoulders to watch a peformance, and when some people left I climbed over the seats to sit down. I chatted with a lady from Edinburgh who was here for a couple of days; I should certainly go there, and I hope she got a dance. I found a dance by text message, and got myself handed over on the dance floor for another. But otherwise, it was just plain impractical, and as soon as I got off the floor I felt almost panicky; both isolated and trapped, claustrophobic.

The band, StazzoMayor, were brilliant. As far as I can gather, they consist of Luis Stazo, who used to be in Sexteto Mayor until all the others died, and some youngsters he's apparently gathered for the purpose of continuing to make music till he sees a good reason to stop. The old have stamina, and I don't see how the young are going to say they're tired if he isn't. So they played a surprisingly long continuous set, and after that I ate a roasted corncob and went home.

Open air tango is nice. It works very well at Regent's Park; even if it rains, it's romantic, exciting, and quite comfortable. But unless you're extremely determined, layout matters. It's easy if you go with someone you want to dance with exclusively for four to eight hours. Otherwise, dress warmly, in layers, attach all valuables to your person, and good luck.


Elizabeth Brinton said...

So right you are, that layout really matters. Sometimes a venue just cannot be altered to be milonga friendly. Sometimes it can with a little thought.
It helps a great deal when people can walk around behind or between seats and tables, and you have described well how things can go very wrong otherwise.
There is one milonga here with a big beautiful floor, but it is actually too big, and one cannot see across the space, and it is very cold in the feeling...

yunki said...

i so agree - i had no idea who was just there watching and who's there to dance. We eventually found other people we knew and swapped partners on the dance floor as we couldnt move in or out ...

Anonymous said...

My own take on why layout matters here.
It had been sitting in the draft queue for a while.