Definition of Social Dancing

Igor Polk, June 15, 2006

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Tango in 1914 and before in US;

11 Tango styles;

Tango subcommunities;


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The free flow of thoughts in 3 chapters


It all started here. Just a festival listing prepared by Stephen.P.Brown. He used liberty to mark out some of the festivals, "Those known for an emphasis on social dancing are marked with an asterisk."

Followed by:

"..My identification of festivals known for emphazising social dancing was simply intended to refer to those festivals that emphasize milongas over classes--as is underscored by the heavy reliance on instructors who lack performance credentials to lift them to prominence, (Some of the nuevo and nuevo-milonguero festivals don't neatly fit such classification.) Of course, the people organizing the events that empasize affordable dancing over instruction are marketing their events as being for social dancing. That is what they have to offer.." -- Stephen.P.Brown

"..Maybe I read this wrong, but I did not see a attempt to generally divide festivals between social and stage, but to delineate between those that had more concentration on the dancing rather than the teaching/workshop side. Nothing more.." -- Bill in Seattle

Chapter 1.

Thank you, Stephen and Bill, for clarification!

Now I understand that festivals are divided in Social and Learning, right!

Not social and stage, but social and learning, of course !

I would expect from a good social festival emphasis on Milongas. I would expect abundance of good dancers, formation of good dancing floor, and presence of experienced DJs who can make it good for everyone: socializing, personal trance, exchange of ideas, or highest-technique dancers. Teachers? This festivals could survive without them, but good performance always makes the axis of the rotation, and inspiring workshops generate new ideas and drive. Teachers compete to participate in these festivals: here they make their Names.

The major goal of travel to this festival: meeting great dancers, learning and exchange of ideas on the floor.

Learning festivals are probably the beginning of social festivals. They just build local community, universal, around a teacher, or dedicated to a particular style. These are either true local events, or they make emphasis on great Masters of the dance. These festivals depend on teachers and their Names.

The major goal of travel to this festivals: learning from teachers. There are less good dancers, which might not be a bad idea for a traveling aficionado!

And there is such thing: Festival Spirit..  

Chapter 2

The festivals with Masters and a lot of good dancers fall in the Social Category. It is not the presence or absence of Masters makes the festivals social or teaching. The more better Masters is always better. I mean Masters Who Teach.

It is the average level of participants independently of the style what defines the level of a festival. Every style has its Grand Masters of Dancing - Who do NOT Teach. They dance only. And particularly their presence defines the level of the festival. May be not exactly in the sense of social-vs-teaching.

I can not go into details about division of festivals into styles too much, just some thoughts:

Each style including close embrace: Apilado, Milonguero, Salon Close Embrace, or Nuevo Close Embrace ( these are all different to me ) has its masters. Artistry in close embrace is mostly invisible.

I would say that there are Social Masters who are Masters of this Invisible Dance. In social dancing, that what counts most - feeling and micro-technique which can mostly be evaluated on one-to-one level. (Woops, did I say something? )

Hmm..I would say exactly the same for open embrace social dancing. It is quite invisible in open too!

Can it lead to anther thought? Like this:

Social festivals emphasize dancing for feeling. In open or close. That is what you can do on the crowded floor - no space is required.

Well, it goes too far away... I do not want to go there. It is not the direction of social vs teaching, it is the direction of dividing in accordance with a dancing style. I do believe too, that every style is social as soon as it is large enough gathering of participants. Or, may be I force myself to it?

Or may be social is something totally different: a simple dance.

A simple dance? What the....

I like it!

* * *
It is much easier for me to give a definition who is a Social Dancing Master. It is the one who can dance every beginner or intermediate into a great dance! Give them a Tango Moment.  

Chapter 3

Ok, everyone is dancing... So, let me to continue.

It is useless trying to define what is social dancing without answering in what society.

If you gather such dancers like Gavito and Graciela Gonzales, Gustavo Naveira and Susana Miller, Juan Bruno and Martha Anton, and they would just start dancing for fun, for themselves, one would probably only imagine what a great dancing it would be! And that would be social dancing for this particular circuit!
( ;)))) Sorry, the next is serious..)

Social dancing should be thought of on a broader scale. Social dancing is a very significant part of society. Well, at least it used to be.

I know one gentlemen from Ireland. He is about 90. I asked him: "What did you do in your spare time when you was young"? "We were dancing" - was the answer, "at least 5 nights a week. Mostly foxtrot and tango."

Dancing was part of social life. Inseparable. That is where youngs were looking for the man and the woman, where people talked, meet each other. They did it for fun at their private parties. What a party without dancing! They did not dance complex patterns - it was not a major goal of dancing, the dance was simple.

They felt the drive to learn it! There were no teachers needed. My mom learned dancing herself when she was a girl. Facing the fireplace she was starting making her vals steps.

But they knew what a good dance is. My uncle remembers: "It is so nice to dance with a good dancer. It is SO PLEASANT."

What my father did in his forgotten corner of Russian countryside? They danced! All long Russian winter nights. No electricy, got to worm up the soul...

Thay danced what? Vals, foxtrot, and tango. Sometimes polka and such. It depends on the place. When I was a boy we did not know that. We knew only "slow dance" and "fast dance". Only someone knew vals. Our slow dance was a "monkey dance". But that was social dancing since it happened often, spontaneously. Close, open - who cared. Only the couple.

It was originated by society itself. It was not a fruit of efforts of some teachers and organizers. It had social basis.

Come to a night dancing club - that is social dance now. Sorry, no couple dancing. Very loud music, hypnotizing light effects: the world is not quite the same as it was 100-50 years ago.

So, the dance was born within people, by people, and for people dancing it. Argentina was such a place where the average level of dancing ( 100-50 years ago ) was very high. Somehow it was able to be preserved and improved. Because that was a part of social life! So, those who say that the way argentineans dance is social are probably right. But if you plant it on the other ground will it bloom the same way on the different soil? May be tango outside of Argentina forever doomed to be not social. I do not think so. It was. It is doubtful to expect the same level of social dancing from foreigners, but it existed. It was social phenomena, and it was social dancing.

We do not have social tango now. Why? There is no wide social basis. Small groups, almost underground actions. In 10 minutes after a milonga not a trace is left of that gathering! It looks like it goes for Argentina too. Will it change? Will see.  

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