There are many good reasons not to change things in your milonga. For one, I hate change. Not many people like change, for that matter. My favourite bar hasn’t changed in thirty-five years. My supermarket knows that it annoys me when items have been moved. Milongas are not much different; most people sit in the very same chair they were in last time, even after an absence of months. They dance with the same people most of the time; we are animals of habit. Still, my old bar has removed the billiards (hated that) and my supermarket wakes me up regulary, by changing the route (damn). Dancers return to a milonga, because they know what they can expect to get. When you change something, you may pay a price.

Over the almost five hundred editions of our weekly milonga, we were strict about keeping things the way they were. We maintained a ‘Dj-only’ policy and insisted on pure dancing time. We never allowed traveling orchestras, or maestros, to nibble at it with performances or any other type of frivolous distraction. The many requests we received from travelling maestros could simply be rejected by saying ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you. It‘s policy”. Once or twice we succumbed to emotional pressure and allowed a little trio or singer in. People talked about it for years… Not about the performances, but, about the weakness of our spines.

Despite the comfortable dogmatism of our approach, six months ago we changed something bigger than the choice of tea. Here’s the background story: fewer people seemed to be valuing our pre-milonga practica, originally intended to enable beginners and intermediate level dancers (whatever that means) to practice. However, just like gyms in corporate offices are mostly used by people that already love to work out, the practica was routinely used by a very small group of accomplished dancers. In a reckless mood, we decided to replace it with walk-in musicality workshops before the milonga. It fitted with our style, was good for staff satisfaction, and, we contributed something to tango.  You can imagine the bitterness expressed by all, at this betrayal of ancient principles and customs.

Like in the Joni Mitchell song, people only know what they’ve got until it’s gone.  You have to make a change every once in a while to make them realize. What could be a next thing to change ? Well, we toss and turn at night sometimes, wondering about inviting travelling performers, after all. We also have many contacts now with orchestras, so who knows, what we could organize? A couple of months ago, a visiting singer spontaneously offered to sing a tango or two. In the spirit of the moment, we said yes and it made nice FB footage… Should we maybe get new candles, nice black velvet table cloths and replace the plastic flowers? I can see a couple of people sitting up right now, saying what, nooo! The bastard! Not the plastic flowers!!

Story posted by: Martin van Kesteren

About the author: Organiser, Writer from Amsterdam

Published: 25 Nov 2019 @ 22:28

Last modified: 14 Jan 2020 @ 15:03

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