Why do we feel better in some dance spaces than in others? I have seen trapezium-shaped halls, under sky-like ceilings, and I have danced in elliptic domes. My experience includes parallelograms, banana-shaped pubs and neo-gothic churches. I once had to fight like Indiana Jones, high boleos zipping past my brow, through an L–shaped space in Berlin, wriggling my partner and myself around a grand piano, placed right inside the angle. Tango dancers do it anywhere, I guess, on quays and coffee tables. But what makes dancers feel at ease and happy, and what causes discomfort and awkwardness?
For most of my life I didn’t know my Feng from my Shui, so I am not claiming any fine taste in interior decorating. I was born and raised in war-destroyed Rotterdam, which means that I can develop warm feelings for rusty steel constructions. Show me a gas station, and I am reminded of romance. Lead me past a derelict harbor area and my breast swells with chauvinistic emotion. I once travelled the American east coast, trying to rank the tackiest and most tasteless buildings. Among the winners was a marriage parlor, that, to some appropriately, looked like a portal to hell. So, my observations on the best conditions for venues and interiors are strictly based on what dancers tell me about them.
Some of my basic findings are, that circles and tunnel-shaped rooms don’t work. I have correctly predicted the demise of milongas, on those factors alone. A circle messes up your ronda; couples get into each other’s lanes and end up arguing with each other, or in the hospital, or both. A tunnel will create two unhappy groups on each end of the room and uncomfortable, disoriented people in between. Spaces that are too modern, or recently built, often don’t do the trick. Halls that are bigger than twenty meters long and fifteen meters wide create physical and mental distance between dancers. Doors accessing directly to the street cause negative vibes and have to be camouflaged. Pictures of other dance types on the walls, like salsa or ballroom, are a kiss of death. So are stage lamps. And so on.
‘What a beautiful space you have here’, newcomers tell me, to my amazement. I shrewdly do not deny such statements, however our milonga literally doesn’t have one piece of furniture, wallpaper or decoration that a sane cultured person would allow into his home. The curtains are worn office slats. The tables have formica finishing. The chairs date from the sixties and there are plastic flowers everywhere. In daylight, it is a terrifying place, competing well with my all-time tackiest New Jersey marriage parlor. After dark however, the room is all tango, and just works. The building is as old as tango itself. The dimensions are just right. The interior is slightly over the top, like a good tango dress, and the assembled objects and accessories convey a sense of melancholy. I guess the main effect of the interior is, that it urges you to throw yourself in someone’s arms as soon as possible. Not sure if there is a Chinese word for that.
Published: 9 Dec 2019 @ 14:14