Can it be true that salsa dancers have more fun than tango dancers? I once went to a huge public party in the Hague, where one side of City Hall was reserved for hundreds of salsa dancers. Another, much smaller part, behind a big black separation screen, was created for us tango dancers. Can you picture it? On the salsa side, lightly dressed couples were wiggling and hip-swinging, filling the floor to the brim, celebrating life with shiny eyes and bared teeth. Quite a few of them were getting laid that night, or so it seemed. The barkeepers were working double time on the salsa side. On our side, the mood was somber, the clothing dark, and women on the side were looking sadly at their glasses of water.

The situation made me snigger at the time, but I also questioned my life choice of devoting so much time to such a bleak enterprise. The melancholy music, the teary singers, the middle-aged crowd… That perfect tanda, that might never happen…was it all worth it? I felt like a supporter of the Feijenoord Rotterdam soccer team: having to wait twenty years for a championship, through many struggling matches, while in the meantime all the winning and laughing takes place in the Johan Cruijff arena in Amsterdam. You somehow must stick with it, for the love of the club, in a strange sort of masochism.

I love salsa. My Surinam friends in high school showed me early on how to move on it. So why is it I’m slightly bored, after five or six dances in a salsa crowd? I’ve heard people say salsa is technically less challenging and attracts a crowd that’s mostly interested in the after-after-after party. Is it very different for tango dancers? I’m not so sure… Maybe tango is for people with a warped sense of humor, like me?  Or for people who think that learning a few things about life is fun: one day you fly, another day you sink. A milonga is like life. Is it a coincidence that several tango dancers in my circle climb steep mountains with their bare hands?

Of course, fun is a personal feeling that can vary from person to person. For instance, I personally think milongas are hilarious, but you may not enjoy in the same way how cabeceos tragically turn sour when the wrong person gets up. Or this wonderful moment when an overconfident leader trips his follower into a slapstick scene… Priceless! Not to mention the juicy drama lurking under the surface of any milonga. Former soul mates, who would happily drink each other’s blood now, leaders who take lessons for fifteen years but can’t produce a decent ocho cortado…That guy in a Berlin, who couldn’t take his eyes off the spectators on the side, while he hurled his partner every which way… all fun to me!

Is the grass on the salsa side greener? I have a neighbor whose grass is greener because he drilled a 30 meters hole in the ground and pumps up water all summer. Perception can be reality. I may have to explore the salsa dancing experience more and persist after the sixth dance, to get some more intel. For instance, I could check whether it’s true that many of them get laid after a long party night. Maybe we’re completely wrong and everybody goes home to a cold bed! That would be hilarious, and I would have to rethink the whole case.


Story posted by: Martin van Kesteren

About the author: Organiser, Writer from Amsterdam

Published: 24 Feb 2023 @ 09:45

Last modified: 24 Feb 2023 @ 22:41

Comments (1)

Judith Lennaerts (No profile page...) commented:
It is a great pleasure to read your articles Martin van Kesteren !
Posted 15 Mar 2023 @ 16:27 | Last modified 15 Mar 2023 @ 16:27 | View and share
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