Managing the demographics of a milonga requires controlling your tattoo ratio. Milongas work magically when the dancers represent a good mix of ages, backgrounds and gender. A diverse mix of dancers makes interactions so much more mysterious and interesting. It does require that everybody must move a little out of their comfort zone, which is where, as we all know, the wonderful feeling of being alive resides. This is why a milonga organiser should constantly work to build the atmosphere and profile to appeal to all of these groups. This is also where your tattoo ratio comes in.
There is no tattoo on my body, and I don’t plan to get one. I think. When I was young, the consensus in my peer group was that tattoos were meant for gang-members, motor clubs and foreign tribes. To me, most tattoos looked weird or ludicrous and, in general, like something that you would likely regret at a later time. It meant that you might want to have it removed later, at the cost of considerable suffering. Most people that were born before 1980 seem to agree with me on this subject. Some of them got themselves a tattoo anyway, after long deliberation, usually a conservative, modest and artistic one. But not me.
I know what you are thinking boring, boring, boring! Indeed, I am not known for risky fashion statements. My attitude towards tattoos reflects my general lack of interest in external expressions of individuality. My cars are usually German and black, stretching to dark-blue if I felt frisky in the showroom. There are blue and grey suits in my closet. My tango attire is also similarly dull, because my only requirement is that they are light and loose-fitting. You could conclude that a tattoo on an arm or chest, expressing the bearer’s admiration for Metallica, Ajax or Ronaldo, seems to me an ineffective and expensive way to state an opinion. Of course, I am not in any way denying the person’s right to state their opinion, be it on visible or invisible parts of his or her body.
Tango changed my view on tattoos, though. I have seen tattoos that made me catch my breath and steady my heart beat. Some made me admire the bearer more. A couple of them shocked me and others embarrassed me, for a variety of reasons. Tattoos always capture my attention and I have begun to realise that there is a hidden divide between the haves and have-nots in the milonga and notice how this creates an interesting tension. The haves crossed a boundary that have-nots were not able or chose not to cross. They possess a personal body confidence that I am missing, and will never have, and they made a commitment that I, always the doubter, am unable to make. This somehow makes them inexplicably sexy, too.
I estimate that at least one third of the dancers born in the nineties has one or more tattoos on their body. They had them inked on shoulder, neck, ankle, arm, lower back, thigh, hands, feet and on a number of places one can only imagine. They are stronger than me, and have a riskier relationship with life. I like that. In fact, I would prefer not to dance in a milonga with people who are have-nots, like me. The tattoo ratio of a healthy milonga, to me, should at least be 30 percent, which is the point where it all becomes sufficiently spicy. Managing ratios toward that optimum point may require, from the milonga team, the ultimate step. A notion that sends shivers down my spine as I write this.