Tango Navigation (Part II)
The Entire Floor
Tango navigation is a complicated subject, but two simple things could solve almost all of the problems on the floor. On the last page we saw how the ronda can work efficiently if couples center themselves between the dancers ahead and behind. The secret is to use all of the available space in the right way. Couples should use the entire width of the ronda by dancing right up against the tables, and even out toward the center of the floor when space is available (more on that later). They can also dance up near the couple in front, and back near the couple behind—but then they always need to find their way back to the center. Now let's apply the same concept to the rest of the floor.
(or... Too Much Time on My Hands)
I sit around and complain so much about the way people navigate that Alej finally got tired and told me, "If it bothers you so much, stop complaining, and start your own milonga." So I did! I made a floor, and stuck in some tables. Then, because I'm a basketball fan, I decided to paint it like a basketball court. I painted in lanes for the ronda, with directional arrows, and I painted our sponsor's logo in the middle of the court. Finally, I added a couple of referees in stripped shirts, to keep people in line:
My milonga, with lanes, arrows, two referees, and our sponsor's logo painted mid-court.
Hope you like the blue tablecloths—I picked them out myself. Now, let's randomly paste some dancers around the floor. Some parts of the floor will be crowded, with dancers clustered together, and other parts will be relatively empty. In other words, a typical, messy milonga:
Why does this pattern occur all the time in milongas?
It's time for the referee to blow his whistle to stop the action! The music stops, and he gives everyone a warning: "Move away from the couple nearest you. If you see empty space, move toward it. Okay... dance!" They all follow his instructions, and as they dance, everyone takes a step or two away from the couple nearest to them. They drift into open space, and adjust themselves so that they are about equally distant from the nearest couples. Then they continue dancing, following the arrows, and drifting slowly around the floor. Just like basketball players, after a few whistles, they learn not to dawdle, or push up against other people, and the floor starts to look like this:
The problem can be fixed by two simple, intuitive rules: When you dance, move into empty space,
and drift away from the couple nearest you.
Now this is a milonga you can dance in! All it took to was for me to select the couples with my mouse that were jammed up, and slide them a step or two away from the dancers closest to them. I only had to move about half the couples, and I didn't move them far. It was incredibly simple. In the previous image, many of the couples are boxed in, or trying to dance with people right up next to them. But the people in the second picture have a real chance to express the music! If they plan ahead, they can even take a few large steps when they feel like it.
In my milonga, citations would be issued for running into other people. Couples with two tickets would have to attend counseling. Repeat offenders would be required to wear special collars which administer a harmless electrical shock whenever they dawdle too long in one spot, or push up against other couples.
When it's crowded, another lane usually forms inside the one nearest the tables. In a square pista, there's often enough room for some couples to dance in the middle. On a rectangular floor, couples in the inner ronda that are moving in opposite directions sometimes end up passing close to each other, like cars approaching on a two lane highway (second image, below).
Square rooms (left) often have space for couples to dance in the middle. Rectangular floors (right) sometimes
create a situation where couples pass each other from opposite directions (red area).
The inner ronda is often more chaotic than the outer ronda. Couples move in and out of it, and pass through it into the center. Obviously you need to be alert when the lanes pass from opposite directions (red area). I'm sure most people already know all this—but certainly not everybody. Even in the best milongas, there are often people who don't follow the flow of the floor. Some are newcomers, and others just don't pay much attention. But there's another group that intentionally violates the codigos. On the next page, we'll look at an example of how a couple can use "dawdling", "pushing", and even kicking, to take away space from other dancers.