Thursday 27 October 2011

Too old to be cool?

My first article on this blog was about men‘s criteria for choosing a dance partner. I pointed out, that there seems to be a general tendency to select young, good looking women. But I also found, that there was a group young Milongueros, who go rather for dance experience and dance with women of all ages. The article caused strong negative reactions by some men and very affirmative reactions by women. 
Now I made some more observations on the topic „Tango & Age“.
One of the great advantages of Tango is, that it does not depend on being athletic or young. Tango is a social dance and people of all age groups can dance it. That‘s great and in my first Tango years, I used to praise the unifying effect of Tango events: young and old people, dancers of different social backgrounds would dance to the same music, visit the same Milongas, be friends, learn from each other... at least in the more „traditional“ Tango communities or Milongas. 
And even better: In Tango „old age“ seems to be connected to wisdom and dance skills. Maybe this is only a relic of an archaic model of society with all generations living together, but I like the idea.
It is nevertheless common knowledge, that young(er) dancers cluster in the big cities with universities and at Milongas that tend to be nuevo-ish. Also Tango Marathons do have a relatively young clientele. It is very understandable, that the „young and beautiful“ band together, sharing the same ideas about music, movement and interaction off the dancefloor. But so far, I only connected this phenomenon to the Nuevo environment.
Now I am surprised to find, that a similar process of differentiation seems to be happening in the „traditional“ setting as well.
A couple of months ago, a young Milonguera told me about her experiences at a Tango festival. She obviously did not like it a lot, because most of the dancers were using open embrace and focussing rather on big movements than on social dancing. Also Cabeceo and Mirada were difficult. She had heard about an off-festival Milonga organised by some visiting dancers and decided to check it out. But when she got there, she was disappointed: These people were obviously not very good dancers and they were so OLD! She said that last word with a tone of utter disgust that really shocked me.
I cannot blame her - she wants to be amongst people of her age. But what became of the unifying effect of Tango and respect of old age in Tango? Does that apply only to old Argentine Maestros and „old Milongueros“ in BA?
Since then, I‘ve been consciously watching the Milonguero/Salón scene and noticed, that „young and cool“ events develop all over Europe. Our „Festivalito con Amigos“ is no exception: the average age of this years event was definitely lower than in the last years. And most of the dancers came by personal invitation. Does that mean, that I also start choosing my Tango friends by age? Nah... I don‘t think so. There were still lots of dancers of all generations, embracing each other on the dancefloor. It's just that there were more people overall and the additional ones where younger. :-)
But there is a general tendency amongst the young people in the „traditional“ environment to cluster. You can clearly watch this phenomenon in Buenos Aires, where „young“ Milongas budded in the last years. There are so many dancers in their early 20‘s... They still meet the other generations at the „Sunderland“ or „Cachirulo“, but do many older dancers visit the new Milongas? And are they welcome? I haven‘t been to BA so often in the last years, that I could judge. 
Maybe there‘s no reason to worry: A „rejuvenation“ of the Milongas does not have to be a result of the „not-so-young-ones“ being rejected. It might just be due to the fact, that more young people like to dance in close embrace and that‘s good. And if they form their own clubs, that‘s totally normal as well!
But then again, I think of that young woman and wonder: When will I be „too old“ for the young people? Currently, Detlef and I can be described as middle-aged. We are accepted by people of all generations and are invited to dance or teach at the „cool“ Milonguero events. But what about 15 years from now - provided that we still dance and teach Tango? Will we then be respected as „old Maestros“ or merely be „uncool“? Will I be still able to choose my partners amongst men of all ages or will I dance in a senior residence with people of my age group?
Do not misunderstand me: I‘m not fishing for compliments or self-affirmation. A more radical age discrimination may still work out for me: When all my Tango friends are too old to move, we‘ll simply stand and embrace to the music! 
But it would be sad for Tango. Would it not?


Susanne said...

In most Berlin milongas there are still people of all ages
, but what appears is that if you are "old" you are expected to be "good". So I wonder whether this young woman's disappointment did not come from the fact that the dancers where neither young nor experienced. So I believe you don't have to worry :-)

Lynn said...

Coca Y Osvaldo - coolest couple anywhere!

Meanwhile I love the cross-generational aspect of Tango, think age clustering is natural, delight in all chosen embraces, think 'elites' are mostly a figment of the unhappy imagination, welcome the vigour, energy and experimentation of youth and rejoice in the sense, sensibility and sensitivity of older dancers. And I love it when the common attributes of youth and age are reversed! Ageism in either direction is knee-jerk nonsense - let's not buy into it for a second.

Melina Sedo said...

Yep. Osvaldo & Coca are cool and I wanna be like her in 15 years! She just lets him run around and never looses her relaxed ways.

Theresa said...

In Buenos Aires the division between the young and old crowd is more pronounced, because there is not so much in between, means not so many middle-aged good dancers (this is because tango had disappeared almost completely in the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies).

In the "young" milongas there (Milonga 10, El Motivo, Tangocool, and others), I estimate that there are about 90% people younger than 35, and the rest is middle-aged, only rarely you can see really old dancers.

As a middle-aged dancer (though a bit older than Melina) I had difficult moments in these milongas (anyway, it can also be difficult for good-looking young dancers, because quality of dancing is what counts there). But once I knew a few dancers, I got more and more invitations, regardless of age. This year I preferred the young milongas, I loved the level of dancing and the musicality there, and I danced mostly with men who were much younger than me.

And there are possibilites to get to know these good dancers in a more informal surrounding in the afternoon prácticas (La María, Flan Práctica, La Querusa), the atmosphere there is really open, and age doesn't matter.

So in summary, it can be difficult as well in Europe as in Buenos Aires for older people to get invitations to dance, but good dance skills and good networking are the things that help a lot.


Anonymous said...

I left a longer comment on your Facebook, which I won't reproduce here. But I'd just like to say that as middle-aged dancer, who has been living in Buenos Aires for the past six years, I completely agree with Theresa's comment.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts...
My spelling czar finds the misspellings a distraction from your intended theme, and wants to invite you to spell more conscientiously, so that your point comes through clearly..."dependent" not "dependant" (word does not exist)..."loses" not "looses" (word also does not exist - "loose" is an adjective only).

Anonymous said...

Reality is: If you are a pretty old woman and a beginner too, you have very few chances for getting invitations to dance. Men like to dance with good dancers and first of all with younger ones. That's what you can notice in the most milongas in the Rhein-Main-Neckar-area.

Melina Sedo said...

Excuse my lamentable English, dear anonymous writer. Please do not forget, that I am but a simple german woman without a higher degree in English literature.

I therefore corrected "dependant". But where do I use the word "loose" in that article? Pray, tell me! Also, me and my spelling-correction on "Pages" did not find any other mistakes. So, if there are any other mis-spellings, do not hestitate to point them out to me. Mistakes must be corrected!

I hope, that everyone else understood me properly despite my numerous mistakes! So sorry. I am desperate...

Melina Sedo said...

hum... I was not expecting or aiming for a discussion about "getting dances as an older person". We already did this a year ago in the earlier post.

This post focusses on the general "clustering" of young people in "cool" Milongas. or the development of "new" events from which the elder generations are banned from the beginning. That's much more general and less about personal experiences...

But I can understand, that there is ALWAYS a need to discuss the more personal implications of ageism as well. So, thank you for your comments!

Chris S said...

As a guy who mostly leads, I have to say that I have become a bit more careful when inviting older ladies to dance whom I don't know.

I have danced a lot in Berlin, quite a bit in Hamburg and Stuttgart, and a lot on the US East Coast and in Canada.

In my experience, older women can be a pleasure to dance with - especially since they are much more confident and have better social skills than a 20-something-yearold.

However, I have had several rather painful tandas with older women who are not serious about their dancing and who use Tango as a night out. So you end up with someone in your arms who had a bit too much red wine and cannot keep her balance.

Second, I **sometimes** find that older followers are quite stiff - probably because their bodies are simply a bit older, so pivoting etc becomes harder. As a result, I as a lead feel constrained in my dancing - in a way that is MORE uncomfortable to me than when I have to limit my dancing because I dance with a beginner who easily gets confused or stressed out.

Having said that, I have to state that one of my favorite followers is about half my size and a bit overweight, and the other is about 55 years old.

But we have to face the simple fact that dancing is a physical activity, and one that is physically much more demanding on the followers than on the leaders.

So the fact that leaders sometimes seem to prefer to dance with younger girls does not necessarily reduce to "they are going after the hot young girls"...

Of course, sometimes you do ask someone to dance, just because you find them attractive, but that's by no means the rule - especially with people who have been dancing for several years. There, dancing skills will almost always trump physical attractiveness.

I think the better explanation is this: it is always hard not being able to dance with the people you'd like to. Men deal with this by saying "she's an arrogant bitch", and women apparently deal with it by thinking that men are all hormone-driven.

Stop the blaming, focus on improving your dancing and your embrace, and you will ALWAYS have enough partners to dance with!

And the fact that there are more young dancers in Tango is *wonderful*! It simply means that Tango is no longer a dying art.

Giacomo said...

This is a general phenomenon. It is normal to bring up personal impressions, because there aren't any good statistical studies on something as liquid as the tango world. And any personal impression is bound to be contaminated by bitterness, envy, frustration, etc, that almost every single dancer is bound to experience at some point.

However: there are a few objective facts that go beyond any personal impression. I have witnessed the following examples, both of the "good" and the "bad" type, but all proof of what Melina was saying:

- milongas "by invitation only" that were only communicated through private messages or phone calls, but not announced publicly (to prevent the "old vultures" from knowing when and where);

- tango festivals where the seating was admittedly designed to discourage the "cool kids" from congregating in a specific area;

- teachers/organizers who, like Melina, publicly raised the issue and talked openly about "milongas segregated by age", including their own.

Then of course, it seems bad and it is right now, but like Terpsichoral Tangoaddict, these "cool kids" will become middle aged sooner than Melina becomes an old hag, so the problem may solve itself...

Melina Sedo said...

Just to make it clear: although I was questioning my own actions, I luckily came to the conclusion that our own FCA is still an all-generations event. And it will stay that way. Now even more, as I am conscious of the phenomenon. :-)

Ana Saraiva said...

Teachers will always be "cool" and perhaps more so when they age! In 15 years' time, you will have to beg for a 5 minute pause (specially if you're a man...)
It's the people, we anonymous peasants, who suffer!
Not fair.
I do believe in two things: we tend to reap what we sow and fewer does not mean less.
And yes, if we get to be so old that we'll just be able to "stand and embrace to the music" (lovely image!), that'll probably feel better than the best of tandas. (I hope)


Melina Sedo said...

Hi Ana,
I must disspoint you: teachers are NOT always cool. I spend most of my time as a teacher sitting and being ignored. It is different NOW, because I have made some friends amongst students, other teachers and "anonymous peasants" as you call it.
It is different with male teachers, I have to admit. So Detlef is lucky then!
I prepare to more sitting and taking my kindle to Milongas if I am not invited. ;-))
Bai from Impruneta,

Chris S said...


I've been dancing for around 6 years now - and I still feel very uneasy about asking teachers (especially ones that teach internationally) to dance.

I find it more difficult to ask teachers to dance, because
-it can be intimidating for leaders to dance with followers they know or expect to be much better than them
-I am not sure whether teachers are there to dance - or whether they had a long day of workshops etc and are just there to socialize and because they have to be 'out there'.
-they are more often involved in conversations than other dancers

This is the first time I hear from female teachers that they would like to be asked more - I always assumed that they get lots of invitations and are rather picky, which is why I tend to be hesitant to ask female teachers for a dance.

Melina Sedo said...

Hi Chris,

there are of course always the situations when I do not want to dance. I've described them in one of my previous posts:

BUT: when I go to a Milonga just for fun, I wanna have the same chances than anyone else. There is ALWAYS the risk to be refused - and if you walk up to someone, he/she might say no. Which is embarrassing. This is why we apply CABECEO & MIRADA. If I wanna dance with someone, I will make that very clear by looking at him. If not, I look away. But I do this as anyone else would do! ;-)

And now off to the milonga in Impruneta, where I expect to be invited. ;-)