Taxi Dancers

According to Wikipedia‘A taxi dancer, or “taxi” for short (the word has been used since circa 1927), is a professional dance partner in a partner dance. Taxi dancers are typically young women who are hired by male patrons to dance with them on a dance-by-dance basis. The term “taxi dancer” comes from the fact that, as with a taxi-cab driver, the dancer’s pay is proportional to the time she spends with the patron. A “taxi” is not a prostitute, and no sexual favors may be expected off the dance floor.’

I have had some experience of dancing with a taxi dancer when I started learning Ceroc.  For about half an hour after the beginner’s class, during the freestyle, there are about 2-4 taxi dancers available (men and women) for the beginners to dance with.  It felt great dancing with someone who knew what he was doing and that also brought it down to my level.  It was only one dance, but it gave me a bit of confidence since I didn’t know anyone there and I was able to get a good lead which didn’t always happen in the class.  These taxi dancers are part of the Ceroc team.  I didn’t have to pay for them directly (unless the cost is part of the entry fee).  This service is usually available during the Monday to Friday dance sessions.

I have been trawling the internet to get more information on taxi dancers, particularly for Tango, but there isn’t much information out there apart from references to or about taxi dancers – nothing that is really specific.

I did come across a very professional website for taxi dancers in Buenos Aires called Tango TaxiDancers.  I read through the whole website.  What they had to say makes a lot of sense for hiring a taxi dancer during your stay in Buenos Aires and I found that there was a general consensus among the other blogs and websites that mention taxi dancing for Tango.

Simply put, because most tourists do not understand the codigos and cabeceo, they may end up not dancing during an evening at a Milonga.  Since the whole idea for a visiting Tango dancer is to have an authentic Tango experience, it would make some sense to guarantee getting some dances in.  If one was smart, one could hire a taxi dancer, sit at different tables, agree to dance and then the onlookers could see how one is doing on the dance floor and perhaps some other dances could be generated.  If a couple were going out for the first time, they could hire a man and a woman taxi dancer for the evening. The men would sit with each other – women likewise, and in-between dances, the taxi dancers could explain how things work in a Milonga and what to look out for.   I think this sort of thing could work very well if it is your first trip to Buenos Aires and you don’t know anyone there.

My only concern would be the quality of the taxi dancer’s dancing skills.  After all, just because they are Argentinean, that doesn’t automatically make them good dancers.  Perhaps if one was a complete beginner it might not matter too much if the taxi dancer wasn’t expert, but one should get value for money.  I have read some interesting stories online about random taxi dancers approaching tourists for work.  I think one would have to be very careful about getting involved with this sort of thing and which is why I think it is very important to get as much information as you can about the people you would be dancing with.

The amount of Milongas in Buenos Aires is huge compared to what we have here in London and since there is the issue of cabeceo that isn’t really used over here, I am not sure how taxi dancing would really be of benefit to the London scene.

There have been references to taxi dancers being provided for various events and Milongas in London over the years and more recently.  I bring this topic up for discussion because whenever I have heard this term used in reference to Tango there has always been an amount of derision coming from the sidelines, and perhaps justifiably so.

I am always skeptical about why people advertise taxi dancers for Milongas or a special event.  I have been to events where taxi dancers have been advertised and have never seen them.  Is it a lure to get as many people into the Milonga with the guarantee of getting a dance?  What is the real intention of the organiser advertising the fact that they have taxi dancers available?  Who are these taxi dancers and what makes them qualified?  Remember, this is London.  The really good dancers are already dancing, with each other.

Granted there are people that don’t end up dancing in an evening for many reasons. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough good dancers to go around in an evening.  Sometimes there are couples that only dance with each other.   I have heard women say that because they are of a certain age, they don’t get asked much.  I am of a certain age and know others of a certain age – we dance – maybe not as often as we would like.  I would rather have quality over quantity.  Well, actually, I would really like to have both, but since I am realistic I will settle for quality.

Let’s face some facts.  There aren’t many guarantees in life.  With all of the talk about refusing to dance with bad dancers (it is supposed to make them improve), it makes sense to me that if you are not dancing it would be a good idea to take a really good look at yourself to work out what you need to improve in order to get the dances in.  Are you networking?  Do you pay attention to your appearance and personal hygiene?  Are you personable and pleasant?  What are your social skills like?  Have you been taking classes – or enough of them?  Learning to dance Tango well involves a lot of hard work, and not just with the technical aspects of the dance.  You really have to put yourself out there.

If you want to dance nearly every dance or more than one in an evening, then take up Ceroc.  There is a general rule that no one should be refused a dance regardless of your level.  After all, it is only one dance.

Tango has its own complicated rules and I am always learning new ones.  Being involved in Tango is not for the faint hearted.  Is offering taxi dancing really going to help matters?

So, does taxi dancing really have a place here in London?  If so, how should it be used?  If not, why?

Over to you.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paul
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 23:54:15

    I think the concept is already used with escorts, but having someone to just dance is great. I am a cab driver in Omaha and our fee is state regulated. Maybe they should do the same for taxi dancers…lol:)


  2. jantango
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 03:47:18

    Male taxi dancers have been offering their services for about two years in Buenos Aires. They are listed in the Guia Trimestral B.A. Tango. Today there are three agencies for taxi dancers, men and women. The supply increases with the demand. Afterall, it is work for those who go to the milongas.

    I have seen one particular taxi dancer working regularly in the milongas. He sits with his female clients and dances all night long with them. He’s not a very good dancer, but they prefer to pay him to dance rather than see if they will be invited. He looks totally bored while dancing.

    Hiring a taxi dancer has become the expedient way for foreign women to dance in Buenos Aires. They pay as much as $75US per night for these partners who are usually years younger than the women. It’s not difficult to spot the woman in her 70s dancing all night with a man in his 30s. Cruise ships have been offering “dance hosts” for years to fill the demand by single women who travel alone and want to dance. It’s time has come in Buenos Aires. London is another matter, but the first agency in BsAs was started by one of your countrymen.

  3. Ms Hedgehog
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 20:02:36

    Well, how does it work in ceroc, and why is tango different?

    I think that if you run a beginners class, it probably makes sense, on the face of it, to take some kind of action to make sure that recent beginners get at least one dance, if they want it, and build up confidence. If you run a milonga, it may well make sense to take action to ensure that strangers get one dance. It’s just oiling the wheels a little – one possible way of being extra specially hospitable. I think it’s a big bonus if you can also find a way to be honest about exactly what you’re doing, and why, because that’s just more respectful to everyone than making pretences; and some sort of taxi-dancer system is one way of doing that. There may be others.

  4. Arlene
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 00:24:21

    In reply to Hedgehog,
    In Ceroc the taxi dancing works as a tool for half an hour to help the beginners along, not as an enticement to learn how to dance or as a promise of getting a dance in. It is different from Tango in that respect as the only mention of taxi dancers for Tango seems to be used as an enticement, especially lately. See the recent posting from an organiser on the Tango UK group offering skilled dance hosts to keep you dancing all night (they also promise a live dance performance at an extra cost without mentioning who the performers actually are).
    As stated in my post, this isn’t Buenos Aires with its codigos. Women and men ask each other to dance. I don’t see any real reason why people should be sitting out dancing unless they are being really picky. If you don’t ask, you don’t get and maybe you might need to ask the whole room before giving up, stranger or not.
    In the smaller milongas, it is easier to welcome visitors and introduce them to some of the regulars than in the larger venues.
    I would have thought that the promise of a friendly atmosphere and great music would be the only enticement needed for people to come to a milonga.

  5. Raquel
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 17:32:52

    Hi Arlene,
    Thanks for the compliment on the website. There are many myths and suppositions about taxi dancers — see your very first comment above mentions escorts already: you would not call a mountain guide or a diving instructor an escort, the tango is no different. Of course it is more authentic to find your own way up the mountain or through the reefs, but if you lack the time, the nerve or the expertise, you hire someone!
    We are the first agency, started formally in 2007, though my partner and some of his friends had been working long before that. A couple of others have sprung up but I really don’t know whether there is room for a lot of business here – already we are seeing a drop in visitor numbers and a drop in spending among those who do come. My guess is that this will get worse as holiday bookings for 2009 will be domestic rather than long-haul. The vast majority of our clients are foreign, though by no means all of them.
    There are still plenty of taxi dancers who work on an ad hoc basis. Some of those are lovely and earning a decent living, others are looking for a hotel room to share, some good dinners and maybe a few trinkets to remember you by! Others, the kind you can easily spot, as described by Jan, are generally learning to teach or dance professionally in one of the studios and see it very much as a means to an end.
    Our dancers are selected not just for their dancing but for social skills, then they are trained & given strict guidelines on how to approach the work. We don’t always get it right, obviously! On the odd occasion where we have had a complaint, we try to make it up and we discuss it with the dancers in training.
    Our clients are about 50/50 men and women. They usually go to a milonga but some book a dancer to get the most out of a class – rather than just repeat mistakes with other learners – or in a studio, to consolidate the classes before taking it onto the public floor.
    There are all sorts of reasons for booking for the milonga – not just expediency. Some people really cannot get on with the cabaceo, others are beating off partners with a stick and just want a quiet evening with a guarantee of good dancing.
    The age thing is difficult sometimes. The Tango has a missing generation – those who could not dance during the military dictatorship when it was fordidden. So there are not many good, middle-aged tango dancers, age gaps are not uncommon and the skill of the older generation is very much respected. There are plenty of ladies of middle age and beyond who are happy to dance with a young man but for those who are not, there are not many older Argentines who speak English.
    But enough about Buenos Aires! In my opinion, it would not be economical to have real taxi dancers in London. Local dancers simply aren’t good enough, whatever they may think, and I can’t see there being sufficient work for Argentines to cover their travel and living costs.
    To dance the Tango well requires grace and generosity of spirit. Experienced dancers really have to show this to the beginners, or they will never get any better. So attending the odd beginners class to encourage & assist is an investment in the future! As long as beginners just learn more and more steps and only dance with each other, they are not learning to lead and to follow – which is where the magic of the Tango lies. Men need to know how it feels to invite a woman to take a step and have her take that and play with it. Women need to know how it feels to have that clear and confident invitation. Both have to dance with partners who are unafraid to be in a close embrace. Beginners won’t get that dancing with each other.
    Maybe the Ceroc people have realised this.

  6. Tangobitch
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 18:24:34

    My friend does some taxi dancing in tango and it’s great for him because he gets paid and gets into milongas for free. He also has time to dance with his friends. Personally however I would have a hard time paying for a man to put his arms around me even if my tango was atrocious. I’d feel very unsexy 🙂 although I’d be happy to be a taxi dancer myself

  7. Tangobitch
    Sep 30, 2010 @ 18:27:59

    P.S LOVE the “no sexual favours may be expected off the dance floor” as if dancing itself were a sexual favour haha!

  8. mark la femina
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 11:17:11

    I tried taxi dancing in los angeles where it is part of the latino culture.
    The girls all sit on one side of the room and the men buy tickets. It is normal to get a slow grind.

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