Ask Arlene…Who Turned Out the Lights?

Dear Arlene,

I have been trying out the London Milongas these last few weeks and have noticed that although the venues are different, they all have one thing in common – they are all so dark, I can barely see across the room.  Granted, some people of a certain age can look better in the dark, but it doesn’t do me any favours when I try and give a lady the old cabeceo. What gives?

In the Dark

Dear In the Dark,

I have noticed this phenomenon myself lately.  It seems that the venues are getting darker and darker.  I should really be offended with part of your comment.  Being a person of a certain age, I will be the first to admit that a bit of dim lighting can soften the edges, but my eyesight is not as good as it used to be and although I prefer to be asked to dance by cabeceo, it is sometimes difficult to tell if I am being asked to dance or if people are just making faces at the antics on the dance floor.

I have brought this issue up with a couple of the organisers, but have had no joy.  It is my understanding that the lights are dimmed to create an ambiance, which to me is more reminiscient of a High School dance – which would be fine if we were still in High School.  I don’t mind dim lighting, but I do object to dancing in the dark.  Maybe they make it so dark so the women can’t see how badly the leaders are doing?

Anybody got any bright ideas?!

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mari
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 01:10:04

    I’ve noticed this at one of the venues I dance at as well. Unfortunately it’s the one I go to most and tend to like the most. But lately it’s almost hazardous. It makes the floor a bit more rough and chaotic – there’s far more “bumping”. The cabeceo is completely unworkable. Heck, even when a leader is standing right in front of me I can’t be sure if he’s taking to me or my friend sitting next to me! When I mentioned it to the local organizer here, they did bump up the lights a little bit – but I think I was the third or fourth person to mention it.

  2. Game Cat
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 09:09:50

    I’m in the dark on this one too.

    Then again, I don’t think we have to grope around too much for an explanation – many organisers just don’t expect or care enough that people should be able to cabacceo. A bit of a vicious circle really.

    Hope some organisers start to see the light.

  3. Andreas
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 10:38:25

    I don’t know what to do about it, except to keep complaining and making yourself heard. Most organizers will do what they think people want (even if they themselves know it’s rubbish). My own milongas are always well-lit, and wherever I can get the ear of the organizer I will complain about low light levels. Maybe Simba’s article on organizing milongas needs to be circulated more:
    IMO bad lighting is yet another culprit in lowering the quality of dancing in communities. The proper setup of milongas can have a massive positive influence on quality.

  4. Sophie
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 14:03:33

    Unfortunately most London milongas are held in venues so ugly if the lights were up people would run away screaming. Exceptions: The Crypt. I once saw the Dome with the lights up and almost bolted out the door. Most depressing sight ever.

  5. jantango
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 14:49:08

    The lights went off on Sunday night in Salon Canning in BsAs for about five minutes. Everyone returned to their table and waited for the problem to be solved. When power was restored, everyone applauded. No one wants to dance in the dark.

    If Argentines attended a London milonga without lights, they would leave. They need to have good lighting in order to use the cabeceo and to see where they are going on the floor. I can’t imagine having to dance in the dark.

  6. Sophie
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 15:57:52

    You may be interested to know I’ve had this discussion with the team at Corrientes, and their issue is that the venue manager won’t put up more spots nor will allow them to use their own (stage) lights. If dancers show their support to Corrientes and petition this may help Mina convince the manager.

  7. ChrisJJ
    Aug 30, 2009 @ 20:24:47

    > If Argentines attended a London milonga without lights

    Very unlikely Jan, since there are no London milongas without lights.

  8. Evaldas
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:07:20

    unfortunately, most milongas in Europe are quite dark either, London isn’t an exception. Also they put candles on tables, which creates sharp light contrast for eyes.
    Unsurprisingly, cabeceos are almost unseen. If in addition DJ doesn’t play cortinas or tandas are of unpredictable length it completely destroys social environment of a milonga. This doesn’t contribute to the development of dancing quality in a communty.

  9. tangobob
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 22:51:35

    Dark or light makes no difference to me. I dance for myself and my partner. I know a few dancers who dance for the audience, so I suppose for them it is important for it to be light, you can always tell who they are; the women have their heals in the air thinking that makes them look good, and they constantly look around the room to see who is looking at them.
    Of course you also get the other end of the scale, they will not get up unless the floor is crowded and dark, incase someone should be watching.
    In the end, who cares, if my partner enjoys the dance, that is all that matters.

  10. El Chupacabra
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 22:04:36

    tangobob – the discussion is about whether there is enough lighting to allow you to cabaceo someone – ask them to dance by looking and agreeing, not by walking up to them and barely giving them an option.

  11. Rachel
    Sep 09, 2009 @ 17:42:23

    It’s also so that the lead can see where he’s going and not direct the follower to stab others with her pointy heels.. ! It’s bad enough that so many leads fail to do this without increasing the hazard by offering twilight conditions.
    Jan’s right, it doesn’t happen in milongas here – unless there’s a power cut, the lights only go down when there’s a tanda of Cumbia, which is danced in a more random fashion, like latin disco.

  12. Stef
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 13:27:30

    There is one an afternoon milonga organize by my friend in Prague, it is definitely worth to visit it. I have also tried couple of milonga in Basel, Swiss. The one in Tanzpalast is lighted well.

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