New managers and the old Cumparsita
Since October 2012 we have been hosting a fourth Sunday of the month milonga at a very impressive restaurant overlooking the Mississippi river with a panoramic view of the city skyline. It is a very rare circumstance to find such a prime real estate for tango in a city that lives off tourism and dollars spent drinking and eating. The concept of well adjusted adults sipping cheap Cabernet and munching potato chips in between long periods of elegant dancing is not enticing for most public establishments in the city. So, we were very fortunate that the space in question was available on slow Sunday evenings. A wonderful owner made the whole difference allowing our dancers to feel welcome in a separate dance hall with very tall ceilings and gigantic windows.
The restaurant industry offers great mobility to people who choose to pursue careers in the field from managers to receptionists and waitstaff. We have had four different managers in the course of our six milongas since October 2012. As each new manager is hired there is a teaching moment they have to go through regarding the set up of the room, the placement of the DJ table, and how to provide table service without darting in and out of the dance floor. There is one especially important aspect of the revolving door managers that we have had to deal with on several occasions: handling closing time. Although the restaurant stays open past 10 pm, our milonga goes to 10 pm. We all agree that 10 pm means people no longer can expect to be seated and served, but every time a new manager walks in at a quarter to ten and begins to clear the tables, fold the chairs and remove the tablecloths while people are still dancing, we go through the same routineNew.
This is the opportunity for a teaching moment: explaining to quizzical eyes that the Argentine tango is a ritual that celebrates the culture and traditions of a far away city, and that we approach tango dancing with an understanding of how those traditions are adapted to our national, regional and local communities. We explain the concept of grouping the music in sets separated by a short interlude to allow people to take care of personal necessities, such as food, drinks and greetings. We also explain that the music is programmed to end very close to 10 pm, and that we make the announcement that the last set is about to play to give dancers an opportunity to chose who they want to share the last dances of the night with. Then, following a tradition common in the halls of Buenos Aires, we play as the very last song, a universally known tango called La cumparsita. That is the official end of the dance, and that is the time to start folding chairs, cleaning tables, and clearing the room. It is not very nice to start busing tables while the evening has not officially ended and people are still dancing.
For a month or two we enjoy a great evening end to end, until a new manager walks in at a quarter to ten, and another teaching moment is called for…
1. If and when the last set is announced, people know and may expect that there will be a last tango called La cumparsita.
2. While La cumparsita is playing, it’s not nice to start busing tables and moving chairs around those still dancing.
3. Wait till the song ends, people clap thanking the DJ, and the hosts thank those still present for their support.
4. Then have the bus crew move in.