JUNGLE POLITICS: THE SEATING HEIRARCHY
A girl has got to dance, right? But how the hell can you with all these heads in your way? No one can see you hidden away in the gulag near the bathroom or in a far corner. The seats you need to set your eyes on are in the front row. For example, in El Beso, these seats are the front rows on either side of the dance floor. In Maipu 444, they are the seats against the far wall in front of you as you enter the hall, as well as the first row on the right side of the dance floor. The seating heirarchy for the men is the same.
So, how can your work your way up the food chain so that you, too, can be queen of the jungle? It's the same stuff you have to deal with in the workplace. It's who knows whom. It's performance. It's schmoozing. It's politics, baby. You are under surveillance, guilty until proven innocent. It comes to this: The people who run the milongas look at how you dance, with whom you dance, and how often you dance, because having a milonga filled with good, popular dancers makes them the money.
True, being your hot, charming, witty self can open doors, and you'll probably have milonguero slobber all over you before you can say "agua con gas." Ultimately, though, it won't earn you respect as a dancer, only the lust of the men and the disdain of the women. Worse still, though you'll probably dance, you will not dance your best, and you will not be challenged to improve, which is something which we should be striving for in every area of our lives. So, why not show them that you are also a woman of substance and not just a pretty face with a hot bod?
When I first came to BsAs, I had no clue. No one knew me from a hole in the wall, so I found myself seated consistently in a no-man's land, whether that was four rows back from the dance floor or in a corner. The only men who would dance with me were the ones who approached me directly...a big milonga no-no which will be explained in a later blog entry. It was to my detriment that I accepted, because people watch each other dance, and what they saw was someone who couldn't dance.
The only chance I had to save myself from milonga purgatory was -- and this is the first law of jungle politics -- to
DANCE WELL. For me, this meant taking lessons to work on my technique, and implementing these changes at the milongas. Slowly but surely, people started to notice. The better dancers started asking me to dance, which meant I had to sacrifice dancing with the C level dancers, even if it meant not dancing for several tandas in a row. If you watch very carefully, the better milongueras, and milongueros, for that matter, do not dance a lot. They wait because they know they have the pick of the litter. People WANT to dance with them, so they can afford to be more selective...which leads me to the second law...
If you are going to dance, DANCE WITH THE BEST. OK, it's a hard, cruel fact that there are fewer men than women, and it's even more difficult reality that there are even fewer men in the testosterone pool who can actually dance. So, do you save yourself, or do you lower your standards? It sounds so high school, but why settle? You expect the best, so start choosing the best, damn it! If you are uncertain of the level of your perpective partner, ask around. You'll be surprised how the women keep records of how different men dance.
I must add a caveat to this second law, however. Sometimes, one likes to dance with someone out of friendship, because he or she is a gosh-darn nice person. This is so totally cool. I do it, and make no apologies. However, I have deliberately stopped dancing with people because they just weren't good for me any more. I had outgrown them. Think about this in terms of personal relationships. If you've outgrown a relationship, there is no point in staying. You'll be stifled, and you'll stop growing. You need to develop the capacity to let things go so that you can welcome new experiences. I am still pleasant with these people, but some have asked me when why I stopped dancing with them. I casually tell them (because who wants to hurt someone's feelings?) that my feet hurt; or I didn't see them; or I had so many invitations that night. After a few weeks of avoiding their invitation, they usually get the message, and don't bother looking my way.
The third and final law of jungle politics is -- ta-da! -- DANCE!!! But, wait, didn't I just say that the best dancers don't dance often? Why, yes, I did, but I didn't mean be a waste of space. I didn't mean be bump on a log. You worked hard, working your poor feet in those dance classes, so it's time to show people what you've learned. At least start looking at the people with whom you want to share a tanda. Before you know it, you'll be having three guys walking toward your table at the same time thinking you looked at them!
One more caveat: Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how bad-ass you are on the dance floor, the dueno (the person running the milonga) just doesn't take to you. There's bad blood or karma between you guys, and you don't get the seat that you want. In the end, it doesn't matter, because a good dancer will always have dance partners. Your partners will seek you out. Of course, you have to make your presence known. Pass by their table on the way to the bathroom, and say, "Hello!" I experimented with this once, and, sure enough, although I was sitting further away from the floor than I would have liked, my "clients", as I like to call them, still sought me out.
So, to recap the laws of the jungle: 1) Dance well; 2) Dance with the best; and 3) Dance. These three rules will help get your booty closer to a prime seat near the dance floor where you belong!