Today’s #Tango Thought 088: The Taxi Dancer Paradox.
The Taxi Dancer Paradox is that hiring or being one creates an undesirable social stigma and yet at the same time is actually a very practical, if not entirely reasonable resource to have available to solve the ‘waiting’ for a dance problem.
A question that comes up in urbane tango environments is “should I hire a taxi dancer ?”. This question, one would think only applies to Followers looking to alleviate the time that is spent at Milongas waiting to be asked to dance, is not necessarily the case, as it can be a question for Leads as well.
Before we go any further, this topic is not meant to disparage anyone’s choices, but rather to inform, explain, illuminate, and espouse a few myths and preconceived notions of the role of the taxi dancer, and the person that hires them.
First, to inform, a Taxi dancer is someone (male or female) that is paid to dance with someone for a specific period of time, either by the song, or in tango - by the tanda, typically by the hour, and sometimes for an entire milonga.
Thirdly, another fact is, there are female taxi dancers, but the bulk of them are young, impeccably dressed, mannered, manicured, visually and technically ‘clean’ male social dancers. “Clean” in the sense that their technique is usually precise, looks effortless to lead and to follow. Not ‘clean’ in the sense of having just had a bath.
A common myth about taxi dancers is that they’re really just ‘escorts’, which is code for someone that is paid for sexual favors. Still another is that only women of a certain age hire taxi dancers. One more is that men don’t need to hire them at all because they can get all the dances they want. Still another is that those that hire taxi dancers is are so awful, so bad, they’ve been rejected by so many people, that they need to hire someone to dance with them. Still one more commonly held belief is that most tango teachers double as taxi dancers. Still one more is that most male taxi dancers are lotharios that prey on their clients 'weakeness'.
For those that are hired it is the difference between work or no work, money or no money to pay their bills, rent, and food. For those that hire them, it is the difference between having a nice time at a milonga, or a dreadful one especially in Buenos Aires. For others it is a shame, or disparagement. For some, they couldn’t imagine hiring one, or being in the position to be one. And for some others, they honestly couldn’t give a rat’s damn!
Sometimes, especially for the Female Follower that of a certain age, they’ll hire a young male taxi dancer to escort them out for a few nights at a reasonable hourly fee, to several milongas and ‘twirl’ them around the room whenever they wish, and then go home. Sometimes these taxi dancers are local ‘teachers’, and sometimes they’re professional taxi dancers who’s sole purpose is to dance you around the room for an hour or two. Sometimes.
All of this may or may not be true, but the reality is that sitting at a certain milonga and wanting to dance after having spent oodles of money, and time trying to get there (think airfare to BsAs, airbnb, cabs to and from…etc), spanish lessons, technique lessons, video courses (tangotopics), private lessons, workshop weekends with X, etc. It is only practical thinking that instead of sitting there, and waiting for ‘prince charming’ or ‘madame divine’ to accept their mirada/cabeceo (respectively), that you bypass all of that noise and get right to the heart of the matter, the reason you’re there to begin with: To dance!
Speaking just to the ‘women of a certain age’, you go girl! 😉 In all seriousness, you’re there to dance, so get your groove on and at some point you really don’t care what some people say or think. It’s just that you do actually care because there are some men in the room that you more than likely will want to dance with you who won’t even ask after that point because they see you in the company of a well known taxi dancer. 🙁 That’s reality, sadly.
There is the flip side of this argument which is that you want to dance with a nice lead that isn’t there to try hit on you, and can barely find the beat, and that doesn’t wander all over the damned floor. That looks nice and that makes you look very nice to dance with. Is elegant and easeful and fun to dance with.
Both sides of this are true.
The reality is that, unfortunately, no matter which side of that reality you’re on that some people do ‘gossip’ about those that hire a taxi dancer, and those that are taxi dancers in all the ways mentioned above. And that ‘gossip’ is not in a good way either. 🙁 This, reality, only seems to happen in Argentine Tango but not in other social dances, at least not to a degree that anyone notices. Some will see said dancer as off-limits for all the reasons above.
To be fair there are certain benefit Milongas in the world that work on the principal of the Benefit Taxi Dancer. Where you hire a taxi dancer by the dance and the money that is collected is all donated to a good cause. Or that by hiring a taxi dancer is actually part of the protocol of the Milonga itself. And in one case it is even a ‘right of passage’. 🙂
The fact is that there seems to be some stigma around being or hiring a taxi dancer. So here are some practical advice for hiring and/or being a Taxi dancer.
1.) Discretion is absolutely key. Don’t make it obvious that you’re dancing with them and them alone.
2.) Do not have them escort you into and out of the Milonga. Bad idea. It creates all the wrong perceptions. You ideally want to be perceived as ‘available’ at all times, to all partners.
3.) No more than 3 or 4 tandas in an hour. No contiguous dancing. For all the reasons above. People will see you dancing with the same person over and over again and they’re going to get the wrong idea. So the more that you spread that out, the less likely they are to arrive at that conclusion. Again, perception.
4.) If payment for services rendered needs to happen, make certain that it is not at the milonga. Either before, or well away from the Milonga.
5.) Do dance with other people during this time, again…perception.
This last one requires a bit of explanation. The whole reason this is done is to throw off the busybodies that have nothing better to do than to gossip. Secondarily it also creates the illusion that you're not just there to dance with one person and one person alone. Even though you are.
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