I am retired from this aspect of tango, and indeed not very interested in milongas as a place for tango.
But since a lot of my friends are organizing milongas, especially as part of neotango marathon weekends, I share my observations.
Tango marathons have several facets. It’s the third one which seems to be the least obvious to organizers, and which this post addresses.
 The all-important Dance Floor
- surface • lighting • air conditioning • DJs • VJs • musicians
 The Logistics
- how people can travel to the city • how to get to and from the venue • where to sleep • what to eat • rooms and registrations for classes …
- registration management • gender balance • finances …
- marketing • information for the dancers …
 At the Milonga, but off the Dance Floor
We will be living in this space often for 6, up to 10 hour, stretches. It needs to provide for a variety of needs besides dancing that are related to dancing and restoring our bodies.
- where will people change/store/access their clothes, shoes, water, food
- where will people sit and *watch* the dance floor to see who they want to dance with
- where will the cabeceo happen … enough space? enough light? seating here?
- where will people go to feel *dignified*, pretty, and *still part of the party* during the times that they are not able to secure a dance?
- are the seating areas warm enough in case a woman has to sit there in her sexy dress for a long time? (the air conditioning should not be pointed there)
- where will people be able to get a short rest (laying down, giving a massage. etc.)
- where can people withdraw for a private conversation or to kiss?
What I have seen at some neotango events is a sole focus on the dance floor as a space, and especially on an immersive visual experience achieved at the cost of the non-dancing activities that need to happen.
- It’s necessary to give up some of the space on the dance floor in order to provide a seating area that is *inside the party* where people can feel part of it when they’re not dancing, where they can watch the dancing, and from where they can cabeceo.
- There must be enough light in part of the dancing room for cabeceo.
- The seating areas (in and outside of the dancing room) must have pretty lighting so that people feel attractive and dignified there. Also maybe candles and flowers… It should not be a leftover, undecorated space. That makes people feel they are the leftovers when they have to sit there because there is nowhere else…
- A cabeceo area needs to be designed with as much care as the dance floor is designed.
- A chill-out area needs to be designed.
What does not work are chairs in one long line around the perimeter of the dance floor, in the dark. This is isolating and makes people who want to sit down end up feeling lonely. It’s impossible to cabeceo here or to come in contact with someone. Take those thin slices of dance floor and pile them up with all the chairs at one end of the dance room. Instead of giving up .75m all the way around the room, give up 3 meters at one end of the room so that everyone who is sitting is clustered together, in contact, so they can make cabeceo. The seating area needs to be thick. A few tables and a lot of chairs, very messy and close so people have to pass one another a lot. The tables play an important part, because then people are clustered around the table looking in every direction, not just at the dance floor.
Do drawings of all of your seating areas and then put lines where the chairs will cause people to be LOOKING. those lines need to cross, not all going radially toward the center of the dance floor.
Doorways are terrible areas for cabeceo. They are easily overcrowded and they are not dignified. It’s a comfortable place for men to stand around, not women. It’s ok for men to have a standing area, so long as there is a women’s sitting area nearby.
Find ways to make your dance floor bigger, so you can include a seating area inside it. How can you get the right amount of cabeceo lighting onto this place without screwing up the visuals? You can do it!
Think about other natural “cluster” areas that could work for the cabeceo, such as the bar. How can you make these spaces more contactual?