I’m on my way to another Tango Festival and I am excited to visit with old tango friends and to create new ones.
It is usually during a weekend like this that followers will commiserate and share the hopes and desires for their evening milongas. Their desire to dance all night long, to connect, to have that amazing tanda or 2 that keeps us all coming back for more. And unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t work out as perfectly as we had hoped. Taxi dancing might be a solution.
I first came across taxi dancing on my trips to Buenos Aires. Dancers, usually female, hire a male dancer to partner them at milongas. Then when I started my tours to Buenos Aires I hired taxi dancers to assist in milongas and in the classes. I have always had mixed feelings about taxi dancing but found it absolutely essential and beneficial on my tours.
My partner Rommel Oramas is a taxi dancer and he speaks passionately about taxi dancing. I was struck by his articulateness and dedication to being a taxi dancer and asked him to shares his thoughts with me here.
“It’s a paid profession for me,” says Rommel. He started taxi dancing in Phoenix, AZ to enhance the confidence of some of his female students in dancing socially. “My intention and purpose varies with each partner. Most dancers just want to have a nice dance, a tanda or 2 without having to wait 2 or 3 hours or all night to dance. Sometimes it is about mismatched skill levels and therefore, taxi dancing becomes a solution for that dancer. Sometimes partners want to be shown off at the milonga so other dancers can look for them.”
“Taxi dancing has a code of conduct,” Rommel continues, “knowing that a tango dancer flirts with sensuality and sexuality the code of conduct is necessary. To be come a good taxi dancer, I have to be respectful of my partner, kind, and professional.”
“R.A.P,” he says, smiling.
“RAP?” I ask him.
“Yes, Respectful Amicable and Professional! Respectful – because I understand that the dance is for my client, for the compañera de baile. I have to put my effort and attention into that person so that they look good and so that they feel comfortable and confident and safe. It’s not about me in that moment. I wear my smile, I introduce her to other dancers – this is important. Professional – I’m doing a job – I’m there to dance, it’s not a lesson, I’m not there to teach or criticize”.
I asked Rommel how he handles a follow who might feel heavy or who is squeezing his hand too tightly and he admitted that every once in awhile he might give slight feedback especially if he feels that it is physically hurting him, like his back or his shoulder. And that would be given after a song or even the tanda is finished. He usually already has a good rapport with that dancer and knows that they are open to it. He continues, “I know as a skillful dancer that I can adjust myself in order to continue to make her look good. So for example – I relax my arm if she is pushing too strongly or if she feels heavy I open the embrace slightly. Usually she notices through this silent communication and adjusts as well, ie: she relaxes that arm. If she asks for feedback I tell her that it’s a milonga and we’re here to dance. If she has a good time and has good dances and doesn’t ask for feedback then I’ve done my job. And this encourages the referral system – they speak highly of me and will tell their friends. Most of my business is done by word of mouth”.
I ask him if he ever says “no”? “I am always open and available. I start with 2 or 3 tandas. If there’s a good rapport we can take it from there. I try to spread out my time of tandas with a single person over the course of the milonga – to change the energy – to dance with others. Sometimes there are musical preferences – ie: she likes vals tandas or milonga or a tanda of Di Sarli. This allows me to share that tanda with that person and then go dance with others. I can have several paid tandas in a milonga”.
Rommel feels strongly that taxi dancers need to be trained. “Not all great dancers can be a good taxi dancer. You have to be able to morph to your partners’ needs and to their level of dancing. You have to have the tools necessary to make the dancer the most important part of the dance. A taxi dancer is good if his intentions are to serve the partner and to serve the art form of tango”.
“Taxi dancing has made me a better dancer. It has helped me to better understand my partners and their needs in the dance. In reality they aren’t far from my own. I want to connect, have a good time, enjoy the dance, and maybe learn about my partner a little bit more”.
“Everybody has a right to pursue happiness, to get their needs met. Taxi dancing offers this possibility”.
I am always fascinated to watch Rommel in action at a milonga. He moves from 1 tanda to another from 1 partner to another pretty seamlessly. You might never know if he is “working” or just dancing. But the ladies always seem pleased with him and they hire him for the events they know he will be attending.
I know that taxi dancing can be very controversial and often brings out strong opinions in people, like most tango-things! But options are a good thing and if having a taxi dancer improves your quality of life and brings a smile to your face, then why not.