Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The milonga formerly known as El Mundo del Tango

Saturday night tango. No need to get up early so you can stay up as late as you want. In the old days when El Mundo del Tango was the only Saturday milonga in town when it was the place where the best dancers danced, one could dance until 2-3 o'clock in the morning on that checkerboard tile floor. Boy was it hard on your knees!

The unstated rule was that as long as people were dancing the music would keep on playing. The die hard crowd would dance easily till 2-3 am and then we would stick around to talk to one another, sometimes going to Denny's next door to get something to eat. Sometimes four of us, sometimes thirteen. And most usually, Avi and Cecilia from up north would be there. Linda, Gabrielle, Larry, Claire where some of the other regulars at the El Mundo del Tango after hours get-togethers.

With Denny's nearby, I am surprised that many more women did not get offers to "have a cup of coffee," but I am digressing.

Another unstated rule was that you could bring your own wine and enjoy a glass of whatever quality of wine you chose. Some of us would bring "2-buck Chuck," others would bring more memorable wines and all of us shared them willingly with one another. For in reality, how much wine can a milonguero/a truly drink in an evening. For most of us, one glass is too much.

Later on, after the wood floor was installed at El Mundo much to the expense of the dancing community, things started to change. Pretty soon, the chairs were being folded up and stacked as early as 1 am. If there were lots of dancers, the chairs would not get rolled up and stacked up till 1:30.

Nonetheless, you got a message sometimes not so subtle that it was time to leave. And people did. The amount of late night get-togethers decreased as a result. The only saving grace was that our knees felt better not only because of the wood floor but because we danced less.

The move of El Mundo del Tango to its new location has brought about some unintended consequences that has driven this trend toward even earlier closing times!

This last Saturday, the dancing was terminated at midnight. Management suggested we could stay and drink but that the dancing was prohibited past midnight! "What", I said to myself, "how crazy is this?"

It was explained that the liquor license had strict limits on the activities that could take place!

Even though I had gotten an email about this, it was still a shock to me. An establishment whose core business is dancing, telling us to drink instead of dance. Sounds wacky to me. I guess it is one of those "unintended consequences" of the move to a building designed as an restaurant and at first glance, of the desire to eek more profit out of the evening by selling liquor.

In all fairness, it was announced that efforts were being made to change this reality but for the short and near term and possibly long term, midnight is the end of the Milonga in the present location.

Another not unintended consequence is the end of El Mundo del Tango as a place to Tango. Now from what I can tell the prime focus of the space will be an entertainment, business meeting, rental hall. For Tango lessons, you are directed to another web site, Tango Del Rey. And, I believe that the building is called Tango del Rey. So from what I can gather, the El Mundo del Tango no longer exists.

The milonga, it was announced, will be moving to another part of the building. So much for having milongas is a funky, rococo, moorish location.

And since the move to the new location, bringing your own wine is "strictly" prohibited. Now with the opening of the bar, at El Mundo del Tango, I mean Tango del Rey, bringing your own is now not acceptable at all.

I think the next part to go will be the food. And why not, there is a full kitchen, a chef on hand. Pretty soon, Tango del Rey will be for the dinner/dance crowd. It might be fun it includes live music coupled with great DJ's and exquisite food. It might also work if the dance community was larger, say 10-20x larger.

But since the Tango community is not so large and since there is often an alternative to El Mundo del Tango/Tango del Rey, it would seem to me that the audience in mind is the non-tango dancing community. Already, a salsa event is planned for a Saturday in the place formerly known as El Mundo Del Tango.

Part of me feels a loss specially for those of us who invested money in the dance floor or time and effort in keeping El Mundo viable. Part of me understands the requirements of running a business, specially a business that is losing market share, and has lost the luster of its brand. The best dancers are no longer at El Mundo. Try Wednesday night at Ciao Bella, Friday Night at Milonga Sin Nombre, or the various Saturday and Sunday Milongas produced by TangoEssence on alternate Saturday and Sundays.

The market place can be cruel to sentimentalists like myself. The market i.e. you and me, dictate if a business thrives or fails. And I think the market, i.e. we, have voted that the old business model of El Mundo was not meeting our needs.

Only the future can tell if, paraphrasing Prince, Tango del Rey: the milonga formerly known as El Mundo del Tango, will find reasons for us to return to it on a regular basis. Some positive steps have been the active role and participation of Colette Hebert who brings energy, personality to an enterprise that often lacked social graces and the inclusion of well respected dancers as teachers.

Under New Management with a New Business Plan is what I would say of Tango del Rey, the place formerly known as El Mundo del Tango. And, I don't blame them if they decide to woe the masses instead of the tiny Tango dancing minority.



At 3:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is unethical for you to post such a review without disclosing that you are now a competitor...

At 8:13 PM , Blogger Tanguero said...

Yes, I am a competitor and was a competitor when Isabelle and myself mad a 4 figure donation for the dance floor. El Mundo also happily took our money and our services when they needed help and financing to make the move to their new location. In fact, Isabelle and I were major bidders during their fund raising event. My take on it is if you are willing to ask for donations, take people's money, then the donors have a right to comment and critique when the party in question, this time El Mundo del Tango, forsakes everything and changes direction.

At 8:14 PM , Blogger Tanguero said...

Also, i think anonymous posts are unethical.

At 5:18 PM , Blogger Tanguero said...

Colette split with El Mundo and went somewhere else as did many of the students. As for the other teacher mentioned, that relationship only lasted about 2 months. Because of on again, off again nature of the milonga at Tango Del Rey, I started a milonga in Del Mar at Whirl Ballroom. But, it looks like the milongas at El Mundo, I mean, Tango del Rey are back on again.


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