For almost six years as of the posting of this blog, the Tuesday night Salsa/Tango event has been popular here in Madison, WI. Watching dancers from both communities coming together, graciously sharing the dance space as salsa sets and tango tandas alternate, has not only turned out to be a wonderful social experiment, but a really unique way to make the work week more bearable.

The first several years, however, were tough. The community had to make due with a temporary dance floor. You know, the kind made of heavy wooden squares that has to be assembled.

But the parts where the sections of floor were supposed to join were pretty beat up due to age, and many of the screws needed to fasten the large squares together were either stripped or permanently stuck in place. This left a good number of gaps between the sections of flooring, which was a weekly hazard for ladies in high-heels.

And because of the gaps, the floor wasn’t securely held together in many places. This resulted in a floor that would literally slide apart after several dance sets. Those nearby would have to stop, put the floor back together as best they could, then try to resume dancing.

Yes, it was a pain in the butt. But at the same time, I do remember a lot of positive things that came from that uncooperative floor. It made everyone more mindful of floorcraft, more careful about looking out for their partners, and forced us to strategize our choreography to avoid those dreaded gaps. Because of so much time spent dancing on that floor, many of us are now much less likely to be intimidated whenever we find ourselves with limited space at a crowded milonga.

And the times when those big, heavy and awkward sections of floor kept sliding apart? Moving them back in place required teamwork. This gave strangers an opportunity to introduce themselves, and helped us see each other as more than just faces in a crowd.

Today, I’m happy to report that the venue has installed a nice permanent dance floor, which provides much more space. Needless to say, it was a welcome relief for the Salsa and Tango dancers, and the Tuesday event is still going strong.

But I’m convinced that the community, in many ways, has drawn closer not just in spite of enduring the hazards and frustrations of that beat-up old floor, but because of it. Dare I say that the community might not be as close if we hadn’t gone through those challenging times.

Sooner or later, it will happen. Perhaps out of bad luck or mathematical probability, at some point we are destined to experience tango (or other dances we enjoy) on a bad floor. But a bad floor doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. It may even be crucial in making us both better dancers and community members.

It’s a big enough dance space – just watch out for that spot in the middle…


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