If you are not superstitious yourself, chances are, you probably know someone dancing Argentine tango who is. Does Friday the 13th get them in a cold sweat? Do they stay indoors all day, not even venturing out for your Friday night milonga? It doesn’t have to be this way. They are not alone: it’s been estimated that 17 million of us are friggatriskaidekaphobics. Let’s put an end to that, help them brave their fears today and face Friday 13th head on. Here’s what to look out for on the tango dance floor in 13 handy points:
1. Black cats – firstly, if a black cat manages to pay at the entrance, put tango shoes and make it into the milonga tonight, I’m afraid we’re all doomed. Simple as. Sorry! Only kidding, it’s just a cat. Ignore it, stroke it, feed it, do whatever you’d normally do with a cat. What exactly is it going to do? Lick us to death before dancing tango? But… where is this coming from? In the Middle Ages, black cats were linked to witches. People believed that witches were able to transform themselves into black cats, and even if the witches were killed, each one could come back to life and take on the body of a black cat nine times. In many fishing villages of England today, black cats are considered good luck. Wives keep them in their homes to insure the safety of their husbands at sea!
2. Lucky rabbit’s foot – “not for the rabbit” is the clichéd response, although I’d say it’s not lucky for anyone else involved either. Anyone wearing a rabbit’s foot to a milonga will face guys (or ladies) reluctant to ask them to dance. Even if they did manage to find a partner, there will then be three of you in your dance ‘partnership’ really. Simply ask your friend to ditch the bunny. Flopsy wasn’t going to save them anyway! It is likely that this belief has existed in Europe since 600 BC amongst Celtic people. In variations of this superstition, the donor rabbit must possess certain attributes, or have been killed in a particular place, or killed by a particular method, or by a person possessing particular attributes (e.g. by a cross-eyed man). Not easy to do in a milonga filled with tango dancers!
3. Walking under ladders – apart from the obvious matter of the ladder collapsing on you if you disturb it by walking under it, there isn’t much else a ladder can do to hurt your friend. Whether ladders bother you or not, they won’t hinder a great milonga. In all honestly, how many ladders have you or your friend ever seen at a milonga? And if the answer is ‘more than zero’, ask your friend how likely they think they will dance tango underneath it this time? And if you want to impress your friend, don’t simply say ‘your phobia of ladders’ but ‘your stepnophobia’. That will calm them down instantly.
4. Touch wood – “milonga will be fine tonight; touch wood”. Tell your friend to go ahead and do it if it makes them feel better. There will be plenty of wooden tables and floors for them to touch at the milonga too… they just need to avoid overdoing it for fear of being mistaken for the waitress cleaning tables. After all, most people go to milongas to dance with people, not the furniture (usually).
5. Is your friend tempted by looking at a penny on the floor for good luck? Best avoided if you ask me. If they spot one on the floor they shouldn’t try to outsmart the day’s bad luck, they’ll only provoke it: they may be gancho’ed as they bend down, fall to the floor and cause a massive tango pile up, causing all dancing to grind to a halt and the music to stop. Phew. Not so lucky for anyone involved!
6. 66 – tango isn’t maths and it’s highly unlikely that they will be the 666th person to arrive at tonight’s milonga (partly because most milongas don’t even host that many), so they can relax… Perhaps they should call up and ask what the entrance fee is to put their mind at rest, if they say it’s £6.66… well, I’d maybe give it a miss. If not; you’re all good to go!
7. Beginner’s luck – new to tango or to milongas? Are they planning to show off their tango tricks today? With Friday 13th cancelling out any beginner’s luck; they may trip and fall on their face… But, if they manage to dance well on Friday 13th they’ll be able to prove that it’s all pure skill with no luck involved. What better way is there to prove themselves than to get it right when all odds are against them?
8. They should cross their fingers – if crossing fingers is a comfort to them, why not! Although, they should be prepared to uncross them whilst dancing otherwise the embrace will be pretty uncomfortable for both them and their partner.
9. Smashed mirrors – most milonga venues don’t even have mirrors and the rare few that do shouldn’t cause you to panic either. Mirrors hardly ever shatter so I predict a 99.9999% chance that none will tonight. You do the maths. And if it bothers them, simply suggest they don’t dance near the mirrors! (Also if their singing is anything like mine it’s probably best to refrain from that too.) Easy peasey.
10. Umbrellas indoors – there’s a simple solution here… they shouldn’t open their umbrella indoors. Unless they believe that it will cancel out Friday 13th’s bad luck, two negatives make a positive after all.
11. It’s safer to leave the house – reports show that there are fewer road accidents and fires on Friday 13th as people hibernate for safety! So really, going to a milonga tonight would be more risk-free than your typical Friday! So get out and enjoy the empty roads while you can.
12. Panic! Do they shake when they’re nervous or in a panic? I do sometimes. The more they worry about it being Friday 13th, the clumsier they will become – and more incidents will occur as a result. Once they knock something over, they could knock over something else trying to pick it up and here starts the domino effect. So tell them to chill; nothing’s going to hurt them. Let them pretend it’s the 14th instead!
13. Thirteen is actually lucky – It’s only Western cultures that think that Friday 13th is unlucky; Italy for example believe that Friday 17th is instead. In fact, some countries, China for instance, think of 13 as being a lucky number! Sara, our talented Italian young lady working at Tanguito even has a necklace with 13 on it to bring her good luck. Should luck really be dependent on where you’re from? There’s not much sense in that.
Don’t let Friday 13th beat you or your friends! They are stronger than any superstition so they should go out there and do what they want to do with their day. We have a feeling that tango in Buenos Aires does not stop on Friday the 13th!