Sunday, October 23, 2016

You Might Be A Tango Snob If....

Face it. We all have a bit of the Tango snob in us. How can we help it? No other dance combines intimacy, creativity, artistry and culture quite like Tango. So it is easy to become a bit chauvinistic about it.

So in a spirit of lighthearted fun, see if you recognize yourself.

 You might be a Tango snob if....

 You never have fewer than 3 pairs of Tango shoes in your car - and they are all Comme Il Fauts...because you would never wear anything else.

 You refuse all verbal requests to dance. Real Tango dancers cabeceo!

 You serve mate at your house milonga.

You have been heard to express the opinion that Nuevo is not REAL Tango.

You never arrive at a milonga during the first hour.

Your computer wallpaper is a slide show of La Boca.

 You refer to Tango stars by their first names only.

 You discuss Tango in Spanish....even though you don't speak Spanish

 You complain if the DJ plays anything recorded after 1948.

You don't understand why anyone would ever dance anything but Tango.

Friday, October 14, 2016

As I Get Older....

Those of us who have been dancing Tango for many years, who are now in our sixties, or seventies, or eighties, are confronting a sad reality. There comes a point where no matter how many classes I take - how many private lessons - I am never going to get better.

 I have reached the pinnacle. And there is no place to go but down. As my body ages, things that were easy ten years ago become less so. And as I struggle with the aches and pains that naturally come with getting older, Tango is no longer the effortless joy it once was.

 I get asked to dance less. I sit and watch while lovely young women dance every dance. And I grieve for what I have lost.

 Many Tango dancers, when they reach this point, stop dancing Tango altogether. But not me. That is partly because the joy of teaching Tango - of nurturing a new generation of dancers - never grows old.

But more importantly, aging has a way, in Tango as in life, of burning away the nonessentials, of annealing the experience. What is left is the true meaning of Tango - creativity in intimacy.

 I may have fewer tools with which to be creative, as my body refuses to execute some of the dramatic nuevo steps. But Haiku is just as beautiful as dramatic verse, and just as satisfying.

I may dance less, but the dances mean more because they are with partners I cherish; partners I do not need to impress because that is not why we dance Tango.

 When I was a young Tango dancer I used to watch the old milonguero couples dance together. Their dancing was beautiful in a way that brought tears to my eyes, and touched me in a way I could not really understand.

 Now I do.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tango Drama: Just Say No - Please!

Tango drama -

 It is hard to resist.

 It is impossible to avoid.

 Which teachers are feuding? Who is sleeping with their student? Who is dating whom? Who has broken up, and who is to blame? Who is cheating on their spouse? Who are the sexual opportunists? Who are the dance creeps and stalkers? Whose feelings are hurt and by whom?

 Some people enjoy the drama. I am not one of them. If you are another who does not appreciate Tango drama, I have a few suggestions:

 1: Don't date within the Tango community. If you choose to disregard this advice, don't talk about your relationship with others in community. And be aware that if you break up, especially if it is a hostile breakup, one or both of you will probably find yourselves uncomfortable returning to familiar Tango haunts.*

 *I made one exception to this rule, 16 years ago when I began a relationship with a former student. But we kept it so private that when we got married 5 years later many in the community didn't even know we had been a couple.

 2. Don't gossip about other people in the community. Thoughtful news is one thing - salacious gossip is something else. Who just got back from Argentina is appropriate to talk about; who they slept with while there is not. If someone starts a conversation about another Tango dancer that drifts into unpleasant gossip, smile and change the subject. Be aware that if you talk about someone in your Tango community it WILL get back to them.

 3. If you have a personality conflict with another dancer, handle it yourself. Do not drag the rest of the Tango community into your personal relationship problems. The exception to this is the groper or the stalker. Such antisocial behavior, if it persists, needs to be brought to the attention of the local organizer. And if you have any reason to believe the behavior is part of a larger pattern, your fellow dancers should be warned. And teachers and organizers need to be willing to warn and, if necessary, ban serious offenders.

 4: Support your local teachers, but don't involve yourself in their drama. It is fine to praise your favorite teacher, but avoid criticizing other teachers.

And teachers: Avoid criticizing other teachers and promoters, even if they trash-talk you. Don't try to embroil your students in a competition between teachers.

 These are rules that I have developed over 20 years as a Tango dancer, teacher and promoter. Every time I have broken them I have regretted it - except the one time that led to marriage. (in Tango there is always an exception).

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Some thoughts on "Back Leading"

"Backleading" is a term leaders frequently use when the follower did something he did not expect, and as a result the connection broke. But that term implies that the broken connection is the follower's fault. I really want to try to stop thinking in terms of fault.

 A broken connection can happen for many reasons, including a communications glitch, a balance problem on the part of either person, or differences in style. Blaming all these things on the follower is counterproductive. Let us look at them individually.

 Communication between partners is a two-way street. All too often when there is a problem, the follower is told she didn't "listen" to the leader, or didn't "wait for his command". News flash - tango is not a master-slave relationship, or a teacher-student relationship. It is the job of the leader to listen to the follower, every bit as much as it is the follower's job to listen to the leader. True, the leader starts the conversation. But after that, it is a dialog, with the leader making suggestions and the follower adding her ideas.

 Lack of balance is one of the most common reasons for a broken connection. This can cause either person to take an unexpected step. In a good partnership, each person is not only responsible for their own balance, but also for avoiding causing their partner to go off balance. Only practice can solve this connection problem.

 Style differences are a frequent cause of broken connections. This is why we dance tandas - it gives us an opportunity to resolve those differences, and work toward a mutual accommodation. Compromise is the key. A leader who merely accuses the follower of back leading, and who puts no effort in reaching a compromise, is not a partner. He is a boss. True, sometimes the styles are so different that dancing together will never be enjoyable. In that case both people should "agree to disagree" and find other people to dance with.

 When you step onto the floor at a milonga, you have agreed to dance together. Maintaining the connection is the responsibility of both people. Sometimes that means the follower becomes the leader and the leader becomes the follower - either intentionally or unintentionally. Stay connected. Dance with your partner. Forget blame. This dance is about "us", not about "you" or "me".