After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Circle of Tango
The tango blogging "theme of the week" has been Why people quit dancing tango, a notion noodling in my head for quite some time.
It was all started by Clay's Survey.
Elizabeth wrapped it up perfectly for me.
Check out Modern Tanguera's post and the interesting comments.
And cranky Tango Pilgrim says, Who cares?
The thing is, if you've quit tango, you're probably not keeping up with tango blogs and taking surveys--you've moved on to other things. So how accurate can such a survey be?
These posts and the survey seem to prove that folks quit out of feelings of inadequacy, rejection, hopelessness, frustration.
But there are other reasons apart from personality and popularity issues why someone quits tango. There is, just like in Life, a Circle of Tango. We start on the bottom and move around the wheel.
Most tango bloggers start blogging to chronicle their first baby steps on their tango journeys; it's such a new and fascinating experience, all of it--the trying to learn, the emotions, the man-woman thing, and we struggle to express it. Tango as we all know is unlike any other social dance. Tango opens up our hearts, which means we can travel the whole spectrum of feelings, from exhilaration to depression. Tango means taking risks.
So we write about it, and read the experiences of others, and try to understand the whole phenomenon, this new world. Then bloggers often get bored with trying to explain tango, or feel too exposed with their raw emotions out there in cyberspace, and the blogs languish. Sometimes blogs are made private, and sometimes they morph into photography, writing, belly dancing, art, family, or travel.
The Circle of Tango begins with dabbling in dance lessons; maybe we saw a movie or a stage show, maybe we're going to Buenos Aires on business, a friend invites us to a milonga. If we only dabble, we eventually move on. Once we realize that tango is not "vertical sex," that just because it's sensuous doesn't mean people fall into bed with us, that it's no more a pick-up activity than any other place where men and women meet, tango can seem like too much work.
If we stick around long enough to have a Tango Epiphany, then we can become addicted: chasing around for our next Tangasm.
Then those of us who can manage it try to be Tango Bums--traveling to dance, whether it's to a local festival, milongas a couple of hours away, to Europe, or to Buenos Aires. We'll do anything to satisfy our cravings for a tango fix.
Meanwhile we're taking classes and practicing and studying and figuring out how to dance who we are.
If we hang in there long enough, and bring enough to it, after several years we're finally pretty good. Other people like to dance with us (it's no longer based on our age, looks, or height but on how well we dance and who are friends are) and we manage very well dancing with others. We enjoy this point on the wheel for quite a while, proud of the skills that we've worked so hard to attain.
And then what?
What happens when we're as good as we're going to get, and danced with everybody we want to--over and over again?
If we're young, talented, limber and skinny, we take ballet classes and try for a stage career. This is especially true for Argentinians, as it's a way to get out.
And if it's too late for that, and our own personal Circle of Tango is complete, then we move on to DJing and/or teaching.
If none of these options is appealing, that's when we quit. Tango has a natural life span like most other things. For me, tango is a life-long pursuit; but even if I gave it up, I still would have the benefits, pleasure, experiences, self-knowledge that tango brought me. And traveling the circle would have been worth it.