Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tango Community Survival Manual

When I first started dancing the tango I was confused. I did not have a regular teacher, and the ones I did have often gave me contradictory pieces of advice and lectures.

I guess that many of the beginners are in a similar situation. That is why I decided to formulate some of my experiences into the six most important pieces of advice for survival in the tango comunity.

Tango is not a standardized dance. There is no right way, only a way that may or may not work out for you.

My point is this – when you dance your aim is to make your partner enjoy the dance. Everything else you do has to serve this purpose.

Here are the six things that everyone beginning to dance in general or to dance the tango should be aware of:

1. Be your own teacher – Your doctor can establish a diagnosis and prescribe you therapy, but it is up to you whether you will take their advice and what you will do in order not to get sick again. Tango is similar: your teacher may tell you what to correct in your dance and provide you with directions, but it is up to you to what extent you will apply it.

Sometimes not even your teacher can tell you what you need because the most important things in tango cannot be seen from the outside. It is great to have a mentor and to follow them, but it is even greater to be your own mentor.

How to become your own teacher? Here are a few recommendations:

- Ask – Ask the more experienced dancers what they think of your dancing, ask your partners (be careful not to overdo it) and ask for honest constructive criticism. Ask questions to define the best characteristics of your dancing and how to make it better. Taking this into consideration, define what you need to work on. Ask your teacher how to fix it.

- Read – Tango happens in the head first. The right mindset, the right thinking about what you do is the base for everything. That is why you should read as much as you can, watch interviews, think, compare, search for answers to the dilemmas you may have.

- Watch – People are mimetic beings – that means that most often we learn by copying what we see. That is why you should compile a collection of your favourite videos and watch them from time to time. Learn by copying, put yourself in your idols’ shoes, do what they would do, think the way they would think.

2. Build your own style – When you dance it is very important to be recognizable. Think of how you would like to be remembered by those that you dance with. As the guy that dances milongas beautifully, the gentleman that fills me with positive energy, the girl with the soft embrace, the lady that does a wonderful giro? You may dance unbelievably well, but you may sink into the grayness of mediocrity if there isn’t a single thing that you will be recognized by.

It goes without saying that you need to know to dance to all types of music and to have all the elements to be complete, but you only need one element to be recognizable. After choosing what you like and what you have a talent for, focus on it to perfect it better than all the other dancers. In this manner, everyone will always want to dance with you.

3. Give selflessly – You cannot hide anything in tango. I am not familiar with another human activity in which every detail of the soul becomes so apparent. If you hold fear or frustration while you dance, they emerge to the surface; if you are in a good mood, it can be clearly seen; if you have had a bad day or if you are tired, you cannot hide that from your partner.

Irrespective whether any of the above examples apply to you, one thing should never cross your mind – to be selfish. What does that mean?

Tango is a dance for two and it can be truly wonderful provided that these two people connect to one another and dance together. If they are not able to do that, the dance becomes as pointless as the conversation of two people that don’t listen to one another, but think merely of what they themselves are saying.

Thus, always dance for your partner. Give, help, do everything in you power to make them enjoy more. It will come back to you multifold.

At this point I would like to point out the opposite case: when you think about your partner too much – in this way you are blocked and can’t enjoy. If you don’t enjoy yourself, you can’t give joy to others.

4. Hygiene comes first – This is a continuation of the previous recommendation. If someone hasn’t taken the time to shower before a milonga, or brush their teeth, and has come to dance like this, then they are selfish. I rest my case.

Nowadays there are thousands of personal hygiene products and it is absolutely not allowed for one to reek of sweat or their last meal odor. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses: ‘I come directly from work, so I couldn’t find the time’, ‘I’ve been to a pub’, ‘You will have to excuse some people, they just smell more’ etc. There is no acceptable excuse.

Smokers are a distinct category that comes to dance, wearing their smoky ‘ashtray’ smell with them.

5. Accept people the way they are – There isn’t a single tango community without clans, groups, fractions and other divisions. People divide based on many factors and quite often they speak against each other.

I know many people that gave up tango dancing because they were bothered by these divisions – these people expected that the tango community would be an idyllic family whose members love each other and always hang out. This is an illusion. Just like any other group of people, there is personal animosity, past relationships, future relationships, ideological differences and the like.

My recommendation is to learn to keep a certain distance from these things and not to idealize. Mesmerized by the sweet sensation of dancing it is easy to get charmed and suppose that people are better than they are. Tango is such a phenomenon that helps people’s hidden passions come to the surface, no matter whether they are good or bad.

Thus, stay close to the people who are close to you and establish fair communication with most of the group.

6. Travel – You can’t truly feel the splendor of tango without traveling. This especially refers to communities that are small and closed. That is why every experience abroad may give you new impetus and inspiration.

Additionally, traveling abroad may help you get a new perspective and new understanding of how things stand at your tango scene. Tango trips are not always expensive. The organizers of different events will help your trip to be cheaper, and often the friends you have met at different events may prove quite helpful.

What is your experience? Which of your past experiences may serve others, especially newcomers to the tango community?

translation from Macedonian: Jana Nichota

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