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Dance Your Personality

It still seems incredible to me today but a few years ago in the depths of tango politics when the local scene was on a knife edge, I was taken aside for a coffee and told that I had to change the way that I danced.

The guy's rationale was that I was an influential dancer and because I danced in a manner that I think of as 'expressive' it made new people think that tango was danced only that way, whereas the all-night basic-8 close-hold shuffle (with minor variations) was in fact the One True Way. Oh and could Beth and I please not express our affection on the dance floor quite so much, because the hugs and chaste kisses were quite excluding? All these things were apparently causing people to drop out, or not take up tango in the first place.

I was flabberghasted and realised that someone I had considered a close friend was not in fact a Natural Friend at all. He was UnNatural, as it were! Of course, one of the reasons that people were not dancing tango so much was the influence that Tango Police such as this guy had on the scene.

Anyway, this kind of peer pressure gets exerted in lots of cities. I've heard of places in several countries where the organisers actually arrange chairs on normal-size dancefloors to artificially create tiny dance spaces so that the dancers are forced to dance small, whether they want to or not. I'm encouraged to hear that enterprising individuals sometimes 'jump the fence' to develop their own tango in their own way, in the green fields of freedom beyond these mini-pistas.

Another example is from BA where one of my favourite partners is a local lady of a Certain Age. We dance at the practica at Ideal prior to the 3.30 milonga. She is madly keen to dance stage tango because she says "the old milongueros are so boring, they have danced the same step for 40 years!" She is tiny and quite frail so we generally dance open frame and I provide her with extra balance. She follows absolutely and performs adornos with great relish and style! Meanwhile the older men look away disapprovingly when I catch them watching us, and the other local ladies quietly jockey for position for a dance after I finish with my friend.

One day Beth took advantage of this practica's relative freedom prior to the milonga, and led as well. She was leading women for a while but the atmosphere changed when she began leading milonga to our friend Bill, a tall and "powerfully built" Kiwi farmer. The ladies on one side of the room were fascinated by this petite woman leading milonga with such a large man. It was obvious that she must be very good and one could almost see them sizing up their options of getting a dance with Beth versus probably never getting any more dances with the old men as a consequence...

On the other side of the room the old men were grim-faced. A woman leading a woman is "quaint" to some men, but a woman leading a man can amount to a frontal assault to the penis, especially if those women are better leaders than said penis. There were reactions like this here in Wellington when we started teaching women to lead. That died away when it was obvious that the new women leaders were quickly better than most of the men.

My point? Dance your personality. Dance in a small simple way or in a full-figured way (which is not the same as an "alarming" way). Learn to lead or follow, or both, as well as you can. Don't criticise other dancers for dancing differently to yourself (as long as they are not getting in your way or stepping on you).

We aren't here for long and it's important that we live our lives in a constructive way that fulfills us and those that we care about. The more people that we care about then the greater the sum total of human happiness. That seems like a good aspiration...



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