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Building a better tango scene

Patient reader, before continuing let me reassure you that most tango scenes are friendly. We travel for tango a great deal and have danced in many countries and, with a couple of notable exceptions, tango people are usually welcoming and sociable.

However a recent email from a new friend in Massachusetts, an experienced dancer but new to tango, prompted a reply which resulted in this article. Building yourself a friendly, welcoming dance scene is quite do-able, and most people are very capable of doing so. There are some very simple rules:

  • Don't dance with people who make you feel bad.
  • Dance with the nicest smiles in the room.
  • Treat everyone that you meet as a potential good friend.
This is where the Natural Friends concept kicks in: if people are cold and snobby then it's easy to be offended and hurt, whereas if one mentally takes a step back and considers, "Wow! We are REALLY not meant to be friends!", then some of the heat is taken out of the hurt, there is no blame assigned to anyone and it's easier to move on. (The corollary to this is that they can now be considered Unnatural, which I find amusing in my own small way...)

Simply continue the above approach with newer dancers as you improve and you'll gain a reputation as a scene builder and enjoy great popularity among people who are naturally simpatico with you. Even if your dancing is utter crap... they'll still love to see you!

Try dancing with some of the Unnatural People from time to time, just for the experience. Leaders who are MY natural friends sometimes refer to these people as "takers" in that they expect you to do all the work, that any problems or mistakes are yours, and their attitude tends to be "this had better be good!" even though, SURPRISE(!) they are not as good as you thought they were, never mind their own opinion of themselves. The experience will help to reinforce why you're not dancing with them anymore, and why you are dancing with simpatico people, these days.

Also...... travel! And not in your own country. Dance in different countries, and you need to go to BA at least once to demystify it and to debug a lot of what you'll hear, and read on the web, about 'how tango is danced in BA'. One of my NYC friends was shocked to find that it was nothing like the romantic notion that she'd developed over the years: "It's like a war zone! There's no line of dance, tango legends are stepping blindly into us, the dance floor is not 'flowing like a single organism!'" (Wrist to forehead!)

And the biggest reason to go to BA? I stepped off the floor after my first tanda in BA in 2004, breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself, "I'm not crap!" That is hugely important! Everyone needs a sense of perspective on their dancing, but dancing with the wrong people or living in a negative, finger-pointing dance scene will often result in people having an unduly negative view of their own dancing. Going to BA where there is a wide range of abilities across both locals and tourists will help you to gain perspective on your dancing and what you need to improve.

By the way, when I read the above line about Unnatural People to Beth she laughed and yelled "MUTANTS!" (This may give you a picture of whether a holiday in BA at the same time as us is quite your cup of tea...)


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