How to use social media to share your love of freedom, diversity, and the earth, and build a more empathic world

Want to change the world with social media? We live in a world where tiny touches and clicks can move thousands of hearts and minds. But, without the right approach, it's also easy to use social media to reinforce old, outdated paradigms - and contradict the very values you are trying to spread. This is to share some of what I have learned about how the mind and communication works, and how you can be a positive cultural force through your daily post.

  • Regular posting: First, commit to be regular. Plan to do a post every day that spreads what you value, and your stories and ways of seeing the world. Practice and repetition is essential. Do it consistently, use a habit-supporting app like Way of Life of StickK to help you.
  • Stop the chain: Commit to completely stop sharing anything that repeats and amplifies the message of any candidate whose values you are not aligned with. In fact, do not even repost anything that includes the name of that candidate. Cognitive science has proven that whether if you are attacking or deriding them, you are helping them.
  • Engage with views you disagree with: Finally, commit to at least one timeslot per week (for instance 1 afternoon, 2-3 hours) in which you will bring the BEST of your intellectual power, empathic love and creativity, with TOTAL focus, to try to better UNDERSTAND AND AUTHENTICALLY CONNECT WITH those who you disagree with. You could do this by consuming media you disagree with, or holding having an open, curious, reflective phone conversation or chat with someone who holds different views than you, for instance. Take it in non-judgmentally. New ideas will arise. 

Metaphors structure our thinking and our debate. To raise the level of debate, we need to introduce new metaphors that will be a bridge to new realities. Here is my take on some NEW metaphors and messages that, I believe, need to be introduced and reinforced. They directly contradict and provide alternatives for current frames being repeated all over the media (including social media and conversation).

Humanity is a Family

Fear is an Enemy / a Liar / an Obsolete, Useless Tool

Impulsive Ideas are a Waste of Good Money

Quick Fixes are the Enemy

Steady Solutions are the Real Hero

Curiosity is a Muscle

Freedom is a Healthy Body

Family is a Launchpad

 

Humanity is a family

This metaphor replaces the obsolete but popular metaphor that "the nation is a family" or "my race is my family." It shifts focus away from haggling over "-isms" and "political correctness."

Fear is an enemy | Fear a liar | Fear an obsolete, useless tool

"Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father," according to cognitive scientist George Lakoff. Today, the "obedience-to-a-strict-father" worldview can do more harm to freedom, diversity and earth than we might imagine. These new metaphors focus attention on the problem of fear itself and offer alternatives, like curiosity and health.

Impulsive ideas are a waste of good money | Quick fixes are the enemy | Steady solutions are the real hero

Fearful people want things to change quickly, and sometimes they are seduced into believing that simple, direct actions will be effective in removing the situation they fear. "Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation," as Lakoff also notes. It may be that the people you disagree with embrace direct causation. We can help them have confidence in the power of understanding systemic causation.

Share compelling personal examples of impulsive ideas wasting money, vs. slow, steady solutions creating results.

Curiosity is a muscle

This metaphor focuses on the virtue of curiosity, and the fact that it's in our control. The attitude of curiosity has the power to transform fear. Help people who feel weak and scared of "others" flip this by embodying and activating and celebrating curiosity.

Freedom is a healthy body | Family is a launchpad

There are a lot of broken, sick, traumatized bodies in the authoritative "strict father" world. Deep down people know that this isn't how life should be. Reinforce over and over again that "a strong/loving family means you feel free/happy/healthy/good/strong/alive" and "freedom feels beautiful and healthy."

With these new metaphors we will reclaim the words "freedom" and "family," and infuse them with healthy meaning.

Watch outs:

  • DON'T repeat/amplify things that don't express your values. STOP THE CHAIN.
  • DON'T try to get people to consider the facts. That does not help. Focus on values, frames and metaphors.
  • DON'T take on a snide, sarcastic, intellectually superior tone. Speak from your heart with love and humility and openness and curiosity.
  • DON'T get tempted by comedy, irony, political satire, subtle or overt humor about the players. Although these can be educational and enjoyable, THESE DO NOT HELP and actually reinforce old, outdated, obsolete, frames. They are too subtle to make the massive gigantic shifts we need to make. Sharing them is NOT ENOUGH. 
  • DON'T MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE. Don't say mean things about any individual. It doesn't help.
  • DON'T BE VIOLENT OR DESTRUCTIVE. Take a strong stand against the use of destructive force from anyone in any form.  
  • DON'T GIVE UP. Don't be cynical. Cynicism is just fear in disguise. It is old, outdated, obsolete, and uncool. We can do this with discipline, humility, curiosity, slow and steady.
  • DON'T OVERTHINK IT. Repetition is essential. You don't need to always create a creative new message. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And, share and amplify the work of those who are finding fresh ways to express these metaphors. 
  • DON'T STOP after the election. There is a lot of work to do. It will take decades change minds that have been damaged by the past decades of media.

Question - please share:

What kinds of stories, images, examples, case histories, headlines, hashtags, games, t-shirts, slogans, stunts, bumper stickers, ETC would bring to life these metaphors ? Let your imagination run wild and then KEEP at it.

Let's do it - and as we do, remember that we ARE one human family, and let our every tiny interaction be infused with that loving kindness to one another. It's all those tiny touches - genuine hugs and smiles - that might REALLY change the world. So, let's do it, let's change the world, one embrace at a time. Love, Mitra

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.

The gifts that build Oxygen: completing our replanting

Photo by Andrei Andreev

Photo by Andrei Andreev

Oxygen is like a little plant and each year it grows a bit and needs a new pot. This year's replanting has been carried out by one of the dancers among you, Magan Wiles.

Last November when she joined the school, she offered to lend her expertise in small business infrastructure to improve O2. I had no idea what powers were being unleashed...

Magan peppered me with tons of questions about our processes and thought hard about O2's unique needs. She researched and scheduled demos with a dozen software providers and payment processors. She pulled everything together into a strong, intelligent recommendation for a database/CRM that meets the needs of the O2 community and prepares us for long term growth. She advocated for this solution and found the most budget-conscious way forward. Then she personally sifted through over 3500 records representing over 42,000 event attendances, sprinkled across 7 or 8 different databases to unify and remove redundant info. She spent nights learning wizardly new Excel skills instead of dancing, and she still graduated from the Tango Challenge with flying colors. She created a training manual for class and practica hosts and has come in to personally train every one of them. She has pushed me forward, keeping me to deadlines and prodding me to make hard but necessary decisions. And she has been a source of happiness, fun, positivity and light as all this has unfolded.

Magan has gathered the scattered strands of Oxygen's soul and unified O2 in a way that is going to be very invisible to most of you but will uplift your experience in many subtle ways.  Every drop of this hundreds' hours' effort was donated. Please, thank Magan for her hard work and her incredible contributions. I would never have been able to do this without her.

Everything's there - your attendance history, your membership status, your past challenges, your "tangoversary," your past transactions.

To me, Magan's effort symbolizes the efforts of dozens of others who volunteer their time. Over the past 7 years Oxygen has been graced by the living efforts of dozens of people who have been volunteer teachers, administrators, practica and class hosts, "bears", "fractal specialists", "tranzkrafters," tango guides, graphic designers, web designers, team members, backers, brainstorming partners, milonga hosts, writers, event creators, bloggers, interviewers. I would like to write a story about every single one of them. Maybe that's what I'll do with all my free time now that I'm not going to be going crazy trying to make sense out of 8 different data systems.

We live in gratitude for all the miracles that allow us to meet and embrace each other and dance. Love, Mitra

Hamilton's Tango: Creative Duos are the Real Genius

Geniuses, lower your voices. Because you are part of a myth that is about to be exploded. The fact is that you're a fiction.

Yes, that's right, you don't exist. And Joshua Wolf Shenk will prove it to you if you read his epic book, "Powers of Two," wherein he calmly, methodically, poetically decimates the “the myth of the lone genius" and replaces it with the world of the duet. “The pair is the primary creative unit,” he says, and goes on to give a million beautiful and scary examples of how creativity is a game that flows between two minds and never just one. Even if we thought it was just one. It was actually two.

Genius is a dance: Hamilton and Washington, Miranda and Kail

You've heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda, perhaps? See, he's a certified genius, as I’ve told plenty of people quite emphatically. (“He’s a...a...a... genius” I told my sister. “Mitra, are you blushing?” she asked.)

But see, you can tell he's already so onto the revolution. If you open the internet and watch an interview, peek around Twitter or poke around the Hamiltome, you can't miss that actually the genius is, at least in part, Lin-And-Tommy -- Tommy Kail, his longtime creative partner, who directed Hamilton and In The Heights. As Lin's Tony Award acceptance poem points out: "This envelope says Lin, but it's not entirely Lin's / Cause when you work with Tommy Kail, the best idea wins..."

And as I was pondering this, and reading Ron Chernow's epic Hamilton biography, and seeing the big golden star Hamilton logo everywhere I looked when I opened my laptop (a fan will just never be #satisfied) I started to also realize that, for all his genius, the A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R wasn't the genius either. It was, in a big way, Alexander-And-Washington. And a lot of the awesomesauce that happened circa 1776 came out of how the personality of their partnership pulled the best of each of them into its genius.

See, people like Alexander, like Lin, are maybe extraordinarily creative not because they are geniuses but because they are willing to dive in and tango with another person, many different kinds of other people and let something emerge.

For sure, stumbling into a genius-grade partnership is probably way more likely when you're a person who's just always, relentlessly, omnidirectionally, lovingly, loyally, pairing up to create. That's how you earn those hyphens -- by finding them, making them, everywhere. Alexander-And-Laurens. Alexander-And-Madison -- for awhile. Alexander-And-Angelica. Alexander-And-Eliza. Lin-And-Vanessa. Lin-And-Alex. Lin-And-Andy. Lin-And-Chris. Today, Lin-And-JLo. 

And maybe we could all tap our genius potential by stopping trying to be geniuses all by ourselves and actually daring to duet, to dance a tango or two. 

Daring to dance a Tango...for real?

Tango? Huh? Yes. Literally. To dance a tango. Since starting a tango school (well, I didn't really start it, it was Mitra-And-Stefan), I have definitely noticed that people who are up for dancing social, improvised Argentine tango are really opening up to the powers of two:

  • They are willing to dare to be partners. This takes such guts, whether it's with a friend or a spouse or a stranger.

  • They are willing to stay calm and persist through the long and awkward stages of risking and failing to connect...

  • And most importantly they are willing to keep on practicing and improving their skills to become better and better at partnering.

In school, most of us never learn even the basics of connecting and creating with a partner. I definitely didn't, and I got what some might consider one of the best educations that could be bought here on planet Earth! With the exception of occasional moments doing extracurricular theater, my creativity mostly was stuck inside of my journal, which was a very stultifying place for it to be.

Enter tango, which suddenly involved me in a whole mess of beautiful pairings that have blossomed in all kinds of creations - dance-creations, yes, but also events of all kinds, inventions, games, all kinds of writing, courses I offer, even a business that supports me! And the skills of improvised partnering I have learned and continue learning from tango have infused how I interact with every single person in my life, even my relationships within my family. Like, right now my mom and I are working on a children's book together. 

I've seen tango unlock people's creativity completely, and the whole community benefits. But underlying all the new performances, events, businesses, career-changes, and, yes, babies that spring up in the creative wake of tango pairings, is the gradual acquisition of a deep set of partnering skills that allows more creativity to flow everywhere - at home, at work, all the time.

The Hamiltango Genius Award

How about Tony awards for creative duos? MacArthur Genius grants to pairs? TED, how about creative pairs of people speaking together, how about that red bubble carpet being a double-bubble? True, creative pairs usually have one front man - maybe the non-front man could still be up there, just in the non-front.

Improvising with a partner can definitely be hard, irritating, confusing. Is it worth it? No doubt. Absolutely none. I bet that if you want to be more creative or more of a genius, to revolutionize government or Broadway or even your own life, learning how to improvise with a vast huge range of partners would help.

Maybe YOU (AND your partner) will be the one receiving the first MacArthur Genius-Duo Award. And you could dance a tango to celebrate.

P.S. Just for Hamilton Fans: Ten tango things you need to know...

Where do you learn to tango? The answer is: in a million partners' arms. But you can't just wait for it. You have to write your own deliverance. Here are a few things that you might want to know as you get started...

  1. A Tango lasts 2 minutes, maybe three minutes - three minutes in total agreement
  2. It’s improvised, a very vivid sort of freestyle love supreme
  3. It's like comma flirting but even cooler. It’s cool to never know if they actually got it or not. But it’s even cooler to dance it all out in a really good tango. 
  4. The music, it’s inexplicable, soul-tattering, a freight train of love, made at a time when the world was mostly manufacturing hate. In the heights of the tradition there's a tango called "Carnaval De Mi Barrio," recorded by Orquesta Típica Edgardo Donato in 1939 
  5. Tango definitely resists being captured in the fullness of its glory, its story on a stage, but I can think of someone who might could do it
  6. There is a lot of it going on, nonstop, all the time right there in the greatest city in the world (and all the other ones too)
  7. Tomorrow there'll be more of us...

Tomorrow is for the story of tango. The story of how you, Lin, and all the others showed me who I needed to embrace for the next stanza of my shot. How my shot was really your shot too. It's the story of, say, tweeting to someone for the first time -- pardon me, sir -- how strange it felt but also how right, how good it was to get used to that, to learn how such little words can move much big hearts. We went with the strangeness and realized it was beautiful. We improvised. That's the core of all this, the story of our times.  

In the meantime, tonight, how many hyphens can we earn, and what is in store for our audiences, our countries, yea, the multiverse itself if every single human here becomes happily hyphenated? Raise a glass - may every orphan immigrant, every alone person find the thing we all only need: Love.

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.

Interview with Scott G. G. Haller: Cellist, Sound Editor, and Uncle of Dozens of Tango Dancers

For years, Scott G. G. Haller has contributed time, energy, creativity, and love to class after class of Tango Challengers. Dozens of newcomers to Tango have been warmly supported by Scott, who has gone above and beyond what's normal or necessary to nurture the next generation of Tango dancers in his role as a volunteer Assistant Facilitator of the Tango Challenge. So many wonderful people who are now active Tango dancers have been touched by Scott's encouragement, humor, and kindness in their first few months of Tango. We wanted you to meet Scott and hear his perspectives on Tango and his community work. 

Photo By SubbusClicks from tango slumber party

Photo By SubbusClicks from tango slumber party

How did you get involved in Tango?

I didn’t start social dancing until my 30s. A cousin got into swing dancing and convinced me to take lessons with her so that she’d always have someone to dance with. After doing Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, and Balboa for a number of years I stumbled onto Moti Buchboot’s Sunday night outdoor milongas at Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade and started taking lessons from him because I was drawn to being able to move in a more relaxed way connecting to music which was closer to the classical music I’d grown up with playing ‘cello. You can put my tango “birthday” at January 3, 2006, since I wrote Moti a check for my very first lesson and my accounting software provides specific evidence of my first steps. I always admired his experimenting with possible ways to move. (“Now that we’ve done this to the right, can we do the same thing to the left?”)

How did you get involved in Oxygen Tango? 

I had started expanding my tango exploration with Linda Valentino’s classes in Hollywood and Yolando Rossi’s Culver City milonga when I found out that “Mar Vista Tango,” as it was originally called, was opening up in my neighborhood. I started hanging out there because having weekly prácticas nearby to work things out at was very appealing.

How did you get involved in The Tango Challenge?

Frankly I was unaware of the intensive beginner program until early Challenge student Katya Kosarenko asked me to be her practice/recital partner. I was more worried that the required 40 minutes of practicing together would bore her than I was nervous about the final recital.

What has been your role(s) in the Tango Challenge? 

In the Spring of 2012, Mitra asked me to help her with the Challenge. She wanted administrative help and felt that the coursework could use some polish. As the son of English professors and a graduate of a fine liberal arts school I worked over the written material for greater clarity and even got some chances to present ideas of my own. The first team I assisted with was The Lucky 7 -- the fifth semester of the program. Besides providing hands on coaching and another perspective in class discussions, I also took pictures and the “before” videos at the start of the term, then used my film school skills to cut together the recital videos for the clearest presentation of how far the students had progressed. Since my professional work has ramped up on the other side of town on top of the class schedule shifting from periodic Sundays to early Wednesday evenings every week it’s been difficult to give the same level of personal attention.

PHOTO BY ANDREI ANDREEV

PHOTO BY ANDREI ANDREEV

What do you get out of this work?

It’s been fascinating being an “Uncle” to an expanding family of graduates who frequently find their niche in the Los Angeles tango community. (Of course, some are never heard from again.) I think it’s very true that you learn something much better when you have to figure out how to teach someone else to do it. While it’s easy to stress out when learning something new – I’m always reminded that in the intimate connection inherent to tango it’s important to cultivate calmness so that you can put your focus where it needs to be: on your partner. I also want to make sure that beginners don’t forget that dancing can be fun & playful; they don’t have to rely on patterns and can just go step by step -- and especially with a walking dance there’s nothing wrong with taking one’s time. I quickly figured out that the best sign off I could put on e-mails to the cohort was to “keep breathing” to encourage them not to stress & rush all of the time.

What are some treasured memories from your experiences as an Assistant Facilitator?  

PHOTO BY SUBBUSCLICKS FROM TANGO SLUMBER PARTY

PHOTO BY SUBBUSCLICKS FROM TANGO SLUMBER PARTY

There’s always a thrill seeing the light bulb go on over people’s heads along with the smiles when things start falling into place. My personal goal is to make sure that beginning dancers don’t forget to connect to the music as well as have fun moving around. I was thrilled when one student led me by collecting, pausing with a breath, and waited for the right moment to take a step. Another time I was striving to convince a Challenger to keep her free leg connected to the floor and visualize drawing on the surface with embellishments; eventually I experimented with putting colorful sand on the floor for her to tangibly “draw” on – the idea got through and she was very excited about the possibilities. Shooting ideas back and forth with one experimenting Challenger led to making Velcro vests and Spandex “tubetops for two” to provide solid connections and lots of laughs.

How has the Tango Challenge changed over time? 

I come from a way of thinking of less talk, more action: learn by doing. Using the graduating student feedback to nudge for the private sessions to be actual mini dance lessons instead of talk therapy has been a good step.

Of course, when the teacher changes – the experience of the program comes to reflect that leader’s experience and perspective.

What would you like to see more of in the Tango world? 

Too many people learn sequences of steps and get comfortable using them over and over when there’s this interesting music which we’re supposed to be dancing to. It’s better to shape the steps and pause periodically to match the shapes of the sounds filling the air. Musicality shouldn’t be a technique put off for later. It’s pretty easy to use very basic steps and vary the way they’re done to more closely match what’s going on in the music.

Photo by kenneth wei

Photo by kenneth wei

Another problem with so many classes based on sequences is that too many dancers don’t connect – they’re struggling to move the way they’re “supposed” to instead of engaging with each other and moving together.

There’s also the stereotype that all tango music – or at least the “true” tango music – is sad & dramatic. Like classical music, there’s a range of emotions in the arrangements & performances and it’s so limiting to ignore what doesn’t fit the melodramatic reputation.

And there’s the weird ghettoization of more modern and alternative music. When I started dancing a decade ago the DJs would provide a range of music and the dancers happily embraced whatever was played. Now there’s a fundamentalism of only playing Golden Age music and the eclectic material can mostly be found at specialized milongas or afternoon sessions at festivals. The thing is, of course, that back in the day the milongas in Buenos Aires had live bands – so the whole concept of tandas and “traditional” cycles is a more recent development. The bottom line is that plenty of dancers get excited when they hear something “extra-ordinary” to dance to.

What is your work outside of Tango? 

I cut sound for motion pictures. More accurately, I do the sonic equivalent of Photoshop for the dialogue recordings captured along with the visuals. It’s a stealthy ninja-like job where if I do it right – no one knows I was there.

What role does Tango play in your life? 

It’s a chance to play. Like many people, I sit in front of a computer all day – so moving around (and still being able to move around) is something to celebrate. Also, dancing is a chance to perform: to create little mini-movies to an ever changing soundtrack weaving across the floor. In the end, if I can make someone else smile through sharing what I hear in the music… it’s a good day.

What is important to you, as a person, in your life: what qualities do you seek/strive to cultivate? 

Joie de vivre should not be a foreign concept. Everyone should create a little happiness around them.

Many things are possible if you can deconstruct them to their most basic elements and build up bit by bit.

Interview with Diane Yoon! Care Bear, Extrovert, and Tango Addict!

Photo Courtesy Xiaomin Jiang

Photo Courtesy Xiaomin Jiang

In this interview, Diane Yoon shares some tips on how to break-in to festivals and milongas in new cities, find new friendships through Tango, and overcome barriers like low confidence. A dancer of many dances, Diane reveals what is special about Tango, why it’s addictive, and what she especially loves about it.

What drew you to Tango?

I’ve always been attracted to the aesthetic of Tango. I’ve been dancing since I was a little girl and I’ve done either a little or a lot of most dances out there. But I had never found a place that would teach me Tango the way I wanted to be taught, as an actual improvised experience. It’s hard to learn Tango without a concentrated syllabus, because there is no basic step. I loved the twistiness and sinuousness of the dance. I very quickly learned about the Tango connection, which was one of the things that really drew me – this instant intimacy.

How is Tango different from other forms of dance that you know?

I think the learning process of Tango is different from any other dance; it’s a very deep language, and there are very few dances that have so much to explore yet no set vocabulary. I mean, Tango does have some vocabulary, but a lot more opens up with some analysis. Also, I think learning to be so close to another person, right there chest-to-chest, touching your head, is definitely a skill to learn with Tango.

What are the challenges you face in Tango?

Photo Courtesy Oscar Chang

Photo Courtesy Oscar Chang

There are so many. I think Tango is conceptually one of the most challenging dances I’ve done, if not aerobically challenging. It’s actually a fairly low-impact dance, compared to ballet. There is a bigger learning curve for leaders—understanding the music, floorcraft, vocabulary, and then trying to translate that into something the follower will understand. And for the follower, the technique can be a lot to integrate into your body; for example, as humans, we are not used to walking backward. Just learning to feel the floor under you and using it to pivot and step can be hard, and using your alignment to get the disassociation going, too. Tango goes so deep; you can’t finish Tango ever. Not that you can finish any of the other dances, like ballet or tap or salsa or swing, but it feels like Tango will always have the same degree of challenges forever.

I guess that’s why it attracts nerdy people.

It does. There are so many intelligent people in Tango. There is so much analysis. It’s like doing proofs, very mathematical.

Some people, when they start Tango, stop all the other dances. Did that happen to you?

I found Oxygen, and I did the first month’s special, and I think I came every day. For the first maybe 3-6 months, I would occasionally go out to salsa once a month. But it’s basically only Tango now. It’s addictive. It’s hard to go back to other dances.

What do you love most about Tango? What makes it addictive?

I don’t think I can pinpoint one thing. One of the things, I think the most physically apparent thing, is that hugging people for that long just feels good. It feels good to be in a Tango embrace and dance while hugging. I think all Tango dancers have had that experience of going home after their first Tango high, and saying, what is this? How did this happen? And feeling on cloud nine. I remember the first time that happened to me, who I was dancing with, and even the song! Outside of that, I think the people are just wonderful. The Oxygen people are obviously fantastic and warm and welcoming. But having started to travel for festivals, I’ve found that the larger Tango community tends to be also warm and affectionate. It feels like such a safe community. Even though Tango has a lot of introverts, so it can feel cliquey or snobby, if you take the time to talk to people, everyone wants to know each other. And there are all these interesting, wonderful people to get to know.

You have become a skilled Tango dancer in a short amount of time, dancing in different cities and at national festivals. What advice would you give to new learners of Tango about breaking-in socially to the national Tango scene?

Photo Courtesy Diane Yoon

Photo Courtesy Diane Yoon

It took me 4 or 5 festivals to begin to feel comfortable at them. I think that is a whole, separate skill that is necessary in Tango—how to break into a new community, how to break into festivals. It is part of the challenge in Tango, but it’s something I’m working on.

Generally, there are going to be a couple of people who you know going. Make an effort to cultivate an extended friend group. Introduce people to each other. Maybe you can get a group together for drinks afterward, or coffee before. Especially at festivals, making plans outside of dancing can be really fun, and you get to see the city you’re in instead of just the milonga venue! Karaoke in Portland! Swimming holes in Austin! Monuments in DC! Group dinners everywhere! Also, it’s important to not feel like you have to dance all the time at milongas. If you’re sitting out, and you don’t like the tanda, then talk to the people around you. Tango is a social dance, and the social aspect doesn’t end when you walk off the dance floor.

I’m kind of an extrovert, which is apparently rare in the world of Tango. But we all have self-esteem issues: is my dance good enough? These girls are so pretty. I feel awkward here. But those things matter less than we think; people are friendly. On some level, your dance matters less at these functions than your willingness to make friends. Without the social connection, it’s not really Tango.

How has dancing Tango affected your social life?

Photo Courtesy Diane Yoon - with friends playing with Sharna fabiano's tango intention cards

Photo Courtesy Diane Yoon - with friends playing with Sharna fabiano's tango intention cards

I have this awesome new group of friends. Now it feels like I can go anywhere and spend a couple of weeks, going to milongas or classes, and have this community almost instantly, of people who I know are like-minded people. I moved to Paris in 2012 and spent 6 months trying to make friends! How do you make friends as an adult? You have to have multiple, unplanned interactions every week. Also, because Tango has this weird effect on your brain chemicals, it feels like you are instantly connected with all these people. I know that if I go to a new city, there will be people who I can make friends with quickly.

How did you become part of the Oxygen team?

Like I said, I came every day that I could. At the time, they had classes five days a week, and I came five days a week. Luckily, I started the first day that one of the Challenges started, and so I had these 8 people to work with who were being very diligent about their study, as well. Then, I started DJing and hosting the Sunday practica, because why not come to Oxygen some more? That was really fun, and forced me to learn about the music very quickly. Around that time I jumped into the role of Membership Relations Manager.

Can you describe your role at Oxygen?

Right now it’s minor. I keep up with what’s going on, and I hope to get back into “bearing” someday. There have been a lot of changes that have happened since I left. So that will be exciting to see. I love that Oxygen is so volunteer-heavy, and that the people who do volunteer get to do what they excel at. Like, I’m an operations person—that’s what I do for my normal job—like streamlining processes, that’s what I love to do and I’m efficient at it, and that’s what I love to do at Oxygen. Along with Membership Relations Manager, I was the Care Bear. I was involved with coordinating the volunteer team, and any new volunteers, figuring out what they wanted to do. Basically, whenever students had any questions, I tried to help them as best I could. I’d love to get involved with that again. I like Tango people, and I know how it is to start a new dance, and come into a new community feeling scared and alone.

How do you see the school growing and expanding?

It has changed quite considerably in just the last few months, and I’m really pleased about all the changes. It makes Oxygen accessible to new students, especially in terms of cost and commitment. But the challenges allow students who want a deeper experience to have that – studying in a more structured manner. I think I’d be interested in seeing a way of helping students make that big jump to going to milongas and festivals and feeling confident. There are several of us who have made the jump. But it’s tough. Going from Oxygen, a school environment, to this big, dark, scary world of milongas, where you don’t know anybody can be tough. I would like to see more of a support system for that. Someone pointed out to me that especially the men from Oxygen who have made that leap, all have previous dance experience, which means they are used to rejection. I think that’s an underrated advantage. Dealing with rejection is always tough. That’s terrifying. I think Mitra mentioned a festival challenge at some point. I would love to see that happen. I’m huge on supportive groups.

What is your favorite orchestra?

DiSarli. I like squishy goodness.

How would you characterize your cabeceo in one word?

Eyebrow-heavy.