We Are Tango

When I interviewed Pablo Veron at an event Emily Ortiz-Gorcie and I produced at Oxygen in 2010 he acknowledged that milongas have a certain "density and complexity;" that Tango as an art form has "a certain irrationality" and yet that with perseverance and a commitment to originality, anybody of any background can become great dancer. "Tango isn't somewhere out there - Tango is the dancers who dance it."

I was reminded of the empowering words of hip hop artist Mos Def in his powerful song Fear Not of Man:

People are asking me all the time, 'Mos, where do you think hip-hop is going?' People talk about hip-hop like it's some giant living in the hillside, coming down to visit the townspeople. 

We ARE hip-hop. Hip-hop is going where we are going. So the next time you ask yourself where hip-hop is going, ask yourself 'Where am I going? How am I doing?' Then you get a clear idea.

Similarly, our own way of engaging with Tango is a window on Tango's future.

The only icky thing is halfheartedness

There is this yucky, icky feeling that starts to pervade things when a person thinks that someone else is in charge. What creeps in is halfheartedness - a sort of sad, weary, fatigued mood of judgement and irritability.

No “one” else is in charge. But sometimes our speech and actions suggest that someone is. When we ask these sad, irritable questions that suggest a weird fringe of passivity. “Why can't I get a dance around here?" “Why is Tango so sexist?” “Why is there so much prejudice against Tango teachers who aren't from Argentina?”

Those strange and hard questions - although they that can distract us with frustration and fury - are so incredibly valuable: they are pointers to our unmet needs, they are guides to inspire us to change our world until our needs can be met.

We are each in our own ways making the tender switch away from being outraged or saddened cogs in a factory wheel - into being the hip and focused awesomesauce programmer of our own lives. We were stuck medieval fiefdoms, assembly lines and later corporations for hundreds of years. We are starting to realize that we were the ones who were making those factory wheels, we can make something different.

Really committing to change means rediscovering we're all connected

When we let go of our fury that things are not they way we want them, we decide we want change and we start working for it, we start to discover that everything is hooked to everything else. We rediscover interdependence.

And interdependence is so deep. It is so deep that it dips into love for all - a daily internal and external way of taking ownership, truly believing in possibility, acting on this belief, and thus expressing love for your whole practice community.

For this to work we can't just work solo, we need to “consciously participate in the creation and evolution of holistic systems that foster general well-being.” I find value in this rubric by the NVC Academy outlining four progressive levels of interdependent being:

  • Unskilled: Rebels against or submits to structures; uses organizational structures to assert one's power or feels helpless in relationship to organizational rules. For example, "I hate cabeceo. Nobody asks me to dance. I hate Tango."
  • Awakening: Limited view, overwhelm, and/or hopelessness about effecting change toward systems that value the needs of those affected. For instance, "I tried to create a really nice milonga where everyone would feel welcome but nobody helped me and not enough people came."
  • Capable: Aware of potential for systems to be organized around universally valued needs; willingness to contribute to general well-being, with growing creativity. "If we could come up with a better system for welcoming beginners and helping them feel more comfortable, maybe Tango would grow in a nicer way."
  • Integrated: Engaging in creating and improving systems with the intention of contributing to general well-being with openness to feedback. "I am excited about the training program you started - it's pretty ambitious! What did you think of the idea I emailed you last week about changing the way we introduce the concept of roles?"

We all affect each other and as we know from Tango following only works when the follower has power and initiative, flow and delight, trust and joy. What structures are you following? What systems are you a member of? To what extent do you see yourself as a victim of your government, school, company or organization...vs. a creator, a contributor? Are you afraid of putting more in? Are you trying to calculate whether you’ll get enough out of it to make it worth the time you’re willing to put in?  What are you saving up for? There’s no places else to go and we’re all in this together here on Spaceship Earth. And every day and every moment works to the extent that we are wholehearted.

Tango is you. Where are you going? 

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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.