Are you really doing what you want?

One thing that's beautiful is to witness how exposure to the passion and creativity of the Tango community inspires people to move their lives in a direction that is more aligned with their authentic self. 

I meet so many people and it's easy by now to spot those who are in inner conflict. When you'e stuck in it - as I was for so many years, as I still am sometimes now - it feels so confusing and tangled. But maybe it can be simpler. 

Three ways we create inner conflict

  • If you want to do it, and you pretend you don't - you'll feel conflicted. 

  • If you don't want to do it, and you pretend you do - you'll feel conflicted. 

  • And if you don't know whether you want to do it or not - but you think you SHOULD know - you'll feel conflicted. 

The main thing I've learned over the years is summed up in my favorite personal adage: "If it's fun, it's fun. If it's not, it's not." 

But, sometimes the really fun things require lots of hours of fun that you think you don't want to have, or that you mistakenly convince yourself isn't fun at all. 

Questions for journaling: 

How can you unify your intent so you are always really doing exactly what you want? What changes do you need to make to your thinking - or your life? How much more honest could you be? 

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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.

Tango, Sunlight, and American Culture! And 3 myths about late-night Tango

Photo by Patricia Bijvoet

Photo by Patricia Bijvoet

I have danced many beautiful hours of Tango between midnight and 3am.

Actually, the local who gave me the address of La Viruta, where I went for my first-ever Tango experience in Buenos Aires, said conspiratorially as he passed the slip of paper, “Don’t go before midnight.”

On my second visit, and my third visit, I remember weeks of getting dressed at midnight, showing up to the evening’s first milonga at 1am, and then walking with everyone to the next milonga around 3:30am. It was a very special and unusual kind of experience!

Hm, but, I also remember freezing on my way home, and getting so sick that the rest of my trip was spent in bed. I remember a few creepy characters from those late nights at Tango. I remember being robbed.

I also remember the charming Estudio Dinzel, where there was daytime practice from 10am til 10pm. I think I felt the most connected there. There was a courtyard, a little garden, where people would sit and chat between bouts of dancing. One time a couple of dancers went out and bought a big jar of dulce de leche and warmed up some crepes, we all snacked and passed mate. I learned so much in those long, light, sensual days.

The Tango movement is taking flight in the U.S. and it will be interesting to see how its power becomes fully integrated into American culture - American culture with its daytime work ethic and bright early mornings. It would be natural if the early-evening and daytime dancing that are part of the Tango scene in Argentina become a bigger anchor of Tango socializing here in the States.

Dancing in daylight is beautiful and natural and relaxed and sexy. And as we as a culture transition to a healthier and more sustainable way of integrating Argentine Tango into our lives, we can be aware of the voices inside our heads that are holding on to a paradigm that may not fit our lives:

Tango dancers, do you find yourself believing any of these myths about late-night dancing?

Myth #1: “Being at milongas late at night is the only way to achieve coolness, status and influence.”

I guess I used to think this because of how mysterious and impenetrable the late-night milonga scene was to me. Over time it's just become like any other party scene, though. 

What I've learned is that in Tango, status is accrued over time, through sustained and committed practice, study and exploration; through caring devotion to the people in the community; through an unflagging impulse to connect and stay connected on many levels. All of this can be and has been achieved without being a night-owl.

Myth #2: “The good dancers are the ones who stay up all night."

Hmmmm. Sounds a bit black and white to me. Let's examine.  

Sometimes the most dedicated and experienced dancers do stay or arrive late - like, to La Viruta - because it can be more fun when the floor clears out a bit. But dancers who love Tango are generally pretty free and excited to dance, well, ALL the time, and that includes during the daytime, too.

Actually, probably they are practicing at home right NOW, and if they found out there was a rockin' milonga going on, they'd probably pick up and go out to it.  

I’ve definitely noticed that highly experienced and delightful dancers, whose dance is enchanting and has deepened over years of committed growth (combined with a set of stable life-practices that promote balance and creativity), also often really love to get a full night of sleep. 

Myth #3: "Dancing til 4 or 5am is the only way to be ‘authentically Argentine.’”

That’s not true. People dance at all hours of the day in Argentina.

Now, is there something romantic and mysterious about dancing deep into the night? Yeah! Is there something gorgeous about being awake when most other people aren’t, participating in something inexpressibly beautiful and enchanted? Totally! Does it need to be something you kill yourself to do several times a week to keep up and be part of things? I don’t think so.

There are some wonderful fun late-night events in Tango! Lovely to do them occasionally and really let it rip. But there’s no need to go around sleep deprived, drowsy as you speed alone down highways at 5am. No need to exhaust ourselves, get sick, get grumpy, end up doing worse quality work and stressing our relationships. Instead, we can find (or create!) beautiful daytime alternatives for weaving amazing tango experiences into our lives. (Ladies, check out Ariana Huffington’s wonderful Sleep Challenge, a worthy, transformative, and deeply sane idea!)

Let’s all be creative and unafraid, and seek to discover a truly healthy and even authentically American way of enjoying the gorgeousness of social Tango dancing that includes enough sleep, and more sunshine.  Dancers, let's demand/create/support/organize awesome daytime events! And let's all embrace the many different lifestyles that want to participate passionately in Tango, including those who sleep at night. 

A priceless community: Four great things about donation-based Tango

Wow, what a mix of reactions when we announced that our monthly pass would be donation-based. Some of our members felt inspired and enthusiastic, and many felt confused and concerned. 

It is too early to tell if this experiment is going to be a permanent feature of Oxygen Tango, because we need more months to see how it affects the community's numbers. 

In the meantime, four things stand out to me as wonderful facets of the donation-based model:

1. Flexible prices foster the diversity that fuels inspiring Tango

A “pay what you choose” approach welcomes the grand diversity of people from all life-stages, socioeconomic levels, backgrounds, and levels of Tango experience that creates a rich and vibrant community learning experience.

It embraces all the people who can benefit from and contribute to a joyful community: from grad students to retired people; artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs; doctors and healers; people with all kinds of backgrounds and capacities; people in transition or stability; people who may be your next surprise best friend, mentor, life-partner, Tango travel companion. 

2. The freedom to choose what you want to give supports everyone's individual autonomy

When prices, and rules relating to those prices, are set by the organization, people sometimes feel anxious, protective, defensive. A pay-what-you-choose model reinforces your own strength, power, freedom, and ability to set your own meaningful boundaries and be generous within them - all very essential Tango principles!

We love that a donation-based community expresses the truth that YOUR being and presence is what creates this place; give what you wish, and make it what you want.

3. Community is sacred and priceless; fixed prices don’t fit with its nature

When you join Oxygen, you are joining a whole network of new and potential relationships. Friends, peers, people who inspire and enrich your life - AND, and opportunity to turn around an enrich theirs. In community giving is receiving.

The priceless experience you can enjoy here is sustained by the enthusiastic, persistent giving of countless invaluable unseen gifts and donations. Experienced dancers who help beginning dancers. Volunteers who create amazing events, help you find what you're looking for, make information flow smoother and easier, donate home-baked cookies and bottles of wine. Anonymous donors who offer guidance, financial and physical resources.   

Instead of “charging” a fixed price for access to this - which feels weirdly antithetical to its nature - we are seeking to create a culture where those who benefit and have been enriched are inspired to give what they can to enable the experience to survive and thrive.

4. We want everyone to passionately pursue their unique interests and still be able to afford a Tango home base

Tango can get expensive! Not only do instruction and social dancing events cost money, but there is also the cost of shoes and attire as well as more hidden costs like transportation, travel, meals with Tango friends.

And when you really are inspired you’ll want to take advantage of all the learning resources all around you - private lessons, courses and challenges, festivals and marathons, guest teachers, and all that jazz.

When you passionately pursue your own interests, this fuels the whole Tango ecosystem! We WANT you to have enough dollars to take that next step: training with any of us here at Oxygen or with the other wonderful teachers who live in or visit LA or at the awesome events all over the region and country!

And we think you should be able to afford doing ALL of that while still having a friendly and familiar Tango home with great music and loving supportive faces where you can come practice what you're working on and maybe even enjoy paying it forward a bit too. If we decide to believe we can have it all, maybe we can create a future in which that’s possible. 

So those are the four things I love about donation-based Tango so far! 

I would welcome your comments below or direct to me, about what stands out to you about the donation-based model we are now offering at Oxygen Tango. 

A child asks us to remember

My nephew turned one this summer and his parents threw a powerful luau to celebrate. I was entranced by the hula dancers - the mood, the intricacy of their innocence.

Remembering a healing hula danced by Sughanda Ferro Black at the end of a Tango teacher training program on Maui some years ago, I asked her for Hawaiian music suggestions. Among the sweet parcel of songs she recommended was Blaine Kamalani Kia’s gorgeous chant Kamali’i O Ka Po.

A Tango improvisation to this Hawaiian chant: 

Photo by Ahmed Tlamid. Presented at the 10th San Diego Tango Festival on Friday, January 1st, 2016. Video by Scott Haller.

In this chant, a child asks her brother if he remembers how he fits into the bigger picture. “You are holding the fish’s belly - but where is its head? Where is its tail? Where do you come from? Where will you go?” 

Those questions spoke to the dark child within me. It is so easy to dissect away that bigger picture, when we find ourselves in a hard or hungry place. With effort we did make it through our darkness: a dark year, and we even struggled through a dark moment right before dancing this hymn. “Where will you go?” No place but here, just deeper. 

I share this with the hope that we each might feel joyfully connected to the deep intelligence of the larger, longer cycles of life - that we feel ourselves peacefully at home within the vastest of views.

May we all shine together
May all needs be met