Bad Times? Watch your Tango Tilt…

by Mitra Martin

During bad times, we get unhappy. Let’s say we wanted to be less unhappy during bad times. We could train ourselves to do it, if we were to use our bad times as opportunities to practice getting better at getting over bad times. The ideal arrangement would be if we had lots of bad times to practice on, so that we could get better even faster. 

So, to help us accelerate the process of learning how to handle bad times, we decide to invent a new game. We call it: Bad Times. The purpose of Bad Times is to cause bad times for everyone.  The more the better, and the worse the better.

We’d want our game to unleash waves of agony and anger, again and again, on every player. We would call our game a success if it cause depression, opperssion, beguilement, defilement. Bad Times would follow us around and cause us grief, by  souring our relationships, our disposition, and our grapes. We would design and refine our game to be seductive, and addictive, in multiple ways, so that its snares snag many and often.

- Tommy Angelo, A Rubber Band Story

Does the above make you  think of your first Tango class ? Or your first milonga ? Or maybe your first festival, or your second or tenth one ? If not, maybe your first trip to Buenos Aires ! Or the time you endeavored to establish a supremely idealistic Tango School Center to serve humanity, but messed up so many times because of your not-yet-reliable technique ? Any Bad Times at all in there ?

Congratulations, it’s what they call the gift of tilt. You see, tilt is this extremely well-documented and much-analyzed phenomenon, defined by Wikipedia as a state of “mental and emotional confusion” that just tends to escalate and sabotage one’s game.

Ever felt like the main thing blocking you from being a real great Tango dancer was just…your MIND ? And if you could only get it to stay sane, organized and logical as you dance you would do it all much much better ? That’s tilt, the Game of Bad Times !

Tilt is something that mostly people who are NOT AT ALL Tango dancers are extremely interested in. Of course, since I don’t know anyone who’s not a Tango dancer, I found out about it talking to my Tango friend Dave Lampson. And how does he know about it ? From playing poker. Poker ! This guy I quoted at length above, Tommy Angelo, is like a poker zen mindfulness guru ! Also a genius !

What that makes me think is, PHEW. We Tango dancers are lucky ! Luckily for us, you see, whatever forms of exquisite torture this rollicking Game of Tango has inflicted on you, it sounds like we could all have it worse, a lot worse — by playing poker ! See, in poker, you don’t even get a hug ! AND you lose exponential gads of money. (Of course, what’s worth more, somehow losing exponential gads of money or somehow missing that mind-altering Laurenz/Podesta tanda with your favorite dancer on this earth? Hmmm)

So welcome to tilt and let’s all get better at noticing it and more adept at talking about it, in our exciting relations with one another, both on and off the dance floor. Happily, it’s extremely affordable during this holiday season and also at all times ! Congratulations, because with it you get the opportunity to practice getting better at getting over bad times. And maybe realizing bad times aren’t so bad. I mean, we can dance. We can hold each other, and we can move to music. That in itself, is pretty nice.

Read the full Tommy Angelo story I started above here or buy his funny book. Sometimes it’s nice to read things that don’t have anything to do with Tango.