One Habit That Can Change Your World and Your Tango

by Mitra Martin

Dear dancers, Looking around Oxygen I see future community leaders, social entrepreneurs, Tango gods and goddesses, festival DJs, transformative teachers.

To realize all this amazing potential we all need to work attentively to change our minds about each other and ourselves. We have to believe in each other. It’s extremely urgent that we believe in each other.

When we label ourselves or each other we slow things down. Where, or in what, do you label yourself ? Where do you draw the line and say, “I can’t do that” ? Who do you label, instead of believing in their ability to change ?

Today it’s 10 o’clock and I have done 6 chin-ups. I fought for every one of them. I learned how to do chin-ups, which were a total and complete impossibility to me, purely because Stefan believed I could. He encouraged me until I started believing it was possible, and started to finally see myself being different, stronger, having a new skill.

I can remember a conversation I had with a new dancer who was ready to quit Tango. “I just don’t think I can be good a Tango.” In my mind I held an image of her performing beautifully at a festival in a beautiful dress, I knew she could be a great dancer. She stuck with it and now Tango’s a cornerstone of her life and community. Stories like this happen every term. Everyone is pure potential. Sometimes that just needs to be activated by someone else’s imagination and belief.

For me and Stefan, dancing Tango together has not come easy. It wasn’t like we fell in Tango-love and had this Tango-crush and enjoyed perfect connection. We had a very imperfect connection, we just decided that we wanted to grow together, and we stick with the decision. And for us that decision means more than just showing up to practice. It means imagining the absolute best in ourselves, each other, and the potential of our dancing together.

Here’s a video of us improvising together last year. We felt good when we danced it and we feel good watching it. We came a long way and still have a looong way to go.

Today we need to believe that amazing things are possible and each of us and each of the people around us is totally capable of doing them. Not only can we believe in our fellow dancers’ ability to someday dance well; we can also believe in their ability to practice well, to bring more to the process - more attention, more discipline, more curiosity, more consistency. Is there someone who you think is stagnant in their Tango, who you think is stuck and plateauing out ? Maybe they can become a hardworking dancer. You can believe in them -- and they will feel the effects even if they never know.

Our beliefs about each other have subtle influence, and our positive images of one anothers’ potential have incredible power. If you notice yourself labelling someone’s dancing, or sticking them in a box, could you undo that mental labelling and instead choose to see them a someone capable of unknown things, someone changing ?

Challenge: Think of someone in the community who you have danced or practiced with recently. Find a Tango video that captures how you imagine them dancing in 6 years time, and watch it, imagining that they are the person in the video. If you want to, you can share the video with them and mention this - but the exercise will have an effect even if you don’t.


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.