Sunday, July 7, 2013

Subject to change

Lately I find that I'm less and less interested in labels for tango. They may have their place--if, for instance, they can help beginners start to get oriented to the world that they are entering, and help us all navigate what we can expect and what is appropriate at any given event. But, although I'm not particularly advocating a kind of "One Tango" philosophy, I do think the emphasis on labels that we sometimes see can become more divisive than useful.

In my area, the emphasis on divisive labeling has led to the near death (malingering is what it currently looks like) of one group due to its stringency, while another thrives seemingly beyond all ability to ensure good quality. But there's no great reason--in theory, at least; in reality there are deep personal grudges--why both groups couldn't thrive and cross over and learn some things from each other, if the attitudes of those involved were more open.

Maybe that's why I'm now so bored and annoyed with the discussion as I have often witnessed it playing out.

When I watch tango videos, as when I dance, I find lately that I'm just looking for musicality, connection, and grace. If you have that, no matter what style, I'll watch with pleasure. If you don't--again, no matter what style you call your tango--I'm just not interested. And when I dance, I find that enjoyment in a number of places, not all of them adhering to the labels I used to think were so important.


  1. Can you give some examples of labels that have been used in your community?

    1. Among the people most interested in labels, where I am, that would be primarily Tango Milonguero and Not Tango. There's one person who even rejects the phrasing Argentine Tango, because (this person says) Argentine tango--and to this person, Tango Milonguero is the only true Argentine tango--is really the only type of tango, so it should be just called Tango. (This was not very helpful, and appeared rather off-putting, to the person asking the question who, I believe, came from a ballroom background.)

      Don't get me wrong: I appreciate knowing that, for example, a class will focus on movements that I don't consider appropriate for the milonga, or that a milonga will feature a significant proportion of nuevo music. And I think that there is probably a kind of dividing line somewhere: there are other people in my area who attend milongas apparently to obstructively dance Contact Improv and who ask why there has to be so much tango music played at the milonga. I wonder why those people even come to the milonga. But more damaging, I think, than a sweeping belief in Any Tango is the extremely narrow insistence on One True Tango.

      I enjoy what I enjoy, and right now I'm at a point where I don't mind much what people want to call it.

      Does that help?