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The End of Tango
An old English proverb says that all good things must come to an end. Tango is good. Will it come to an end?
The proverb is depressingly negative and at least in part incorrect. Many good things have been around just as long as anything. Like love. Like kindness. What about movement to music? They have been around for a long time. They seem to live on and on.
However, even in your lifetime many very good things have come to an end, right? Will tango be one of them? Perhaps if tango doesn’t last very long in your life or in history itself, my guess is that tango’s demise would be caused be two major things:
(1) Tango would become so complex that people new to it would be awed by it but not become tango dancers, and
(2) that dancers with bad manners (“snotty dancers”) would become so common place that beginners would almost immediately give up and even veteran dancers would tire of the tango scene.
This scenario of a dying tango community is already here in certain communities. Just one night of bad manners for the most avid dancers makes us wonder if it is worth it. Surely you know of some community which started and has already died. We could really learn from history of how to delay a good thing from coming to an end!
Although most tango teachers fancy themselves as promoting tango, I would wager that the majority of teachers are actually promoting the demise of tango – unwittingly of course! Again, it is because too many teachers promote the two things that will destroy tango: Rarely mentioning the “manners” of tango and making it far too complex.
It doesn’t make sense that teachers would destroy their own livelihood, but that is exactly what they too often do. First, there is a tendency to sell the idea that there is much more to learn. Then they want you to have fun! So let’s not mentions etiquette or rules. Rules and manners take away instant gratification (fun) in all things. My son says that the computer game, “Grand Thief Auto” is fun because one can break all the rules. So it is with tango. If you start dancing with rules, you may destroy your own perusal of instant gratification. It takes space to accomplish that new, high-speed thing you learned in the 8-week course you took on volcadas/colgadas with an enrosque-cherry-on-top. Teachers want to bring fun to tango and engage people to return. Talking about rules and manners, then, is the low on the list for many teachers.
In my last version of tango etiquette, I realized something that had never occurred to me before: Manners are for everyone else. Our instant gratification is subdued for the gratification of others and thereby our own delayed-but-enhanced gratification. This is a great philosophical and theological truism made true by the simple practice of traditional tango: Whether it is tango, driving a car or sexual ethics, rules and laws get in the way of what we might like for immediate gratification. But in the long run, ethics and rules allow a greater good and the more wonderful pleasure in all things.
All good things DO Not come to an end. Good things may transform, yes, but they do not come to an end. The good of tango is that human beings love to move to music and the beautiful synchronicity of tango’s music and dance may be replaced by some other music but the close embrace and the nuance of movement to music will always remain. Let the open embrace and showmanship of tango, the snobbishness of a tango click ruin it in your community, but tango will live on in some form and perhaps with a different name.
All good things live forever. Like love. Like kindness. Like movement to music. Tango will live forever, just with a different name. If you want to live with the name tango longer, then be nice, be kind, dance close as close to your partner as you can and as close to the music as you can. Tango may never die if you do that.
Photo Credit: Tango sushi.