Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tango's Endangered Eco-system

We are the only tribe on this enchanted, "wild" life refuge.
Is what we are doing sustainable?
I love tango.  Don't you?  Sometimes it feels as if there is a tango boom going on.

But not really.

Venues come and go.  People come and go.  The eco-system of tango--upon a closer look--is fragile, and our little tribe does not seem to know it.  I see a milonga like a wonderful wildlife refuge, and we are the inhabitants.  We are the only inhabitants, and although there is a need to bring new life into our refuge, we are not sure if we like new blood.  Our worst enemy is ourselves. We ourselves are the
ones that are the careless visitors of our own wildlife refuge--our little wandering tribe of tango dancers.

It takes more than a few people who merely like our little eco-system to keep it pristine.  It needs passionate people to realize we need to protect our special refuge.  Let's not be naive:  There are those who will enjoy the refuge in a very selfish way.  We have seen those who are reckless with others' enjoyment in our little corner of the world.  You have to love the eco-system passionately to be willing to symbolically pick up the empty beer bottles and litter who have fun and leave, not caring for the future of tango.  You have to be passionate about it take the time to erase the graffiti scribbled on the moving, breathing culture of the embrace, which outsiders call the tango "wildlife."

Why worry about "survival" of tango? I have a lot of hope, but I also think it is realistic to know that the tango community is fragile, and more so than the Tango-Tribe seems to believe.  If we were to have anthropologists to study our  communities, I think they would quickly identify some problems with our short-sighted view of the fragility of the wonderful eco-system we have.

I do not what to point out just dreary doom.  The solution that I will suggest at the conclusion is rather simple:  Focus on social dance, community building, and avoid a hybrid show-dance for wanna-be tango stars.

Cautionary Signs of a Tenuous Survival
As with any study of modern or ancient tribes, certain cautionary indicators assess the sustainability of a tribe (social group).  These "red flags" of caution prevail in the tango tribe:
  • Procreation/Conception of tango-infants is difficult because the outside culture is sceptical of dance if not an "anti-dance culture."   What kind of culture surrounds the tango tribe.
  • The mechanics of procreation are generally understood to come from beginners being drawn into joining by watching stage tango.  This is probably best described as a "stork theory" of conception.  Millions are watching new TV events but no new influx of beginners has followed.  This should inform us that people come to dance out of baskic social need not some "higher need" to self-actualize.
  • Infants are unwanted and are abandoned by the "adults."   Too often good dancers abandon the local scene to go off to Tango Marathons, Encuentros, Festivals and tango getaways.  These are all fine; the adults need their time too, but child neglect?  Birth control of unwanted births?
  • Gender imbalance prevails, a sign of a fragile ecosystem and sustainability. 
  • The period of gestation of tango-fetuses is not protected by the Tango-Tribe (special nutrition, hydration and shelter considerations). :-)
  • The birth of a tango-baby (post-rank-beginner instruction and their first entry into a milonga) is too often "traumatic" because often the novice is unwanted by the community, and the environment is not "child" safe. 
  • Child neglect prevails, causing a high incidence of tango-infant death (leaving the tango tribe).
  • Adult communities are increasingly popular where tango-children are forbidden (private parties, advanced-dancers-only events).

Gender Imbalance.  
Very little needs to be said about why gender balance is a problem in relationship to procreation, except that the tango community doesn't seem to understand its cautionary message. Nothing else needs to be said, except that milongas could always allow tango-babies to sit at their feast table, but time needs to be taken to teach them manners.  How else will they learn?  And what is the price of neglecting your children (leaving them at home without a tango-babysitter).

Period of Gestation:
Tango-birth does not happen until the neophyte successfully negotiates a milonga.  (There are many premature babies in the world of tango.)  However, the period of gestation is the first beginner classes.  Is the precious tango-fetus well hydrated, nourished, sheltered in a safe environment?  Is the fetus developing along well enough for a safe and healthy birth?

Being "Born Again":
The analogy of being in the womb is insufficient because the period of gestation in tango perhaps is in reality each time a tanguero/tanguera returns to be "born again"--to re-enter the world (la milonga) with a new perspective, with a better sense of the music, the movement and the embrace.  The tango-womb is the preparation for enjoyment and ultimately to mature into an excellent, well-balanced social dancer. So what happens in this first class and the educational approach is crucial because the rates of miscarriage is very high.

The Shelter and Nurture of Children:
A excellent and safe environment to prepare a safe and health tango birth is to use an educational system that prepares the tanguero/-a to become a social dancer, not a show dancer.  Show dancing pedagogic techniques include: exactitude, unbending rules, choreographed structures.  This approach is for perfect for "academic education" while on tour with a Broadway tango show.  This approach is in a sense the so-called "three R's" (reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) not the "three M's" (music, movement, and eMbrace).   In a Broadway show, tango is the improvisation of one person:  The producer/director.  Such a "producer/director" approach for teachers, unfortunately is not uncommon. Once the child is born, language acquisition starts (learning vocabulary, syntax, grammar).  A caring community will meet the birth of a new member of the tribe by helping them to stay with the three M's.  Dancing with beginners is NO FUN because they are trying to be adults too soon.  That mistake started during the Period of Gestation.

The solution is to have a gestation period and early childhood experience that is not so stressful and technical.  Instead of the three R's (Reading, wRighting, and aRithmatic) and empirical/technical/unbending rules, the teacher, instead, nurtures the tango-fetus or infant with the "three M's."  Male fetuses die at high rates, giving them "leadership" roles before they are two days old and abdicating the listener role to the Yang role (usually men).  The traditionally woman's role is a super-dooper listen role, and too many learn this much later.  It should be the first thing a woman learns (or those who would learn the rol feminino.  However, all new students need to focus on simplicity:  Draw a clear line before learning complex figures or at least "color inside the lines" of what the teacher has prescribed.  The tango walk is challenging and excellent fun when it allows the three M's.  A great embrace is as natural as being a human being, hearing the intricacies of the music and moving to them are natural human expression, not Master's classes.

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