Monday, May 3, 2010


This is the fourth of a series on dealing with rejection using tango to grow psychologically and reduce the drop-out rate when rejection/drama turns a person away from the beauty of tango.

Solution six may be the most powerful of all eight solutions. It is the Tango Community.

La Communidad de Tango exists better with your positive input, but it lives with you or without you. The concept of community is like gravity, which pervades everything you do, but you don't give it much thought. You don't say, "well that volcada would have been weird in outer space." Or, "that sacada on the moon, would be outrageously fun."

If the community is as powerful and as unnoticed as gravity, take some time to notice it. I once went on a medical mission to eradicate tuberculosis in Haiti. That is when I realized how important a strong community is.  Without a strong community, one can be hurt on the street, and there may not be any paved streets for an ambulance to come to one's aid. For that matter, there may not be any ambulances or sanitary hospitals -- sadly even more the case right now than when I was in Haiti after finishing graduate school.

A healthy tango community rivals, in my experience, the best of any church community I have ever experienced: Sometimes there's a place to stay at total stranger's home; a warm welcome and trusting embrace in France or Denver or Houston or Portland; a shared joy that is sophisticated but childlike. What a wonderful balance in the tango community.

After the first reflection on Solutions 1-3 on rejection, I received an email from a wonderful dancer and good looking young woman I had met at a few out-of-town tango festival milongas. She surprised me with an email about feeling rejected, sitting out too much and feeling terrible.  She wondered if she would give up tango altogether. I told her about SOLUTION 4, 5 and 6. However, she found number six to be the most powerful solution for her situation.  She gave me permission to share her experience: 

"Mark, I tried the solution six at the yesterday’s milonga. It was amazing. I concentrated on being thankful that I am in the great community of very kind and intelligent people. I sat down in a chair and relaxed. Then, I danced non-stop for two and a half hours. There were not many people there because most everyone in town went to a nearby tango festival. But I danced, danced and danced. And I enjoyed it a lot. I even introduced myself to an older couple. They danced a bit and mostly watched. When I was leaving they told me how much they enjoyed watching me dance. I was touched. . . .Thank you for your help. I knew something would happen and I would not quit tango."

Also, she realized how she was not doing what others had done for her.  Many had danced down to her level when she was a beginner, and now it was time to give back. Since implementing Solution Six, I have seen her a few times dance and have danced with her.  She so fully gives herself to the dance, the music and her partner -- over and over -- an does this with beginners too! 

An Important Aside
Surely there are people with whom we all do not want to dance.  Some women actually hurt my right ankle because they pull away or have poor balance. If a woman has an embrace phobia, I won't be coming her way very often. If a woman dances for herself or is watching who is entering the room, I will not be dancing with her for quite a while.  But beginners need a community effort to bring them into this wonderful thing, called "tango."

The Overdose of Medicine

The tango community can be salutary -- medicine for the soul.  However, rejection can be caused by the community; so the over-all Solution is not in just one thing. That is why there are many different Solutions.  Ever hear of "shunning in Seattle"?  Maybe the reputation is not fair.  But whatever the case, not all tango communities are equal.

"Men have it easy"
How maddening to sit there wanting to dance, ladies! Feelings of rejection ooze from some tables.  Earlier reflections have dealt with this subject of what a lady can do to dance more. Here, I just want to say that men do not have it easy when it comes to rejection.  Sure, I dance all night.  No rejection?  Really?  The main reason that men stop dancing, I believe is because of rejection.  They may be dancing, but their partners may never really have given themselves over to the dance, the music, the community or to him.  It feels terrible to be holding a woman who exudes rejection.  (Solution 7 will address the partner who is rejecting you while dancing.) 

A buffer for rejection (for guys part I) 
Tango has its pluses.  Learn the cabeceo (not asking but using one's eyes and a nod of the head -- coming from the word "cabeza" or "head").  Women will think you have it easy just because you are dancing.  You may feel the girl-talk on the side burning you ears about who can and who can't lead.  I heard it all through informants, and although it hurt, I learned what path I must take:  It is one of humility, hard work (lessons/practice) and lots of dancing with people at or below your own level.  Eventually, I started getting compliments and even a few informants (female spies), who have helped me know what a lady wants.  What we men need is something like Cosmopolitan Magazine which reveals all the secrets of how to please women.  Or you can just go to the many tanguera blogs, especially my esteemed Austin tango blogista, Mari.

Mark's Rule of Seven (for guys part II)In the world of Salsa, the cabeco is unknown.   I used to ask for dances in El Paso as the only white guy in the club. I had a "limit" of asking SEVEN WOMEN before I would sit down and stop asking for any ONE song.  Use the cabeco!  Seven woman looking away does not take much time, and your ego will be spared major trauma.  In the my Rule of Seven, mostly I gave up because the song would be over soon.  I just kept asking because the music was driving me mad, and I had to dance.  I had no choice but to ask.  The good news is that eventually, I was dancing non-stop.  The Latinas knew that I would turn them efficiently without hurting them, that I danced musically and that I was dancing with them without expecting "special benefits."  Lastly, I had one advantage that the Latinos never seemed to understand.  I never looked around for my next partner while dancing.  These are tango basics too: Don't hurt her; dance the music not the steps you just learned; leave your passion on the dance floor; and be present with her until you escort her off the floor.  Eventually, the El Paso salsa community accepted me.  I was dancing just as much as before, but the rejection stopped, once Solution Six was fully implemented.

Part A and Part B of Solution Six
So there are two parts.  Part A is to appreciate the community, helping it grow and share.  Part B is slowly to build trust so that the community appreciates you.  Interestingly, being accepted may have less to do with the opposite sex.  This is true of the tango community and is especially true in the salsa community.  Once the men were shaking my hand and embracing me in El Paso, the Latinas accepted me as a part of their community.  Men who are a menace on the dance floor will never be fully accepted by other men in any dance community.

Querida tanguera/Querido tanguero:  You will know when you arrive in the tango community.  You will start appreciating the friendships and the hard work of organizers, teachers and DJs.  You will feel it in the embrace of men and women in the community.  You will know that your heart has grown to make room for something very wonderful.


  1. I tried your so solution No.6 long time ago. It didn't seem to work at all. The problem is the tango community itself. The dancers/groups judge the others based on age and which school you are from. If you are not one of them or have no potential to join the "gang", you are totally ignored. My tango community here is not large. There are more than a handful teachers. Almost every teacher has his/her own group. Some teachers recruit "frieds" by age. In my opionion, this is the pettiest crowd in the tango world. Maybe I should move to your town one day.

  2. Come to Austin! :-) The most important thing is the sentence: "The community continues with you or without you." So I hope you slowly become part of the solution.

    I know the tango communities in several places on the globe. I started in El Paso, which is bitterly divided. Kaiserslautern, Germany had a wonderful community at one time, but now a very critical teacher has all the tangueras focused on the wrong things and very critical of the men. The size of the community has dwindled. San Antonio is full of great dancers, but also is divided. In all cases that I know, the teachers could find solutions but do not. It's a type of dance/movement fundamentalism.

  3. I think that solution 6 ends up being the long term solution. My community used to be very small and divided. As some of the teachers have mellowed and some of the non-teachers have stepped up to organize more it has gradually blended. You can still see the milongas within a milonga at some of the major events, but that has less to do with particular teachers and attitudes and more to do with particular dancers styles and tastes.
    New dancers cannot imagine it taking years to become part of the community, but there are so many dancers that last for 6-24 months and then drop out for one reason or another that I can completely understand now why it does take years both for learning the dance and for getting to slowly know and trust the people.

  4. It is easy to say I'm am x so that is why y doesn't dance with me. I hear these comments from all dancers, both men and women. While there is some basis of truth, more often than not shyness, other demands, or other opportunities taken are why a particular dancer doesn't dance with another. I can have an idea that I would like to catch a tanda with a particular dancer, but unless the music works for both of us it's not a good idea. Additionally either they or I may be committed to dancing with someone else when the appropriate music comes on.


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