Monday, February 28, 2011

My Tango Vows

Tango Vows Cake

I shouldn't think about divorce before I even take my vows.   But maybe I cannot stick it out with tango.  You know I look around and a lot of people were in love with tango, and they did not make it.  They divorced tango. 

Why do people give up on love?  I am writing this to decrease the risk that I (and those who love tango) will not quit for poor reasons.  A good reason is that you have died.  You danced until you died.  The best reason to quit.  And I write this for myself as a self-reflection on keeping the focus on what is important in dance -- my soul remains a dancing soul.

I wish we had some social scientists helping us out with the positive models we have all around us.   Wouldn't it be great to know what keeps people dancing until they die, after years and years of dancing?  Look around and ask the "survivors" about how they have done it for over 7 years?  There are so many who stopped dancing, and you cannot easily find the vanished host of tango ghosts -- those who have disappeared through the years since you started.  Sure some have moved away and are dancing somewhere, but most just simply disappeared entirely from the tango world.

People who quit anything have "reasons" they tell themselves.  These reasons, I believe, are often external -- other people and situations. Ask those who continue, however!  The ones that make it, probably are not exclusionary or cliquish at all.  Those who keep dancing have found ways of renewing their joy.  The  locus of control is internal, not external.  At least this is my best guess from "interviewing" people who have been dancing tango over 7 years.  And for some it is not a problem or bad that they quit. They simply had a different goal than tango.  Perhaps tango was a check mark on their "Bucket List" (do-before-kicking-the-bucket list).

In a discussion with a favorite tanguera who has been dancing tango for eight years, I found out that she believes that if people make it past three years, they will stick with it.  But I doubt that this is true.  Another favorite tanguera believes in the "bucket list" theory.  "What if you meet the right soul-mate at tango, but tango is not that important?" she asked.  Good point.  But personally, I feel that drop-out rates happen because of adverse events and do slow after three years.  Even with the "soul-mates" -- one was jealous and did not want to continue.  Both quit.  This is an adverse event -- not learning about jealousy.  The same issue will come up later in a different community, and "having to quit for you" will be always over that couple.

I suggest you go to survey #5 "Why did you quit tango?" Click here for the survey.   Those who have quit more than any other factor say that people in tango were too exclusionary and cliquish.  This is not the best social research because responders (those who have quit) must go to a tango website and take the survey.  I would guess that most who quit don't look back or frequent tango web sites to take surveys!   But I think the responses are somewhat thought provoking.  Whatever the external reason is for quiting, however, there is a much more important internal reason.   My guess is that the internal reasons include:

  • Tango was one of many opportunities to grow as a social animal; it was just a hobby.  The hobby is over and another one took its place.
  • Tango was a place to meet a partner.  Checked the block.  Have a partner.  No longer dancing.
  • One or more adverse events:  One got one's heart broken, and going back was too hard.  The songs have too many sad memories attached to them.
  • The negative cognitive frame:  Tango was framed as an "addiction"; the medical business model won out.  You may have been obsessed with tango (like being obsessed with washing your hands or whatever), but this negative model of "addiction," predetermines that stopping therefore will be something positive, even healing.  
What is Your Risk of Quitting in a few years?
Mine is not zero percent.   I could quit tomorrow.  I know that tango is good for me on several levels, but I could very well retire my shoes and go do something else in spite of tango being good for me.  Let me explain a little about risk:

I remember asking alcoholics in my first group-therapist job of what the likelihood was that they would return to inpatient detoxification.  Those who said "zero percent likelihood" were actually the most at risk.  Those who face their own frailties are most likely able to make changes that will better their lot in life.

So I am looking at my frailties.  It used to be that poor floorcraft around me would ruin my night.  I am learning to mellow out a bit.  If not at the milonga, I would have to learn this somewhere else, right?  I have learned that I can allow people to be in their own little clique.  I have found that they need this for different reasons.  When I have found out, I have understood and accepted.  Even if they are just small hearted, why not let them stay in the group of the small hearted?  The tango community is going to have the same problems one finds in a church or synagogue; so leaving a tango community is just putting off with social skill development via avoidance of personal contact.  Certainly you will not get as many hugs at a church or synagogue.

When will you quit -- get a divorce from what you now love and show full devotion?  I want to dance through my life.  I haven't said my "tango vows" yet, but I am writing them.  There is a phrase I am considering:  "Until death do us part."  Of course, I am talking about by worn out tango shoes.  The soul never stops dancing.  Anyway, I can't imagine that heaven would really much fun without a milonga.  But the shoes?  We must indeed part sooner or later.


  1. Interesting food for thought. I am pretty blessed with our small local tango community because there are no cliques or drama, although there are other drawbacks to not having so many people. But part of why I don't dance salsa as much is because of that type of behavior. I have been thinking that I need to find a way to find peace in the midst of this negative energy I feel around me that I am very sensitive to. It can be very difficult. I do love the dance so much, but the other elements can be very wearying. Definitely room for some emotional growth there when I am ready to invest the time and energy. I would love to be dancing 10, 20, 30 years from now!

  2. I was actually contemplating this theme earlier tonite.
    I agree with you--many folks will move from hobby to hobby, or out of town, or fall in love with a non dancer...or they will keep seeking outside of themselves, thinking tango is going to be it for them, etc.

    Our tiny town has such a small tango community, it's a wonder it exists at all. But while it's here, I'm in with both feet.

  3. @Joy and @Christine...
    Both of you are enjoying the joys of a small, cohesive tango community. As it grows you will see the "culture" change, and norms will be challenged, often unwittingly. I think tango is a great way to develop socially; so having a goal of "tango vows" is not so bad. The original title for this post was "When will you quit tango?" That was provocative. Sticking with anything of value take some skill.

  4. If quitting tango is a divorce then I abandoned tango at the alter. I quit at my fourth beginner class. Nobody would dance with me. I figured if I have to learn by watching I'd be better off watching people who were good at it, not beginners.
    I still love the music though.


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