Thursday, June 7, 2012

Buenos Aires is NOT the Mecca of Tango

Follow the line of dance with reverence for tradition.

There is no Mecca of tango. . .

Language sometimes hides the truth.  We should be careful about describing tango as having a "Mecca."  Buenos Aires is not a Mecca.  Not even close.  Thinking this way allows us to forget how fragile tango is.  Sure, at the moment it is doing fairly well, but statistically, tango is a precious but yet insignificant phenomenon.  In some ways it is only by chance that it has survived.  Maybe we should learn something here.

Tango's culture consists of a fringe of musicians and dancers whose numbers are insignificant in any major city in the world compared to the general population of the city.  Tango never had a Mecca -- except in our minds perhaps.  We may cherish the notion that we could go somewhere like Buenos Aires, and there we might find that everyone dances tango and listens to the music in the streets.  That's the great Buenos-Aires-as-Mecca myth.  Remember too that New York City still has streets of gold, right?

I suggest you go to Mecca!  (Well, how about imagining a trip to Mecca?)  That holy city is a concourse of many languages and peoples, but pretty much everyone there is to accomplish the same thing.  Tango doesn't have such a place.

But while you are at Mecca in your imaginations, notice a few things that tangueros could learn:  The floorcraft in Mecca is amazing -- imagine the harmony of so many people circling the walls of the Ka'bah.  

There are indeed medical emergencies at Mecca all the time, but not a single case of misplaced ganchos or getting spiked from a frivolous boleo.  Perhaps the danger of bad floorcraft is getting stoned (with rocks), and that might be a hindrance?  [Milonga organizers:  I am not suggesting anything here for your local milonga.]

Tango is fragile.  There are only a few believers.  Embrace each other.   Greet a stranger with kindness at your next pilgrimage to a milonga.  Give alms to the poor (beginners) who need a mentor.

If your milonga feels like Mecca, perhaps you have achieved at least a moment of heaven on earth.  But sorry, it isn't Mecca.  It's a milonga.  Compared to the overwhelming personal dedication and the power in numbers at Mecca, your milonga is small with many semi-dedicated "pilgrams":  Fragile.  Insignificant.  Even in Buenos Aires.

Take care of this small oasis of your life.  Tango's "pilgrams" amount to a micro-ecosystem like an oasis, not at all like a flood of Islamic pilgrims on their way to Mecca.  Your oasis can dry up and disappear.  Care for it.  It is so precious.

1 comment:

  1. hi mark, as always i love your thoughts on tango. i had an unfortunate accident and broke both arms in several places so am totally out of commision for a while. i miss tango terribly and my life as it was terribly. keep posting, its definitely food for thought.


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