|"Stork theories" of how tango babies are made will not help tango survive. |
Conception begins in human need.
My guess is that it was because of social contact. Primal human needs, such as touch, communication, movement, enjoyment, deeply seated courtship behaviors that (should) continue for a lifetime. One that is very important for many is the desire to feel alive. Some go to extremes to get this feeling (roller coasters, risk-taking, and also a long list of negative behaviors). Dance is a socially acceptable way to get many human needs taken care of all at one "Mall of Human Needs."
I was conceived as a tango dancer in a bike shop. In 2006 I was buying a super-dooper triathlon bike
that cost more than my little compact car at the time. A sales person was telling a knock-out-beautiful woman to buy foot-baskets to put on her bike's pedals. When the salesperson left, I convinced her that sticking her feet into pedal baskets was dangerous. She bought clip-in shoes, and I eventually showed her how to . . . clip in.
I guess she reasoned in her head:
"A man who saves a woman's life should be invited to learn tango!" She invited me to a tango class that evening. I said, "Tango? I don't like the weird theatrics of a woman looking away and the man being tough and throwing her around." She assured me that Argentine tango was nothing like the ballroom variety. My persona as a tanguero deeply within me took notice, the persona which was waiting to be made incarnate. I was single, in a large city, a beautiful woman was inviting me to dance, and even though I struggled to get out of her snare, my human-needs-indicator light for music, movement and a warm embraces was on. Actually, my human-needs-indicator light was blinking. This was the moment: I was conceived as a tanguero.
In spite of what one often hears about show tango bringing new blood into the tango community, conception probably does not begin with most dancers because of displays of dancing skill. It's important for the survival of your local tango scene that we better know how tango babies are conceived. The stork theory that says "beginners just want cool steps," and tango demos and shows keep beginners coming in. These stork theories won't help tango parents (communities) to conceive, will it?
Think about your own tango-persona's conception. Chances are that your "conception" as a tango dancer did not follow seeing some amazing demonstration of tango. You probably did not stumble upon a YouTube video of stage tango. Chances are that your tango life was conceived out of social interaction with others, and that is probably when you decided that you'd come to your first beginners class (which starts the vulnerable period of gestation). Chances are that neither a need to learn cool moves and show off or a need to compete was the reason you were conceived. It was a natural conception, linked to human needs: Social interaction, a longing for human touch, a connection to the center of your uniquely human expression within the animal kingdom--the need to dance to music or make music.
There are exceptions?
Kind of. The person who sees a passionate tango Broadway show, or a TV show with tango, and wants to start dancing it, is actually not an exception to the power of human need. I too was drawn to visually enhanced Argentine tango, and my first exposure to tango looked very boring compared to salsa. So am I the exception to the "human need rule"? A dramatic and passionate tango show can demonstrate a dynamic and living dance, not a dead and boring dance. People watch scary films, ride roller coasters, take risks, and are drawn to drama because it makes us feel alive. But that is short lived. Social connection has more depth for most of us. Luckily I found close embrace teachers in Europe and then in Texas who showed me social tango and its internalized partner-to-partner beauty. So the wise teacher will appeal to the human need and reign in the beginner who wants to be a "rock star," which in fact is likely to harm the community.
External Artist vs the Internalized Artist
Throughout my years as a professional musician, the worst musicians played without ever internalizing the music. They had an "open embrace" with their instrument. Their teachers or their own musical quest never brought them past playing notes and copied patterns borrowed from others. The musician that needed the emotional high of others watching was more prone to need to use drugs rather than the satisfying feeling of playing music for themselves, the others in the band and for those who were moved by the music. The show-off musicians tend to never find how to make their music express their inner social and musical animal or how to appeal to the social animal within the audience.
Wanting to have strong emotions, wanting to be together with another person and in a safe community is a human need which is the center of our humanity. Aristotle said in his Politics:
"A person who cannot live in society, or does not need to because he is self-sufficient, is either a beast or a god."
A healthy tango community/society is the womb and the safe haven for social animals to thrive. It helps to know how about conception, how to make babies if your community's goal is to survive. I used to believe the stork theories of tango-baby conception too. But no longer. Performance and competition needs are developed later. We are drawn to tango and conceived in tango because of human needs. These same needs keep us in a healthy community for a lifetime--conception to death.
Other Tango Therapist posts on the survivability of tango:
- Rest in Peace Tango: 1983-2033
- A three-part series on Musicians and DJ's "killing" tango
- The Tango Anthropologist (an overview of survival questions)
- Speak/Hear/See no evil at the milonga? (plus other links for one's own survival)
- Tango Psychopaths?
Special thanks to Lisa, my volunteer editor. She influenced this post from being just another post to being one of more substance for the tango community. (Any typos or mistake are the result of adding things after she edited.) :-)
Photo credit of heart in birth canal.