It all started with an email from a friend and milonga organizer from another country who was coming to a milonga very near to where I live: "Are you going to the the encuentro*?"
"No. I don't know anything about it," I replied. I knew that many friends would be there. Wow! I wanted to go! How did I miss the announcement?!
I looked up the event on the Internet, and found that it was advertised for all to see, but really it was a VIP list of invitation-only guests. Somehow this reminds me of being in my fourth grade class in which the rich kid told everyone: "Hey everyone, I am having a pool party! I will hand out the invitations tomorrow!" Tomorrow came, and half the class did not get invited.
Free Tango Lesson!
My not getting invited was a wonderful blessing in disguise. It really did not take long before I saw
that being excluded was the best learning experience I ever had in social tango. Also, I had a clearer view of what tango really is all about as a lifetime activity--at least for me. Not having something we want often brings with it the chance for psychological, even spiritual, growth.
A little background:
I have been invited to come for free to several different all-weekend events; however, for all but one, the events were too far away and getting time off from work was too hard. I guess I started thinking of myself as a VIP since I write a tango blog, and I am a "drone-bee" dancer (a dancer who dances nearly every tanda and with nearly every honey bee that comes in the hive). But as I began to view myself as a VIP, I was drifting away from a sound philosophy of social tango. Sure, it feels good to be a VIP. And VIP parties are okay too! I do not feel left out when the Oscars come up if I am not on the VIP list. My error was in not understanding the rules of the game in order to enter. I was naive that one must be a business associate or special person on the organizers' list. I am not, and I feel comfortable with why I am not. I respect why some dear friends are, and I am glad for them.
What I learned, I applied
On the weekend of the VIP milonga, I dedicated the milonga that I went to in France as the "Milonga de los Desinvitados"--the milonga of the uninvited. Yet, I was again surprised with more insights and realizations. I was aware at the milonga that many felt excluded by not being invited to the "preferred weekend event." So there was at first an ambience of being second-rate at that milonga. Then it occurred to me, that even at this milonga there were those who were the "desinvitados de los desinvidatos"--the uninvited of the uninvited. At nearly every milonga it seems that there are those who sit more than they would like to. The "desinvitados" are everywhere! So I dedicated myself to the uninvited of the uninvited at that milonga. And it was magical, truly wonderful. That night I was often surprised by their special qualities, talent and certainly patience as they sat for too long waiting to dance. I still to this day dance with some of the women I met at this "Milonga de los Desinvitados de los Desinvitados." Eventually, I think the feeling switched for everyone. We belonged where we were.
As Mick Jagger once said...
"You can't always get what you want." I did not get what I really wanted--to be at a milonga full of friends and great dancers. But from not getting what I wanted, I learned who I have been and who I want to continue to be. I dance social tango. I think dancing to meet a partner, to learn just one more step, to be a VIP, to be in a special group--all these will lead to disappointment. Along the way the social animal within us will start to starve as the social element of tango is squeezed out entirely. I predict that if you ask those who leave tango after so many years of loving it, you will find that they HAD to leave in order to feed the social animal within who was starving all so slowly. Ask! Behind the answer to "why I left tango," I predict that you will find that leaving tango was the logical step because the "kind of tango" had long left the realm of "kind tango," and its social nourishment.
Being a desinvitado allowed me to become clearer than ever about what tango really is for me. I would invite you join me in this special club of the uninvited, but then, paradoxically, you would be an "invitado." :-)
* An "encuentro" or "encounter" has even slightly worse connotations in Spanish than English, but these events in Europe are actually very pleasant, gender-balanced events for ~300 or fewer people.
Painting by Villone: Notice the guy driving up on his motorcycle outside the window. Did he bring his red dancing shoes? The cat has to take a break. Sore feet.