Sunday, October 2, 2022

Buy Some Tango Burnout Insurance


Burnout Insurance.  I suggest buying some tango burnout insurance. There are only two steps. First, assess how much you value tango. Step two, figure out at least the most likely risks of giving up because of tango burnout.

1.  Assessing the value of dance:  Even if tango-burnout insurance would cost a lot (it doesn't), it would be worth every bit of money and energy needed to buy it. The valuation I give dance is "PRICELESS." Dancing contains my humanity as a dancing, social animal. That is what all humans are. I feel fully alive when I dance. As babies, music made you and me dance even in our cribs without instruction before we could speak, before we could do math or make tools, and all other uniquely human things. The assessment for me is now over.  I need insurance for something invaluable. Now, step two. . . .

2. The main risks of dance burnout:  Make your own list.  The below risk list are the things that would burn me out. 

  • Over-use:  Dancing too much causes bodily problems, and looks like an obsession (some call it an addiction). I learned this as an iron-distance triathlete. I saw too many burned-out and broken athletes from an accumulation of undetected "micro-injuries." Athletes and dancers burn out when they become obsessed with events and over-training. Obsessions and addictions too often end badly.

  • Not getting enough sleep:  Burnout is sometimes 100% somatic, not psychological! In the past, I even felt burned out at work from tango-induced sleep deprivation. Even our beloved passion can follow if we aren't careful. The body's immune system is degraded as much as 50% after not getting enough sleep after just one night at a 3-day event. The second and third days of a weekend event create a health risk for those who are not sleeping enough. I continue dancing in a post-pandemic world because social contact makes our immune system stronger--but only when we sleep enough.
  • Being a complainer:  I am working on not being a complainer.  The best way to practice this is in two parts.  Accept the things which I cannot change (most everything), and change those things that I can.
      > I used to complain about the DJ playing too much D'Arienzo (for example); now we make a list of DJ's to avoid.
      > Or I would complain that the music was constantly over 100 decibels; so I now wear expensive earplugs.
      >Or I would complain about crazy-ass floorcraft, or too many women sitting, or people at all levels of experience who don't know basic tango etiquette. So now I go to encuentros mostly.
      >Or complain that I didn't get accepted into an encuentro. (And I have done this.) Go to a milonga and dance with all those who are not being invited. I have found some of my favorite dancers this way. It's humbling. Secondly, go register for another encuentro.
    So don't burn yourself out.  There will always be something to complain about, even the weather in heaven.  Everyone has a very different list. But I realize that incessant complaining leads to burnout too. This is the main burn-out risk for me--being a complainer. So I have made this my spiritual path that I be more tolerant when I must live with things just the way they are.

  • Getting too old ("I am getting too old for this shit"):  The body gets old and death is the ultimate burnout. Some people, however, dance until they die.  This is what I am planning to do; so I dance alone every day. Let's say it is too hard for me to drive a long way to a milonga. Let's say one day I decide not to go to milonga anymore because the tangueras are now 213 centimeters tall on average (7 feet), or whatever the excuse. Dance is dance--alone or with others. I used to get up and walk at least a little every hour.  Now instead, I get up regularly from my desk and dance instead of merely walking around. This is my very best Tango Burnout Insurance.  So I highly recommend, for example, playing a Canaro milonga* (given below) and dancing in your office or kitchen. I am already getting lots of practice and ideas while dancing alone just for the pure joy of it.

So many before me have burned out and disappeared from the tango scene. I run into them at the grocery store, and they tell me, "There is more to life than tango." I want to say,  "You don't miss pure, ecstatic childlike joy?"  I am pretty certain they did not think they needed Tango Burnout Insurance.  Look around.  People die burned out, unhappy, and without any passion because of this failure to assess what is important in life. I remember as a teen, my parents would say every once in a while that their wish was to die with their boots on. My parents stayed active until they died "with their boots on." But I do not wish to follow in their boots.  I hope to be wearing dance shoes.

Photo credit:  Peter Neumeier.  Sybille and Mark in heaven without dying.
Esmeraldas Encuentro, Austria Germany 2022.

*Grab a broom and dance.


  1. I always enjoy reading about your tango ideas, Mark. And I just love that photo of you and Sybille dancing! Carry on!


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