Tango Argentino > Tango in a Small Community

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Desert Diva, Nov 13, 2016.

  1. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I live in an extremely small tango community comprised of two cities in adjoining states in the desert southwest. The community of course is "follower heavy," and a surprising number of the people are self-proclaimed "teachers."

    Leads Teaching
    I'm weary of leads "teaching" me in a group lesson. (My solution is to call the instructor over to and ask what I'm doing wrong as not to be offensive and/or rude to the lead. The instructor more often than not, tells the lead to do something different.) What's even more upsetting is the lead teaching on the dance floor at a milonga.

    At a milonga leads often only dance with one or two women consistently. Please don't get me wrong, people are not obligated in any way, shape, or form to dance with others. However, it goes beyond that. I've tried to do my part in building and supporting this smaller community. However, I'm weary of the behavior (I won't say elitism and snobbery, even though I truly feel that's what it is.) and feel the need to move on. A popular teacher in an adjoining state scolded me for not supporting the community (I've tried to), not being serious in my practice (Trust me, I'm pretty hard on myself), etc... However, this same man (when I "thought" I respected him a couple of years ago) actually said this to me:

    "Do you like men? You DO like men don't you? OK, I want you to try and FEEL
    the man in me."
    Seriously? *sigh*

    There are little cliques and many people are "less than friendly" with outsiders. I'm sorry, but isn't part of the milonga experience to meet people for conversation and perhaps a glass of wine?

    Interestingly enough, one night a few months ago a local news anchor visited a milonga with her friend going through a divorce. I don't have to tell you about the "swarm of leads" that were literally "standing in like" to dance with a raw beginner.

    Studio XYZ has a "tango performance group." They practice and perform in the community in what I consider to be a bizarre "stage tango" mix that includes lifts and spinning followers prone on the floor.

    Changing Teachers
    I've finally come to a realization that in order to improve my tango, I need to move on by changing teachers (group and private). My private lesson teacher worked at a dance studio for many, many years. However, he left the studio by a mutual agreement. Many people consider him a wonderful tango teacher. I wanted to support him and continued to take private lessons at his house.

    However, a number of things I ignored/overlooked finally struck me as "red flags." When he left the studio he was having issues with his knees as a result of being seriously overweight. He had to take a lot of time off and couldn't teach.

    Out of a sixty minute lesson, I was only actually dancing 15-20 minutes. His former studio hired a new tango teacher, and he actually asked me in a roundabout manner to take a lesson there and see what "he" was doing. (I think in any setting that's called "being a spy.") His feedback was always "You're thinking too much." Yes, I "do" think too much, but at the same time I feel I need constructive feedback to practice on my own and to attempt to fix what's broken/lacking in my dance.

    I changed teachers and it's made "quite a difference."

    Different Tango Communities

    There "is" a difference in tango communities. I've traveled some and have experienced this firsthand. Eventually, I'd love to travel to Buenos Aires. However, for the time being I feel I have to make the best decision in my little corner of the world and travel as finances and time permits.

    I'm Not Perfect
    I've been dancing tango now for four years. I've taken group and private lessons and attended about five festivals. In some ways, I know I'm better than when I started but in many ways I feel "stuck." I'm always looking for ways to improve my dance, but I'm sorry to say that what I was doing wasn't working. In my life I've felt it necessary to develop other interests. That's not to say I'm giving up tango, but I feel it's necessary to give it a "lesser importance" in my life. It's time to admit to myself that what I was previously doing wasn't working (and supporting my soul) and move on.

    My apologies if this sounds like a rant - it's not meant to be. However, hopefully writing all of this down and possibly getting constructive feedback will help me to discern what's right for me. I want to stay focused and on the right track, and most importantly not give up.
  2. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Every commmunity has its issues

    Travel more and listen music in your spare time
    Find a way how to enjoy in your local community.

    Four years is nice period. Form a group with people who share your vision of tango
  3. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    You have my sympathies. Although I am a lead, I too am in a _very_ small tango community, and wish there were more dance opportunities. There are occasional practicas, and rarely a milonga. I often drive 75-350 miles to dance, and not infrequently 150 miles, dance, and return home that same night to avoid motel costs. From your posts, I might assume that you are, say 3 hours drive from Albuquerque. They have a 2:30-4:30 Saturday afternoon practica which is sometimes well attended, and sometimes not. However, if you were to arrange for privates on Sat at 1:00, you could also attend the practica and be home by, say, 8:00 at night. A lousy solution, a 10+ hour day for three hours of dance, but, depending on your level of interest, a possible solution.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Don't beat yourself up. Your local resources are clearly limited, and, short of moving to a different city, there is only so much you can do.
    Keep traveling, taking lessons with visiting instructors, and dancing as much as possible.
    You may consider starting leading, although I understand it is not a solution for every lady.
  5. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Desert Diva, ever considered moving to BsAs? Along the years I noticed quite a number of blogs by women from the States who did just that.
  6. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I've found I'm "happiest" when I do travel and experience dancing outside my local community. Sadly, I've tried repeatedly to enjoy (and support) my smaller community. In my opinion the "vision" isn't there and each time I come away saddened and unfilled. I feel it's time for me to accept "what it is" and move on (other communities) so I can grow, learn, and most of all find some level of happiness.
  7. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

  8. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    Thanks for your understanding. There is virtually no tango in the city where I live and in order to take lessons or attend a milonga it's a 100 mile round trip. And "yes" I'm three hours from Albuquerque. I've contacted Eva and Pablo about lessons, and *think* my best solution would be to do something as you suggest.

    However, I leaning more toward taking a lesson with them on the same day as a milonga at Las Puertas and then staying overnight. The Econo lodge in Old Town (pet friendly) is approximately $50.00/night and I have a fifteen year old dog with some medical issues. However, I recently attended the Albuquerque Tango Festival and stayed there and it worked out fine with my dog. Another plus is the motel is relatively close to Las Puertas.

    I feel that even if I could do this once (or twice) a month it would be better than nothing.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  9. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    Thanks - you just "made my day." :) If you read my response to "oldtangoguy" I'm going to travel to Albuquerque (as well as other locations/venues as much as possible. Also, there's a somewhat "friendlier" community in Tucson...
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  10. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    It's my dream to travel to Buenos Aires, and I will someday. My "complication" is I have a fifteen year old terrier-mix (adopted from a rescue at six weeks) who is recovering from a five-day hospital stay for pancreatitis, and was diagnosed with stage two (out of four) kidney disease. She's very stable right now, but I do have to give her medications twice a day and I've switched to a home cooked diet.

    I recently went to the Albuquerque Tango Festival and took her with me - staying at a pet friendly motel close to the venue. We all know how "this story will end," but for now I'm trying to find that "sweet spot" of caring for her needs and trying to "feed my soul."

    Whenever the inevitable happens I'm off to Buenos Aires for at least a three-month stay, but for now my responsibility lies with her care and comfort.
  11. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    When you are travelling you are moving away from other problems as well.
    You cannot blame all your bad energy from local community.

    Accepting what you can get is one of principles of happiness. ;)

    So try again, and again, but take a break between attempts.
    Over time you might find a small group of people to travel with for a start.
    Later who knows what you could organize with them. ;)
  12. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I respectfully disagree. I'm quite responsible and don't feel that I have "bad energy." We all have to make choices in our lives that are "right for us." If you have a job that is stressful and your boss is a tyrant, do you stay there "accepting what you can get." Obviously not, you find something that is the "right fit" for you.

    As for "trying," I have done just that - again and again. I have taken breaks and tried to "give it another change." However, life is at best short, and I refuse to buy into "accepting what you get as one of the principles of happiness." I have to feel that I'm worth more than repeatedly trying to assimilate into what I perceive as a dysfunctional community. As I said before, it's not just the dancing - it's the general "unfriendliness" related to social interactions.

    While I wish it didn't, repeatedly exposing myself to this community is eroding my confidence as a dancer and my feelings of self-worth - these are human feelings. I'm not growing and learning in what I perceive to be a stagnant pool. While I have no ill feelings for the people in this community, it's time for me to move on to a different place.

    I know I can "get more." I've seen it in my travels to other places.
  13. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    It's quite gender balanced where I live, but there aren't many leads that followers enjoy dancing with so local milongas are often low-attendance. New follows don't stick around because of weirdos who like to prey on 'raw beginners.' New leads don't stick around because, as we all know, it really difficult for leads when new to tango.

    I say give up on fixing/growing your community and start your own clique. It's much more fun to enjoy the dance with people you like :D
  14. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    OK. Interaction between you and local community creates bad energy.
    You may have the best energy but there can be unwanted chemical reaction.
    It wasn't meant to be attack on you, but we don't know what we bring to tango sometimes. That is my experience.

    I had some interesting interaction with the people in the local community.
  15. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    That sounds really rough. I don't have a solution, but I do offer sympathies. And come visit Portland!
  16. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I think it's quite important to have an idea, a model, why the males and females in a community behave like they do.
    And to make it not too easy: if one comes to the conclusion that one lives inside a gaggle of great apes - what is s/he most likely?
    But at the very end I think there won't be a benefit from investing much into a community one is not welcome, however.

    I feel to be more in a clique of like-minded dancers than in a community as a whole. And there are other cliques that may dance much longer and followers not necessarily really strive to dance with me up to now. Of course we do so from time to time, but for me it's more pleasant to develop dancing with followers accompanying me.
    And normally one follower will accompany me to a remote milonga - a game changer. In that setting every dance is a one-off chance or we'll dance together, take downs are not likely and my partner got invited so far.
    Mladenac likes this.
  17. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    I have found that if I ask for suggestions from advanced dancers it'll open up the floodgates and I can't process it all! Here are some of my survival phrases:
    • Please just two suggestions, I have trouble doing more than that at a time (actually true!).
    • If at a Milonga: "Please show me at the next practica."
    • Sorry, I have trouble talking and dancing at the same time.
    • I'm going to have to work on this more at home to really get it.
    Do realize they love Tango and are sharing their enthusiasm with you!
    Is it their significant other? Sometimes I'll go up to a couple that is not switching, and ask "Are you switching partners tonight?" Sometimes I'll get an enthusiastic "Yes!" (even though they had not switched up to that point). BTW I make sure both of them are a "Yes!" before proceeding!

    I have observed that aggressive women do get more dances. My dear wife (DW) is very successful at getting asked. She said her secret is to be sure to tell the lead she enjoyed the dance when they are done. She rarely asks verbally (except for newbies) but is aggressive with Mirada/Cabeceo.
    That sounds like a high school football coach! To tell a story on myself, once my DW told me a guy was a mechanically good dancer but didn't really have feeling -- in contrast to other guys that "you can tell really like women." In a sudden burst of insight, I asked, "Am I mechanical?" She said yes. She said to not worry, women still find that fun, but wouldn't want every dance to be that way. She also said she was glad I didn't look at other women with "too much like!" I think people here would call it "connection." I realize I don't fully get it (although a teacher, one of the few ladies I do close embrace with, did tell me I had good connection, even though I wasn't sure if we did or not).

    Anyway... That's just food for thought. I have no idea how others see you. The teacher was not tactful but was maybe trying to say something like "try to connect with me?" BTW, FWIW, I don't know what I'd do if someone said that to me... I'd probably figure they would be happiest if I quit asking them to dance...
    I have observed that new faces often do not get asked to dance. I have also observed very beautiful 20 something ladies seem to get asked a lot. FWIW I try to ask new faces and newbies, but I'm not sure how to "fix" that with other leads in Tango.

    Have you considered trying other forms of dance? I have found zero snobbery in Contra and Blues dancing, but a little bit in Tango. You don't need lessons to start Contra, and with Tango knowledge you can muddle through Blues. If nothing else, it would be an interesting and informative contrast for you if you had the same issues there or if it was different. BTW I find Blues, Contra, and Tango fun in different ways. I have also observed that almost all the women in Tango, at least in my area, are trim, in good shape, generally are short and petite, and dress and are made up well. My experience is there is a much broader range of ladies' heights and weights in Contra, Salsa, and Blues.
    One thought, maybe you've learned 90% or even 99% of what you can learn? Random thought: Maybe you can be a teacher's aid at a dance studio. Then you would get to demo the moves with an expert, but also work with the newer leads -- building up your own group that will ask you at dances.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  18. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    If I chat and drink with a lady I feel obligated to dance with her. And worse: same with intensive greeting, embrace and eye contact. So I restrict that to a certain degree.

    There are other leisure activities - like most material arts - where the partners change regularly at a clapping of the trainer. May be this gets adopted by a tango class instructor, maybe not.

    But if milongas are seriously short of leaders and a new follower performs - however - is there any doubt that "men sharing" is not really an option and a less competitive female will bail out at some point?
    So is a community responsible to provide appropriate dance partners at all? If not - who is?
  19. salsadancevideos

    salsadancevideos New Member

    Tat sounds tough. I am sure things will work out for you in the long run. Sounds like your on the right path.
  20. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    I second the idea to try other dance forms in your area, if you have any interest in things that aren't tango. You might find that the local dance community is more to your liking when you are doing a different dance (or group of dances). I'm not from your part of the country, but just look around and see what else is out there. Different dances tend to have different cultures surrounding them (e.g. west coast swing and blues both have very different traditions than Argentine tango), and then there is local variation between communities on top of that. This might give you a better dance option locally. Though traveling further for Argentine tango may work out well for you, too.

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