Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Can it really be fun if we don't take it seriously?

Tony Walker circulated a link to an article about tango in Times Online: if you don't get his emails, the article is here. The article points to the emotional seriousness of tango, as of relationships in general. But isn't it fun? Yes... but can it really be fun if we don't take it seriously?

This relates to this ongoing discussion about cabaceo, but to me the discussion is about an approach to the milonga in general, even about how seriously we take each other, rather than about whether we should follow an arguably outdated piece of tango history.

Some time ago I went to ask an acquaintance to dance. She was busy chatting with a (girl) friend; I 'hovered' for a moment but she didn't look up, so I walked away. Later she asked me why I hadn't danced with her that evening. Well, it's impolite to interrupt a conversation and, although I was sure my interruption would have been welcome, in the back of my mind there was the feeling that she wasn't 'ready' to dance. Sure, she would have jumped up immediately to dance, but uppermost in her mind would have been another way of relating, another mindset, a lively verbal activity, and it would have felt a little uncomfortable because, for a moment, I wouldn't have trusted her sudden involvement in dancing.

Tango needs a degree of commitment to the partner you are dancing with. The importance of cabaceo doesn't seem to be as the traditional method you use to ask your partner to dance, but as to whether you are maintaining a receptive mood for a dance, and whether you want to dance at that moment with that partner; and cabaceo is still the best way to deal with all that. If you sit watching for a sign – which male or female can ignore or accept – you are ready and committed to your dance, and to your partner, in a way you aren't if you are enjoying some jolly socialising, and sort of fall into a dance casually. & if you start off in a receptive mood, you're going to enjoy your dance a lot more, and get a lot more out of it.

We might be able to think of more appropriate and contemporary ways of organising a milonga than the cabaceo, and if they work as well, fine. I think the principle to keep in mind is how we maintain a focus on a dance we think is important enough to focus on. We might treat tango as more than a recreational activity. We all know it's seriously good for us!


Anonymous said...

I think you did the right thing and that shows how sensitive you are. I wish more people were like that.

Other people's definition of fun will be different from yours and that doesn't mean they aren't serious. They just have different standards that are acceptable to them.

But haven't you noticed that some people take it waaay to seriously? I wonder if those people are having any fun.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for the comments, londontango.

Yes, listen to what passers by at an outdoor tango event say. 'Don't looks as if they're enjoying themselves, do they!'

I think my point is that we grew up with the idea of 'a dance' as a lively social event where we jump up and down, and drink and talk a lot. That's what 'having fun' looks like. But I think the background of the milonga is a much more formal social gathering, a more courtly event, even, and that tango actually works better if that kind of background is maintained. Perhaps one reason why nuevo is generally popular is that it looks more like the kind of dance we're familiar with. The tango language of smooth flowing walks and turns might be more familiar to anyone who grew up with ballroom, and with the formality of ballroom events, which probably means very few of us. So we tend to end up with milongas that aren't quite one thing or another, but perhaps an interesting hybrid nonetheless!

Panayiotis said...

I'm always taken back by a follower's calm acceptance of my offer to dance.

Too many times I see clicks forming around the tables at Milongas and the feeling of a "members only" invitation to dance is annoying and uncomfortable.

Pete | The Tango Notebook

Game Cat said...

TC -

I think you didn't invite your friend to dance for 2 good reasons. I also agree that it's disconcerting to dance with someone who isn't in the right frame of mind or doesn't like the music enough to be so.

Perhaps "commitment to partner" is only part of it. "Commitment to the music" could be another. Some people visibly light up when music they like is playing - they look around actively to find someone they know who would like to dance to it with them. Some have preferred partners for particular music/ orchestras.

Certainly it is easier to focus on the music when it is music you like. It can be disappointing to have to sit out a tanda you like because there is no right partner available to share it with.

Btw I think this is a great post, following on from the last one. I especially appreciate how you thoughtfully reflect on something and try to say something meaningful about it.