Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a team, community and people. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.
January 7, 2022
Tango in Small Cities
There are numerous teahouses in the streets and alleys of Chengdu, China, and every one of them is booming with business. Chengdu people like to spend time with friends in teahouses, drinking tea while chatting, reading, playing chess, listening to local operas, etc. This leisurely enjoyment has become an indispensable part of Chengdu people’s daily lives.
What the teahouse is to Chengdu is like what the milonga is to Buenos Aires. There are many milongas in the streets of Buenos Aires. The Portenos like to pass time there, meeting friends, listening to music, and dancing tango. Over time, they became skilled dancers, and tango became an integral part of their daily lives. For many Portenos, a day without tango is like a day without food.
Tango dancers in small cities don't have that luxury, where their number is too small and milonga is poor. That’s why I used to drive to nearby big cities to dance tango. For a three-hour milonga, the round trip took me five to six hours. In addition to fatigue and sleepless nights, the cost adds up to a considerable amount annually. In the end I couldn't take it any longer and had to accept the reality and dance locally.
Dancing locally may not be as gratifying as dancing in big cities, but it is convenient, time-saving, and affordable. It's okay to go out to dance occasionally, but to enjoy tango on a regular and sustainable base, you have to do it locally. Tango enthusiasts in small cities must accept that reality. In big cities there are established milongas readily available. But in small cities we have no choice but to build our own. Building a tango community isn't easy, but if we don't do that and choose to travel long distances, then we'll have to say goodbye to tango when we are tired of travel, or we’ll have to face the reality again. Would it not be better if we put that energy in building our own tango community so that we can enjoy tango locally?
Tango people in small cities need to have a strategic vision. We can't expect other people to plant trees for us to enjoy the shade. We have to plant our own tree and enjoy our own fruit. Building a tango community requires dedication and commitment. Despite the difficulties, we should not give up that vision for immediate pleasure. We must invest for our future, so that when we can no longer travel around, we will still have a place to dance tango. Right now, we are in the start-up stage, but that stage will pass. What we ought to think is how to make our community stronger, not to leave the community and dance elsewhere.
The importance of building a local home group cannot be overstated. It is where we improve our dance skills and enjoy tango on a daily base. Tango is a teamwork. Without a team there cannot be tango. You go out to dance tango because there is a better team there. Then why not spend time on improving our own team? As tango dancers we can't focus only on the present but not the long-term, think just about the self and not the group, enjoy without contributing, and take without giving. I have provided you with a place to dance tango, and I do it willingly as my contribution to the group. I expect every one of you to make your contribution, not as a way to return the favor, but as a way to make the group better, stronger and more united. Do not come just to dance tango. Ask yourself at least once a month, "Have I done anything for the group this month?" If everyone can do their part, then our group will become better and better, so that tango, too, can be an indispensable part of our daily lives. (See Never Forget Why We Started.)