Friday, April 11, 2008

Junkie Schmunkie

I'm very disturbed about the "Tango as Addiction" idea - especially when people take it too far and start calling themselves "Tango Junkies" like it was a badge of honour. The whole "addiction" bent is already morally and ethically reprehensible - and it is particularly grotesque for otherwise perfectly normal people to misappropriate drug culture go around talking about getting their "fixes" and gesturing like they are shooting themselves up in the arm. MUY FEO.

In Toronto we have an informal association of dancers who call themselves "Tango Junkies" going around like the mafia intimidating milonga organizers into giving their members discounts and their leaders entrances for free. If they don't - it appears that the leaders of the association will ensure that their members will not attend the offending milongas. I get really angry just thinking about it - with our small community, it's not like the organizers are making heaps of money running milongas. It's the kind of reckless, attention-seeking and power-grabbing behavior that divides and destroys our tango community and our milongas.

I could go on and on about the ridiculousness and wrongfulness of the attitude of this group in Toronto, but after thinking about it, I realize that the "Tango Junkie" thing - whether it's groups of people getting together intimidating organizers, or whether it's people acquiring this moniker just because they feel it's cool to belong to an exclusive clique - is really just symptomatic of what is going on in North America, whether it's tango or anything else.

We have too many people in North America craving for MORE - more obscenely huge weddings, bigger and more obnoxious cars, more extreme food and travel experiences, more monstrously big homes, more and wider ranging friends and acquaintances, more intense love affairs - everything geared towards getting bigger and bigger thrills and kicks. Look at the "MORE" factor in Gringo Tango - more strenuous/bizarre technique workshops (Ballet for tango! Yoga for tango! Tai Chi for tango! Philosophy 101 and Tango!), more fancy adornments, more difficult "nuevo" movements, more obscure old/new music, BIGGER festivals, more dance partners, more shoes, more everything etc. Tango isn't really being danced for its sake but either to get "MORE" or enable "MORE" and BIGGER thrills and kicks. That's why people aren't content to be just plain old folk who dance and enjoy tango - they have to be "teachers", "performers", "professionals", "the best dancers in the world" or "part of the coolest tango clique in town/in the world/in the universe". And if that isn't enough (because it never is), you've got to mix Tango up with other things to get a bigger kick. Or you have to promote yourself into being some kind of guru or cult-leader because there's nothing bigger than a Tango power trip.

Why should we make tango the subject of our cravings for higher highs and bigger thrills? Why should our pleasure in tango be caught up in this this North American all-encompassing cycle of addiction in which one can never be satisfied? Can't we just enjoy tango for what it is?

In the milongas de barrio in Buenos Aires, the local people go to enjoy the music, to enjoy dancing and to enjoy seeing their friends every week. For them, Tango is not a fad or a label or something to use or abuse. When the people dance, they are calm and serene because they dance for the pleasure of dancing and for themselves. They do not dance to impress anybody, to get more power, to get more attention or to prove a point. They are the best tango dancers in the world. We can't begin to dance the way that they do (not matter how many workshops you've taken with Chicho or Tete or any other big name) until we change the way we think.

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