Sunday, November 16, 2008

The TALLEST of the Seven Dwarves

Group photo of the MOST "illustrious" Toronto Tango Instructors!

I've been pondering this question posed by Johanna as a response to my previous post:

Blogger Johanna said...

Irene, do you think common sense and Tango are mutually exclusive?

Which leads me to ponder: what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does tango tend to attract and congregate the worst egoistic, nonsensical, self-deluding types, or is the tango community just a reflection of what humanity really is?

Of course, it is true that there are good, honest, honorable, kind, wise people in tango (otherwise, participation in tango would be completely unbearable), but let me just spend a couple of seconds bitching about the bad ones.

Toronto tango has been having an incredible influx of "new tango teachers" lately, as if we didn't already have one to one tango teacher/tango student parity. Of these newly minted instructors, there are good dancers, mediocre dancers and abysmal dancers - unfortunately more of the later than the former. In fact, many MORE of the later two than the first.

What makes all these mediocre/abysmal (or even so-called "good") dancers think that they are qualified to teach? How do they justify to themselves that they really have sufficient talent in dancing and teaching to produce students that will not add to the already quite large cesspool of mediocrity (or worse) that is World and Toronto Tango?

Over the years, many people have suggested to Man Yung and I that we should start teaching, (or have invited us to perform at the Toronto Tangofest, or the CNE etc.) but we have refused. Thanks but no thanks - we have a pretty lucid understanding of our abilities, and what it is that we want (and should be getting) out of tango. We are not DELUSIONAL.

However, many people are DELUSIONAL. If you are clearly a mediocre/abysmal dancer (I mean that you are clearly lacking in some basic skills of tango, i.e. you cannot do more than one rotation in a giro, you can't really execute moves that are not semi-choreographed, you can't tell the difference between dancing to the beat and dancing to the music, you can't navigate on the dance floor, you can't dance milonga or vals properly as you dance them as tango but faster and - let's face it - you walk like any of the scarecrow, tinman or the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz) why are you teaching? What is going on in that little head of yours?

Let me do a little mind reading and come up with some of YOUR justifications, ok?

1. EVERYONE knows that Toronto is a backwater town when it comes to tango. Since I am Argentinian/Latin/American/European/Spanish-speaking/French-speaking/German-speaking etc. etc. and I come from a way more traditional/sophisticated/trendy/innovative culture and I've spent a great deal of time in Buenos Aires "The CAPITAL OF TANGO" you toque-wearing hockey-playing ignoramus Torontonians should learn from me!

2. I have "worked with" (oops, what I mean is "taken the classes of" - no harm in a little resume padding) the GREATS of Tango and I have a resume with a list of workshops I have taken (but that I remember nothing from) so long that to print it out will literally cause a destruction of a small forest.

3. You see, I have a really great "angle" to promote myself by - see TA-CHANGO, PING-PANGO, BALL-RANGO, CRAPARANGO, etc.

4. Maybe I can teach only beginners because since they have no tango knowledge they won't know how crappy I really am.

5. Maybe I should only teach beginners in, say Sudbury so there's less chance that my students will come out to Toronto and will be able to see how crappy I am compared to other dancers.

6. I have membership in a great little tango "clique" in which we not only dance with each other, we also flatter each other to the skies - not only is there "strength in numbers", having a lot of like-minded sheep friends (oops, I mean "tangueros and tangueras") telling me that "Mr./Ms. X, you are SUCH a great dancer!" is surely proof that I am really great!

7. I AM THE TALLEST OF THE SEVEN DWARVES, i.e. Sure, I know there are many better dancers/instructors than me, but since there are evidently so many so-called instructors that are worse dancers than me (the little short middle-aged guy with the greasy pony-tail and the pot-belly that keeps on tripping up and dropping his partners onto the floor, for example), I must be a great dancer by comparison and I should definitely get my butt out there and spread my tango DNA!

It's one thing to have the praise-worthy aspiration of "promoting Argentine Tango to the world", but if you are going to act on your well-intentioned impulses, please make sure that you are not deluding yourself and that you have the skills to a) actually dance AND teach tango and that b) you are not just doing this for your ego because you are pathetic in the other areas of your life.


Anonymous said...

Take a deep breath, Irene! Whew.

I think we all have the desire to "follow our dreams". Coupled with the excitement and passion incited by Tango, a lot of folks - with or without justification - feel compelled to spread the "gospel".

Delusion knows no boundaries, no nationalities, and no limits. If ever there was a need for caveat emptor, Tango would be it.

Glad to have inspired. I think :-)

Valentin said...

Exellent post. I could replace the name of Toronto with Nancy (in France, where I live), or to put the name of another town in the neghbourhood and to write exactly the same text. And I also could add how each tango-center in our region fight with the others in the "competition" who is better.

miss tango said...

So funny, sadly so true!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Johanna,

Thanks for your comment - don't worry, although your previous comment got me thinking... the responsibility for my ranting and raving is solely mine!

Dear Valetin,

Great observation, especially about the "tango-center competition" - don't even get me started on the Montreal vs. the World tango competition. A couple of years ago a bunch of Montreal dancers showed up at the Toronto Tango Festival wearing identical t-shirts that said "TEAM MONTREAL". Apparently Tango has recently become an approved sport for the Olympics.

Dear Miss Tango,

Thanks for your comment - it is too bad the phenomenon is worldwide and not limited to just Toronto!


Valentin said...

Just have red a series of mails in Tango-L about the "How tango evolves".
And I think that your self-deluding Toronto-dwarves are much more than 7, the majority of them is not in Toronto but spreaded everywhere and spend all their time with long and never ending discussions on the Net in the competition, who is the tallest in their "True tango"- world.

Look at this only (one of the opinions I found there) : "Speaking only for myself, I am not sure why I would want to spend the 2 or 3 thousand dollars to go somewhere and possibly not get to dance at all. I mean, with all the rules that need to be followed and all the sitting around that needs to be done in order to "learn" at the feet of the masters, I am not sure I have the time or the money that is required. Not to mention the patience to sit there and see people who may or may not be dancing the way I want to. Add to that the elite snobbery that seems to prevail in most of the venues. I think I will pass".

No comment necessary !

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