Monday, October 5, 2009


Several years ago, I was once engaged in a conversation with a Toronto milonguera. We didn't know each other very well at the time - and she just found out I was a lawyer (and I didn't volunteer this information - she asked me).

Since she was in a profession somewhat related to my field, she suddenly felt this compulsion to talk about landlord and tenancy matters with me, right there in the milonga. Maybe she felt she had to prove something to me. Or perhaps she wanted me to prove something to her?

I stopped her. "Let's not talk shop in the milonga," I told her quite firmly.

Was she upset? No. Actually, she was rather relieved. That's because secretly, she felt the same way that I did - that the sacred space of the milonga should not be polluted by all the flotsam and jetsam of the rat-race world out there.

In Buenos Aires, the serious dancers leave all that stuff outside the door once they enter into the milonga. You go to the milonga to relax, to see your friends, to dance and to listen to music. Some dancers can go decades without knowing what their milonga friends do during the day. Some people even refuse to disclose their real names. It's an unspoken code that you don't bring your "real life" baggage onto the dance floor.

In the Chinese ballroom community in Toronto, being part of the dance crowd is all about getting clients and making connections. Some professionals and business people deliberately get involved in order to get ahead. And the dancing? Only a secondary consideration. Maybe that's why they have so many horrible, stiff, unnatural dancers, and I'm being quite generous in using the word "dancers". Posers with plenty of business cards, more like it.

I'm truly glad that this kind of thing has not infected Toronto Tango - as a rule, dancers in Toronto do not treat the milonga as an extension of their place of business. But there are exceptions. While no-one has actually been so crass as to ask me for legal advice in a milonga, there have been some who have felt very necessary to give people totally irrelevant and unsolicited details about exactly which lofty position in which multi-national corporation they work for, how much money they have made in the stock market last year, the humongous deals they make on a daily basis with the titans of industry, all the names of the bigwigs of business that they know, and by and large, how rich/educated/knowledgeable/important they are and how worthy they should be of admiration and respect.

No, no, no and no.

Instead of impressing me, this kind of thing fills me with revulsion and makes my skin crawl. I don't know about other people, but don't we tango specifically to escape such things? Instead of increasing my respect, they've instantly lost it.

Martha used to be a machine operator in a factory. Manolo used to be a taxi driver, and a grocer. Does this make us respect them less? Not a jot - they are our teachers, we love them and you know what? They have taught us more about life than any person with a degree (or a McMansion).

It's sounds like a cliche, but Tango is a great equalizer. In the milonga, we come together to dance - rich and poor, young and old, famous and infamous, good and bad. What you are in the "real" world is not important. In fact, forget about the nonsense about the "real" world - the milonga and the embrace is the place where we can be truly "real".

Please don't pollute it, okay?


Unknown said...

You should call this phenomenon "Pollution in the Tang-o-zone" :)

I would pick a fake occupation to tell people and then move on quickly.

"What do you do?"
"I'm a dolphin trainer. Would you like to dance?"

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tango Notebook (Pete),

We agree, next time we will tell them that we herd cats ;)

But then they will probably want to here how much we make herding cats and what does one need to study in university to get this job!

Thanks for your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

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