Non-tango friends, relatives and work colleagues just don't understand what it's all about. When we tell them that we are going to Buenos Aires for tango, we invariably get asked the same question: "Are you competing in a competition?" As if the only reason that we dance tango is to wear the glitzy "TANGO!!!!" costumes they wear on "Dancing with the Stars" and win big shiny trophies!
Strangely enough, conversations with tango dancers can also end up in the pits of absurdity. Listening to gringo tango dancers who have been dancing for five, ten, fifteen years, we very often find we are not only not on the same page - we might as well be on different planets!
Is it just us, or are some of these comments really really bizarre?
"The level of dancing in Buenos Aires is very low. We have better dancers in Toronto!"
[Were they joking? Or could they be talking about the state of world tango in the alternative universe in which Buenos Aires has been wiped out by alien Bugs from Klendathu?]
"Why doesn't Martha and Manolo smile more when they are performing Milonga? Milonga is supposed to be a happy dance!"
[Awwwwwwwww, you must be doubly disappointed when argentinian tango dancers from the golden age don't flick their heads aggressively from side to side, gnash their teeth and chomp lasciviously on roses while they are dancing "The Tango".]
"Your friend Alberto [referring to Alberto Dassieu] - is he American?"
[No, because then we would just call him "Albert". Or perhaps "Al". Oh, who are we kidding? We just call him "Alberto" because this is tango and we want to make his name sound Argentinian! Like how we sometimes call Man Yung "Manyunganito"]
"You can't dance Pepito Avellaneda's steps in a milonga! There's not enough space."
[Sorry to break it to you - the way you dance, it doesn't matter whose steps you are using. There's not enough space.]
"Why waste your time and money going to Buenos Aires? You can learn whatever you want from ____________ [insert name of local instructor]. He/She is the Best! No-one can dance like him/her in Buenos Aires."
[We agree, no-one dances quite like him/her in Buenos Aires. Thank God.]
"Oh really, this is your fourth time in Buenos Aires? Which tango tour are you with this time?" [A comment made to us while we were sitting in a milonga in Buenos Aires with Osvaldo and Coca]
[Well, that's obvious - the "Osvaldo and Coca Tango Tour!" Not that it would make any difference to you - you don't even know who Osvaldo and Coca are!]
"I don't dance milonga. It ruins my tango posture."
[I recommend that you stand stock still and don't move at all then. For tango, milonga and vals.]
"I'm not interested in learning "Tango Salon of the 50's - that's too old fashioned." [referring to some of Martha and Manolo's workshops in Toronto]
[So, what kind of tango are you really interested in learning? Tango of the 70's?
Or perhaps Tango of the 80's?
Trick question! THE FOREGOING ARE FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION.]
"Let's go to Confiteria Ideal! I know someone who is staying in the same tango house I'm staying in who knows another person who is dating an Argentinian! He might show up!"
[How about let's not.]
It's enough to make our eyes glaze over and roll to the back of our heads. But who are the strange ones? Maybe it's us! There's no denying it - there is a bright happy tango world where people actually think like this:
1. I don't know any Argentinians (although it is rumored that they exist). I know plenty of North Americans though!;
2. Quit telling me which old person is a good tango dancer. They all look the same to me!
3. I and everybody I know are currently on or about to take a tango tour (of course conducted entirely in English);
4. Tango of the 50's or 40's or whatever - who gives a darn! I want to learn from someone from the age of spandex! (Or polyester!)
5. The best tango dancers/instructors are the ones that live next door! There's a bonus - they make the most interesting faces when they dance!