Wow, congratulations...After three years of Cosmotango, they have all graduated and become "Tango Pros"
We were changing into our shoes in the change room at a local Toronto milonga one weekend when an unfamiliar Toronto Tanguero piped up and asked us a question.
"How long have you guys been dancing Tango?" he asked.
"Oh, we are entering into our eighth year," was our remarkably snark-free reply. We thought it would be polite and friendly to ask him back. "How long have you been dancing?"
"Five years." He paused for a moment. "You guys must be pros by now."
"Absolutely not!" we said. "We are definitely not 'pros'. We are dancing only to enjoy ourselves."
Indeed, in most gringo tango communities, there seems to be an unspoken assumption that the longer you have been dancing, the better you must be - and by golly you should put those skills to good use! If you are persistent, put in long hours, accumulate an impressive resume of workshops and classes - you will definitely 'graduate' some day and become a 'Tango Pro'. Four years and automatically you have a Bachelor's... Give it another year and a half, and you'll have a Master's.... a few more years (and you don't even need a dissertation) and you are practically a "Doctor of Tango!"
In fact, when observing particularly obscene dancers gyrating on the dance floors of Toronto, I have been known to say reassuringly to the disgusted onlookers: "Just give them enough time - with a couple of decades under their belt, anyone can become a Milonguero!"
Well, I was joking. It's not true. Time is guarantee of neither quality nor "Pro-worthiness" in Tango. We have persons entering into their first or second decade of Tango here in this city - and getting to be worse tango dancers every day. Conversely, we have terrific dancers who have been only dancing for a year, two years, three years. Then, there's the strange phenomenon of dancers who learn so rapidly they seem like "Tango Geniuses" at nine months - but unfortunately never progress any further than that initial growth spurt. Or those who are fine dancers at year five - but have gone completely downhill by year seven.
So, what to do, what to do? What good is Tango if you can't wave your years of experience around like a big stack of diplomas, opening doors to Tango fame and fortune?
But why should we use Tango as a means to an end? The only thing we need to do is to enjoy Tango. This does not mean "enjoyment" from learning how to execute fancier steps, or how to gain admiration or attention by putting on a show either on stage on on the dance floor. It does not mean the "enjoyment" of boasting or bragging or feeling superior because your tango is more sophisticated/athletic/authentic/more like this style and less like another. It doesn't even mean the "enjoyment" of making a tidy profit from teaching dazzling but impractical moves or forming your own tango cult using psychological manipulation and new-agey mumbo-jumbo.
Enjoy by dancing for no-one but yourself. Enjoy by going where the music takes you. Enjoy by protecting yourself and your partner on the dance floor - and by respecting and showing consideration for the other dancers sharing the same space. Enjoy by dancing lightly and gently, without being weighed down by any burden. Enjoy by making every dance and every embrace meaningful.
Then, with each passing year, Tango friends will become more beloved. The sensation of Tango in your heart will be sweeter. Tango music will be a life force. Your body and your soul will be younger and stronger and more exuberant every day. That's the moment when we graduate - but we will all be too busy dancing to care.