Cluster Tango in and beyond The Distance

postitleswirl

In most parts of the world, dancers are living without milongas. Lucky ones have a live-in partner. Unlucky ones may wonder when or if they will ever be embraced again. Brave ones invite a stranger or three to visit for home-based tango practice.

This time reveals the fragility of our dependence on milongas as the vessel for experiencing tango.

I’m currently back in Germany, suspended on my way to Italy (where in certain regions including mine not only milongas but driving cars is currently prohibited). Germany is, as always, a bit special. This post is intended to share with others the German virus-cautious dancing system.

It is misleading to view the German dancing system as a luxury of a relatively low rate of infection. A more accurate understanding is that the German virus management system is based on math. Rather than flailing at 100% safety by disinfecting one’s hands every 35 seconds as the Americans are doing (even in Maui where there is almost no infection to protect oneself from), Germans are focused on the math of infection, and the priority is keeping social life alive, small, and traceable.

Where the Americans are worried about how to keep businesses alive, the Germans are much more concerned with psychological well-being; they see keeping the children at bay (in school and pre-school kitas) and allowing for some social life as essential for this.

For tango it has meant:

  1. Until the chill of winter took hold of all 10 toes, outdoor milongas were allowed with unlimited numbers of people so long as no one changed partners.
  2. Indoor milongas are also permitted with a maximum of 20 dancers, pre-registered for tracing purposes, and not changing partners.
  3. Cluster events are ongoing weekly events with committed groups of 10 dancers who may change partners. These groups are easily traced and notified in case any participant discovers they have been exposed or infected. Dancers may belong to several clusters if they wish, because the small size of each group keeps the math under control. Dancers who share a cluster may also dance together at events of type [1] and [2]. (The November “wave break” reduces allowable numbers for social gatherings, but presumably clusters will be viable again come December.)

I am not interested in debating the mathematical and epidemiological benefits of the German system. Instead I want to draw attention to  aspects of the cluster system that may be useful and desirable beyond the viruscrisis.

As I spent only a week in Berlin, I was not eligible to attend a cluster, so my report depends on a friend who both understands the German virus math and who participates in several clusters.

He reported that in the clusters he met a number of high-level Revels who he had never seen before.

I immediately thought that these are women who have given up on sitting in milongas watching unskilled girls reap all the attention. An invitation to a group where they know they will dance is a very serious and massive improvement in the tango landscape for advanced women dancers.

I considered that while it’s unlikely I would ever find 5 wonderful Marks in the same room, the cluster system should offer me at least one (otherwise I should not join that particular cluster). And I would attend the event in surety that I would dance with that one at each meeting. This would be a vast improvement over a standard milonga, where if I do not appoint a partner, I very often do not dance at all.

As for the other four, the committed and limited nature of the cluster would ensure that we become familiar, enter an ongoing dialogue, develop a sense of comfort and safety to experiment and make mistakes. Risk (and the accompanying development) is of course what the fundamentalist safety/elegance fad assiduously avoids, dragging many nice people down with it.

Other friends report to me that the cluster system has also accelerated commitments to dancing both roles. This in effect increases the number of dancing opportunities in a room of 10 dancers by a factor of 3.5 (from 5 partnerings to 18).

Summary of benefits of the cluster system:

  • Traceable social gatherings with acceptable infection math.
  • Advanced Revels want to go dancing again, confident of due respect.
  • Marks dance in an environment where they feel comfortable to take risks and develop.
  • Dancers are engaged in developmental relationships.
  • Motivation to dance both roles to increase experiential opportunities.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

embrace orig crop

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?

 

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Important Insights

Books

Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

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