Hugs and Laughter

This is a complicated point. Please read it very very carefully.

I am interested in how we manage people and our own emotions. I call these our control systems.

I am also interested in the the way that traditional tango etiquette protects our egos. (I do believe that all dancers’ egos need to be protected. The reason is that when we do this dance, we are putting ourselves out at 150% of our intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual capacities. In no other arena of life do we need to show up in every dimension. Therefore, we are by definition more vulnerable in tango than in any other activity, and this requires care.) The traditional tango codigos manage ego issues with a rigid veil of silence.

I see some changes to the codigos happening, which seem at first to be softer and more modern, but which may actually be less careful and caring.

Let me first point out that in teaching Queer Tango, I noticed a softer atmosphere between the students than in heterosexual classes and I thought this was a very good thing. The students would collapse one one another, giggling and hugging. I felt that was a kinder learning environment. People were better able to keep tango in perspective and have fun, instead of taking it too seriously.

Obviously I have nothing against hugging, laughter, or kindness.

But I see both hugging and laughter being used in some not-exactly-kind ways.

How to end the dancing, for now.

Traditionally, we say “thank you”. Now, we hug to dismiss the partner. This increase in warmth at first appears to be a sign that we are indeed all affectionate friends.

It also means that the person who is dumping you after two songs has smothered you with an excess of pseudo-warmth to cover their rudeness.

How to manage mistakes during the dance.

I observed a lot of laughter at Practica El Motivo in Buenos Aires. I realized that couples were using laughter to create an appearance of “oh yeah, we’re just friends messing around” to cover their mistakes.

Now I feel this permission to laugh while dancing is used in two ways, as an excuse not to concentrate (usually on the part of Revels) and as a shifting of blame (usually on the part of Marks). When we laugh we are implying that the fault was mutual. (Which sometimes it is, occasionally with hilarious results!)

When one person knows they were at fault, laughter is actually an unkind shift of blame to the couple.

I don’t think it’s helpful to apologize for every moment of a flawed dance, and I find it distruptive when a partner does so. But I do think it’s helpful to take responsibility when you know you were at fault and when you think the other person may have been blaming themselves. If I lose balance or concentration, and especially if I anticipate, I will whisper “sorry” or “that was my fault”. I believe that doing this shows an interest in my partner’s development and our future together. I want them to know what they do well and what they don’t.

Classic codigos recommend silence while dancing, which certainly is better for concentration. While I don’t agree at all that “it’s always the Mark’s fault” I do believe that Marks can always improve their precision, and Revels can always benefit by more concentration. So there are riches in the silence too.

I don’t see much value in sloppy, inattentive dancing covered over with giggling.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… 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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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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