Vio's Blog: Argentine Tango

There are a lot of beautiful things happening in the interstices of terror.  People creatively supporting neighbors. Small factories re-tooling to produce for immediate needs. Restaurants coming up with home menus. Farmers finding new ways to deliver. Time for overdue and long conversations with family and friends. And the lack of excuses for continuing to neglect our dreams (How-to here.)

I need to tell you that I am feeling tremendous relief about having a break from tango.

Financial stress

The first dimension of relief is that nowhere on my to-do list is planning how to go to a festival having no idea how much money we’ll make, trying to organize travel so cheap that we’ll somehow end up with some net. Explaining again to my partners that I can’t promise to pay them at all.

This is why we require pre-registration for all of our weekends, to try to enable us to do the math beforehand, so we don’t end up with more expenditure than income, so we can plan how many crew to bring, or cut costs if registration is low. Sounds like a good system but there’s still a lot of stress as the time unfolds and we get toward the registration deadlines without enough to break even. And once we have some registrations we don’t want to abandon the students. We end up working for free, or subsidizing our events, regularly. And when we get paid by other organizers, it’s almost a joke. Sometimes the amount of money they hand us is actually an insult to our professionalism. We understand why, and we recognize how much they are also working for free, but it doesn’t feel good to be priced so low.

The commitment to working as an artist has meant, for 10 years: foregoing restaurants, taxicabs, dentists. Whenever possible, like for the last 8 months, I have also cut health insurance from the budget. The computer where I work 14-hour days to write, create graphics and video, answer questions, and manage the website is a 2011 model. TangoForge is made possible by two things: [1] My frugality: I buy cameras and costumes used. I’ve built a complicated website management system for the Digital School with 7 pieces of free software. [2] The generosity of students and friends who have offered housing, organized events without taking a fee, solved the tech problems that I can’t, even filmed us for free.

While every way to measure TangoForge’s visibility in the world is going steadily up, revenue is still erratic. I have been looking forward to a life in which I can pay for my own dinner, and yours. I have kept the faith when paper and butter seemed like extravagance. I have subsidized TangoForge with self-denial and stress. Obviously, I’m tired of living like this.

Getting off the psycho-emotional milonga circuit

I think the biggest relief comes from not being rejected and disappointed every night.

In fact I am high on not being disappointed, disrespected, misunderstood, misrepresented, and punished for doing what I think is ethical. I’m so high that my need for alcohol, coffee, and sugar is steadily plummeting.

21:00 Am I really going dancing? I told Mr./Ms. X I would go, but I don’t really feel like it. There won’t be anyone I want to dance with anyway.

21:15 You still going? Ok, I’ll come.

21:30 Well, getting dressed is fun. Get a glass of champagne, make a collage. Oh, that doesn’t work. Try again. That one’s good. I feel pretty. But I may have to mark, so how does it look with sneakers? Not so good. Well nothing does. Just accept that.

22:00 On the way. The ritual enlivens hope against my wisdom. I step onto the sidewalk feeling cool, sexy, talented. Maybe a visitor will be there. Maybe Mr. Y will finally dance with me and discover what he’s been missing.

22:30 Outside I hear music. At first everything in me responds with joy. Then the weight of data hits me like a truck. I drag my feet up the stairs, knowing that my way of dancing is not valued. That people want something else. And that they, without knowing much at all about tango, will look at me with disdain based on what someone told them.

22:31 I open the door, feeling foolish, like I stepped in a trap. I am trapped. Why do this to myself?

22:32 I am paying money, probably for nothing, possibly for something that I know will hurt me.

22:33-22:45 I stand in my coat and watch the dance floor. There is not a single person whose dancing attracts me.

22:45 I get a drink and sit somewhere where I can watch. Now I’m looking for someone who is promising, or at least has nice pants. My mind wanders through my 19 departed dance partners, my great love lost to this addiction, other things I lost.

23:15 I try to make myself useful. I get out my notebook to try to observe something new about this dull vignette. I enjoy the light glinting off the ink and my rings. There is some pleasure to be hand here, but only things I’ve created. Not from these men. I keep my head down, so as not to give anyone false hope.

23:40 Someone gets into my space, insistent. Sometimes I consent, sometimes I refuse. If he’s a stranger I take a good look at him to see if anything suggests he could make use of my shoes. Rarely, I make a sign that I’ll change. Generally I just get up in my street shoes. Dancing with him is work. Unpaid.

23:53 I get another drink.

24:05 People start to leave, the pressure is off, the ratios change. Men have done their duties, chased the favored tail to the limits of dignity, and now they look around for what else could happen. This is when some skeptic might give me a try. It’s when my unflirtatious knowing mirada can penetrate the airwaves. And we’ll have space to find out what he can do, and if he has the courage to risk. If he is there. Which he is usually not.

01:00/02:00 Leaving is a relief. The night air puts me back into myself. I feel pretty and intelligent again the moment I step out the door.

30-45 minutes later Back home, taking off my unappreciated outfit, I resent the time spent. I feel tired and despairing of where tango, and I, have arrived. I feast, grateful for the pleasures that depend only on me.

Now my days feel luxuriously long. Seeing the sun rise after dancing is nice. Now I’ve seen the sun rise after sleeping. Coffee on the balcón in the silver morning light… I’m taking time to make plans for a better future.


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