Tango is not a place for aggression

In February I taught in Wellington, New Zealand, where TangoForge was founded in 2010.

I was honored that so many of my students continued with me, that some people who had stopped dancing came back just because I was there, and that so many people who had never met me were inspired to trust me.

As usual, we made time for a “Chat with the Maestros”. I sat on the couch with Hiroe, my Wellington dance partner, and waited for questions.

The first one: “Why does no one mark voleos anymore? And if I do feel that someone marked it, should I do it, or assume that was a mistake?”

This question almost made me cry.

More and more of our beautiful tango heritage, rich with diverse movements, is being forbidden by self-appointed police.

Hiroe chimed in: “After seeing that video on facebook, I feel I should not do voleos anymore. I feel uncomfortable to do them.”

That video‘ was posted to the Wellington Tango Facebook Group just before my arrival. It portrayed a couple stationary on the dance floor, doing constant voleos, kicking the nearby couples without apology. Eventually, the other couples corralled the voleo couple and tied their feet together.

The video tries to be humorous while delivering a physical threat, another escalation of hostility against women’s body movements.

Tying dancers’ legs together is far more dangerous than a lady’s errant foot.

The video proclaimed “if you dare to move your legs (or to enjoy the movement of your lady’s legs) you deserve to be restrained and to suffer.”

And it had the intended effect which was to intimidate even the best dancers in the Wellington community from executing certain movements. This video has been circulated worldwide, and is likely chilling freedom of expression in many communities.

It did not offer advice for marks about how to use voleos safely in crowded spaces, nor how revels can be sure they are only doing voleos when marked.

In response to this question, I delivered The Pleasure Manifesto as a live lecture and then Hiroe and I made a video. We ran away from the milongas and their police. Wind in our hair, camera balanced on a keychain, passersby and mistakes. Our video is not about elegance or obedience. It is about the ordinary joy of tango movement available to all dancers, anywhere, anytime, on any surface, in any shoes, to any music.

The song of the video is “Al Andalos” by the Berlin band, Abisko Lights, with whom TangoForge has been partnering since early 2018.

Instead of repression and bullying, no matter how sophisticated, I desperately hope that dancers will focus their energy on the development of artistic relationships with dance partners and musicians and on creative, joyful, unintimidating ways to share our beautiful tango with the public and prospective dancers.

 

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