The Hard Sell

Wikipedia

A soft sell is emotionally focused…attempt to trigger feelings in the buyer that will make them want to buy the product that is being advertised…many buyers often do not realize that they are being purposely directed … [the] goal is to create a mood or image that will appeal to the buyer and make them want to invest their money in a product, all without the buyer realizing that this is occurring.

In a hard sell, the advertisement or seller will focus heavily on the quality of the product and explain how purchasing such a product will be a rational decision that will help improve the buyer’s life. This type of selling supplies an abundance of information to the buyer so they receive as much information about the benefits of the product as possible.

 

I was on the phone with my friend Toby, talking about health, nutrition as medicine, and diet. He made some suggestions. I resisted forcefully. He said “wow, you really are an anorexic.” I think of that term in past-tense, but he wasn’t having it. The conversation became historical, how that happened to me.

(For those who are curious: Although I was “popular” at school, respected for my academic performance and looks, when it came time for debutante parties, I was swiftly ostracized. Since no one explained social class to me, the only explanation at hand for why people would not like someone was if that person was “fat”. So I must be, although I wasn’t.)

Meanwhile my friend Baru has been trying to drag me back into action to rotate the world toward sustainability.

I write to Toby, who, like all of my academic friends, is totally bewildered by my exit. “Maybe we should be talking about why I’m not political anymore, instead of talking about why I’m anorexic.”

One of the big activities of my 2018 was getting beyond the simple stories I’d been telling myself about my life, finding the other aspects of ballet, ski racing, and art besides “well I just wasn’t good enough, so I stayed in school.”

The simple story about why I left political work is that I thought I was doing my job as a public intellectual to challenge social injustice, but the universities who employed me viewed this as inappropriate behavior. And after 9-11, the students began to hurl accusations of traitorship at every attempt to reveal the actual policies and actions of the United States. Meanwhile my fellow faculty members were making their living from describing the systems of global impoverishment, but refused to take any real-world actions about this. When I invited them to synchronize their beliefs and life, the hypocrites managed their dissonance by labeling me “anti-collegial”.

It was a shock to discover that the meritocracy wasn’t, and that researching and writing about injustice was acceptable only if one stopped right there. I felt betrayed and alienated.

To get away from that deeply disappointing world, I started dancing. At first tango’s contradictions bequeathed some riches. I actually felt beautiful, which was really the first time in my life I got to have that sensation. And –at least the way I’ve been telling the story for 12 years– tango “gave me back my humanity” because I was able to have an authentic human contact with people who were part of the imperialist machine. My first two dance partners were U.S. Marines. I was still at anti-war rallies in the daytime, and then at night, in a life kept totally secret from my “real” friends, put myself into the embrace of  the enemy.

From the beginning, tango was cognitively indigestible. After nearly a decade in which I devoted every waking moment to trying to stop the WTO, I was now breathlessly devoted to a hedonistic, apolitical activity. An activity which, moreover was totally and unabashedly committed to sexism and homophobia (in Los Angeles, c. 2007!) Same-sex couples were not welcome. Anyway, women did NOT lead. There were a few gays, closeted in the heterocentric roles.

For the first year, I didn’t try to understand, I just surrendered to an unresolvable cognitive dissonance. In the daytime I was at war for the truth, fierce she-man among men. At night, I was Scarlet O’Hara.

In the second year, a friend was expelled from a milonga for leading another heterosexual sex-symbol and my superego showed up. “I will learn to lead and I will lead everywhere.” It was a moral imperative.

My entire adult life had been devoted to working and acting ethically. From anti-racism to strictly ecological living, every decision had to fit the moral codes I had embraced, whether or not anyone would see or know. The only exception was that I let smart boys abuse me – but that was my private life.  I had spent my evenings in meetings carefully crafting political plans that were thoroughly ethical, democratic, consistent with our intentions for a liberated world, and resistant to corruption.

• • •

Unfortunately tango’s backward gender politics did not turn out to be its only anti-social gesture. As a student and then a professional, I learned that tango is a profoundly anti-ethical industry.

Tango dancers behave like mercenaries (or sociopaths), casting aside every relationship and kindness to get the dance they want. (I have never experienced more intense pain from people who I called “friends” and even “partners” than that which tango routinely metes out.)

Tango teachers mystify tango to keep the students coming back week after week. They keep secrets. They posture, brag, make jokes, and intimidate and seduce their students rather than teaching them. (I am not exaggerating. I have collected years of testimony to these systematic behaviors.)

Tango professionals do not give credit where it is due. They twist history, “authenticity”, and the truth to serve their market projects. And they will walk over the bodies of the volunteers around the world who built the global market that made it possible to have careers and an industry.

• • •

In my work as a teacher I have adhered to professional academic standards for honesty about the limits of my knowledge, giving credit where it is due, not keeping secrets, and continually refining my pedagogy to develop a method that moves all students as fast as possible, not “only the good ones”.

Tango has been mystified. Teachers teach the students as slowly as possible, consistently blaming and disempowering the students. This is a business model. And it is unethical.

There are only 25 elements of tango. Any intelligent person, which tango dancers generally are, could learn and remember these within a year and then go off exploring.

The ineffable “connection” can in fact be described biomechanically. If the maestros cared about their students learning properly, they would teach in shorts or leggings so the students could better see what is going on with their legs. Instead they inanely repeat “lead with your chest“.

In many other fields of business the lack of accountability for quality would be grounds for consumer damage claims. I believe that many students deserve refunds from their teachers, based on fraud.

If you are taking regular classes, ask yourself about the quality of information you are receiving. If you can’t do the move correctly at the end of the class, and remember it and use it in the milonga, it’s not your fault; it’s bad teaching!

Of course it is not possible to assess the teacher by any one student, but it is certainly possible to assess teachers by the speed of learning and quality of movement of their students as a group.

Bad teaching is based on sequences that we all know the students can’t remember, based on “watch me” rather than clear procedural instruction, and based on abstract and non-scientific ways of describing body movement rather than precise anatomical terms of motion.

The MasterCourse conveys every piece of technique and the systems of variation for improvisation of the 25 elements of tango. The 2018 recordings are even further distilled and pedagogically refined from the 2017 version. We are just past halfway through the new production, but it seems that the final result will be all of tango in less than 16 hours.

I’ve spent seven years refining this technique. And now even I am startled by how quickly I can train beginners and how effectively I can transform experienced dancers with one or two instructions. Every teacher can give a lot of corrections. What’s different about TangoForge is that we give instructions in ways that are actionable.

Instead of telling you that you’ll be lucky to understand tango in 10 years, we build tools that enable you to understand tango in a matter of hours (MasterCourse), and to train your body in about a year (Practice Courses).  You can get them in the Digital School.

• • •

As I contemplate my 12 years of tango, I am alarmed by the effect it has had on me to accept and live in, a fundamentally anti-ethical context.

I was addicted. Now I just don’t have anywhere else to go.

I begin to consider the deeper costs of this ecstatic indulgence, whose ghostly traces I now worship. I have been spending night after night in an anti-social milieu only marginally constrained (and meanwhile enabled) by the etiquette of the codigos. Selfishness, unfounded egoism, betrayal, historical distortion, fronting, posing, and womanizing are just absolutely normal, routine behaviors. Neither ethics nor humility have any place at all here. Politeness, generosity, and graciousness are exactly and no more than tricks in the game. And women should keep their thighs and lips sealed.

No wonder I’ve lost the compassion I used to express in the effort to inspire and build a democratic and sustainable society.

 

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I want you to know that you're 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 guide. Are you ready to find the Partners you want?

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