Arlene's London Tango Pages

How did Tango Bring out the Bitch in Me?

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I am normally a very nice person.  I am usually really positive and upbeat.  I try to leave people feeling better for having been in my company.  When I first started dancing Tango, I was very encouraging and maybe a bit naive.  So when did I become a Tango Bitch, and so critical?  And why?  Sometimes I notice when I am not my normal self and I want to know how I got that way.

When I first started dancing regularly (Salsa), it was all so new to me.  There was so much to learn and think about, new people to meet, and new music to listen to.  I was dancing with a small, regular crowd, similar to the one here in Eastbourne, and most of the people were friendly with each other.  Not once did I worry about if I was dancing enough or who with.  I usually had a good time and partners were changed after every song.  Some men danced with me and some didn’t.  It wasn’t a big deal.  Eventually, my mind was free and I was able to dance and just enjoy the music.  I wasn’t great, but I was competent and happy with my dancing.  I wasn’t bitchy.  I was really nice and encouraging to new people.  I never said anything negative about anyone and I never encountered any negativity in my direction or about anyone else.  Granted, my Salsa dancing experience was limited to a certain crowd and would probably have been different if I danced in Central London, where I hear it is more of a meat market and people may be more critical.

Then along came Tango.  Initially, my experience with Tango was similar to Salsa.  I started with a small group which was friendly and social.  Things changed when I expanded my learning and venues.  Learning a new dance form is challenging enough in itself without having to worry about personalities.  I was going to bigger venues than what I had been used to – so many people and so many dance possibilities, or so I thought.

When I went to my first London Milonga, I barely danced, but I did talk to a lot of very nice people.  I was given a lot of advice.  I had to learn the Tango rules. There were many. Eventually I was out 4-5 nights a week.  I got to know who most everyone was even if I didn’t dance with them.  I danced with anyone who asked me and in so doing I encountered rudeness from some leaders that you wouldn’t believe.  After about a year of this I was advised to be more selective and to choose my dance partners carefully.  Surprisingly, I still danced a lot, but with better leaders.

In my third year of dancing in this way, I noticed something about myself.  Firstly, I felt confident with my dancing, which is a good thing.  I may not be the greatest dancer, but I am competent and have musicality.  I am happy with my Tango.  Secondly, I started dancing less.  I became more choosy and maybe others became more choosy about dancing with me.  I started to complain more about the lack of good leaders.  I wasn’t the only one complaining.   There were others.  We would complain about everything – leadership, the venues, teachers, music, etc.  I cut back on going out.  Nothing really changed.  In fact, for me things got worse.  Since I wasn’t going out much, I expected more. I became really intolerant.  It spilled over into my other dancing, Salsa and Ceroc.  I was finding myself being critical in situations that never warranted it before.  How did this happen?  Is there some correlation about dancing Argentine Tango that causes a person to become arrogant, critical, and intolerant?  In every blog I read about Tango, there is always something written about the negative aspects of going to a Milonga.  People are so surprised and shocked that they need to write about it.  There are even rules about how to behave at a Milonga!  Eventually, one gets used to it and just accepts it.  I suppose if one is exposed to something long enough, one becomes immune to it or becomes a part of it.  I suppose I got sucked into that critical aspect of being in a Milonga.  Not content with observing, many of us had to voice our opinions and it wasn’t all good.  Misery loves company as they say.

I have known women that stopped coming to the Milongas only to return a few months later.  Why did they leave?  They got bored with the attitude and seeing the same people all of the time.  Nothing changed.  They needed to do something else.  They weren’t bored with the music or with the dancing – they were bored with the situation.  They didn’t like how they were reacting to their environment, so they took themselves away from it for a while.  ‘Tango will always be there,’ they said.

About a year ago I changed my attitude.  Something had to shift.  I had been listening to a woman complaining and I realised that I have been that woman.  I was out to have a good time, not to listen to someone moaning about the lack of good leadership or how crap the music was.  Sometimes the only way to change a situation is to change your behaviour and see what happens.  I decided there and then to stop complaining.  I was going out less, but I started to enjoy myself more.  I looked forward to going out with the same passion as when I first started.   I may not have been dancing any more as a result, as I was still being selective, but I enjoyed my dances and evenings out more.  If I wasn’t dancing I was meeting new people, having lovely conversations with my friends, or listening to the music.  Going to a Milonga became more of a social event for me rather than just focusing on getting dances in.  The bitchyness left me.  I was less irritated.  I was back to my normal self. 🙂

I still have strong opinions about dancing Argentine Tango.  I know what I like and how I want my Tango to be.  I still think people should be able to make choices about who they dance with without being attacked for it – something I didn’t understand when I first started but appreciate now.  People need to be polite and respect each other’s decisions.  We all have our own journey to make.  We will make mistakes along the way.  We will be overloaded with advice and information.  Some of us will  become experts and even teachers in a very short time.

I am not dancing Tango so much these days since I moved.  There isn’t any here.  There are times that I really miss dancing Argentine Tango. I still have my music, which is what I fell in love with first.  If I want to dance, I go to Salsa or Ceroc, but it doesn’t move me the way dancing Argentine Tango does.  As I haven’t been going to the Milongas like I used to, I have had a lot of time to reflect on how my life has changed and been enriched since I started dancing.  I have also taken stock on some of my behaviour and attitudes and have been surprised at how negative I had become, which is not me at all.  This negativity has been mainly contained to Tango fortunately, and as it was isolated, it was easy for me to look at and rectify. I may miss dancing in a close embrace, but I don’t miss the negative attitude that can pervade the milongas sometimes.

If at some point you feel you are getting a bit jaded and wonder if you should still be going to the Milongas.  Take a break and see what happens, Tango will always be there.  When you return, you may see and feel things differently.

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