Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Personal Friends

I get a lot out of the social side of tango. Once, for a brief period, I even got a personal enemy, the only one I've ever had as far as I'm aware. Since all I had done to offend her was get invited somewhere because I danced relatively well, I treasured her. The look she gave me that said "what are you doing here?" was pure gold, and if am fortunate enough to keep my faculties, it will give me joy, moral and social instruction, and innocent amusement to the day I die. (Her attempt at revenge was successful as far as it went, but so lacking in ambition that I really couldn't grudge it.)

But those sentimental memories are beside the point, which is from Melina:

Melina's 2 Cents: Tango Friends : Last weekend, I've been teaching in Amsterdam. As we‘ve been there a couple of times, we know quite some people and places. It feels good to come to a town, where you‘ve already made friends.

But it‘s sad to say good-bye.

... Tango is a challenging dance: it demands that we bring in our whole personality, our body, our soul. You give a lot and you receive a lot. No wonder, that Tangueros get addicted to that kind of nomad life!

But are we really making friends?

Do we not meet in a kind of bubble, where everything evolves about Tango and where huge parts of our life are blanked? Do you know the name of person you just greeted so enthusiastically? Do you know, if your dance-partner has got siblings, a wife, a husband? Do you know her job and do you know her plans for the future? Do you know, if he sleeps well at night or if he‘s suffering from a disease? Most likely not. Because all we talk about is Tango. We meet, we dance, we chat... and we leave again.
I think for some people, myself included, this is much more a good thing than a bad thing. It's possible to socialise with lots of people, from different backgrounds and with different world views, but subject to clear boundaries which we don't cross unless we really want to. It's very safe.

It's good to have the opportunity to take people just as I find them in the moment, without obligation, and it's good that they do the same for me. If  we take to each other, and other things come up in conversation, then we can go further, but there's no pressure or expectation that comes just from being there.

Many other social situations (other than work) have far too much pressure towards talking and asking about personal things and histories that are nobody's damn business, rather than simply acting like a good person. And for any creature who's inclined to be reserved, that increases isolation rather than diminishing it.

Melina's situation is more like mine would be without tango - meeting everyone through work!

[Edit: And it's also a great way to make friends and get attached to people. It's just that you don't have to and it's not the only or primary goal. The broader point of Melina's post when read as a whole, is that saying goodbye to those friends all the time can get saddening - and that's what travelling all the time is like, it's not necessarily a tango thing. There are lots of tango people I really miss if they are not (or I am not) around for a while, regardless of how little I know about them, so it must be hard. ]


Chris said...

"I think for some people, myself included, this is much more a good thing than a bad thing."

Agreed. It's often said that upon entering the milonga, one leaves the rest of one's life at the door. I doubt any milonguero/a would want it otherwise.

Thanks Melina for putting into words the contrasting thoughts that one usually hears only spoken by her colleagues. This illuminates an important difference. Whereas tango workers often have no choice but to bring their work into the milonga, dancers enjoy the benefits of leaving theirs outside.

LimerickTango said...

Isn't the bubble part of the social contract of tango. We share 3x3 minutes in an embrace and then go our separate ways. If anything that tacit understanding that we'll go our separate ways at the end of the tanda makes it easier to share the embrace.

Going to the milonga to chat and socialise results in people sitting with their back to the dance floor wondering why they are not being asked to dance.

Tango Therapist said...

I lived in Germany for 12 years (where Melina lives) and found the notion of friendship much different. There is a skepticism about all short relationships in genera. But specifically I would hear that Americans were "superficial" because they came and went (Americans in Germany). But when Germans visit America? They love the helpfulness and friendliness. My wife found people being polite in a American grocery story "superficial," but then after getting used to it, couldn't stand shopping in German stores. I have profound relationships with people I have met in tango. People rally around widows/widowers. My experience is much different, but I do not travel around the world and have millions of friends like Detlef and Melina.