The imitation game

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Monkey see monkey do

In my famous “I am a snob dancer” post, I wrote in the discussion that followed that experienced dancers influence the attitude of the whole community. If they see tango as a competition and they create their own little circles, this behavior will inevitably transfer to newer members. If they are open and welcoming this will also lead to an opener community. It’s called leading by example. From the time we are born, we are taught to imitate and there are numerous examples of experiments that have already proven that when we join a larger group we tend to follow the example of the existing members just because mainly we are afraid of being rejected.

Tango monkeys

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from the Greek community, was sitting out for too many tandas in a marathon. I asked him if he was ok and he told me that he was fine but he is afraid to dance with other dancers he doesn’t know because he is afraid that he will be ridiculed. He would be doing (as he told me) the same steps all the time and his partner would think he is not a good dancer. I told him that I also do the same moves all the time but nobody ever told me I am a bad dancer because of that.

Revisiting this discussion now, having both the experience of Greek and German communities, I can possibly explain his doubts. Many of the good dancers in the Greek community tend to focus on showing off. When they are on a milonga it’s like they are competing for attention. They must do all kinds of moves that they know… they must be loud and even more so if they are dancing with a good partner. So, the new members of the community have this as an example. This becomes unconsciously the normal… the goal… the purpose of dancing for the whole community. Impress your partner and mostly the crowd!

The environment sets the normal

In the German community in milongas with 200 people, you could sit out and watch the rhonda and nobody would stand out. There would be people with years of experience, very good technique, and rich vocabulary but they would not attract your attention at first glance. Of course, there would be couples that could catch your eye… that you would follow them dancing… but they would not “shout” with their moves for you to look at them. They would attract attention because of the smiles on their faces, the little funny moments of playing with the music, the nice time they seem to have, and their joy of sharing an embrace for 10 minutes.

Being another part of our social life tango does not escape from the imitation behavior that you will see in any other social group. Therefore, the experienced couples and the way they dance socially are setting the example for the rest even if the dancers themselves do not realize it. Having said that, I would argue that if my friend had grown as a dancer within a different community he would not be so insecure and he would manage to focus on a different purpose of dancing. I also cannot help thinking about how many more embraces the Tango world lose because of such false perceptions and insecurities set by respective communities.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

So tonight’s Goodnight Tango talks about anxiety in love… much like the anxiety my friend had with someone he didn’t know.

So how about you? Have you noticed the same pattern in your community? Is this a general phenomenon? did you notice differences with other communities? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.

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2 responses to “The imitation game”

  1. […] of my previous posts was titled the imitation game and was dealing with aspects of how communities differ and what influences them. The title was […]

  2. […] and struggles. In general, do whatever a good parent or a good boss would do. As I already wrote experienced members in a community often are considered role models for the lower level members. So be aware of that and act […]

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