We often say that tango is like a language. I already have written about how dance compares to various aspects of language learning, expression, and communication. However, there is a thing in which tango is not at all like a language. The categorization of dancers’ abilities in levels. We often separate dancers into levels like beginner, intermediate or advanced dancers but I would like to challenge this thinking. Follow me.
When you learn a language you take classes… learn vocabulary…. grammar… syntax… writing…. listening etc. As time goes by you learn more complex things… words…. grammatic phenomena etc. until you can say you mastered it. You can for example say I am at B1 B2 or C1 etc level because these are widely established standards of levels of language learning. B2, for example, means that you can have a normal conversation in everyday life about different issues while C1 that you can possibly use the language in a more formal and professional setting, etc. How do you know at which level you are? You take exams! There are institutions around the world like Cambridge University for English, Goethe Institute for German, etc. that have specific standardized examination processes that can verify which level you are at.
Tango as a language
Is there a similar thing in Tango? Is there a similar institute that certifies your knowledge of dancing Tango? Does it follow a widely established standard? Does it have clearly defined levels of knowledge and criteria of how to measure them? As far as I know (please let me know if I am missing something)…. No. Of course there are specific courses in Universities that some people attend and take exams…. but for all the rest of us there is no such thing. So how come we are proud that we are advanced dancers… or how come we neglect or snob beginners in milongas? What is the metric we use to define that? And if there is such a metric… How objective is it?
Let me tell you what I believe… It’s all just bullshit!
Why is it all BS?
Most often we measure the level by the amount of time spent in classes… or in milongas… etc. But, I can tell you that I danced with partners dancing and taking classes for decades and they felt worse than partners that were dancing for just a couple of months. Moreover, I am thrilled to dance with some partners who friends of mine might find them indifferent and vice versa. Maybe… in some cases… there is a large consensus of opinions that a person feels good when dancing with them… and maybe they are then considered as good dancers because of that… but a large consensus is also not an objective criteria. Do you know how many times in the history of mankind people fucked things up because of a large consensus?… Just look at different election and referendum results over the last couple of decades and you’ll get the point.
So who is to say objectively who is an advamced dancer and who is not? Nobody! As long as there are not specific defined metrics, levels and exams for them… nobody…. and I mean NOBODY can tell you objectively that you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced or super WOW dancer. As my teacher used to say we are all beginners… and some of us may be more beginners than others.
So… are we all the same?
I don’t mean to say that there are not better dancers than others, or people that have studied and researched and worked their whole lives on Tango. What I am saying is that for the big majority of social dancers there is no standardized objective metric that can tell you how good you are at a specific scale. So as long as no such thing exists… all types of levels and their judgment is purely subjective and can differ based on so many factors. Therefore, there is no equivalent to being a B1, B2 or C1 level of language and anyone can form their own subjective criteria on who is a good or a bad dancer.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is one of those personal subjective metrics that for me personally can judge how good of a dancer someone is. If you can dance and make your partner (no matter the role) melt in your embrace after it… then yes… you may be a good dancer!