Not everything that can be counted counts.William Bruce Cameron, 1963, “Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking”
Not everything that counts can be counted.
Measuring language knowledge
In my previous post, I was making the case for the nonexistence of levels in dancing. The main argument was that Tango is not like a standardized language that you learn, take exams and certify your knowledge. Levels are purely a construct that separates dancers but without any objective measurable criteria.
In this post, I will extend this thought a bit further. When you speak a language your objective is to communicate as accurately and correctly as possible your opinions, arguments, ideas, actions, emotions, etc. to other people. To do that there is a certain amount of vocabulary you need to learn and some knowledge of grammatic and syntax rules in order to form sentences, paragraphs, and texts that make sense. Then you need to also be able to speak, read and hear correctly based on the rules and vocabulary you know.
The metrics one can use to measure your knowledge, are the correctness based on the rules and the amount of vocabulary you know. If you have taken exams on foreign language learning you certainly know what I mean. The objective as always is to measure how accurate and correct you can communicate.
So if we said that we want to standardize Tango… what would be the objective? What would we want to measure? If we use the language analogy we could say how correct and accurate can you communicate your “ideas” to another person. But what is an “idea”? If it is simply a movement then we could measure for example…. how accurately you communicate a cross as a leader… or how well you understand it as a follower. But is this really enough? Is a movement really the idea we communicate in our dance or is it the emotion? If we are aiming in expressing emotions with our dance shouldn’t we also aim to measure how well can we express them?
Here comes the complexity. Expressing emotions is a purely subjective thing. Let’s take for example love as an emotion and music as a medium/language to express it. To some people expressing their love with a tango song, might feel fitting but to others, it might be more fitting to express it with a rock ballad or a jazz song, or a piece of classical music! If you were to measure how accurate and correct this expression is then depending on the receiver it could be from ridiculous to the absolute expression of the deepest love! So how can you measure any kind of accuracy or correctness?
So, can we really measure our dance?
Don’t count it because… It counts
Here comes the opening quote to give us the answer… not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. Tango dancing as a medium for expressing emotions is something quite important… something that really counts in our lives… but it’s also something that can’t be counted. If we manage to accept this truth then everything will be so much easier! Actually, I would argue that it should never be attempted to measure dancing. Because when you will start counting it… maybe it will stop to count.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Speaking of counting… have you ever attempted to count the stars in the sky on a star-filled night like the one on the title of tonight’s Goodnight Tango?