In my year in Scotland for my master’s degree, I had the opportunity to live in the student’s residence apartments with a group of many different students from so many European and not only countries. One day, the student union organized a day trip from Aberdeen, where we lived, to Edinburgh. I can’t tell you how much I love this city but… that’s a totally different topic. The bus to Edinburgh was full of students from so many countries I don’t remember. However, there is one thing I still remember to date. The only loud voices on the bus were the Greeks and the Italians. Everyone else was indeed discussing, joking, and having fun but in a much milder tone than us.
After the long break of Covid, a lot has changed in terms of dancing in the two communities I am part of (Frankfurt and Thessaloniki). I started to get closer and meet more people from the Frankfurt community and I stopped seeing a lot of familiar faces in Greece. Actually, there were milongas that I attended in Greece, and felt like a total stranger. It was then that I started observing the differences and in this post, I will try to explain one of them.
After a marathon in Greece, a friend of mine from Frankfurt looking at the people dancing told me. “It feels like they are fighting”. Indeed, I also wrote how I was annoyed by the loud moves and the style of dancing that in some cases was distracting. Back then I told myself that this is their problem and it was just maybe a bad attitude from some people who can’t really separate the show from social dancing.
A few weeks ago I was discussing the different communities in a milonga in Frankfurt with another Greek friend who she actually lived long enough abroad to not know much about the Tango scene in Greece and more specifically in Thessaloniki where I usually dance. I was trying to explain that the people in Greece seem to dance more in a dynamic style, often with an open embrace with a lot more energy and movement. Not like the soft, quiet, low-tone Tango, you see in the milonga we were in. And then she said something that made absolute sense and in just a split moment switched on the lightbulb in my head. “Well, I guess it’s like when we (Greeks) talk!”. We usually are loud, we use a lot of body movement and gestures and to someone who doesn’t get the language it might seem like there is tension between the people discussing. Well, just switch on the TV in Greece and watch a talk show and you’ll get what I mean.
Immediately, the day trip to Edinburgh came to mind. How the only loud voices were us and Italians and then I realized that a lot of dancers from Italy are actually pretty similar. It all made sense now! It’s not anyone’s problem. It’s simply a cultural difference. We bring to our dance our character and of course, our nationality plays a big role in it because it’s the environment we grow up in. So if all your life you learned to be loud, talk loud, and act loud, how could you suddenly start dancing silently? It’s in your blood… in your character!
Who am I then?
Now, this led me to personal exploration. What does it mean for me the fact that the loud Greek way of dancing Tango feels strange and alien to me? Am I infected so much by the German or northern European way of dancing? Am I becoming more of a German even in my dance? Or maybe wasn’t I ever so much Greek? Well, I think it all started with my master’s degree in Scotland. After that, my Ph.D. research, my life and work as a researcher in EU projects, and my work now here in Germany made me more of a European citizen rather than a Greek or a German one. I felt like this even before coming to live in Frankfurt. But now I can also see it in my dance and in my attitude and opinion towards it. Most importantly, however, I can now accept and understand much easier the Greek way of dancing the Tango. I can’t say I like it much but at least I see where it comes from.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
I wasn’t sure what kind of song to pick for tonight’s Goodnight Tango. What Tango song could describe this cultural struggle and transformation in me but I think it couldn’t be anything else but something from d’Arienzo from his melodic period with Maure, especially after 43. It’s an orchestra that deep inside has a very powerful energy which however has managed to contain and restrict it blending it with the soft, melodic, romantic trend of that time. It’s like a loud guy from the south moving to the quieter north and adjusting to it.