Quick note for my Greek readers…
Μετά από παράκληση φίλων το κείμενο αυτό έχει μεταφραστεί και στα Ελληνικά εδώ.
In Greece, in a few days, we will have our parliamentary elections. All parties strive for being the absolute majority that will allow them to govern the country without having to compromise or negotiate their policies with anyone… because every party in Greece is the keeper of their own absolute unique truth. The followers of each party also believe that they are the only ones to be right and everyone else is just stupid enough and cannot understand them.
Having learned enough German to follow the daily news in Germany I was surprised by them. First of all, the coverage of themes was much broader and more reporting the facts instead of having journalists analyzing for hours the events without actually reporting anything useful (like in Greece). What is also surprising is the culture of dialog and negotiations you see in Germany. For example, they have a long history of coalition governments. Right now their government consists of 3 parties and they often disagree but after negotiations they manage to get somewhere. Recently the country faced a big wave of strikes of employees asking for raises in their salaries. The reporting of this story in the news was very much objective presenting arguments of both sides and most importantly the main points that the employees were requesting and what was the thing the employer was willing to give. So once again, the presentation of negotiations with the position and arguments of each side, nothing more, nothing less.
Getting out of my bubble
As you may have understood so far, because of my job I get to split my time between Greece and Germany. I spend enough time in both places and inevitably comparisons are made. Based on that, I have written a few times about the differences between communities in Tango and how for example they are influenced by their leaders (not meaning the dancing role but the prominent members of a community).
When I joined the Frankfurt community I was surprised to see a group of organizers collaborating and organizing (apart from their individual milongas) two big monthly milongas. They were always the main events of the month and attracted a lot of attention also from surrounding cities. I was also surprised to see organizers of one milonga maintaining a site with a calendar of all events in the area regardless of who was organizing them. Moreover, there was also some kind of communication or agreement between organizers (even for events in nearby cities) so that milongas would not overlap with each other.
The community where I came from in Thessaloniki was a lot different. Instead of collaboration, there was always an air of competition between schools, teachers, milongas, and organizers. You wouldn’t see people often advertising other organizers’ events, the organizers and teachers would rarely visit any other milongas apart from their own and I am sure that in the background, a lot of other tricks and backstabbing was happening between them.
I always wanted to write about how sad I felt whenever I was coming back home (Thessaloniki), especially after Covid, when I started to realize the fragmentation of the community. When I was part of it, mostly before Covid, I was new, I have never experienced any other communities and I was in one small part of the community not realizing the full extent of it. I was in a bubble and couldn’t easily see outside of it. The distance and the pause of Covid and the return to milongas made it all so much more obvious for me as I was now not a member of a bubble… but an outsider… a visitor… a stranger.
Negotiation or fight to death
A recent event in Frankfurt confirmed, even more, my observations on the differences. After Covid, the scene in Frankfurt milongas changed a bit. Some members of the previous group, who were cooperating in the organization of the big milongas I mentioned earlier, broke apart into a different group and started their own weekly Sunday afternoon milonga taking up the slot of one of the two previously big milongas. Everything was ok and the community welcomed the new milonga until the first group found a place and restarted their monthly Sunday milonga at the same time as before Covid, inevitably overlapping with the new one. Immediately after the announcement, there were discussions within the community. Many have voiced their frustrations, concerns, and questions on Facebook. The group tried not to escalate things and provided in-person explanations instead of encouraging a never-ending Facebook comments “fight”. I will not get into more details but I can say I am glad to see that there is in the end some kind of mutual understanding. People came together, discussed, negotiated and in the end found an acceptable way for both groups to solve their problems and coexist without leaving the smell of war in the air. Of course, it may not be perfect… disagreements may be left and probably will happen again but at least there is a culture that encourages communication and dialog in order to find a solution to those problems.
I have never seen a similar thing happening in Greece. At least not before Covid. On the contrary, I often have the impression that people would rather start a milonga on top of others just to make each other’s life difficult… to get their people… to pick a fight. No one from the community ever says something when more than one event overlap with each other. People have now grown accustomed to it. Lately, one of the oldest places in the city called TangoBar was forced to stop its Friday night milonga because it wasn’t any more viable. They now organize a milonga only Wednesday. TangoBar is actually a real bar (not a dance school)… and in the good old days used to be the melting pot of Tango where dancers from all different schools would go, meet and enjoy our favorite dance. They used to have milongas almost every night. Now, the owner seeing how the community is breaking apart is forced to cooperate with different dance schools and organize events for other kinds of dancing. TangoBar is also situated in the center of a nightlife area of Thessaloniki and it used to be a point of attraction for new dancers. Teachers would often go there to kind of advertise themselves and find new students.
Looking at the different reactions and events I can’t help but draw parallels with the dialog cultures I described earlier. People in Germany have it in their lifestyle to communicate, discuss, express their positions and arguments, and try to find a solution through negotiations and compromises. On the other hand, people in Greece will use any kind of difference as a cause to start a fight… a fight to exhaustion… where either they totally win or lose. For Greeks, there is no negotiation… It is either my way or no way!
I write often in this blog that Tango is like a language and dancing to it is like having a dialog with your partner. Many have said the same before me. Tango is also a social dance and being social means that it needs to integrate differences. It includes people from different cultures, backgrounds, nationalities, styles, etc., and brings them all together in its embrace. Its history is full of differences and disagreements between styles, orchestras, generations, etc. Being social means that inevitably there will be disagreements within your community. But if we can take a lesson from the dance we love is that we should always discuss, negotiate, express ourselves honestly, respect, and accept each other.
Communities that do so thrive despite the temporary conflicts. They will always find their way through the difficult times. Communities that draw walls between their groups, compete, and fight with any means to exhaustion are destined to die. I just hope that people in key places in Thessaloniki, leaders of the community will finally learn a bit more from our beloved dance and manage to bridge their differences before the community goes extinct. After all, it’s all in their best interest!
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a deeply sad and nostalgic song telling the story of three friends who are now separated for some reason and no one comes to their appointment. It is all about a broken friendship and a wish for a reunion, much like a broken community… much like the Tango community in Thessaloniki.
So how about you? Do you notice differences in how dialogue and conflict are handled in your tango community? Have you ever been part of a community that thrives on negotiation and compromise? How does your experience compare with the description of the Greek and German tango scenes? 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.