A couple of posts ago I was writing about the definition of Tango professionals and how it is difficult to rate professionals and more specifically teachers in Tango since the customers in the market don’t have clear and common expectations. Although, as it was pointed out in some comments, rating teachers who are also artists at the same time is a very slippery slope and it shouldn’t be the case most of us agree that expectations of what Tango is to each one of us personally change radically during our tango journey. This means that you might end up changing your mind about previous teachers (for better or for worse) the more you experience learning from different teachers. Therefore it is really difficult to have an objective kind of comparison metric… a kind of rating of professionals in Tango.
Image of Tango
As it is clear from the previous post the starting point for all this confusion is our expectations from the teachers’ market. To be exact, the confusion starts with the customers’ expectations. Think about it. What was your idea of “dancing Tango” before you started your journey? What is your non-tango friends’ reaction when you tell them that you dance Tango? Does anyone know what a milonga is? Does anyone know what happens in Tango marathons? Do you need to explain that there are no medals on them? Did you know any of these when you entered Tango? Personally, I didn’t have a clue about all this.
My idea of dancing Tango was mainly shaped by what I had seen in movies or in shows like Dancing with the Stars. This is the contact that an average person who is not much into performing arts has about Tango. That is why many people are impressed when they hear that I dance Tango. They expect that I dance by doing all those crazy kicks and lifts of my partners who I throw 5 feet in the air and so on and so forth. Others might think I am looking to hook up with young beautiful women and that this is a kind of appetizer for sex etc. People can have all the wrong impressions when they hear the word Tango and only a very few think about connection, dialogs, improvisation, emotions, culture, etc. I didn’t know all of these when I started too. Actually, I didn’t know them even long enough after I started dancing. It took me time to even start digging into them.
My mindset about Tango when I started was that it would be just like another dance. A simple movement with the music together with other people. I saw it mostly as an opportunity for physical exercise… something like going to the gym… but with music… a bit more enjoyable and less boring. This is how I approached Tango in the beginning. Later on, I experienced dancing with people that I had never known before, people that I didn’t even speak a common language to. I then experienced the close embrace and even more the close embrace from a stranger… and all this started shifting my idea of what Tango is. I started realizing how I felt different emotions when dancing, like sadness, longing, love, affection, rage, etc. I also noticed the change in how my partners experienced emotions when dancing with me. Slowly the purely physical exercise became a much deeper introspection and expression of feelings and emotions. This meant that I wasn’t any more interested in the physical aspects of the dance alone but also in the emotional too and how they can be bound together. How can you use your body and its movement to express, communicate, and receive emotions.
What you see is NOT what you get
As you can see, the initial ideas of Tango (for many of us) are so much different from what we end up getting. It is one of the cases where what you see is NOT what you get. It is one of the very common cases where advertising works like a charm. It attracts people to a product for all the wrong reasons. It tries to hook them up with those expectations in mind and when they find out that all this is a scam, they either leave or stay because they were lucky enough to find something else that kept them. I think that is one of the main reasons why Tango classes usually have big dropout rates.
If you think the illusion stops there, you guessed wrong! Even when you are already in Tango… when you are already hooked because of all the right reasons that you somehow discovered, you are still bombarded with the same kind of messaging from advertising. Take a typical festival or any other tango event poster on social media. What do you see? Some couples in some pretentious pose, maybe also in the middle of complex tango moves with the woman’s legs wrapped around the man, with lusty looks on each other like they are playing in a soap opera, etc. An image that conveys either that this is a dance to hook up, find a love partner, or do crazy acrobatic gymnastics. Even when you know this is a lie… you are still fed the same lies!
Of course, the shows are made to impress and inspire and there is a whole industry of clothing, styling, photo, and video making, etc. behind all these. I understand they may need to sustain this image because it helps the current business model of many teachers out there. But please… Just please… Just between us… Can we get a bit more realistic here? We all know that most of us will not be doing acrobatics and we don’t expect that going to a festival or a marathon will lead us to crazy sex or passionate love relationships. It might… but… if you are still in Tango only for this… there is a high chance of getting disappointed. Plus, if you really end up finding this passionate love in Tango, either you should be careful what you wish for… or you will realize that Tango is just the tip of the iceberg that keeps you together. So in the end it is much less significant than what you thought for a long-term relationship. Life is not always like movies and you never get to see the “they lived happily ever after” part of them. Get real!
Of course, there are some couples and organizers who do not follow the trend and break the patterns in their advertising messages. Take for example the photo on this post’s image. It is from a young adorable teaching couple (Natalia and Agustin). They use this photo very often on their events promotions and it’s the cover photo on their Facebook page. The things that come to mind when you look at it are fun, joy, communication, confusion, misunderstandings, embrace, collaboration, etc. No sexy poses, no lusty looks, no acrobatics, not even fancy dresses. It feels so much closer to what you actually find in Tango… normal next-door people trying to communicate with each other with whatever that implicates. Right? This is the kind of advertising that Tango needs more of today. I believe there are more couples like Natalia and Agustin who have a more down-to-earth, realistic advertising but I think we need this to become the main image instead of what is now projected. It won’t happen overnight but… I hope sometime it will.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a song that starts from advertising (at least as I understand it through Google Translate) and goes on to uncover the many hidden secrets and stories behind a poster. Like the hidden secrets of Tango that you discover when you manage to demystify the images on the posters and go beyond them.
What about you? Do you think that the advertising of Tango today is honest? What attracted you Tango? Is the image of Tango projected even within the existing community something that conveys the correct message? Would you like to see a change in that? Or do you prefer to let the myths continue as they are? 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.