Raising Tango babies


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The marvelous brains of babies

A few months ago I watched a documentary series on Netflix about babies and their development. What best can you do to pass some happy time? Watch babies, cats, and maybe then some stand-up comedy. Anyway, one of the most fascinating things that I learned from it, was the abilities that a baby’s mind has. As was discovered by recent research babies can understand the differences between different languages spoken, faces seen or even animal faces seen. Of course, they can’t tell you “You are now speaking English or Chinese, etc.”… but they can understand that when you speak English it’s a different thing from when you speak to them Greek, Chinese, or any other language.

As they grow up however these unbelievable abilities of their brain are lost. To be exact the term used was pruned. This is done because of the specialization that happens due to the environment. For example, a child who listens to Greek and no other language all the time develops abilities to mimic and learn the language but this is done at the expense of the ability to recognize and mimic other languages. Similarly, they learn to distinguish faces with Caucasian characteristics and lose the ability to distinguish between faces with Asian or African characteristics. There is a trade-off happening based on the environment a child is grown up.

Scientists though identified that children who received a wide range of stimuli from their environment as babies have developed better abilities in learning and adapting and in general being more resilient in life. Therefore if there is a suggestion coming from scientists is to try and provide as many stimuli as possible to your child. Bring it in contact with people of other cultures, with different languages and characteristics, with different tastes and smells, with animals and nature, etc. The more they get the better equipped they will be for their future even if they never realize it at that moment.

Broken educational systems

At some point in the TED talk I shared last week from Sugata Mitra, he is explaining that when people are threatened they kind of shut down their brains. So getting our children and threatening them with exams and failure in them, is certainly not helping their brains open up and receive the information we bombard them with. As I already wrote there he suggests letting them explore and giving them some encouragement every now and then can make learning just happen on its own.

We do follow a similar paradigm in Tango too. We don’t know how else to teach. We bombard people with information, maybe provide a space for exploration and threaten them with the milonga. Yes. The milonga is a threat to a beginner and not only. Do you remember your first time on the dancefloor in a milonga? I certainly do remember mine! I was on a quite crowded floor, in between two couples turning round and round and with my fiancee as my dance partner. I only knew how to walk and maybe lead a front ocho or so. Every single step I made was a huge achievement. I will never forget it.

Apart from all the intimidation that the practical things on the dancefloor create after some point, there is social anxiety too. Will I be accepted by this or the other dancer? Will they enjoy dancing with me? Will they want to dance again with me? Am I boring to them? … the list goes on… And I can imagine that for ladies things can be even more difficult. All in all, you take classes and learn so much information when the threat of exclusion and rejection in the milonga is always in the back of your head. Your brain shuts down, stops being able to explore, stops being able to learn, and eventually… if you don’t struggle against it… you just quit.

Tango parents

I often hear from seasoned dancers “I am not going to dance with beginners or generally people who are not at my level because… I want to have fun in the milonga… because they need to prove themselves to me… because rejection will make them stronger… they will build character… learn to work to reach me…”… the list can go on forever. So if in a tango community, the experienced members are supposed to educate somehow the newer ones, these statements seem to me equal to the following behavior. Instead of providing a wide variety of stimuli… like tastes, smells, images, people, languages, etc. to your baby, you just allow them to eat only fruits, smell only the range of smells inside a house… see only faces of your larger family group… listen to only the same language you speak. Because that’s what you do when you decline your embrace… your touch… your unique style of movement… your musicality… your dance with them. You are saying… “No… You can’t experience what this flower smells like, or what other people of different characteristics look like, or how meat tastes like, etc. “

Add to this that you are threatening them with social exclusion and rejection if they don’t prove to be worthy of your expectations and you have yourself the perfect recipe for parenting! You can just wait (as a parent), that they will somehow find their way out of this shit hole and climb up and prove that they are worthy of your attention! Would you raise your children like that? I don’t know… maybe you like this style of parenting.

Well… you could always say… I didn’t come to Tango to be a parent and get more responsibilities. I didn’t want to have Tango-babies to take care of. If so… then you have to wait till next week.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a letter from a prisoner to his mother. He writes to confirm if his wife left their kid in an orphanage to live with her new partner and promises to take revenge with his knife when he is out of prison. Obviously, none of all this described in the song is good parenting advice… but… in the heart of it stands the love and care of a parent for his children.

So what about you? If you are an experienced dancer, have you ever considered yourself as a parent to other members of the community? If yes… would you say you are taking care of your Tango-babies? If you are new to the community… do you have members that you see as Tango-parents? Are they loving and caring or strict and tough? Which ones do you prefer? 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.


4 responses to “Raising Tango babies”

  1. Katrin Schmäl Avatar
    Katrin Schmäl

    Nun, meine Beobachtung ist, dass je jünger und attraktiver die Tango-Anfängerinnen sind, umso höher die Bereitschaft und der Enthusiasmus der Führenden, den «Tango Daddy» zu spielen und auf jeder Milonga aufzufordern, oft noch mit vielen gut gemeinten Ratschlägen und Erklärungen zu den einzelnen Schritten… Wenn eine 60-jährige, unauffällig aussehende Frau zum ersten mal eine Milonga besucht, wird sie leider schlechte Chancen haben, von erfahrenen und beliebten Leadern aufgefordert zu werden. Wenn wiederum eine Followerin sich regelmäßig von unerfahrenen Führenden auffordern lässt, läuft sie Gefahr, seltener bis gar nicht mehr von erfahrenen Tänzern aufgefordert zu werden und grundsätzlich unterhalb der eigenen Moglichkeiten zu tanzen. Gegen eine Sozialtanda ist nichts einzuwenden, schwierig finde ich es jedoch, wenn die Erwartungshaltung oder Hoffnung entsteht, dass man dann auf jeder Milonga zusammen tanzt. «Tangoeltern» zu sein kann nämlich bedeuten, sich für jemanden zuständig zu fühlen und in gewisser Hinsicht Verantwortung zu übernehmen. Ich hatte anfangs das Pech, dass sich auch «falsche» Personen zuständig fühlten, mir Ratschläge und Feedbacks zu geben oder gar illegalen Privatunterricht anzubieten- aus heutiger Sicht muss ich sagen, es hat mir damals mehr geschadet als geholfen. Ich war jedoch und bin tatsächlich sehr dankbar, dass ich auf den Milongas von Anfang an viel aufgefordert wurde, von sehr unterschiedlichen Tänzern- dadurch habe ich schnell verstanden, dass es nicht den einen einzig richtigen Tango gibt, sondern unendlich viele Meinungen und Einstellungen, die sich oft widersprechen. Letztlich muss jeder Tänzer und jede Tänzerin den eigenen Tango finden.

    1. chris.kourou Avatar

      Katrin first of all let me send you a big BIG HUGE Thank you!!!
      I know it takes some courage to write some ugly truths out there and you have my full respect for that.
      Now… To the point of younger girls being able to find “Tango-daddys” easier than older ladies… It is sad but true. I think it is up to the community to send those people away… or at least warn young girls on the “who is who” of the community.
      On the point of having someone there for you as a newcomer I believe it is a very nice suggestion although I wouldn’t formalize it… I would leave that to experienced members to decide how to take care of newer members.
      I think that we should try to have an unwritten rule for people who want to help newcomers, given all the different false reasons that a parent-child relationship of different sexes can have. Tango daddies in milongas should be seeking to help boys (by having chats, listening to their worries, telling them their own childhood memories etc.) while Tango mommies should be helping girls in the same way.
      So parents of different sex/role take care to dance with newcomers… and parents of the same sex/role take care of the rest.
      And yes… Last but not least… Everyone has (and must have) their own Tango… but maybe some have yet realized that. More on this… In a couple of weeks.

  2. […] a recent discussion with some friends when I pointed out that the responsibilities of taking care of lower-level members are on to advanced members of a community, I was confronted with a very valid argument. Some advanced dancers will tell you that they […]

  3. […] few weeks ago I posted a text about newcomers and low-level dancers and how the behavior of advanced dancers towards them can affect their development. In that post, I […]

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