Summer camps and job promotions
When I was about 10 years old my parents sent me to a summer camp. In the beginning, being the usually shy and introverted character I am. I was not sure I wanted to go. Somehow they convinced me though and I thank them for this. I continued going until about 15. At that point, I was a bit old to join as a simple camper and I had to apply for a position as a team leader. A team consisted of about 14 children which I would have the responsibility of. In my first years, I was assigned to teams of young boys about 8 to 10 years old. Later I was also assigned to teams of older boys until the age of 15. The benefit for me was that I could still enjoy meeting my friends, have fun with them, and create nice summer memories while my parents wouldn’t need to pay any fees (that they normally had to pay for my years as a camper)
Years passed by and I continued going every summer until at the age of 19 (or somewhere near that) I applied and got accepted for the position of a group sub-leader. A group consisted back then of 6 teams and they would usually share similar schedules. The benefit was still the same, nice summer vacations but since the responsibilities were now bigger I was also getting paid. It was starting to feel like a job albeit a pleasant one.
The same thing happens usually in the work environment. We all know the cycle. You do a job, you are good at it and at some point, you are asked to take a higher position with higher pay and more responsibilities. It’s a pattern that you will see in so many hierarchical social structures. It is so embedded in our social structures we take it for granted and sometimes we even try by ourselves to get that kind of promotion either by directly asking or leaving the current company (or any other social group) for another one, that can provide the additional rewards we look for. However, there is almost no way that the higher rewards will not come with higher demands and more responsibilities. Otherwise, why would someone pay you more for the same job you already do?
The smallest of such hierarchical structures I can think of is the family. You start young without responsibilities and as you age and develop skills you get more responsibilities until you build your own family when you are now higher in the hierarchy levels. At some point in this new family-building process, you may decide to have a child. You want it because you love children and you want to raise your own but when you take the decision you already know it comes with a lot of responsibilities. You can’t say I want to have a kid but I don’t want to be responsible for raising it. It just doesn’t work this way. Actually in every step of your life when you step a little higher on the ladder, you get more rewards and more responsibilities. Do you want to live alone, not in your parent’s house? Do you want to build a relationship with someone else? Every step on the ladder comes with a bigger reward and bigger responsibilities.
Tango community responsibilities
Every Tango community shares the same structure as any other social structure. We usually separate dancers into levels like the beginners the intermediates and the advanced. The way that someone is promoted is kind of similar to the company’s system. You work well, learn more, practice more, and someone from a higher level recognizes your work and rewards you with a Tanda. Then another and another one and so on and so forth. The more you dance with dancers of the higher levels the more you climb the hierarchy of the Tango community. This also means that your dances become more and more enjoyable over time. You get bigger rewards.
But aren’t we forgetting something? As we said in any other hierarchical social structure a higher-level position is also accompanied by higher responsibilities. So… Is it fair that in Tango you can get to enjoy bigger rewards without taking up any additional responsibilities? Normally it shouldn’t be so. So what kind of responsibilities could an advanced dancer have? What else?… As in many other structures, the responsibility is to take care of the lower-level members. You may dance with them, educate them, maybe even just chat with them… listen to their problems and struggles. In general, do whatever a good parent or a good boss would do. As I already wrote experienced members in a community often are considered role models for the lower level members. So be aware of that and act accordingly.
The problem however is that in a company you are asked before you get a promotion. In a family, you take the decisions yourself knowing in advance what they entail. Nobody is forced to take on more responsibilities (usually). It’s always your choice whether to accept or not a higher position, knowing what comes together as responsibilities. You can always say no if you think you don’t want to climb to higher levels. Also, usually in such structures, there is an evaluation process. If you don’t meet your responsibilities you can always be demoted, fired, or stripped of your rewards.
Did anyone ask you if you wanted to be an advanced dancer in your community? Did any advanced dancer tell you before you danced with them… “If you accept to dance with me… Then you should know you need to take responsibility for taking care of lower-level members”. Nobody signs a contract and nobody is really telling you of such responsibilities. And what about the evaluation process? Is anyone going to tell you that they will not dance with you anymore or that they don’t consider you an advanced dancer anymore because you don’t fulfill your responsibilities? Obviously none! On the contrary, they will continue rewarding you because this way they get their reward too.
In 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 don’t want to take on more responsibilities in their lives. They come to Tango to enjoy and have fun. They already have a lot of responsibilities in their lives and don’t want Tango to add more to them. Like the responsibility that is asked is something huge! I can see where this comes from but in the end it’s like I listen to a parent saying “I wanted to have children but I don’t like the responsibilities which come with it” or an employee saying “Yes… I would gladly take a new position… but I don’t want to be responsible for the department I will lead”. Does it make sense to you? It certainly wouldn’t make sense in any other hierarchical social structure! But somehow in Tango, we put up with it. We accept and even praise and reward this behavior.
So what can you do? Can you force advanced dancers to dance with lower-level dancers? Obviously not. Everyone is dancing with whoever they like. No one can tell you the opposite. Can you somehow fire them? Well… that’s a question for organizers! Would you not accept such a dancer in your milonga? Would you somehow demote them or strip them of their rewards? This is a question for the other dancers of the same level… would they stop dancing with such a dancer, reducing this way their reward? I don’t know. I know what I see in reality. In reality, very few organizers have the willingness to control such dancers on their milongas and very few other advanced dancers will decline a dance with them. So they get away with it.
What is the solution then? I don’t know. Everyone can reflect and decide for themselves. Personally, as a beginner dancer, I decided recently that I don’t really care to dance with such dancers even if I know they might be missing a super Tanda! I’d rather not dance it at all! Maybe sometime in the future communities will develop such an evaluation mechanism (like they have with promotions) and decide to demote dancers of their status… till then… let us just think about our responsibilities and our position in our communities.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango has a title that translates to “Bad company” which I think is the route of the problem. People end up in bad companies for whatever reason and want to fit in. Sometimes those bad companies are very attractive and you struggle to get in them. Once in, you imitate the behavior of the group and in the process they change themselves and become something else. But more on that next week.
So how about you? Are you considered an advanced member of your community? Do you feel you have any responsibilities against it? Do you want to take them over? If yes… How do you do that? How do you set an example in your community? 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.
P.S. And that’s how I can finally justify my famous snob dancer post! Yes… I am a beginner snob dancer… snubbing the snob dancers!