The lost beginners

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The scenario

Let’s say you started dancing 10 years ago. You took regular classes for a few years and then went to the milongas, joined marathons and festivals, took classes from the best of the best in the world, worked a lot and you now enjoy your dance in the milonga. In the same first-year classes with you there was a partner who stopped taking classes after a couple of years, but for many reasons could not join the marathons and festivals you did, could not continue going often to the milongas, and in general did not progress as much as you did.

Whenever you were dancing with this partner you either felt a beautiful connection or had a lot of fun. Even to this day, you know that given the right music, you can still have fun with them. But you are now considered an advanced dancer in the community. You have danced with the best dancers in it and people admire you when they see you on the floor. You know that although you can have fun with your old classmate it will not look as good as when you dance with the elite. So what do you do? Would you continue dancing with them in the milongas whenever they come or would you not sacrifice the image you have now built to dance with a lower-level dancer?

Tango is not important

There is a very nice video where a teacher walks into a class and starts a lecture filling a big jar with golf balls. It asks the students if it is full and they say yes but he then brings up a set of pebbles and throws them in and they manage to fall in the cracks without overflowing the jar. When he asks the students if the jar is full they again answer yes but he again brings a bag of sand and pours some of it in the jar. The sand fills in the remaining cracks and the jar is now again full.

The meaning of the story is about priorities in life. If the jar was filled in the opposite order the big stones would not fit in the end. In our lives, we have things like our health, our families, and our friends which are quite important to us and should have priority over whatever else like our jobs, cars, houses, and so many other things. Guess where Tango fits for many of us in this analogy. Yes… it’s sand… just a small grain of sand. Most of the social dancers have Tango quite down in our list of priorities in life. If you face a life-threatening disease Tango can seem so irrelevant and small. If you face a family crisis, Tango can even disappear from your life.

Apart from that there is another aspect we tend to neglect when we see people that are not evolving as fast as we do. Resources. Tango needs time, money, and a bunch of other prerequisite resources in order to improve. When you have bigger priorities in life you are not left with enough resources to dedicate to Tango. For example, when I was in Greece I was working in 3 or 4 different jobs (sometimes 10 or 12 hours a day) to make ends meet. So spending 100 euros in a workshop was a huge deal because of the energy, the time and the money it needed. I would think about it 2, 3, and 4 times before joining. After moving to Germany where my hourly rate was increased I could live with one job and also have a surplus at the end of the month. So deciding to join an event became so much easier. Not to mention also the ease of traveling when you are in central Europe compared to Greece. I often wonder if I would have improved so much if my life conditions were not also improved. Maybe I would still be considered a beginner struggling to figure out the basics.

When tango becomes important

If you see life like this you realize that the image you built and your perceived value as a dancer are just minimal… trivial. They mean nothing. However, there is something in tango that makes it important. The connection. One of the biggest benefits of tango is the connections you build with people who you could never ever meet under other circumstances. You get to meet people of different backgrounds and hang around with them, talk about your lives, dance, and exchange ideas and emotions. This is what is important in tango. Your connections and interactions. In some cases, for people who go through difficult periods in their lives, these interactions mean the world.

So now think again about the scenario of the previous story. What did you answer? Is your image more important than dancing with an old friend? Is your image more important than keeping a connection with a person who might need this connection more than anything else? How important is tango to you after all? Is it more important than the people you meet through it?

Boxes, labels, and… people

Sometimes we like to think with boxes in our minds. We put a label on someone (eg. beginner) and we forget all the other characteristics they might have. We judge people just by looking at the label we put on them and never think of looking again at the person behind it. “They are never going to learn and to improve”… we say. “Why bother… we will lose a nice tanda”…we think. We never imagine the struggles, the restrictions, the fight that someone might need to face in order to put this grain of sand called tango in their life and keep it there.

We think that it is easy to grow in tango, to evolve your dance, and to constantly improve because that’s what we do. That’s how life is for us. We constantly improve and we are happy with our tango evolution. But not all people are the same, not all people live with the same conditions we do. Oftentimes, it is those underprivileged people, those who don’t often attend the milongas, those who might struggle to continue being in tango, those who struggle to evolve that need most our embrace, that need most to be seen, appreciated, and connected with. We have a power in our embrace and we waste it to keep our image intact. To maintain the elite status profile… to remain popular… until someday we taste some of our own medicine and realize what we did wrong.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango talks about poverty and how awful it is for children to grow up in poor families without the ability to buy and enjoy games as other children. Miguel Calo came from a family with 11 children and in the beginning had to work to help his family make ends meet. Alberto Podesta who sings the song also has a similar story coming from a poor family to be discovered as a kid by Miguel Calo and later Carlos DiSarli and become one of the most well-known voices of tango. Listening to the song and knowing their background, you can feel much better the pain in them. Their stories just make me wonder how lucky they were and how many more Podestas or Calos could someone find but were lost because they had bigger priorities and fewer resources to grow into the artists that they could have been.

How about you? Are you a “lost beginner”? Do you still have embraces to comfort you when you want to dance? Are you now ignored? If you are an advanced dancer… do you ever look back to your still beginner friends? How do you feel about them? Do you ever wonder what the reasons are that some people are still “beginners”? 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.

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2 responses to “The lost beginners”

  1. Armin Huß Avatar
    Armin Huß

    One year after we started learning Tango and slowly improving, my wife got cancer. This could have been the time, when we could have become lost beginners. But besides the treatment of the cancer we kept on with Argentine Tango, because we took some kind of strength out of it. So it really became very important to us.
    We kept on dancing, even visited Festivals, Marathons and Encuentros and she overcame the decease…. And now we are still dancing with even more empathy since ten years.
    That is why, I wouldn’t say, that Tango is only the small grain of sand, for us it was the golf ball that we needed !
    But I am with you: The important thing on Tango is the embrace, the connection and the closeness with your partner on the dance-floor and the emotions. And that is nothing about a status one might have to loose. You can dance with a great dancer and it feels so-La-La and on the other hand you can dance with an almost beginner and it simply feels great ! That’s the reason, why I do not look at the skills of a dancer, but on the person and the connection.

    1. Christos Kouroupetroglou Avatar

      Hi Armin.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really appreciate it!
      I totally agree that if you manage to keep tango in your life through difficult situations it can have a “healing”/calming effect. It can help you go through the difficult time and it can grow into a golf ball. It may require some struggle… but if it works it definately pays off. So… I am really happy that you managed to keep Tango as a golf ball in your jar and I wish it will never decrease into a grain of sand.

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