Una comunidad … de veras?

In case you read my last post and think I am walking around with rose-colored glasses, I want to reflect a bit on the downsides I have noticed about the tango community. Now, I don’t think that anything I wrote before is particularly untrue – rather, I believe that the (local and extended) tango community suffers from the same sorts of things that any small/close/enclosed/involved community suffers from. We simply cross paths often and intensely.

When I was in college, at a very small school, the joke was that the rest of the school would know that your boyfriend was going to break up with you before you did. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. The same seems to apply here: Everyone wants to know what is happening to everyone else – in their dancing, in their personal lives, in all of their relationships of various sorts. It is fun when this means hearing about happy events, the arrival of new shoes, good dancers coming to visit, etc. It turns into potentially harmful gossip when people don’t stop to reflect before they open their mouths, when they don’t pause and consider whether this is everyone’s business.

The other thing about small communities is that they have long memories. A little slip-up – whether it is letting the cat out of the bag about some piece of gossip or offending a leader/follower/milonga organizer/random bystander – could be brought out time and time again. A bad tanda could mean months until your next opportunity to dance with someone. Even the nicest, most well-meaning people can run into friction.

The thing is, I don’t think that this is a damning attribute for the tango community. The only really frustrating result is that sometimes we think we know our fellow tangueros better than we do. Sure, we may know that Tanguera A and Tanguero B are both swimmers in their non-dancing life who are dating, and we may know their occupations and hear about their arguments on and off the dance floor. But there could be a lot about these tanguer@s that we don’t know, things that are important to who they are. And pretending that we know them is part of what can cause more friction and drama.

In my experience, however, the closeness of the tango community offers us all kinds of opportunities to truly befriend other dancers and to build the kind of bonds that I got all warm and fuzzy about in my last entry. For all that there can be drama and tension and nasty exchanges, there can also be warmth and support and caring. We are really a sort of tango family, and as everyone knows, family can bring out the best and the worst in anyone.