Rethinking the Tango “Community”

I don’t know how many times the phrase “tango community” has come out of my mouth. Too many to remember.

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a community, and how community building works. I have been thinking about why people stick with tango and how the community has to do with that. I have been thinking about the different roles that exist in a community. And today I read this:

In modern times, the idea of “community” has increasingly been expanded to include not just the place where one lives, but the web of relationships into which one is embedded. Work, school, voluntary associations, computer networks – all are communities, even though the members live quite far apart.

But according to psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck, for any group to achieve community in the truest sense, it must undertake a journey that involves four stages: “pseudocommunity,” where niceness reigns; “chaos,” when the emotional skeletons crawl out of the closet; “emptiness,” a time of quiet and transition; and finally, true community, marked both by deep honesty and deep caring.

Source: “The Joy of Community”

Sometimes, it really feels like tango creates a pseudocommunity (at least in some places). Sure, real friendships can grow out of it, and small groups of friends can thrive in it, but all in all the greater community doesn’t feel honest or caring. And maybe it doesn’t have to. Some people talk about the anonymity of the milonga, a place where you can step out of your real life and just dance. Sometimes I want to retreat into that shroud of mystery, too.

But isn’t tango about the connection? About opening yourself up to your dance partner? A community may always have those mysterious, unknown people at its fringes, but at the core of any community there has to be openness, honesty, and trust. There has to be support. The article I linked to talks about the importance of consensus (and deciding what “consensus” means — read the article for a GREAT definition). I don’t think my tango community really has all of that. Does yours?

So here I am, with a good vision of what I think a community should be—and a community that isn’t there yet. But I am not considered a leader in my community. So now what?

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5 thoughts on “Rethinking the Tango “Community”

  1. I think this is a truly vital issue. Being in the fourth stage, “emptiness”, which feels like retreat, or rest, we look toward a better day. We had some major skeletons and darkness, and since we all spend so much time together doing what we love, it felt really bad.
    As far as what to do, I look at it as a matter of being the change you want to see. Looking forward to seeing you down there in SD hopefull on my next trip (Spring?). Good to know there are thinking people out there looking toward the future of tango in our extended community.
    E

    • I guess I get stuck when I try to be the change I want to see, and I get roadblocked. It is hard to be open and community-minded when not everyone has the same goal. I guess I will have to keep on keeping on and see where that takes me. I’m looking forward to seeing you when you are down here next!

  2. I realized that of the four pillars holding up “self”: Family/Friends/work/community — that community was the unrecognized powerhouse. I learned this when working as a therapist with alcoholics. Family/friends/work all “abandoned” them. But the community was paying for their treatment, and helping them to rebuild a different (non-drinking) community, reconnect with family/friends and get a new job. The tango community is with whom a truly wise tanguero/tanguera dances on the social dance floor, not just another person. If you embrace your community you ARE a leader.

    • Mark, that’s an excellent observation. I think that community is often undervalued in our society these days. I grew up in a church community, and after leaving that community, my family (which thankfully accepted my decision) encouraged me to find another community to be part of. I felt lucky to find tango, but I don’t always see us acting in community. It hurts to see, because I adopted it as my main, supportive community. I suppose that kind of commitment and embrace of the community can make one a leader, but there are different kinds of leaders in every community, and they all play certain roles that can make a big overall difference …

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