Posts Tagged: community

Creating Community or Disintegrating Community

Crowded MilongaThe ins and outs of the milonga community is a subject for much discussion. As I have ventured in and out of many communities throughout this year of travel, I still ponder the question on how to create community or how we contribute to disintegrating community.

Interestingly enough, just last week, Buenos Aires milonga organizers and dancers joined a large outdoor demonstration, that consequently turned into a milonga. They were protesting the closure of milongas due to the rising costs of the building owners’ overhead: electricity, gas, general maintenance costs. The AOM – Associacion de Organizadores de Milongas  got together to create a legislation that would help owners of the buildings and organizers to work together so that the milongas would not have to close – after all, these establishments are hosting an intangible world heritage event. On this day it didn’t matter which milonga you normally attended or didn’t attend, everyone was joined by a common cause: keeping the milongas alive and kicking in Buenos Aires. All the milongas, organizers and dancers alike, found themselves joined together for this purpose.

I bring this up maybe as a contrast to what happens in so many cities: milongas compete with other milongas and there sprouts hard feelings, etc. Or even within a milonga people are competing for attention and feeling inclusive or exclusive (invited or uninvited, friendly or unfriendly).

Possibly a positive way to look at this, is that it is normal and healthy for communities to be varied. There will always be cliques (after all you have known your friends for years!), there will always be the loners (and some people like to be loners), there will be people ok sitting with new people, and some ok sitting alone. And it is all ok.

As I continued to reflect upon all of this by comparing my great experiences with my not so great experiences, I thought there might be a “less painful” transition to entering communities.

The Steps

I recall a British TV series I watched several years ago, Teachers. In one particular episode the lead character, a high school teacher, is questioning how a new teacher is entering their after school drinking social group, he is a little miffed that she didn’t actually follow the proper steps.

He outlines them as thus:

Initiation
Apprenticeship
Acceptance
Inclusion

I think each of these words are understandable without needing too much of an explanation (a person initiates into a group usually through another person or through common activity, they are taken under that initiators wing, the group accepts them, and they are now included) so let’s look at how the model might apply to the tango community.

Initiation

How you are initiated into a community and into the milonga might be the key to feeling successful and to the reason for staying or for leaving the tango community. If a teacher brings students to the milonga and invites them to sit at a table together, this helps the initiated to feel less awkward and more welcome.

I think we forget, as those who have experienced or learned Argentine Tango outside of the culture, that Tango is first and foremost social. It is about the community. Tango is (although not exclusively) a Friday night with friends in Buenos Aires. So I think it is difficult to extract Tango from its culture even when we bring along all the codes! I suggest if you are going to a new community alone, email the organizers ahead of time, find someone in that new community to introduce yourself to, then meet them at the milonga, and get invited to sit with them. And then smile and have a good time. Facebook is great for this, as so many communities have their own Tango pages now.

Apprenticeship

It is a bit hard to imagine that there is an apprenticeship phase in entering a community regardless of your years of dancing but maybe look at it like this, if you have some “new tango friends” at a milonga they help you during this phase. You see who they dance with and who they don’t. You get to decide who you might like to dance with or not, and, without a doubt, they will let you know some of the ins and outs of that community (call it gossip or not!). And hopefully, they will also introduce you to some of their friends and favorite dancers. Thus your apprenticeship, until you get on your own feet!

Acceptance and Inclusion

I have combined these two phases. It is hard to say if there is a predetermined time frame for when one is accepted or feels accepted. I also know communities where dancers never feel accepted, and they therefore stop attending milongas and often stop attending classes too. Therefore, clearly, they do not feel included.

The acceptance phase is quite personal and community – based. You might feel accepted by some but not by others. If you have the luxury of choosing among different milongas, then you can find yourself accepted and feeling included at one and maybe not at another milonga. I have found that sometimes even the same dancers who might dance with me in one milonga, might not, in another milonga (ie: Wednesday night in one location versus Friday night in another location). So I feel accepted and included in one milonga and variable in the other! And my desire to go dancing on Friday night is incredibly lower unless, I know people who say to me, “come, we will be there!”

I had an experience, where I had already been in Berlin for 6 months, and one of the leaders, who I saw everywhere (we clearly liked the same milongas), finally asked me to dance. His first words were, “you’re still here!!” AHH – he discovered I was going to be part of the bigger community, not just here for the weekend!!! And then subsequently, his small group of friends, all took me for a tanda afterwards. And now a year later, he rarely asks me to dance although we still pretty much attend all the same milongas. One of his friends asks me to dance sometimes and there you have it! BUT I do feel accepted and included in the milongas that I enjoy attending regularly. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go, right?

So maybe not a perfect model. And in the TV show, the young teacher who was missing the steps, found herself included anyway!

And you?

What about you? Were you initiated into your community? Have you initiated another into your community?? If so you will probably not have an inclusive/exclusive issues! Do you find yourself feeling accepted and included?

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts. And I know many of you have a lot to say on this topic too!!!!

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End of a Chapter

End of a chapter

6 months has gone by…

Really so much has happened..

MC on the DanubeAs I sit here in a polish town called Lodz at a HUGE 800 person festival and reflect that in a few days I will be back in the US I am struck by the strangeness I feel: an overwhelming amount of feelings as I go packing once again…..

Here are a few reflections in no particular order:

* I spent 3 months working on getting a visa, successfully; I moved 6 times in Berlin to find a place to call “home for now” and didn’t find it, and when I return to Berlin I will be looking again; I wanted to enroll in German language classes and somehow didn’t; I traveled to 5 cities I never in my wildest dreams thought I would visit: Budapest, Belgrade, Lodz, Erfurt, Gyor. I met people from so many different countries and encountered faces that I hadn’t seen in a while! Tango is a small world.

* I discovered that if I don’t speak their language trying to communicate in English only goes so far. I still feel disconnected from connecting without language, this is why it’s called a language barrier.

* When you need help to do something or if you want something, you really have to ask for it. I learned to ask… “I need help with X do you have time or can you help me with it?” (who knew that I didn’t know really how to ask without shame or embarrassment?)

* You really have to enjoy the sunshine in Berlin because before you know it, it’s cold again – I’m wearing the same clothes I wore in April, when I arrived and am a bit cold already!

* I have a blog sitting for editing regarding the concept of Community and I paused on it as I was now seeing myself as an outsider trying to enter and belong to many communities of this large community of tango. Funny thing the idea of community and our expectations of community. I was sitting on a gorgeous hot and horribly humid Berlin day at a lake accessible by train. Watching everyone vying for any access to cooling off. Everyone piled next to each other changing shamelessly in the sun (very agile with a towel, I must say). And I thought, “you are not a part of it until you are a part of it. You will be on the outside, until when? Well, until you are somehow invited in? You have to contribute to belong.” and somehow through the rantings of a lonely reflection, I actually found solace from my solitude in tango. The ideas on community are still rolling around in my head but they will be blogged soon.

Daniela & Raimund at High Noon Marathon

Daniela & Raimund at High Noon Marathon

* Learning to rely on something so much bigger than myself – call it god, spirit, what you will – just when I would reach a point (and believe me, there wasn’t just one) I would say practically out loud ‘What for?’ and magically, a live person would reach out to me and say something so nice and so kind. Or I would get a message from someone saying, “come teach please”. These signs have kept me often from real despair.
One such incidence came from a chance meeting with a young Hungarian who put me in contact with one of Budapest’s local teachers, Bela Barabas and his lovely wife. We had several great classes teaching together and rumor has it there may be more!

* Recognizing my privilege or forced to see it when I was asked by a friend in another country if I had moved to Berlin because I couldn’t find a job where I was. The impression to him was that I went to find work. As this is the state of so many of the people running around frustrated in Europe right now. I reflected heavily on this trying not to feel guilty for my opportunity to do this ‘sabbatical’ while so many are looking for jobs or would like to change their current situations in their countries. But also, that the general unfriendliness of the area is probably merely a reflection of the huge influx of people frustrated to have left their homes, combined with people frustrated that you are now in their home. Are you taking or contributing? One Berliner told me, that they (in general) were afraid to speak to people for fear that you might want something from them. Interesting…..

* I attended a few tango marathons and had a great time at both. I was given a quite extensive explanation on the differences between a Tango Marathon and a Tango Festival. I really had no idea!!!! Obviously very important if you are an organizer and clearly now important for me as I will have choices to go to both and have also been asked to attend several!

* I never thought it possible to be standing, let alone dancing in the same room with about 5 other Daniela’s!!! Now I know how Lisa, Jane, John, and Mike might have felt!

3 D's in Rawtastic

3 D’s in the new Raw Food Restaurant, Rawtastic Berlin

* Maybe not finally but having had plenty of time to think I came up with blog titles that have yet to be written:
Summer Only Lasts 1 Day, At A Time (just when you think it’s gone, it manages to come back, briefly)
Girls in Skirts Riding Bikes (actually feels great!)
Girls Riding on Trains in the Wrong Direction 

Those who follow me on Facebook have been able to see my posts regarding travel and pictures. However, I have been quite conservative on my posts. I hope this blog serves to fill in some gaps and I look forward to our continued connections.

If you are in Scottsdale, Austin or Albuquerque in October come visit, have tea, or take a class.
My schedule is being updated and can be found here.
ALSO I have edited my ABOUT ME page check it out!

Stay tuned for Chapter 2. Starts in November in Norway! Otherwise, see you stateside starting October 2nd.

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Message to Leaders from Facebook

Please Tango GodsI think some Leading Ladies and I were just discussing this today. This came out on Facebook a couple of minutes ago (Saturday, January 11 in the evening) and I had to share.

From well-known tango dancer and author, Gustavo Benzacry Saba.
My translation below and the original follows.


Follower at the milonga,
If HE, the leader, smells badly, stop dancing.
If he hurts you, stop dancing.
If he crashes you into someone on the dance floor, stop dancing.
If he talks while dancing, stop dancing.
If he is trying to show off and do his show tango moves on the dance floor, stop dancing.
If he dances for himself and your presence is only an excuse, stop dancing.
You can always stop dancing with a smile and a simple “thank you”. Choose Well. Respect yourself. Help your community. Encourage the leader to study. Love the tango.

Bailarina de milonga
Si él no huele bien, no bailes.
Si él te hace doler el cuerpo, no bailes.
Si él te hace chocar en la pista, no bailes.
Si él te chamuya mientras bailan, no bailes.
Si él quiere hacer un show mientras bailan en la pista, no bailes.
Si él baila para él mismo y tu presencia es sólo una excusa, no bailes.
El baile siempre se puede detener con una sonrisa y un simple “gracias”.
Elige bien. Respétate. Ayuda a tu comunidad. Impulsa al bailarín a estudiar. Ama el tango.

Smile and have a great week!

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Teaching in Anchorage, Alaska was Wonderful!

Rommel and I just returned from 5 days in Anchorage, Alaska teaching and enjoying their first snow, or more honestly enjoying it from the window of our lovelyDancing in Anchorage host’s house! We had a sunny day, a rainy day and a couple of snowy days!

We taught 5 classes ranging from technique to milonga and simple dancing patterns enhancing the concepts we were focused on.

It was amazing to teach to such an open and receptive community and to receive the support of their more “senior” members.

Sometimes you teach a class and well, frankly, I can feel the resistance to try something new or to embrace a different concept. And I think this is natural on some level but you have to gain students’ trust as an essential part of learning.

Rommel (as always) made his way around the room during the 2 milongas, dancing with all the ladies who attended the classes. His endless enthusiasm and energy are admirable. And clearly the results were mentionable. Community members noted his active participation in the milongas, not as an observer but as a dancer. I find that it is easier for him as a male to ask the ladies to dance. I find that being a woman teacher that often the leaders in a community are shy and tentative to ask the visiting teacher to dance at a milonga. I think this is ok. I think the leader mentality is that he needs to feel confident and not intimidated to ask someone to dance and to this measure I have found that if I pursue this as the guest that it often feels like pressure for the leader. (I know that I feel stressed sometimes as a leader in a new community!) I did make my rounds on Friday night dancing with all the ladies who attended the class at this lovely community-centered-house milonga.House Milonga in Anchorage

The highlights of the weekend were many – our hosts’ fabulous cooking and always having food for us, the openness of the dancers in the classes, the moose that crossed our path, the home studios and Café that were generously offered as teaching spaces and milonga venues. We had 22 people dancing at the same time at the  Saturday night milonga – very fun!

Some things that we hope the dancers will remember are: the tango attitude; all the things you can do with a dowel rod; the importance of their standing legs and their axis positions 1, 2, 3 (3, 2, 1); 50% “up” and embracing the partner and 50% “grounding” or reaching constantly into the earth, and to keep having fun dancing!
Rommel adds: Precision, Practice and Patience; and when all else fails “cross-training”!

Until we see you again Anchorage – maybe via skype for a practica or in Phoenix – keep dancing!

Teaching for us is about building relationships and we so enjoyed embracing tango with you.Sunday's Class

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Free Event was Great!

Thursday and Friday October 13, 14, 21, 22 I hosted a Free Tango event at ASU Night Gallery in Tempe Marketplace. 

Free Tango 1

We had a lot of people come for the free classes, (60+)  many stayed for dancing and we had lovely performances. 

More than 300 people each night were exposed to Tango! 

Free Tango 2

I am really grateful to my ASU students who came out to help in many ways:  dancing, handing out fliers, telling people about tango, performing, and taking the classes.

IMG 3926

This was a great opportunity to share community, share time with nice people, make new friends through dance. 

Dance and Tango is so many things to different people and some have never danced before.  Dance creates connection to self, to others, to music.  It is great exercise.  It works the body and the brain. 

Tango is fabulous medicine!

The dancers who experienced performing, some for the first time were Acacia and Ryan, Ben and Katie, and Marisa and Derek.  This was so great to see their dancing, to hear about their experience, their nerves, their expectations met or unmet.  Many parents came to see their children for the first time dancing.  How great to see that kind of support. 

Some of The local Tango Community came out to dance or to see what it was about. 

I am happy with the event.  I enjoyed taking tango to a gallery space and to a mall.

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