Posts Tagged: Milongas

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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A Few More Weeks In Berlin

Here I am, a few more weeks now in Berlin. I was hoping to post something more exciting or to actually finish and post 1 of the 3 informational tango blogs I have sitting in the wings waiting to be finished but nope, this will just be another update from Berlin.

Berlin view 2The last time I wrote I shared with you the details of pulling together my material to present to the Visa office. At this time I have a German bank account, a German ID number to file taxes, and some form of acceptable health insurance, all needed to apply for a visa. I also have an appointment with the Visa office scheduled for June 11th. This is much later than I wanted as it puts me too close to my “90 day tourist visa is expired” status. But there was not a single appointment available in May. I have a choice to wait or go to the office and pick a number and wait. The downside to that is getting a German friend who can wait with me for as long as it takes to translate… not ideal! We’ll see how this pans out.

I have been going out dancing ALMOST every night and Sunday afternoons. This is a change for me! An exciting and interesting one for sure. And like most milongas anywhere in the world (that I have been so far), there are good nights, with a lot of dancing and some slow nights with not a lot of dancing. I seem to have found a handful of favorite dancers and I think I have made it onto their dance card as well. Again what impresses me most is the quantity of dancers. Every milonga I have been to costs around €5. (This past weekend there were guest tango dancers performing and the milonga cost was €9.) AND there are SO many dancers, basically all the time. And there’s no air conditioning!!! I have found if I wear something that reveals my shoulders I tend to stay cooler. So I will need to shop for more tube tops!! The level of dancing is quite varied. The cabaceo is a bit confused but often used, sometimes unfortunately with a nearby hovering, which obviously defeats the purpose of the cabaceo!!!  (As most of my readers know, the cabaceo is a nod of the head as an invitation to dance.)Asado Brandenberg

The weather continues to be very unpredictable, rain, sun, cold, gray, but the minute the sun shines people are outside in it!

I had the pleasure of hanging out with some dancers and friends at their home just outside of Berlin. They had an asado and people brought food and drink. It was so quiet, we were the noise! (And it was a cold early evening even if the sun shone earlier!)

I will be heading to England at the end of the month (ironically the same time as ANOTHER major tango festival will be rockin’ it here in Berlin!) I will be attending the England International Festival with my tango buddy from Wuppertal, Stefan. Maximiliano Cristiani will be there with his current partner, Juliana. I am looking forward to some classes with them and Stefan is looking forward to classes with Homer and Cristina!

From this Festival in Sussex I will be heading to teach some workshops and classes for Norwich Tango. Thanks to my friend Rachel who helped to organize them. I am really excited about being in England and will have some time to explore London again and Norwich.

Berlin OberbaumbrückeThose are the highlights so far my friends!

Some unfortunate news came my way, that ASU has decided not to have Tango in the fall due to budget cuts. This is hard hitting… I have encouraged the ASU Tango Club to keep things alive. I hope they will.

SAVE THE DATES!
I have reserved space at SNAP for OCTOBER 10 & 11th for workshops in Scottsdale. I hope you will be able to attend. More information about that will be forthcoming. And of course, ideas, feedback or notice of any conflicts is greatly appreciated.

 

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First Weekend in Berlin2015-04-12 15.36.232015-04-12 15.32.132015-04-11 17.00.512015-04-11 16.14.142015-04-11 16.16.45

One Week in Berlin

This post is for those who would like news of my adventures.

I have been in Berlin for one week already. I have gone to milongas almost every night. I have met a few people and have danced a bit. I got my cell phone hooked up with a German phone number (so if anyone has the app What’s App you can find me now at: +49 – 15753564080.

I managed to register myself as a resident of Berlin. This is necessary for me to obtain other things and to apply for a freelance visa if I choose to stay in Berlin. This was an interesting process. There are several locations throughout the city that you can register. Technically you have to make an appointment online and show up at your time slot. This is after obtaining some kind of written note saying that you live at a certain address signed by the person you are staying with (ideally!) As I was stressing about this a german tango friend made a phone call to this office and found out that they actually don’t have any more online appointments until July! She was explaining to me how humane she found these office workers to be as the woman on the line explained to her that it was their fault and that I could drop in to an office and that would be fine. With all this handy information a couple of other german (non-tango) friends prepared a short document stating that I am living with them (which I am) and we went all together to one of these offices – called Bürgeramt. Arriving 1/2 hour prior to their opening there was a short line of people already waiting. From this office we were given a number and told to go to the 4th floor! We were there at 9:30am, office opened at 10am, we were given numbers about 10:20am for appointments at 10:50am and 11:00am. We were all out of there by 11:30am with our housing document! This paper is needed for me to get health insurance and a bank account and anything else (I’m told!). Apparently you have to change your address with this office anytime you move and when I leave Germany permanently I must unregister with them 14 days prior to my departure. So there you have it. My first major task done!

I have to say that I was told by one of my favorite dancers here in Berlin, that he was happy to see me in this desert. Imagine – there are 2 – 3 milongas every night here! But I’m slowly discovering, like with everything, not every milonga is the right fit!

I had a really nice first weekend. On Saturday one of my new German friends took me to Teufelsberg. (click to go to wikipedia). What an ominous place. This is the former US listening station. We did not get there early enough to take the tour or to explore inside. Which means I will have to return. But it rises up into the sky in the middle of this forest. This hill that it sits upon is comprised of all the rubble from the war. It was a beautiful day so there were plenty of people out and about, walking, biking, picnicking. There was a wind blowing too and I almost took some video just to see if the sound would have come through as the wind blows through the main tower. As with most things in Berlin, there is graffiti all around. And so when I go back I’m sure there will be pictures of that! It truly looked like a scene out of a movie.

On Sunday I went to Mauerpark. There is a gynormous flea market here. It’s like the Feria in Recoleta meets the Swap Meet in Phoenix, meets the above average food street fair! Not to mention the biggest outdoor karaoke scene I have ever seen!!! And being one of the first beautiful days, EVERYONE was out! It was a nice weekend. Now with one major endeavor under my belt we will see what happens next.

Abrazos to all of you and thanks for reading the blogs!

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Tangovilla Wuppertal

I think I have finally caught up on sleep. And in between have been enjoying the lush tangovilla flag green of my environs. I have been so well taken care of here at the Tangovilla by my hosts, Stefan and Ralph.

I met Stefan at a tango teacher training session a few years ago. We were paired together on the first day and even though he struggled with english I encouraged him to proceed confidently. That was the beginning of our friendship. When I told him that I wanted to come to Europe, he immediately invited me to his home, the Tangovilla.

I had the pleasure of teaching class to several of his students. He helped me now with the language and the classes were wonderful. I was so happy to hear that his students enjoyed them. I had been a little bit  worried about the cultural differences and cultural perceptions of Americans, or cultural expectations, but clearly this group trusted their teacher, Stefan and the students learned and had a good time. As you might have heard me say, “I have such good students” and even here, this applied!

I have been to a couple of milongas since I have been here and so far, I have to say, that they have similar problems to those we have at our milongas in the States. Can you guess? Lots of sitting women at the milongas! I do have to say that this area has a milonga every night and the numbers of dancers in attendance was great to see. I was told that many of the dancers were away for long weekends and yet, I saw the milongas as being well attended.

This weekend was a tango marathon and we stopped by to check it out. It reminded me of a hot and sweaty milonga in Buenos Aires in the middle of summer. It appears that even though the marathon brings in quite a few people, this isn’t enough to encourage the owners of the restaurant to use/fix/whatever, the air conditioning. WOW – that was 1 hot sweaty place. I did have the pleasure of dancing with the current, 2014 Champion of Tango Salon for Germany. He is Mexican, living in Hamburg!!!  We had a lovely tanda, thank you Alonso Alvarez! He will be off to the European Championship and then to Buenos Aires for the Mundial.

AND speaking of Mundials – this weekend begins the World Soccer Cup. There are flags hanging and bars advertising. Clearly Germany is getting ready! And so am I.

Keep dancing! You can find pictures on Facebook!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152508786684312&substory_index=1&id=619634311

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A New Week

R & D & Acacia in BATo say that the last week has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. We have been doing private classes, group classes, milongas, trying to stay healthy, dealing with rain and torrential down pours, 1 day of sun, clouds, cold – whoosh! But none-the-less so far, so good!

La Maestra has recommended that we take a workshop that begins today with 8 of the oldies but goodies. It’s 4 days with 1.5 hours with each teacher, 2 per day. It’s called Maestros de Maestros. It’s a good opportunity to learn from those who are the oldest, as for what they know, goes with them if they don’t pass it on….. So that begins today.

And the rain has stopped!

I find that one of the funnest reasons to be here in BA is to catch up with people who I R & D and Yumikohaven’t seen in a long time. I finally ran into a tango friend from England who I haven’t seen since teacher training in 2006. How great to catch up. Also have connected with a family from a visit to Charleston. It’s amazing how tango brings people together even after a long time apart!!!

It appears that the Festival of events that accompany the Mundial are posted.
http://www.tangobuenosaires.gob.ar/festivalymundial12/web/es/events/index.html

All these events are free! It’s so exciting!!! I have already seen some really really beautiful dancers at some of the milongas. It appears that the overall attendance at the milongas I have been to are low. And this is not surprising. I am still dying to know how many people are competing this year…..

As I prepare to head out today, I share with you a tango reminder. I have been working on not collapsing my torso on the closed side of the embrace. It appears that I have acquired a habit of shortening the left side of my torso (picture a sideways bend, but not so dramatically!). Ladies, pay attention to this in your own bodies, making sure that your torso is not compromised in anyway in your embraces.

Keep dancing!

 

 

 

 

 

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