By Bethany Mary
I thought I would be waiting another year to write again, but it seems I have found more inspiration. Having the support of a few readers has been encouraging and motivating. The positive responses have driven me to continue. I love connecting with people; it is what I love most about tango. I am enjoying connecting with people, still intimately and still through tango, but off the floor and through my writing. So, thank you all for the connections and responses to my thoughts. I hope to continue and truly hope to always maintain a positive energy with my writing, there is enough darkness in the world that I want to always be a light if I am able.
I attended two events recently and had two very different mentalities going in, as well as two very different experiences coming out. Some of my influences were internal, while others external. It seems everyone has a strong opinion and they are not afraid to share it. I’m highly impacted by those around me, which I believe is what left me unsettled and conflicted.
The first event was a new event. A new organizer wanting to create something different and special. He was very involved from beginning to end and extremely interactive with his guests. He made regular posts leading up to the event, posts about food, posts about the attendees (with their permission), and more; he was bringing a preemptive positive energy to the table.
Shortly after arriving, he made a point to come up and say hello to me, greeting me warmly by name. I watched him engage with various people, being attentive and making sure everyone felt welcomed. I observed him making an effort to dance with as many guests as possible, creating a warm and inviting environment that was contagious across the room. By the end of the weekend, his voice was lost, but his efforts were successful. From my observations, the whole event was full of positive energy until the end.
I returned home feeling excited. I was so exhausted, but it didn’t keep me from attending my local community’s practica that Monday night. Going on almost no sleep, I arrived full of energy. I just wanted to give and share what I experienced to all the locals and young dancers that night. I wanted to inspire them to continue to work hard. I wanted to share my experience with them, hoping it might give them more inclination to travel outside their comfort zone. Needless to say I had a great night, and afterwards, I went home and slept solid.
I spent my week in many discussions about events and community behaviors. The latest hot topic seems to be revolved around cliques and welcomed or unwelcomed atmospheres. I was excited about my next event, knowing there were going to be many advanced dancers. However, I didn’t realize it at the time, I had already begun to develop insecurities about worthiness, or rather lack thereof.
Upon arrival I was greeted as warmly by this organizer as the last. He helped to make sure I had a place to sit and change shoes. I watched him work to greet every guest that arrived. He and his partner were putting out delicious snacks for dancers to replenish some energy. They even had homemade empanadas as a special late night treat for Saturday’s milonga. They also had a get-together with food and drinks for everyone after the Saturday afternoon milonga. I noticed their continual presence during the event and watched them work to help ensure everyone was having a good time. One of the hosts even invited me over to a group of dancers and introduced me to them to help me feel included.
The venue was cozy and packed due to being a sold out event. I spent the weekend observing the atmosphere: the dancers were good, the hosts were amazing, the energy was high, but I could feel division. An internal battle had been growing. I felt conflicted within myself and had unfamiliar feelings of doubt. Maybe the doubts came from the seeds that had been planted by the hot-topic discussions from earlier, or simply they were derived from observing the talented dancers on the floor. I’m not sure, but for some reason, I lacked the confidence to give mirada’s to many leaders I desired to dance with for most of the weekend.
I still had an amazing time and danced with many wonderful leaders. However, there was one particular dancer who had an amazing connection, I left regretting not having more dances with him. We only danced 2 half tandas, both in which I felt as if maybe I had been too forward with my mirada, too invasive. He was very advanced and his embrace was so generous and loving. I couldn’t find the courage or confidence to recommend myself to him through any more miradas.
He lingered on my mind as I traveled home that weekend. When pictures began to post on Facebook, I tentatively sent a friend request to him, feeling a little invasive, but wanting to connect. He graciously accepted and even reached out with a message to me first, thanking me for the tandas and appreciating that I had connected. I responded warmly and shared how much I enjoyed his wonderful embrace with me and watching him with others.
This began a dialogue that was very moving for me. He responded to my message first with gratitude, but also surprise. He confessed enjoying my embrace as well, but felt as if I was not fully present in our dance. Since he believes in a mutual desire in dances, he did not want to be invasive and gave me space during the weekend.
I was so shocked, and immediately disappointed in myself. My own insecurities crept into my dance and onto the floor. I spent the whole weekend thinking I wasn’t good enough for many of the leaders. I spent the whole weekend thinking I was giving and surrendering all that I could in each tanda, but clearly my internal conflicts were bleeding through. How many other leaders felt as if I did not want to connect with them because of my self-doubt? How many leaders didn’t dance with me because they could sense that insecurity, or felt I was not interested? I go into every dance wanting to connect and wanting to trust my leader. Trust and give without restraint, as I was once told I did so well. I do not accept cabeceos if I think I am unable to give and be fully present with my leader. Yet, somehow, I missed the mark on this particular weekend.
These two weekend experiences have made me contemplate the many discussions I’ve had about division or cliques in communities and at events. Do they really exist? Or are our own insecurities creating them? Don’t we all have tendencies or people that we are drawn to more than others? Don’t we all have our own cliques in some sense? What makes the difference between a clique and interacting with people you are most comfortable with? Or only dancing with people you enjoy? Did I observe cliques because I was told they existed and I allowed my opinion to be influenced from others? Had I not allowed myself to engage in these discussions, would I have not been insecure going in?
When I compare the two events, from my experience, there were very high level dancers at both events. The organizers at both events put a lot of effort into having a successful event and both were very accomodating to me from my experience. I believe the discussions and energies I allowed myself to be a part of before and after is ultimately what drove my internal perspective and external experiences at each event. Others may have had different experiences, good or bad, but I must work in the future not to be affected by those stories. I think it is very good to listen, empathize, understand, console, encourage and more, but ultimately, I need to apply in tango what I often apply in life: listen to stories, opinions, and perspectives openly, but work to stay neutral and form my own opinion from my own observations and experiences.
I am eternally grateful for the continued discussion I had with the particular leader mentioned above about our experience with each other. He gave me redemption and freedom from the cage I was building around myself. He unknowingly opened my eyes to the fact that I had been my own inhibitor. He reminded me that even the high level dancers still believe that tango is more about connection than the level of dance. I have always believed that, and always believed good dancers believe it, but for some reason at this event I had allowed myself to doubt it. I hope it is a mistake I will not make again. And I hope and look forward to the real redemption of having the chance to dance with him again, this time without reserve or restraint.