Part II: Antidote

The Antidote - it's what keeps us coming back . . .

I'd had too many rough experiences in one night. Actually, I'd had too many a night, for months. I was at the end of what I could take and thought, maybe it's a sign.

Maybe I need a break for awhile.

I'm becoming the person I didn't want to be. Tired. Frustrated. Cynical.  I've talked other people out of this place and back into tango - but I couldn't get the pep-talk to work on myself.

What do I want so badly?

My eyes wandered from my shoe bag to the door and as I turned my head, you caught my eyes. I smiled before I knew what I was doing. One more tanda. I'll dance one more tanda, I thought, then go home.

You were patient, waiting for me to relax and finally, half way through the first song, I did. I settled against your chest and breathed deeply for probably the first time that night. I listened to the music and our breathing and let everything else slip away. As we danced, I clung to the singer's voice more than usual. I forgot what I was so angry about. I almost forgot where I was.

When the music stopped, I was warm and happy. I looked into your smiling eyes and said, thank you for that. You just don't know how much I needed it. You squeezed my hand one more time and just smiled broadly.

You were the antidote. Thank you.

Part I: Poison


We all have milonga pet peeves and, from the comments I hear at the milongas and read in blogs, tango dancers have a lot of the same pet peeves. (Which makes me wonder why they happen with such regularity?) They range from small annoyances to behavior that can be physically harmful. Left unchecked it can make dancers decide to avoid certain people at the milonga of course, but also to avoid the milongas/venues where inappropriate or uncomfortable behavior is tolerated - or worse, where it is encouraged. 

I know the U.S. isn't Buenos Aires and I truly don't have that expectation. However, I would think many of these things would be common sense in most social situations - not just dancing. For some reason, they are not. 

(In no particular order - as always, your mileage may vary.)

1. Intrusive behavior. One example is when someone (particularly a stranger to that dancer) without any kind of welcome acknowledgment, approaches another dancer abruptly, gets in their face, and verbally asks him or her to dance. To get within inches of someone's face, or worse put your hand on them, and say something like 'we should dance this' is simply bad manners. It's presumptuous and often makes the recipient feel awkward and obligated to dance.  As I said, if you don't know that person - it's particularly rude.
2. Negative generalizations about followers or leaders, to include things like, "there weren't enough followers in class today - just goes to show that followers don't take tango as seriously as leaders - oh I was just kidding" #jokingbutnotreally. (The reverse statement referring to leaders is equally irritating.) Honestly, this is a big enough topic to warrant its own post. All I can say here is that generalizations are rarely helpful and neither is trying to guess another person's motivation. Keep conjecture to yourself.
3. Running commentary and talking over the music through the entire tanda - especially negative comments like the above. Socializing is part of the milonga but if you're talking the whole time - how are you hearing the music? And if you're not listening to the music, how are you dancing? Or connecting with your partner?
4. Correction/feedback/peddling of services while dancing at the milonga. Unacceptable, period. I'm not keen on it at the milonga at all, but it's particularly offensive when you're dancing with someone.
5. Another item to file under intrusive behavior, interrupting a couple while they are dancing, especially for any of the reasons listed in #4. It interrupts the connection of that couple to each other and to the music. It also stops the line of dance while you chit-chat. What is so important that it cannot wait until the cortina? (Warning, if you interrupt my partner and me while we're dancing to Cascabelito, and it's not because someone has been bumped or kicked, the building had better be on fire.)
6. Dancers who are talking loudly enough that they can be heard from every corner of the milonga - especially when they're doing any of the items listed in #4. Speaking loudly during the tandas prevents the other dancers from enjoying the music. I've been guilty of this and called to task on it in the past. It can happen to anyone. But when it's non-stop through the entire milonga, the dancers notice. It's distracting and can sour the mood and flow of the milonga.
7. Flash photography. I've written about this before, and so have many others - repeatedly. Photography without flash is one thing - I'm not happy about it if it's intrusive and interfering with dancers, but if it's not interfering with the flow of dance and dancers, I don't usually have any problem. Bright, especially flickering strobe-type flashes interfere with the dancers and with the flow of the milonga. (Do people not realize that those flashes actually hurt some peoples' eyes? Especially when it's done within a couple of feet of their face!) 
8. Stepping on, colliding, or kicking another person without any acknowledgement or apology. This is common sense - not even a dance issue. If you hurt someone, apologize. Why does this even have to be on the list?

A couple of those items happening in one night is annoying, but pretty common. Most of the time I can manage to have a very nice time at the milonga despite them.

When three to five of those things happen in one night, I start to question if I should leave early - or if I should have come at all.

If more than 6, or worse all of them, happen in one milonga, it pretty much poisons the milonga. I leave early, usually as early as I can, and debate whether I should return to that particular milonga at all.

In the very worst case, when all eight happen, and are most notably exhibited by teachers/organizers, I question whether I should continue to invest my energy and emotion so deeply in a dance/music/culture that I love so much - but is starting to take its toll on me. 

I find myself looking in the mirror and asking myself - should I even continue dancing tango in this city? What makes me want to do this so badly? 

Mi amigos, that is a very heart-breaking place to end up.