A couple of weeks ago I had free tickets through my work to go to a ballroom competition dinner. This extravaganza included social dancing, a finalist competition and a show. I am used to dancing, but this was something new, being surrounded by the ballroom dance competition crowd. Afterwards, I planned to go with my dance partner to a milonga -- our more usual routine.
A few days before the dinner, I mentioned to my partner that we could actually sign up to compete as novice first-time Argentine Tango dancers. But she responded: "No way! Remember, you are the guy who has a blog that talks about tango being a connection between two people, and you are always saying, 'It is not what shows, but how it feels!'" she said wisely.
Of course she was right, but my appeal to her was to go and just improvise as a statement that dance is all about letting your soul play on the playground, and just dance with our hearts.
But she again countered with, "No, competitive ballroom is another world. People pay lots of money -- classes, costumes -- and learn to perfect each level in a curriculum, gradually moving from first timer, to novice, to bronze level, silver level and gold level. Judges would be looking for perfection in just the moves at your competition level. Nothing more and nothing less counts."
"Well, it would just be for fun," I said.
"Yeah, and if you do it once and have an ounce of success it is so easy to get sucked in and want to do it again!"
"Yes, the Dark Side. You're right. I know the Dark Side and its allure." My face has a distant stare of delusions of grandeur. I enter a trance. I imagine myself at the tango alter, giving up my Holy Grail Philosophy of dancing just for the one person in front of you, breaking to bits my Stone Tablet Philosophy of connection -- especially the First Commandment to have only One Connection and not to worship the pagan gods of Cool Steps. I hear Darth Vader's artificial lung regulator sucking in and blowing out air. His voice says, "Mark... Mark...Come to the Dark Side."
The trance is broken by "Mark! Hey, are you okay?"
"Sorry. I was just spacing out. I thought I heard an important announcement over the P.A. system."
"Yeah, it was me talking!"
She pulled me away from the Dark Side. "Yes, that‘s right," I told myself. "I am a social dancer. What would I accomplish competing?"
Nevertheless, we still have a story to tell. . .
Sure enough, after dinner had been served and a chachachá, a waltz and a foxtrot had been played, we hear a tango--an authentic tango--being played. The following video records the wildly different styles between our milonguero style and our distant cousin dancers, doing a ballroom rendition to the same music! Just play this for the first little bit, and you will get the idea.
Then later they played a milonga. My partner, with her eyes closed, didn't even realize until the end that we were the only ones on the dance floor for this one. We, of all people, the social milongueros, ended up unwittingly performing solo before wannabe show dancers -- and they applauded us!
In the video that follows, we are dancing to a milonga played by a mere duet--piano and bass.
That was when it dawned on my partner: "You know if we had competed, no one here would have even competed against us in Argentine Tango. We could have won gold!"
But wait a second. Is that Miss Tango Purity speaking now? How the allure of performance beguiles! Interestingly enough, that night we both lamented that the ballroom extravaganza was a lot more fun than the milonga that followed. Perhaps the Dark Side is always there lurking, ready with the next temptation!