Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Secret Milonguera

Photo by Chirilalina  with permission

She still had not left town, I realized.

The out-of-town milonguera reappeared at a smaller, mid-week milonga.  The first time I saw her, she had danced nearly all night with her tanguero friend, "Fulano."  He allowed her to show off her great skill and grace, although he needed three times as much space as anyone else on the dance floor to do this important task.  Anyone watching her would want to learn how to dance tango -- such grace!

I did not know it at the time, but I began realizing that Fulano's milonguera was somewhat shy, even though she is a pretty woman and a skilled dancer.  At the first milonga, I couldn't catch her eye.  I figured she just was not interested in dancing my "dialect" of tango.  I was not going to directly ask her to dance.  It was up to her to allow me into her life with her eyes.  Without her eyes, the door is shut. No exceptions.

When I spotted her a few weeks later, I happened to catch her watching me dancing in the manner de los milongueros.  I figured that now she would know for sure that I do not dance in the way she likes to dance.  Surely, she wouldn't want to dance in such an outwardly simple way!  She had moves to show off!  Elegant ornamentos, volcadas, colgadas, boleos!

Then the inevitable happened at a small milonga -- we ran into each other at the snack table.  The conversation was pleasant.  Yes, she was a little shy or perhaps humble is the better word.  I also observed earlier that night that she wasn't acting like the normal tango-snob, which I had been expecting.

At this second milonga, she was dancing with a lot of different tangueros of all levels and styles.  Obviously she had missed the class on "proper-elevation-of-the-nose workshops" and  "how-to-avoid-tangueros-below-you seminars," given world-wide at campuses at the Tango Snob College.  Also, she miraculously looked good with whomever she danced -- or better said, she made her partners look good.

With a cabeceo, a nod of the the head, I was now dancing with her.  She had a great connection.    La Milonguera de muy lejos accompanied me as we joined the orchestra together, co-creating a walking embrace in reverence to the music.

Before dancing the second song of the tanda, I was still in shock, I guess, and I blurted out my pre-planned apology for dancing so simply.  "I am just a milonguero," I said with a pause, and then added,
"but I just try to dance my dance.  I really don't want to try to be somebody else."

"That's fine," she assured me.  "You know, all the wild moves are not really tango.  I merely enter the conversation that tangueros start with me.  I prefer milonguero."

Behind the performance tanguera facade, there was the Secret Milonguera!  I thought she merely understood my milonguero dialect and even knew how to hold a nice conversation.  Bu she was more than fluent in my language:  her mother tongue was milonguero and her second language was stage tango, which obviously helps her survive in the world of Showtime Tango.

I really do need to keep learning lessons like this.  The Secret Milonguera gave me another confirmation of the path that I have taken.  Hers is not a new lesson but a continuing one:
  • I want to keep dancing my own dance.  I want to dance without trying to impress the woman with what I might think she is expecting from me.  In other words, I want to be authentic in my tango.  
  • I want to co-create with my partner, led by the music -- that this is what truly satisfies the soul.  
  • Just because a woman can dance "fancy" doesn't mean that she wants to be on a crazy ride that shows every cool move I have ever learned from performance-focused teachers.
  • I want to dance just-for-one -- my dance partner.  It takes two to dance milonguero.  It takes two and a lot of people watching to dance stage tango or any style that sacrifices the nuances of the dance for the crowd-pleasing effects of "visual tango."  
  • I want to join the orchestra as an honorary musician.  If my partner and I want to impress someone, let it be the invisible tango orchestra.  Do we try to steal the show from the orchestra, or do we join the orchestra members?
These are the lessons I need to learn over and over.

I will still continue to be sensitive to women who cannot accompany me on the tango path I have chosen.  If she cannot come down my path, then I open up and let her dance her dance.  I now understand what many women are forced to do all the time, like la Milonguera Secreta.  Sure, the Secret Milonguera and I can have fun dancing performance-focused tango.  We both can have fun dancing with partners who want to show us all the steps they have collected in their Biblioteca de Figuaras Tangueras  (tango steps library).  After all, they have paid a lot of money to learn that beautiful volcada.  When you add up all the group and private lessons, they have paid easily over $1,000 for that move.  And it is fun.  When the woman cannot easily accompany me in my dance, I join her.  I feel like dancing open or even salón is indeed fun, like the fun I have in dancing mambo (salsa), son, bachata, chachachá, swing, waltz and foxtrot.

But its not my dance.  It's not tango just for two.

Speak/hear/see no evil at the Milonga?


A tanguera may have reason to feel more loved, protected and psychologically safer than in any other community she has ever experienced.  However, in spite of this sense of safely in our "embracing community," I have suggested we be aware of how we must protect each other and ourselves.

From private emails and a many comments, I see four basic reactions from the tango community about this series on personal and psychological safety in tango.  I will list these basic responses below, but as a review, you can see that this series of six posts started out very upbeat.  In case you came into the middle of the discussion this is the whole series:
  • Tango: Your Safe Place?  A friend of mine finds her meditation on dancing lowers her blood preasure.
  • Re-finding Tango as a Safe Haven  But what if one has lost this Safe Place?  This was a post for a friend who no longer felt safe.
  • Tango Vultures This post was on how to identify and protect oneself through knowledge from being a victim of a predator.
  • Kasimir the Tango Tomcat:  This post was about a less predatory individual, yet still a harmful person to the local community, a translation from Cassiel's tango blog.
  • Whatever happened to Kasimir?: An update of the above post 16 months later on what happened to the local tango scene from the prowling Tomcat described in May 2010.
  • The Cause of Tango's Gender Imbalance:  This post sums up the series with a counte-rintuitive thesis that the victims are women but the community has fewer men because of the Tomcat's behavior.
I did not start out knowing where this was going, obviously.  As a result, my definitions for predatory behavior may not seem very clear, as some have complained.  I agree, but I suggested a book!  And at that, a very important book that any parent should share with their late-teen daughters.  Also, this is a book that any adult would find fascinating and helpful in our modern world.  The Gift of Fear and its salient points were mentioned in Tango Vultures.

To clarify inappropriate behavior, let's start with appropriate behavior:  Men and women in relationship with each other are playful.  We play "catch" and take turns.  Seduction is a game of catch, not hunt and vanquish.  Tangueros and tangueras are advanced at the game of playing catch, and by far the tango community is a very wonderful and safe place to meet others to play this wonderful game.  Yet, when inappropriate behavior over and over shows a person, man or woman, who is harming the community by making the community an unsafe place, this person -- one would think -- should be identified and confronted.  In rare situations this person should be shunned for he serious harm he is causing.  I am not suggesting going out to save the world or being altruistic.  My suggestion is that in especially smaller communities that NOT taking action will have a long-term effect on your own ability to enjoy tango where you live.  I also feel strongly (but only social research would prove my thesis) that the traditions of "los códigos" (tango etiquette norms) protect a community and identify inappropriate behavior sooner than in a non-traditional community.

If this all seems heavy-handed, then consider a milonga organizer.  This person from time to time has to kick someone out of his or her milonga.  Why?  Having him there is bad business -- plain and simple.  Mostly readers have been open to consider this taboo topic.  But there has also been a bit of speak/hear/see no evil.  Readers have responded in four basic ways:

 Speak no evil response # 1:  Really there is nothing to say!  Tango Vultures are mythical creatures.  Men and women both play with the fire of seduction.  If it works out, great things happen.  If it doesn't work out, name calling ensues, such as "Tango Vulture" or some other much worse epithet.  We are all adults.  This is all just paranoia and sour grapes.

Hear no evil response #2:  Predatory people are very rare.  This is way too much information, and does not describe the tango community I know.  This is just too negative, and is better not said.

See no evil response #3:  My combat vets, whom I treat as a therapist, are affected by terrible events.  The hallmark of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is avoiding anything that reminds them of war.  They wish to go into a world in which they are not forced to see crowds, cars or people who could cause them or others harm.  Going to a milonga would be way too difficult.  Tangueros and tangueras have confided in me of how difficult these posts have been from their own unresolved harm caused by a predator (often before taking up tango).  However, the report having better insight of how to protect themselves in the future.  In a word, my suggestion is therapy for avoidance behaviors after a victimization, not just the book that I recommended.  New therapies truly work.  I especially suggest using a therapist trained in trauma therapy. Find an EMDR therapist at this link.  Without getting help, we will not see you much or ever again at the milonga.

The resiliency and aware response, #4: 
The Experienced Ones (men and women) tell me that Tango Vultures or Tango Tomcats described the very person who ruined tango for them or for others.  More portentous, they tell me how destructive "tomcats" have been to their small communities.  Private emails tell the story of sightings of these "mythical creatures" and that they do indeed live!  They have a sense too of how to protect themselves and their tango community.

Perhaps we all will embody any of these above responses sooner or later, during different days or seasons of our lives.  I understand.  Some days I too just want to dance.


Click here for the photo credit.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cause of Tango's Gender Imbalance


Line up ladies and wait your turn.
Women MUST protect new (and sometimes gorgeous) tangueras -- the very women that are stealing dances from them.  Not protecting them will actually CAUSE a gender imbalance.  Gender imbalance is created by Tango Tomcats which scare off the new Tanguero Kittens, causing a chronic imbalance.

It works like this:
Let's say that I am a new male dancer, learning tango in a class.  My best chance to get better is to dance with my cohort of new female students.  BUT THE TEACHER or some tango stud is taking the new female dancers and showing them the way to tango nirvana.  Even if the good female dancers are willing to dance with me, I will struggle, as a new tanguero, with performance anxiety while dancing with the experienced tangueras more than with the new tangueras.  So I drop out.  I cannot compete with the tango studs.  Many of the women will drop out from contact with Tango Tomcats, but later find their way back. But as for me, the male dancer, I will find a venue in salsa or ballroom that develops a much better cohort of female dancers, or just give up on the dance scene altogether.  Now, this did not happen to me.  But I came to tango as an well-established salsero and novice ballroom dancer.  Also, I had a background in music.  But I am sensitive to the poor new Tanguero Kittens who come and soon are gone.

Many women know how to keep them coming back and taking lessons, but others are just looking for the next great tanguero to take them for a ride.  Now, that's my direct experience -- some pretty snotty tangueras helping do demotivate the young-at-dance.  It's as if the senior tangueros are colluding to maintain a gender imbalance!

Thanks to Tango Tomcats (and to a lesser degree some pretty snotty Tango Felines), the community has a lack of new males that is much worse than the new tangueras.  A smaller community will falter because of the built-in gender imbalance in that community.  But this goes on because of senior men and senior women doing nothing about it.  For their own good and the good of the community, it is important to do something other than wait for tango karma to strike the Tango Tomcat down with lightening as he is carrying his black and white tango shoes to his car.

When I wrote what amounts to a small book on Tango Etiquette, I did not think of it as a self-defense manual (for women) and tango community building manual (for new men) -- all in one -- but now I see it that way.

Los Códigos de Tango (Tango Etiquette) has been protecting new tangueros/tangueras for over a century. (Newcomer to tango will need to read "Tango Etiquette's Apendix B for beginners" for vocabulary explanations.)  The community should not see Tango Etiquette as the finer points of tango; it is the starting point.  Tango Etiquette is not "the finer points of tango" but the basis of tango -- what teachers and friends should be pointing out to newcomers about about tandas, cabeceos, and appropriate behavior at a milonga.   It will protect their advancement and make it hard for inappropriate behavior from predatory dancers to harm them. Here is a brief review in reverse order of priority:

1. The cabeceo:  The Tango Tomcat at his worse will not take "no" for an answer.  Tell him that you use the cabeceo (even it is just for him), and then avoid his eyes.

2.  The one or two tanda rule:  Unless you plan on saying, "sleeping with me is an option," do not dance more than two tandas in a row.  Make it one -- even better.  Thank each other and get off the floor at the cortina.  If you really liked dancing, make it clear that you would like another dance later on.  Fellow blogger, Terpsichoral, tells me that in Buenos Aires one clears the floor, and that dancing more than one tanda is rare.  Hmm, I wonder why! Buenos Aires is full of Tomcats, she says, but that's okay because the women know how to manage these furry creatures.  Exactly my point!  I am not out to neuter Tango Tomcats, just help communities neutralize them!

3. What to do when uncomfortable with a partner:   If you ever feel uncomfortable with a dance, thank the person and sit down.   Make no excuses or explanations.   This is not just for creepy dancers; sometimes it is as simple as a hold that hurts or someone is way too bouncy.  What drives me mad is the woman who is constantly behind the beat and hanging on me.  It is a tanguera's right to politely end a dance, and it is tanguero's great opportunity to grow as a person to respect her decision without holding a deep resentment. I rarely have ended a tanda, but that is the tanguero's right as well.

4. No Teaching on the dance floor:  I did not know this rule for a long time, but it is essential!  why didn't anyone tell me!  No, women were even asking to be instructed!  New tangueras plead for instruction; so it takes a man with restraint not to say anything to this damsel in distress.  But even though I say nothing, often I hear that I was a great teacher.  Now, I take the time to say -- "No man should be instructing you on the dance floor.  You and I were just dancing and we both learn a lot from that."  Does explicit teaching make a person a Vulture?  No.  But he or she is breaking away from Tango Etiquette by teaching or even talking.  What does the "conversationalist-while-dancing" tanguero have to say, anyway?  One good-looking tanguero in DC is constantly teaching or talking about himself.  I feel like asking questions about everything I over heard about his greatness between songs.  He is a classic Tango Tomcat.  He also does dangerous moves and goes from one favorite tanguera to the next.  He is not really a predator, though.  He seems to develop his newest love with women who really have seen his methods on seduction.  I do not feel sorry for his lady-of-the moment them for a moment.

5.  The no-harm floorcraft rule:  Until I learned more from comments from women as I wrote about Tango Vultures, I realized that the biggest infraction on Tango Etiquette is the first rule of floorcraft -- cause no harm and protect (mostly the man but also the woman's role).  The Tango Tomcat causes great harm in the community, and he needs to be declawed.  If there is a true predatory individual in the community, his vulture talon's need to be clipped and he needs to be tarred and de-feathered.

Warning on the Package:
I have mentioned this before, but I will say it again:  My ideas about tango tomcats and vultures could cause harm to the community which is not careful about using terms, such as "Tango Vulture" for predatory behavior and "Tango Tomcat" for inappropriate behavior.  Some "red flag" behaviors are just a lack of knowing tango etiquette.  For example, even now, someone could spot me as a Tango Vulture, I realize.  "Ah, look there, the Tango Therapist is really a Tango Vulture himself!"  Some women come to tango and have the idea in their head that they want to dance with lots of space between them and their partners' bodies, but then they find themselves in a milonguero embrace with me.  They, in their own mind, might be dancing with a "Tango Vulture."  They don't feel safe, and they think I am "causing" this feeling.  I have the greatest compassion for them.  They may have been sexually abused, and this is bringing up these body-phobic feelings, or perhaps they just might need to go back to their salsa lessons or ballroom dancing.  But even there they will have to confront their body phobia when some accomplished International Style dancer puts his groin to hers and off they go on a lovely waltz.  Argentine tango now seems pretty tame.  I hope she comes back to Argentine tango, which with the right partners is therapeutic to the woman who has been abused.  But this also underlines the need to protect the community for the very small minority of men who abuse the right to embrace another soul.   Also, I have occasionally danced too much with a new tanguera, but since starting this series, I will have to avoid breaking the mostly unwritten "código" of one-tanda-at-a-time (which does not include friends and one's partner).   Also, until I knew the rule, I was terrible about talking or teaching on the dance floor.  I just didn't know! At first, I did it out of nervousness as a new tanguero and then later out of puppy exuberance for my new knowledge and love of tango.  Tango etiquette now is my basis for making tango a Safe Place, especially for those new to tango.


Photocredit:  http://axisstudiosdesign.com/byebyebirdiejr.htm

Friday, September 16, 2011

What to do with Tango Kitty Litter

The Tango Tomcat must face what now has become quicksand.

"Kitty Litter" is what I call the many new tangueras who fall away from tango because of inappropriate behavior in the tango community.  And who caused all the Kitty Litter -- all the newcomer tango kitties who have been "trashed"?  The Tango Tomcat; that's who.  He's the one who stalked too many new Tango Kitties as they arrived into the tango community with starry eyes, so fully in love with the joy of movement.  But they left when they no longer felt psychologically or physically safe.

Here is my challenge to tangueros/tangueras everywhere.  Staying in your own lane is not the primary floorcraft rule, as some people believe.  Staying in your own lane and being blind or a turning a blind eye is not okay.

Practical Things to Do
I was emboldened by this project by Clay Nelson's article on community building.   He had a short paragraph about predatory people, whom he called "toxic people."  He felt strongly that these toxic people could seriously damage the tango community if no action were taken.  He suggested that the men in the community gently confront any "toxic" person and if he does not respond that he should be shunned.  Easier said than done, but very concrete advice.

But even more than Clay, the private emails and Facebook messages tell me that this sordid subject must be addressed by more than just the men.   I assure you I would rather write poetry and about the magic of tango, but I feel advocacy for others is a part of my job as a tanguero.  Yet, it is not just a tanguero's job to promote tango as a Safe Place!  The first rule of floorcraft is NOT just "dance in your own lane," as I have said above.  So what is the primary rule of floorcraft?   The first rule of tango floorcraft is "cause no harm and protect," not only your partner but everyone on the floor.  Although navigation and this rule are mostly a man's job, women too have this job.  (See Tango Etiquette, Chapter 3, part II.)  This first rule in floorcraft is the rule of safety.  If a particular milonga's dance floor is unsafe, then many will not go any longer.  Senior tangueros and tangueras need to take an active role in making their community a Safe Place both physically on the dance floor as well as psychologically safe.  I would argue that tangueras are especially equipped to make the tango community a psychologically safe place.

Clay's article turned to the men to take action.  In my next blog,  I will suggest what the women can do, and what the consequences to the senior tangueras will be if they do not protect especially the new females in the community.

From much thought on this subject and many minutes talking to a tanguera, who happens also to be an expert witness at murder and partner abuse trials, I am convinced that any tango community which has a huge gender imbalance is caused by the both men AND women failing to take action to protect the newest women in the community.  Sure men have their role (mentioned above), but women need to guide newcomers by gently teaching tango etiquette to new tangueras -- right away.  Too many do not know what a cabeco until they have been dancing for years, or still are asking experienced tangueros to teach them on the dance floor.

Next blog:  "The Cause of Tango's Gender Imbalance":  why tango etiquette preserves gender balance in the tango community, and has a huge role in creating a psychological and physical safety for women.

Hasta la próxima,
Mark


Photo credit of kitty quicksand.  http://catmas.com/blog/_archives/2006/10/3/2382906.html  [For animal lovers this cat is not actually in sand; he is sticking his head out from a hole in carpet.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Whatever happend to Kasimir?

Kasimir never gets his fill

I have personal contact with the German man who authored "Kasimir the Tango Tomcat" back in May of 2010.   I translated his story about the tango teacher tomcat who had boundary issues with some of this students.  (Here is the link to his tango blog in German; I suggest you use Google Translate and visit his blog:  He has some wonderful clips from music that he reviews.) 

Anyway, I wondered what became of the tango community in which Kasimir was the teacher. Cassiel wrote me from Germany and told me that the weekly milonga dwindled to a poorly attended once a month milonga. In the end, Cassiel said, "[Kasimir] almost completely ruined the local tango scene." [Er hat die örtliche Szene fast vollständig zerstört.] Cassiel is a pseudonym, so he had the freedom to describe what was going on, but he also told me that Kasimir is an international figure. One can find Kasimir on the prowl everywhere you go.

Also  Terpsichoral, who lives between London and Buenos Aires helped clarify something for me. Buenos Aires is full of tomcats, she says! From her comment on Kasimir the Tango Tomcat, I realized the big distinction is how a one- or two-tomcat town can devastate a tango scene.   Larger tango "ecosystems" and urban women are more equipped to survive catty behavior -- or that is my best take on this furry phenomenon.

I promised a follow-up on what the community can do to protect itself.  I'll have that out tomorrow or Saturday, I promise.


Photocredit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/yukariryu/122530930/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be a Man!

Knight, Queen and Castle













Be a Man!
      by Mark Word


I go to work and I am the only man
Among all my colleagues.
A soldier tells me his story and cries:
He awakes after thirty-two days.
He sees the lead they took out of his brain.
He finds that eight of his friends are dead.
They haunt him.

In therapy he remembers for the first time
That his mother was there and stroked his hair,
As he awoke from his month of deathlike sleep.
A green blanket was around her neck, he says.
All this, he remembers five years after the fact,
In an office of two men, talking.
He now knows that his mother brought him
To life yet a second time, a rebirth.
We cry.  We men.

His most terrible moment transforms
To a moment of pure joy for his mother.
Her son came back to life!
Now he is changed -- forever -- by remembering.

We talk to each of the warrior-spirit friends.
They tell him to live on, what he would want for them. 
He feels forgiven for returning from his death-sleep.
It is not his fault he lived, they say.
We cry.  We men.












She goes to work among men.
Her boss needs her expertise
And asks her counsel
On the minutiae of legal things.
She wears slacks and fits in.
They discuss policy.
They discuss international law.

But at the milonga,
I embody the male energy embedded in my soul.
I protect her as she closes her eyes.
I navigate her away from the danger
That she does not even see
Because she entrusts this to me.
I am her knight, she rides with me.
I know the way to the castle.
She trusts me to take the reigns
Of the power beneath us.
I am her minstrel,
Playing our steps like a mandolin,
To an ancient song of dance.

At the milonga, she wears her dress,
And slips on her highheels.
She chooses her clothes not to fit in,
Or to be like others.
Her earrings match her shoes.
She dons -- no, embodies --
Womanhood's feminine energy.
Her soft, close embrace and trust
Invites me to be a man, fully.

We are a man and a woman.
For one tanda at a time.
The milonga seems like reality,
Our work, but a dream.



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kasimir der Tango-Kater

The following post is my translation of a German tango-blog post from May of 2010.  Cassiel's posts are excellent:  Simply excellent -- over and over.  I started following his tango blog just recently.   I came on this older post because he gave us all a link to it on a comment that he made on Tango Vutures.  The link was simply a reference to "tango teacher."  When I clicked on his link I found the story about Kasimir, the Tango Tom Cat, the name he gave the teacher.  Somehow he did not have a single comment on his blog back in 2010.  Evidently this a subject that few feel comfortable about, but now the Vuture is out of the closet, or shall I say the Kat is out of the Bag.

Here is my  translation from German:

Kasimir der Tango-Kater

Getting Over Kasimer, the Tango-Tomcat


Recently, on the edge of the dance floor, I spot a tanguera (we shall call her simply "Eleanor") who bravely sat bolt upright in her chair and looked blandly through the dancing couples. It seemed as if she were not really present. Her face betrayed no emotion.  An attentive observer could only imagine what was going on in her thought.  To truly get a glimpse of her newly aquired personality, one would have to be aware of her history with Kasimir, the Tango-Tomcat.

You see, only a few weeks ago, Eleanor was still Kasimir's favorite tanguera and he danced almost exclusively with her. But now she has been replaced with the next tanguera in the line of waiting ladies.  Eleanor's new role tonight is just to watch as she is deprived of the favor of the gato-maestro's hold. Currently at the front of the line is -- we'll call her "Ku-t-pie" -- who is glad to be the present favorite of el maestro, el Gato de la Noche.

No question, Kasimir is a good tango dancer, and he knows it. He had enough time to perfect his skills and has had the opportunity. Kasimir is open, loose and often a little too loud. He is the heart-throb of many women. If he enters into his carefully composed exterior of a milonga, then his appearance has something messianic. Kasimir occurs in different outfits. Sometimes he appears in a bright suit, the sunglasses in his hair, and sometimes he comes dressed in extremely casual sports clothes.  Then again, he sometimes is almost inconspicuous in jeans and T-shirt. Many ladies watch him with longing eyes. Kasimir seems to have trained long and hard to ignore the swooning observers.  But perhaps a careful view of him would reveal the restlessness of a troubled soul. He constantly scans the environment and controls the performance of his carefully crafted persona, which must be exhausting. But he is well aware of the power of his persona, his mask.  In the same way, he moves navigates over the dance floor waves:  His leadership is pervasive, effective and controlled.  But there is a question if his control matches the the music.  Although this lapse is hardly discernible, the careful observer can see it:  It's the moment in which the music betrays his stormy inner life.  One will see Kasimir at a loss during a tango when the music offers a motionless waiting, a stillness upon the dance floor sea.  This is the moment when his troubled soul reveals itself -- the moment the music says "be still and know yourself."  [A little bit of poetic translation here.]

But we'll go back to Ku-t-pie. [She is not the only one who gets Kasimir's favor.]  Also waiting in the line of ladies is Lucinda, who presently sits and hopes for her chance with Kasimir.  Having completed his round of jovial, friendly, professional greeting, Kasimir finally comes around to her with an outstretched hand to her and asks for a dance. He dances with her tanda after tanda. And she sinks in the happiness of the moment, not knowing that this happiness will find itself with a high probability in the same trash heap of those who went before her.

And what do all the tangueros make of this?  Surely some Tangueros undoubtedly will wonder how Kasimir does it!  How he so effortlessly captures the favor of the ladies!  Is it his verbal wit or maybe its his physical aura that grips the ladies?  But the mystery remains in Kasimir's little box of catnip secrets.  [They do not know the deal he made with his soul and the cost of such "favor."  Would they be willing to make the same deal over their own soul to have what Kasimir has?]  (Sorry, Cassiel:  a bit of of putting words into your mouth here.)

I should mention the another unfortunate feature of his personality:  Beware of his territory marking.  Let's just call it peeing on your leg. As a leader of the cat-pack, he claims the alpha position in a group. If a lesser tango-gato dances too long and too intimately with a tanguera, he must confront them on this rather forward behavior.  He must defend his role as leader of the cat-pack. As in the wild, so it must be at the milonga! His dealings with other tangueros is rather difficult. Somehow, he very often gives the impression that tango-size does matter with his not-so-hidden "length comparisons."  It's all so tedious.

Maybe we need to describe a few archetypes of hopeful and ultimately disappointed tangueras from his past so that the phenomenon is more tangible in order to understand a persona such as Kasimir. First let's mention Fanny, the frustrated: She has sworn him off after her great disappointment with the Kasimir -- her tango also died too. Then there's Farah, the Furious: In her sense of him nothing that would be positive to say of Kasimir.  But it has had a larger toll on her too, as seen in her tango, which has become noticeably more performance-focused and more hectic.  [For her the world of a tango of feeling has replaced itself with a tango of outward perception.]  And that brings us finally to Ina, the Indolent:  For ages she has continued on apparently without any heart-break.  She, [like a French wife of a politician
] stands in solidarity with Kasimir [and his current mistress] hoping that he realizes one day that she is the only true [adoring] one.

Is there hope for Kasimir?  This question is not easy to answer. Certainly it will be difficult for him to leave the hunt of the latest Kitty even though this hunt leaves marks upon his soul. Precisely for this reason, his great performance slowly seems to have become more hectic.  Perhaps he will find that the the tango sociotop is not an endless ocean [on which he can sail his pirate's ship].  One day he will find that the waves he has made upon his own tango ocean will have him upon the rocks.  A cold and wet Kasimir then hopefully will get to know the real world of tango, the silent [and peaceful sea of] tango. Maybe he can find a new sociotop-- one of connection with another soul.







Photocredit link

PS:  Hats off to Cassiel.  I ask his forgiveness with some of my freedom I took in a few places in the translation.  If I had read his post before writing Tango Vultures, I would have used the softer name -- the Tango Tom Cat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tango Vultures

When vultures fly over head, fear is a gift.

There is not a book specifically on Tango Vultures, but I hope that this frank article will help tango communities to be one step closer to clipping the wings of those who use tango to hurt others.

A Tango Vulture is a person who uses his dancing skills in tango to take advantage of especially new members of the tango community.  This person is more than just "inappropriate."  He is a predator. Please do not over-use this word.  A Tango Vulture is a rare bird, but one in a tango community is one too many.  Also, around half of the vultures in the skies are female; however, I am limiting the scope of this discussion on only male Tango Vultures.

Let's not just point fingers at the person who is causing havoc in a community.  When a person ruins tango -- usually for a fairly new dancer in the community -- it usually started as a tango community failure.  Clay Nelson, a tango instructor and fesitival organizer in Portland, Oregon, charges the tango community to protect especially new members of the community.  He charges the senior members to take action.  He writes:

"Don’t accept predatory or toxic behavior from individuals. This can be a difficult issue. Occasionally there will be an individual who has socially unfit behavior. When this happens, do not take it upon yourself to correct it. First discuss it with a few of your most trusted and respected comrades in the community and if, and only if, they agree with you, then take appropriate action by gently confronting the individual as a group and discuss the matter. Afterwards, carefully monitor that person's behavior and if it doesn't change, you may have to be more persistent. In a worse case scenario, shun them from the community--however, be careful. No matter how awful an individual is, he or she will always have some allies and friends. Shunning or banning someone from the community will almost always cause some division/riff/split and/or controversy within your community."

Read his entire article for the context of these ideas in the arena of "community building."

Let me add something to Clay's point about the Tango Vulture having important aliances in the community. There is a good reason for the Tango Vulture to have lots of friends:  He needs the protection of blind friends to shield him from those who figure him out. My first exposure to this fact was from a training article in a newsletter, "FBI Reports" on victimology and specifically pedophilia.  Having important friends to cover antisocial behavior is part of the make-up of very scary people called psychopaths.  Psychopaths and pedophiles, for an example, often parade a long line of "character witnesses" into court who will vouch for what great people they are.  The public and untrained observer is convinced by this parade of praise.  Being a nice and active community person is not a bad thing, but it does not impress the forensic psychiatrist or the FBI investigator, who know that this is one of several "red flags" they should be looking for.  Unknowing people think that nice people and active community (even church community) people just cannot be that bad.  Presently female psychopaths/pedophiles/Tango Vultures cause great damage in the world but we are culturally blind to them, especially in some countries -- but this is a very unpopular subject to approach.  I will allow a some tanguera to approach this subject.  I do not dare.

Although a Tango Vulture is not necessarily a dangerous psychopath, they have many of the characteristics of a psychopath. Every tango community I know has at least one Tango Vulture, who stalks new tangueras as they arrive on the scene.  They then use the magic of tango (the socially accepted embrace, the joy of movement to music and the joy of mastery of improvisational skill) to get what they want.  Most of their "crimes" are those of selfish passion, but these behaviors could slowly grow in maliciousness. Any tango community aware of a Tango Vulture should be protective of any new community member and the community's reputation at large.

Knowledge Clips the Wings of the Tango Vulture
No one "red flag" makes a person a "vulture," so please do not over use or over think this.  Some people are just jerks but are not predatory!  With this first in mind, I will share the Tango Vuture's Method of Operation (MO) as I have observed it:
  • Younger is better:  The Tango Vulture almost always go for a much younger person than they are.
  • A certain profile that suits them:  Beyond just young they usually like a certain "flavor" to their victim.  She may be oriental, Russian, Hispanic or just simply a redhead.  They often to go for the same "flavor" of victim over and over.
  • The Free Tango Teacher role:  The Tango Vulture's MO is nearly always to play instructor with someone new to the wonderful world of tango.  Free lessons or being a "practice partner" becomes a prelude to have sex with that person.  The worst sort of predator is the tango organizer or professional tango teacher who uses their prestige and position for these "fringe benefits."  The Tango Vulture can easily go from one victim to the next.  This phenomena of using one's position is well known in the Boy Scouts among public school teachers.  Because of this, those active in the boy scouts or professional teachers are trained to watch out for predatory colleagues.
I have a colleague who is a highly trained forensic psychiatrist.  She is called into court about criminal behavior as a expert witness.  A while ago she recommended that I read a book that unwittingly describes the Tango Vulture.  Especially any younger female (dancer or not) should add this book to her "must read" book list:  The Gift of Fear:  Survival signals that protect us from violence by Gavin de Becker.  This book has been translated into 14 languages and was #1 on the New York Times best sellers list.  The author's Pre-[violent] Incident Indicators help a person clip the wings of a Tango Vulture.  I have already named indicators of (1) youth seeking; (2) seeking out a the same sort of individual; and (3) playing tango teacher. Here is Gavin de Becker's red flags or "survival signals":
Pre-Incident Indicators
  •  Forced Teaming. This is when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn't really true.
  • Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her.
  • Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible.
  • Typecasting. An insult to get a person who would otherwise ignore one to talk to one.
  • Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return.
  • The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, "I promise I'll leave you alone after this," usually means you will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited "I promise I won't hurt you" usually means the person intends to hurt you.
  • Discounting the Word "No." Refusing to accept rejection.* 

The usual victim cannot complain to the community. She has no voice. She simply disappears out of shame or no longer sees her Safe Place as being tango. The new person is soon gone after the affair is over, and the tango community? Too often the ladies did not take the new tanguera aside to mention that "Fulano" may be a great tanguero, but he has had more than a few affairs with new dancers. If this appeals to the new tanguera, then stand back and watch. But she deserves some kind older sister advice. Or the gentlemen never gently told the guy that it is not appropriate to monopolize the time of a new dancer, and point out that the young dancers he "mentors" often give up dancing. In other words, no one had the guts to say, "We are watching you, Fulano." You can also slip him a copy of this blog into his shoe bag some evening.**







In my next post I will have a short post on what to do when in spite of your above knowledge, you find yourself in the talons (via a tango embrace) of a vulture, and why an understanding of tango etiquette adds another layer of protection against the Tango Vulture.

September 8th Post Script:
I am finding out from emails from both men and women that problematic tangueros and tangueras do not necessarily focus just on the young -- but the newcomer is indeed the person who is most vulnerable.  Also, I would like to note that the tango community is probably safer than some religious institutions.  Predatory behavior hides in every corner.  Read the book I have suggested above.  Knowledge is power.


*Quoted from Wikipedia on The Gift of Fear.

**Fulano is the Spanish equivalent to "John Doe."


Photo credit: Lisa Tannenbaum, 2009.http://newmexicophotojournal.com/2009/11/

Monday, September 5, 2011

When Eros and Agape Met


While on vacation in Argentina some years ago, Eros and Agape happened to meet at a café. They had met before in Athens and got into a big argument.  Since that time, they had refused to talk to each other. But this time they were both on vacation, and were more relaxed.

Agape was the first to speak because she felt that it was her place to put aside old hurts, and she figured Eros would never take the lead on normalizing their relationship. She was right. Eros had a certain inflexibility to him.

"Eros!" she said, "funny meeting you here in Argentina!"

"Hi, Agape," he said, noting how nice she looked in her toga.

"We really have the same mission in life; so perhaps we really should get along better." Agape was so right on this one. What an embarrassing thing it has been having the same name "Love" as translated in many languages, but the two of them were not getting along:  Ironic, to say the least!

"Agape," Eros interjected, "you know that so many think you are the highest type of love, but without me, a lot of people who talk about you would be not very loving at all. They'd be frustrated and up tight all the time. They'd all be at each other's throats in less than a month without my influence."

"Okay, Eros," she said calmly, "but you must realize that I am not the one that makes all this stuff up about me being higher than you. I am not out there upgrading my reputation! It's sort of like the opposite of slander. Slander and Adoration are part of the same coin. This coin, no matter how it is flipped, is beyond our control."

That day in a coffee shop in Argentina Eros and Agape created a dance called Tango as a way of showing their solidarity and affection towards each other. They decided that tango's rhythmic roots would come out of Africa and its melodies and harmonic structure would come out of Europe. This dance, tango, at that moment became sensuality combined with the best of the human spirit. From Tango, mortals would embrace in a way that even siblings embrace each other, heart to heart, and they would find themselves transported by and possessed by the beauty of the music. Tango became the celebration of movement, a walking embrace, the transcendence of sentient yet spiritual ecstasy.

Just about that time, the muse of dance, Terpsichóre, also avoiding the winter in Athens, showed up to play for Eros and Agape.  She was about to play the first tango on her harp, but said, "Wait!  You have to hear this instrument I found in the Reinland of Germany!"  She put down her harp and pulled out a squeeze-box from a case lined with purple velvet.  "It's called a bandoneón," she said.  And out from the crying bellows of the bandoneón, Terpsichóre played the very first tango.
 
Agape tenderly embraced Eros and he navigated her around the room as Terpsichóre led and inspired them in the dance that never had been danced.  The people in the streets of Buenos Aires started gathering, watching this incredible moment in human history.

Now you know the true history of Tango: The dance that Agape and Eros danced when they met in Argentina some years ago.


Special thanks to Ovid, who still inspires me to make up my own etiological stories.

Art credit:
ArtistAntonio Canova
Year1787-17931800-1803
TypeWhite marble
Dimensions155 cm (61 in)
LocationLouvreParisHermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Re-finding Tango as a Safe Haven

This is my Safe Place.  You cannot take it from me!

Recently I suggested that tango is a "Safe Place" for many people.  Many people can just imagine dancing and they feel calm and safe.  A friend pointed out that tango no longer feels safe for her because trust was broken, and now she no longer feels safe with tango in general.


I am glad that she brought this out.  In all cases, one's safe place can be challenged by human experience.  In some cases that Safe Place never comes back.   Tango can lose its feel of safety too because tango with certain people is not safe.  Never was.


My Safe Place is a mountain in Nevada behind the home where I grew up. Had I experienced a rattlesnake biting me on that mountain, I probably would not choose that particular place as my favorite Safe Place.  Chances are, I would choose a different place.  However, tango is not a place that can be easily replaced.  Some Safe Places are worth preserving.  Tango belongs to this class of Safe Places that are worth retaining forever.  Tango itself is not itself archetypal, but the embrace, movement to music, mastery of improvisation are archetypal.  Here are some examples of archetypal Safe Places:

  • Mothers:  I have some clients whose mothers severely abused them, but a motherly figure replaced the abusive mother.  An archetypal motherly figure creates a Safe Place for even people who have not had a loving mother.
  • Fathers:  The same as above, but this one is particularly clear for many people with their sense of a fatherly God -- a loving father whom they experience only in a mental realm.
  • The Opposite Sex:  Because of physical or mental abuse many people lose their trust of the opposite sex, but through their own resiliency or therapy, they find freedom from generalizing against all women or all men.
  • Races or classes of people:  This is similar to the opposite sex, even more insidious .  In all cases of trauma that I have worked with up to now, there is some sort of hate of a class of people that at some point drops.  Without this change, true freedom from trauma was not achieved.
  • A place of worship.  Sometimes when a bad experience in paired with a place of worship, the person loses more than just that place, but the whole idea of a sanctuary and a holy Safe Place and faith.  Regaining that safety -- perhaps in a different community -- is part of engaging oneself in the world.
Like the above five things, tango is worth preserving as a Safe Place.  It is an embrace, and the joy of movement to music and the mastery of improvisation.  Also tango is a community of people, and unless we plan on being hermits, living fully requires us to learn that all communities will have safe and unsafe people.


The work that a person must do to regain resiliency after being at war, after rape, after trust is broken, after suffering a loss or after being abused is an important fork in the road that will surely come in some way for all of us who live very long.  Re-finding your safe place is an important life task!  Bad experiences tied to good things one by one could have you living in a world with nothing good.  


Let's say you left salsa because of "the crowd."  Now, you find solace in the tango community.  But there are unsafe people everywhere you go, and sooner or later, someone will come along to challenge your Safe Place in tango (or anything beautiful in the world).  So live and learn.


Re-finding tango is an important task for anyone who has found its beauty.  A person who has been raped has to re-find sex or men in general.  Divorced people have to re-find the opposite sex.  People robbed by a particular person of a certain race may have to re-find their trust of that race and fight inner racism.


My dance shoes are my Safe Place.  I like it here.
Perhaps going to a therapist is the best place to start.  Some therapists might have you leaving tango, especially if you mention that some say it is an "addiction," which is a poor, medicalized analogy of something very beautiful.  So be careful of framing tango in this way, or the therapist will only go along with your avoidance behaviors.  Then the problem will be solved by not solving it.  The best actions to support your therapy is to "get back on the horse."  Get back out there dancing!  Also align yourself well with people who can be trusted.  I also suggest the eight solutions I mentioned earlier in my blog for rejection.  Losing a Safe Place is not "rejection"; however, these solutions help in both rejection or a loss of trust in tango.




A future blog entitled "Tango Vultures" will also help to identify whom you can trust, what to do to instill trust with others who know your struggle, and finally what the tango community needs to do about the Tango Vulture.  




Photo Credit:
Cat in her Safe Place
http://www.scenicreflections.com/media/577486/A_safe_place_for_spying_Wallpaper/


Safe Place Shoes
http://piccsy.com/2011/07/safe-place/

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tango and the Music of the Spheres

Title:  "Music of the Spheres"

By far one the most beautiful dreams I have ever had was after a class on musical transliteration.  We would have to hear music and then write it out.  I can tell you that I was not very good at this, and am proudly envious of Toby, my son, who can recognize exactly what note or cord is being played.

Anyway, one late afternoon following my music transliteration class, I took a nap.  I dreamed that I, along with an entire room of people, were watching the music of the universe as it expressed itself in matched colors and tones.  The room was filled with rainbows, and we were doing our best to write down what we could get.  No one could get it all.  But we did our best.  We were all deeply in awe.

I did not wake disappointed but happy that somehow I saw the truth.  That God's universe is out there and we are just doing our best to piece together what we can understand.

This concept of a universal music is pretty much unknown now, but great thinkers up untill the end of the Renaissance in some way believed in Musica Universalis.  We modern and very self-important people have given up on Musica Universalis.

But imagine living in a world in which harmony presented itself everywhere.  A planet, moving along a finite path had its own own tone or group of tones.  This was the music of the spheres.  At the time there were 8 planets and they all were attached to a certain moving sphere.  The movement of each sphere had its own musical expression.

I don't simply believe in the "music of the spheres."  I know about it.  I was there.  I saw it.  And I experience it in tango all the time with my own tone and my partner's musical tone.

My compañera (the one who accompanies me in this path) has more than just a sense of the music playing as we dance, but perhaps even a sense of the the music of the universe (musica universalis).  Maybe her vision and fine-tuned intuition pulls me into new dimensions of musicality.  Maybe the music so fully guides us both that our musical auras intertwine and take us both to a place that we may naively believe to because of the other, but it was really a higher sense.  Maybe we have our own musical combined musical tones or phrase, and when combined with each they create a completeness and a wonderful harmony.  At the end of such a dance, she might say, "You are such a good lead."  But it really was her; it was us.  When I tell her that I cannot take the credit, she discounts my statement as false humility.  But it is true.

The music of the spheres includes all objects in relation to each to other.  That great tanda was a whole universe orchestrated together in that moment.  It was "the music of the spheres."  Perhaps we should not discount ideas that Plato so readily believed.  Perhaps this early cosmological theories that entwined astrology, mathematics and music should not have been so fully discounted.  I have chosen to join the Renascence Mind.  I hope you will join me. I promise you do not have to dress up for the part!


Resource:  Musica univeralis  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis


Photo/Art Credit:  http://bumwardoimortal.deviantart.com/art/Music-Of-The-Spheres-color-169935044
Musical notes of planets: http://www.sodahead.com/living/which-planet-would-you-most-like-to-visit-the-music-of-the-spheres/question-1258595/?link=ibaf&q=music+of+the+spheres&imgurl=http://www.earthstation1.com/MySpace/KeplersMusicOfTheSpheres.jpg