For keeping me awake until 7 am to let the inspiration “manage” my fingers typing and “supervise” my word choice.
Dedicated to a former mentor who encouraged me to explore metaphors.
I once had a scheduled meeting to discuss my monthly progress report. The meeting went smoothly: progress, challenges, changes, frustrations, achievements, all unpacked and dealt with. After the meeting was over a short discussion followed on the way out. We talked about peace, peacebuilding, peace making, peace breaking, and I just randomly said it was just like tango. Not an official work task, but I was advised to think about this as a metaphor. I am not sure if i can do poetic enough for metaphor but here’s something:
Today in my interview i said something along the lines that Corrymeela is a safe space where people come together to change things. A constant transformation of people and processes. A small place where things happen very fast, with a lot of hard work put in it, whilst outside of it, in the wider society, things move very slowly. That is change. Corrymeela is change.
The wind and the sea may be very strong and fast, yet landscapes take millions of years to change. The wind never stopped blowing, the sea never stopped moving, so why should we?
In reality processes and change are hard, and giving up on them is fairly easy. So is giving up tango after you’ve just started. People see others dancing gracefully, and with fascinating, impressive moves and want to be a part of that, and be able to do that. Yet what they will discover soon enough is that it is incredibly challenging, very complex, and requires strength (both physical and mental). It is said that only to learn how to walk properly (basic move) can take 2-3 years. You need to learn how to position your feet, how to disassociate your body, how to keep your posture, how to use your chest to lead, how to (or not to) use your arms and shoulders, when to step, how big or small the steps should be, and this is probably just a small bit of the learning you have to undertake. The most difficult part of it all is that you are not alone in this so you have to learn how to identify a ripe moment, how to coordinate, how to give signals to the person you dance with, how to move with the rhythm of the music and with your partner. The cherry on the cake is feeling a connection with your partner and moving together in harmony and more so, loving to do that, and give it all you have: ambition, determination, emotions, work, dedication, commitment, [insert the rest of "all"]. When you get to this, you will find that you have a good foundation to build on, and you can start to learn further techniques and moves. How to loosen up your legs, how and when to bend your knees, how to do circles with your feet, how how to spin, how to pivot, how to follow instincts, when to improvise, how to move and not to move hips, when to close and open an embrace, how to communicate without words, but through a completely different language. You will know if your partner feels safe, comfortable, enjoyment, passion, the rhythm, if they want a closed or an open embrace, if they want to dance again or prefer not to, if they’re carrying the world on their shoulders, if they’re tense, happy, alone or supported, without saying a word.
If you reach this point, then you’ve probably been dancing for 30 years and congratulations to you, you’ve gone a long way. Some people feel happy where they are and do, what they’ve learnt and done all these years, have a good connection and are in a safe zone. The learning is not over though, the process can also be improved and developed. We never stop learning. Sometimes, in the 21st century people who have been dancing tango for years and years discover that as the times changed for example, women gained more rights and some of them will not just simply want to follow the men blindly, and they will want to see for themselves how it is like to dictate the moves. Yet they fail to notice because they are tango experts and tango experts dictate how you dance, they teach you the real, traditional tango. Some will not be happy with the terms. I will probably feel the need to correct someone who refers to a leader as the “man” and a follower as “woman”. Some older tango dancer might even tell me I don’t know tango and try to put me in my place. [inexperienced, woman, young]
Why should we ever be content with being in comfort zones? Why do we always have to give up when times are hard and we realise that building foundations for a great dance or social change is so much more complex and challenging than we expected? Why should we just do the bare minimum and be happy with very little?
Dancing is therapy, it is learning, expression, communication, and constant obstacles to achieving abstract things like happiness, love and perfection. And to me, so is working endlessly to achieve abstract things like (positive) peace. Some say it is all about the process. I disagree. It is also about achievements, and whether you are dancing tango or trying to build peace, you don’t just have the process, which is amazing, but also hundreds of small goals (if not more), and obstacles you have overcome.
When you run a class for (new) beginners in tango, do you manage them? Do you not manage the class? Do you supervise them? Surely you do more than that. I would say you are there to facilitate learning, to empower them, to support them to become the best they can be, to share, to warn them about the dangers of the complicated, and help them de-construct techniques and moves. They could fall, but then if they do, you’ll be there to pick them up, help them get back on their feet, de-construct again, and help them figure out why it happened and how to avoid falling again. You don’t just “oversee” them falling. When they begin to dance very well, do we say we did it? Well, not really, they did. And in that case, how can it be easy to say look at all these people, and how great they dance! Look at my achievements! Look at their achievements, and what happens when you give people the chance and space to try to dance.