Thursday 27 January 2011

Self reflection

Two weeks ago, I had a short discussion with a colleague. He used to be a very famous Tango performer and is now teaching mainly in Germany. He was quite surprised when I told him, that I do not perceive myself as an artist. 

Of course not! An artist creates something unique in order to present a thought, an idea or a feeling to an audience. A Tango artist may dance a choreography or at least improvise for an audience, driven by this artistic motivation. I don‘t do that. Of course Detlef and I do demos and have a distinctive style of movement and musical expression. And we may even create something new whilst dancing. But every social dancers does it, when he or she really improvises. When we do a demo, we just want to show people, how social Tango can look like and what they can expect to learn from us. That‘s not the motivation of an artist. 

I am not even a dancer. Why? Although I‘ve danced all my life, I never aspired to do this professionally. I do not own a dance diploma and I do not earn my living by dancing or doing performances. Most of my time, I spend at the computer, organising, planning and reflecting classes or writing about Tango. I spend a lot of time sitting in cars, train and airplanes and of course several hours per week teaching Tango. I spend much less time actually dancing Tango. Those who have read my previous posts, may have figured that out already and know the numerous reasons why. To call myself a dancer would be presumptuous. 

So. I am a Tango teacher, an organiser, a manager, a blog author and a Tango DJ. I used to be a psychologist, a social worker and a politician. Hopefully, I will be a historian, one day. That is, If I ever get to preparing for my exams... ;-) 

But I am no artist and I am no dancer. 

I dance Tango, because I love it. Just for the fun of it.


Anonymous said...

I promise you, the times that we have danced, you have been a dancer. I don't think it's presumptuous to call yourself a dancer. If you move to music and you love it, you're a dancer. There's no need for others to tell you in the form of a diploma to confirm this. x

La tanguera said...

Art is an interesting topic as there is no satisfactory definition for it. Art for the artist may just be a feeling and any social dancer could experience it - but the result may not be recognised as art by anyone else. From the viewers' point of it may be irrelevant that you don't feel like an artist - they may still consider it art. Certainly the opposite is true - a lot of 'artist' create 'art' that I wouldn't classify as such. That includes many tango performances.

Alter said...

your post is straight to the point! Social (i.e. normal, traditional, classical etc) tango has nothing to do with artistic (self) expression. I learned that from one milonguero who just emphasized that.

The problem is that in 60-ies they invented stage tango and then in 80-ies tango was (re)introduced to the global audience exactly as as a form of art. It is still mainly perceived as an art, watched by spectators, taught by stage professionals in master classes like in balley school.
You are nice exception! It is first time I hear a brave statement that "I'm not an artist" from recognized tango teacher :) Good luck!

Melina Sedo said...

Thank you all!

@ Alter: I do not consider myself as particularly brave: organisers hire me because I promote social Tango and because of my pegagogic skills and concepts. And I am very confident to say that I can offer a first class service there.
An organiser, who wants to promote art & artists will most likely hire someone else to start with.

@ La Tanguera & R:
For me, it is not so important, how OTHER PEOPLE define me and what I am doing. If someone calls me a dancer or an artist, that my be ok under his or her considerations. MY philosophy does not allow for it. ;-)

Anonymous said...

@Melina - I admire the It's not important how other define me' attitude. It's healthy and self-confident. Though you (and Detlef) have a skill which I would define as artistic (amongst other things). This comes over in both your teaching and your dancing. Whatever you want to define it as, please keep it up! :o)
R x

Melina Sedo said...

Big hug to you, R. :-)

Game Cat said...

Hi Melina -

If, like you did, I defined myself by what I spend most of my time doing, then I must be a sleeping, eating, keyboard puncher. ;-)

And regarding art, just because many social dancers create something new and you are not motivated to be an artist.....does that mean you cannot create art? Must art be exclusive and professional?

Melina Sedo said...

Hi Game Cat:

Sure. I might be doing art, according to someone's elses perception. But not according to my definition of art. And I would not want to see myself as an artist.
Ergo - I am no artist. ;-)

Actually: the highest Social Court in Germany decided that Tango teachers are no artists and thus not entitled to be insured under the special regulations for artists. According to them, Tango teachers are sports teachers!

Yup. Me being sports teacher...

Actually likewise absurd, because I hate sports... ;-)

And now off to do my sports class!


Andreas said...

I am not an artist.

Melina Sedo said...

@ Andreas: I agree. Apart from the habits... ;-)

NegatroN said...

Even if it is way above my possibilities to convince you, I can at least disagree. Which I do with firm conviction.

In my eyes it does not matter if you make a living from dancing. It also does not matter if every social dancer would be an artist. Of course he is! He creates something just for the beauty of itself. If that is not art, then nothing is.

msHedgehog said...

I agree with what you say, but what I specifically admire about it is the way you are willing to tell people to *hire someone else* if they want something that isn't your thing.

Someone who can say that is a lot more worth hiring (for whatever their thing is) than someone who can't. I think the ability to say "that's NOT what I do," or "I don't recommend that, it's a bad idea" is a very important part of defining and delivering a professional service that people can rely on. It gets you trust and it gets you a lot of respect - in ANY field. We should do that more, where I work.

TatianaSoftware said...

Hi Melina

I'm really enjoying your posts about tango.

I'm curious as to how you define an "artist" (and how Alter thinks of "artistic self expression") so that it excludes social dancing.

For me there is "performance art", which has an audience, is done on stage by "professional artists", etc. But fundamentally, art is about expressing who we are, something which we all experience the need to do in some way or other.

I write about this at length here:[[Expression%20%28in%20dance%20and%20music%29]]

A good social dancer (for me) is an artist who expresses who they are in connection with the music and in connection to their partner, in such a way that their dance expresses who they are, together, right now, for no purpose but their own pleasure/need to express themselves.

I think this is just a quibble about how to define the word artist. I'm interested in "re-taking" the word art to validate non-performance, participative art as an important aspect of culture. And also to fight against the people who line up one dance move after another and call it "dance".

Best Regards


(p.s. I don't know if I will get a notification if you reply. Maybe you can email me - I'm gregdyke and I use

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Greg.

I think your interpretation of an artist as someone who expresses himself is valid. But it is - in my opinion - a very broad definition.

I use the more narrow definition of "someone expressing himself to an audience" in my blog. And this is - i feel - opposed to social dancing.

As for lining up dances and calling oneself a dancer - you are right. That's ridiculous. Being a dancer has nothing to do with the technical learning of ever more moves to different rhythms but a general disposition to express the music with your body.

Have a nice day,