Sunday 28 April 2019

The Tango Zone

Remember a few years ago? 

In 2010, the first year of this blog, I wrote about how our own hometown had become a tango free zone for us. And this was true for so many years:
We were traveling all over Europe and to the USA, sometimes for 46 out of 52 weeks. It was interesting and rewarding, but also exhausting and it estranged us more and more from the city in which we lived and still live. Dancers from all over the world often assumed, that we were teaching in our hometown, when in fact, the local dancers did not even know our names. There were years when our annual Encuentro with 200 participants hosted not more than 4 dancers from Saarbrücken.

Although this was normality for such a long time, it never felt quite right: having to travel far just to dance one tanda; knowing that tango here was so different from what we loved... 

But things started to change little by little: 
Once in a while, we would organise a workshop weekend in our small Tangokombinat studio and I started to offer Ladies Only seminars. Sure, most participants would come from afar, but there were always 1 or 2 locals. And sometimes, dancers from Saarbrücken would visit a workshop with us in some other town. So - although we still did not dance or teach regularly in Saarbrücken, some local dancers got to know us and our philosophy. 
But it was our teacher training that re-connected us with tango in our hometown. In order to offer an evening activity for our teacher-trainees we would organise a milonga during each module. This is where the local tangueros got to interact with so many nice dancers that had traveled from far to work with us. They (most likely) heard positive feedback about our classes and noticed that there was no kicking and jumping at our milongas.
In 2016, we then organised the first edition of Pequeña with the aim to bring together the (still) few close embrace dancers from our home region with friends from all over Europe. It was an instant success and many new bonds were forged.
But the real change happened when in 2018 all of a sudden four dancers from Saarbrücken asked to participate in our TTT. Wow! We would never have anticipated this!
All of a sudden we spent a lot more time with local dancers, exchanged views, ideas and sorrows. We actually got to know each other.

And there was one other thing: 
During the TTT, I got increasingly envious of our graduates who were giving classes in their hometowns. Regular tango classes. Teaching beginners. We had not done that for many years. Our workshop participants, even the teacher-trainees, even those who followed us around the globe were never really our students - they had discovered tango elsewhere. Sure, I am happy with what we achieved and how many dancers we could reach with our ideas. But it is still different than having your own students whom you can teach from the beginning. In the years 2002-2007, when we were giving weekly classes in Metz, Landau and St. Wendel (never in our hometown!), our pedagogical, musical and technical skills had been much less developed. Now, after so many years of teaching, learning, researching, discussing, I was eager to work with beginners from a new and improved perspective.

So I thought: It's now or never!

I wrote a mail to our local tango-friends, asking them, if they'd be interested in making tango in our hometown nicer - all of them responded positively. And with such great enthusiasm and dedication. All of a sudden, it was not only me, but Detlef, I and 9 friends! 

Everyone is helping to promote our activities, eager to participate, to develop as dancers, as djs and as hosts at milongas. Since our first meeting, we've started a bunch of activities:

  • Monthly milongas in the Tangokombinat studio,
  • Weekly classes for beginners and for those who want to improve their dance quality, 
  • A practica and milongas organised by our friends Armin and Elena, 
  • A simple couch-surfing platform for our events in Saarbrücken,
  • Outdoor dancing and much more...

Yesterday, at our monthly Minilonga - for the first time - we could integrate beginners into the fold. In their first four classes, they have learned to move in the ronda, to invite by mirada and cabeceo and to change roles! Yes, we're teaching both roles from the beginning and I think it is already showing great results. Although there was (as usual) a huge female majority at yesterday's milonga, no-one sat and moped. Everyone had fun. And I even saw a few men following. 

Not bad, eh? Guess the tango free zone is not tango free anymore!

The only downside: much more work. Building up something takes a lot of time and energy. What little was left for leisure activities and quality time with my sweetheart is now gone. Apart from my usual work organising and actually holding our international teaching-activities and events, I've now got classes during the week, meetings, fixing up the studio, workshops to form new djs for the community. Plus my new leading-practise twice a week ... sigh... anyone a youth potion? Should I by now not be preparing for retirement? But then, there's no retirement on a tango-teacher's wage anyway. So: on we go.