When I began dancing tango socially, there was a tiny community who would turn up from abroad at local festivals. We referred to these ethereal creatures who came, danced with each other, and then evaporated, as the itinerant Versailles. They weren’t that many, and there was only one major festival in our town, so we didn’t see much of them.
Fast forward to 2018. Now there are marathons everywhere, all the time, and anyone who takes tango more seriously seems to fly out to attend them at least once a month, or even every weekend.
The result locally is that most good dancers are elsewhere. Our regular milongas have become depopulated, with the snowball effect that even more people are going away for their tango fix, to the further detriment of their own domestic scene. It’s a vicious circle.
Meanwhile, in the real world, air traffic is deemed the greatest environmental threat. The newspapers report daily that flying less is the best thing we can do to stop or at least slow down global warming.
Living up here in the cold north, I can certainly understand the allure of going somewhere warmer, where there are lots of great dancers. But is tango a valid reason to add to the already catastrophic carbon dioxide levels? How can we justify this perpetual searching for kicks? Is tango really that important? I find it increasingly hard to see how anyone who does not have tango as their profession, who dances only for their personal enjoyment, can be reconciled with this incessant air travel for the sake of a few tandas in a different part of the world. And the general congratulatory celebration of this kind of travel is bewildering, especially since the stories told on returning from some of these events are far from rosy.
In the long run, apart from the obvious negative environmental impact, this nomadic tango culture could actually be lowering the standard of tango. Just think if people stayed at home and spent all that time and money on classes and on practising! Or on helping to create a vibrant, lively milonga! Think how friendly and interesting the local scene might become if people invested more of themselves in it, instead of merely being tourists and consumers – because that is what you become if you are forever on the move. Sadly, also, some of these tango commuters, on the rare occasion when they are in town at the weekend, tend to heap criticism on the dancers at their local milongas, as though they were tourists in their own home town too.
I have cautiously voiced these concerns to people around me. And even though I have done so without aggression, and without accusing anyone personally, the only result so far seems to be that people avoid telling me about their tango trips. Hopefully, my views have had some marginal effects – because every little counts. We are on the brink of a global environmental disaster. It’s time that we all look at our own behaviour and what we can do to turn things around.
So, I implore you: why not start by skipping, say, one marathon? Or maybe taking the train?
Social Dancer from Stockholm in Sweden