One thing I have learned in life is, not to be too stuck on detail when presenting radical ideas. I don’t want to revisit the mistake I made, when launching my proposal to turn the coast of the Netherlands 90 degrees towards the south. In that one, I failed to explain where to move the UK. You may remember my recent proposals to 1) introduce a simple form of Argentine tango called CoreTango, 2) launch a seven-season Netflix tango drama series and 3) set up a ‘leader apprentice’ program, requiring all milongas in major cities to ‘adopt’ at least ten leaders per year. I realise that some of you assumed that my suggestions were meant as a joke. I was actually dead serious.
I talked to an aspiring leader recently. He was not dancing but studying the ronda before us. I reminded him gently that Messi never learned to score goals by watching Match Of The Day. I also told him about the apprentice idea, which he loved, and I officially adopted him on behalf of our milonga. A day later, someone told me about an initiative called Cool!Tango by Hendrik Jan van Rijswijk, teaching tango to school kids in Rotterdam. Suddenly, the ideas didn’t seem so crazy anymore. Some screenwriter must now also be emailing his synopsis, of the next version of Breaking Bad, to Netflix: the fascinating saga about this average guy, completely changing his life through tango.
Encouraged, I am exploring the apprentice idea a little further. The first year is the hardest on leaders. They don’t know that followers grow faster or that lessons never seem to cover anything actually seen on the milonga floor. A wise mentor could prepare them for that. Surrounded by a group of other struggling leaders, they could confess, like in an AA support group, to forehead clinging, stiff arming or not having a clue on how to push the floor. A buddy system would help them through their moments of self-doubt and confusion. All the important milestones will be celebrated of course: First Full Tango, First Full Tanda, Asking Anyone Anytime, Not Giving A Fuck About People Watching, and so on.
The key to the success of this initiative is to make apprentices become members of a wider tango community from day one. It takes a village, of cooperating milongas. As an apprentice, your First-Year status will ensure that all followers in the milonga owe you a tanda, every night! We instruct the apprentices, of course, that they must return the tandas, with interest, within two years. The milonga must take care of designing a program, which I won’t bore you with here. However, at the end of the year, the ten fresh apprentices come together, hear out some emotional speeches in front of the whole community, and, go on a field trip abroad together. By this time, they are already hooked on tango so we don’t have to worry about them leaving. But just to be on the safe side, we plan the field trip to a St. Petersburg, Budapest or Istanbul marathon, or whatever place is supposed to be ‘leader heaven’ by that time (and assuming 10% of what I’m being told about those marathons is actually true).