Valorie and I were the first to publish an actual hard copy newsletter starting in 1994. El Firulete was born out of the need to educate an entire new generation of dancers, to provide a forum for open discussion, and to foster and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Argentine tango. We did it while keeping a lighthearted attitude, sometimes laughing at ourselves, and working hard to enjoy our tango more. It can be argued that life is a tango, and that for many, tango is their life. It has been so for us since the early nineteen nineties.
Success breeds imitation, and sometimes envy and jealousy. As public figures we have buried our happy faces in the ground like the ostrich oblivious to the danger around, but like the ostrich we have left our behinds exposed to the proverbial kicks. To be honest, we have many good friends who have helped us spread the goodwill along the way. But it’s also disheartening to be surrounded by people who react in virulent ways to other people’s happiness. That is also tango for you.
Tango music and its dance are all about feelings and emotions. In a culture where emotions are held close to the vest, the way people act can have a profound effect on a community. For the good of tango we always tried to keep a good supply of olive branches, but for good measure we also have a few pieces of the tree.
1995 will become without a doubt the year in which the face of the tango in North America will change forever, and the onset of a global wave of social dancing will sweep across large and small cities in the United States. We’re still relishing memories of our first contact with “milongueros” during two memorable weeks in July in Palo Alto. And already we’re engaged in discussions about preserving the newly found essence of the tango from the influence of those who want to make it the eleventh dance of the competition circuit.
Within the tango there is a tradition of respect for the elders that tango dancers understand and value. But with some notable exceptions, our young communities lack elder milongueros. People who come to dance tango are often at the mercy of self-appointed teachers and tango experts. They can become pawns of politics and power plays. A word or two here and there can be enough to turn some people off, and for some to walk away and never come back.
So it is up to those who know, and who live and love the tango, to speak up against those who attempt to legislate behavior, and who pass judgment on who’s good or not based on their personal promotional agendas.
Tango will never become a hollow shell because the Argentine tango is about life. As in life, there are those who merely survive and those who live; those who simply get involved and those who truly make a commitment. Tango has evolved from obscure and hybrid origins to become a way of life for people all over the world. Many have and many more will attempt to “own” it, to make it the latest fad, and to legislate behavior. But unless someone puts shackles on people’s ankles, tango will continue to exist because it lives in each one of us: in those we love, in those who hate us, in those we care about, in those who ignore us, in those we know, in those we never met. Tango lives every time we say I love you and every time we don’t. It exists when we long for a hug or a kiss that doesn’t happen. Tango lives when we are angry, when we are jealous, when we feel insecure, when we feel powerful, when we are tired, when two lovers or two strangers embrace and move together.
We will die, but somebody else will walk across the floor and catch somebody’s eye. And silently they will move around the floor, oblivious to what you or I or anybody else might decide is good or bad. It is about their lives, not ours.
So live and let dance.