An Elder’s Perspective

Okay-so the reality I experience at the PDX Marathon this weekend is not much different than other tango venues in the homeland. There are variations of course, based on the day, but generally-it’s a venue populated by lovely dancers mostly aged 25-40. It’s a young crowd seeking young, likeminded folks. I, and the very few like me, who are distinctly the elders and female, have a rough time getting the dances we seek–some days. This being true I decided to learn to lead, a solution for my desire to dance more than I was getting. Now I lead fairly well-enough to dance every tanda if I want. But I don’t. I really need both. I prefer to lead milonga, because so few fellas can actually lead milonga, misunderstanding the dance to be just a version of their normal tango–but it’s definitely not that. So I like to lead and find women coming to dance with me for milongas occasionally. I enjoy this a lot. What I don’t enjoy is being passed by again and again by fellas who dance at my level, presumably because I’m an elder. I get it–the human nature part–but it sucks. This ageism in Tango I do not find on the salsa floor. When I go dance salsa, I am asked to dance as much as I want to dance. I enjoy salsa and will go to dance it occasionally. Yet, it’s Argentine Tango I love….listen to every day, picture in my creative imagination as I listen to the music…For years now, when I shop my first question is: will this garment work for tango? You might say Tango is a big part of my reality. But I don’t enjoy the sometimes cliquish quality of a tango crowd, though I do appreciate folks needing to reconnect and socialize. The thing is, I know tango venues can be friendlier, because in other places in the world, they are. There an elder female or male are welcomed and appreciated (even admired) for their dancing expertise. Here, I’m afraid, the old “American competitive spirit” prevails, as well as an underlying but powerful worship of youth. You can see it clearly sometimes on the floor….when the dancers seem to be dancing from the ego rather than the heart and joy of the dance. Over the last 10-11 years I have seen many individuals come and go in the tango community. Some leaving because they’ve been hurt, feel excluded or wounded. Some because they just don’t enjoy the ambiance of exclusivity. My favorite dance partner stopped coming completely about two years ago. Big loss to me and many others. I’m not leaving any time soon. And I could probably be a little more assertive in my appreciation of others. So for now, I’ll try to do that, and maybe keep my lead shoes on for good measure.


About tangobunny

Pastor Bunny went on sabbatical leave to Argentina July 28-November 4, 2010, funded by a pastoral renewal grant from the Lily Foundation. It was her second visit to AR. Since then she's been back three more times and toured the country. She loves the Argentine people as much as the tango and calls Argentina her other home.
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2 Responses to An Elder’s Perspective

  1. Sherilynn says:

    Tia Bunny, I suspect you have a great many admirers on or beside the dance floor who only hope they will have your talent, courage, and confidence–not only when they’re “your age” but also now. At essence, Americans are enculturated to fear “elder” ages and value only youth–I think ageism is about fear (as I suppose every single other -ism is?). Don’t let the ageists, or particularly the sexist-ageists get you down (not that you are)! Keep showing them how it’s done!

  2. These are such important issues Bunny! Not only in tango but in our culture in general. I feel that the tango world represents a microcosm of life and whatever issues we see in tango exist in life. So the points you are making are very relevant not only for the dance but in a larger context of culture and community. Thank you for sharing!

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