“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”– Zen Master Linji Yixuan
(To me, this famous saying means “Let go of preconceptions”. Of course, by its nature it means different things to different people…)
We ask our friends “Did you enjoy it last night?” Sometimes we lose track of that whole concept: we are looking to enjoy ourselves. The core of tango is the feeling, or the emotions. It’s not the ceremonies and rituals, it’s not the practicalities, not the clothing / flesh on display by other dancers – it’s the feeling, and the attitude that counts. Remember that point, as we’ll return to it later.
The “cabeceo” is a piece of Tango etiquette, which people use to ask for dances with prospective partners. I won’t explain debate the merits of the cabeceo here, but we should always be aware that this _is_ a “ceremony” – it’s a ritual, it’s a tool, it’s no more significant than a screwdriver is to a mechanic.
So what’s the problem?
“Around the God there forms a Shell of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priests and Authority, until at Last the God Dies. And this may not be noticed.” – Terry Pratchett
The problem with rituals is that some people believe in the ritual, rather than in the spirit behind the ritual. And you then get fanatics – mindless dogmatic adherents of a faith. You can always tell these people – they’re the ones who are most certain that their way is the One True Path, and who are intolerant of any other possibilities. You know who these people are; Tango’s got more than its fair share of them, and I’m sure we’ve all encountered them.
“I can’t always read whats going on, how it makes me feel emotionally, well great if it works and sh£t if it doesn’t. But I’m a big girl and I move on. I think there is a lot of feeling that comes to the top in tango, feelings that we feel we had left back in our school days. Feelings of acceptance, feelings of not being good enough… and the feeling from followers that we must be young and pretty to get guys to dance with us” ~ an experienced UK tanguera.
Another danger with rituals is that they can upset people. Peer pressure creates intense drive towards conformity, and it means people can be miserable – especially if they’ve been told that this magic ritual will solve everything, but then it turns out, even with all the incantations, mystic mumbling and obeisance to idols, that they’re still not happy.
(Again here, I stress, the cabeceo is not “Evil”; it’s a tool, it’s a screwdriver.)
Putting it another way
“If there’s one thing I don’t care about it’s tango. People are always surprised to hear me say this. I don’t care about the orthodoxy. I don’t care about the códigos. I dance tango because it’s a way to get what is in *here* out. I couldn’t care less about Tango with a capital ‘T’”. ~ Juan Miguel Expósito (taken from here.)
In other words, it’s not the ceremonies that are important. What’s important is embracing your partner, moving to the music, and enjoying that experience. So the “how to get there” question is simply one of mechanics. How do we achieve happiness?
Within the “Diving Deep, Flying High” workshop, we’ll use the concept of Loving Kindness to explore precisely how we can all learn to be happy when we’re dancing. And when we’re not dancing. And when we’ve not been asked for a dance. And when we’ve been refused a dance. No matter what the context, no matter what the ceremonies.
In other words, if you meet the cabeceo on the road, kill it and move on.
Here’s a brief snippet of one exercise we’ll do within the workshop. Hopefully this will allow you to understand where we’re going with this:
Using the cabeceo (it’s a good screwdriver, remember), we’ll perform this exercise.
At the start of the day:
- Separate the men and the women into two sides
- Men attempt to cabeceo the women. Women accept the first invitation received, using the verbal nod.
- Repeat the exercise, but this time women reject the invitation (either ignoring the look or shaking their head).
We’ll repeat this exercise at the end of the day, adding:
- The men would ask a new lady to dance via cabeceo. She can decide to accept or reject.
- Repeat until all people have partners.
- Women, cabeceo the men.
We’re confident that the lessons, ideas and concepts we cover during the day will transform your feelings after this exercise, and help you to retain your happiness, no matter what the circumstances.
Hope to see you then!