Creativity and Being Unique

We’ve previously written about copycats in Tango. And we will write in the future about our thoughts on the slowly brewing Tango norm: “Estilo Mundial” (This is a randomly chosen video and they ALL look the same!?). For now, we wanted to delve into what we think about being “creative” and “unique” when there is such a HUGE stress on it in Tango.

We think it’s bullshit.

How about this: Just be yourself.

People constantly complain about clones and when they do so, there’s an unspoken/unwritten assumption that the person should be “unique” instead. By definition, each one of us is unique – hence the term “individual”. However, we are all humans.  We are all one. We share more things in common than not (“Hug a stranger today. If you go back far enough we are all related somehow.”). So why do we have to try to be so different?

Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t interested in being clones. We’ve never really been sheep.  In childhood, Jorge only had whatever his mother could afford. This, of course, meant brand names rarely existed in his home. Plus he was a ballroom dancer. That’s not quite what teenage boys are usually getting into at that time in their lives. Meanwhile, K specifically fought against going with the norm her whole life. She purposefully avoided many fads: desert boots and Converse in the 80’s, George Michael and belly button rings in the 90’s, and cell phones in the 2000’s ;) HOWEVER, it didn’t mean she flipped to the other extreme to be “unique”. Being “unique” is really just a timeless FAD. Why aren’t people happy to just be themselves?

Yes, we need innovators in the world.  We need people who push the envelope and challenge themselves and others.  However, Tango evolved (slowly) as dancers sought to challenge the dance ever so slightly and/or stumbled accidentally upon better and more efficient ways to move. We don’t believe there was a goal in mind to be super creative or unique, or an effort made to change the dance. Those who sought to change the dance (quickly), by being “unique” and “creative”, are those responsible for Nuevo Tango and other versions of Tango (which are not, as many people would like to have us believe, a “style” of Argentine Tango).

By being yourself, you are being all you need to be in life and in Tango.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

10 responses to “Creativity and Being Unique

  • terpsichoral

    Personally, I feel that copying your teacher closely is a natural and harmless stage in most dancers’ learning process. They then go on to discover their individuality (*not* necessarily their uniqueness) quite naturally as their dance develops. It’s an organic process. We are all individuals, but most of us need to start with a model. And then we let it grow and develop.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Thanks for the comment T! Actually, we completely agree with you. If you read towards the end of this post, you’ll see we say almost the exact same thing you just said. In some ways we were playing the devil’s advocate, but we were also speaking to the idea that some many people over-value being “unique” and it’s often seen in demos when dancers take it too far.

  • allibubbu

    Hey MIM!
    Let me begin by saying I agree with you 90% of the way. Being yourself is easier said than done. I mean, come on, isn’t it easier to copy someone who looks like they’ve got it all right? Fully committing myself to myself I would appear to other people as having multiple personalities… And my dancing would reflect that. If we’re changing all the time… Constantly growing and learning, when are we REALLY ourselves? If anything, it’s in the way we accept ourselves (and others) in a cognitive kind of way that stays more or less the same. So when are we not ourselves? loll
    In your response to the last comment you shared a link to a previous post titled “Not our ground of mate”. I love how you recognize the beauty in the simplicity of tango. I recognize this too. You ask at the end of your blog : “why can’t tango be accepted the way it is.” and the one thing I’d like to change about that question, that might facilitate an answer would be: “why can’t tango be accepted the way it WAS”. Because if it’s a dance of the people, then let the people of NOW have their say. Yes, it will be different, so it should have a different name, but I dont think Tango will care. It’s well grounded in the hearts of some people and will remain that way no matter how eccentric and quirky it’s offspring will be. If tango is a reflection of us, here and now, in this time and space… I’m surprised we haven’t shortened tandas to 2 songs and incorporated double rainbow hands in there somehow.
    I tried Mate with a bit of lemon wedge the other day, it’s not so bad… Had a bit of zing to it. But nothing feels more like home than simple, strong warm mate…. With a touch of sugar ;)

    Love the blog, keep it up!

    Sent from my iPhone

  • Bertil

    Hi J & K

    Just a question: don’t you think that maybe Naveira and Chicho, just to mention two person that hold “responsible” for Tango Nuevo, are just being them selves, like you both?

    I really don’t think they are trying to be creative, because here you are right on target, peopple who try to be creative and unique seldom look much better than a trained dog ;-)

    Cheers,
    Bertil

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Hi Bertil,

      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      From what we’ve read, heard, and been told, Naveira (& Chicho) were specifically trying to break down the dance so that they could analyse (create/discover) all the possible movements in Tango. They were on a hunt for something. It may be true that no one is really seeking to be “creative” or “unique”, but our argument would be that they were busy “doing” rather than “being”. You can only “be” yourself. You can’t “do” yourself (everyone keep their mind out of the gutter!).

  • Bertil

    First I would like to comment on alibubbus question -“why can’t tango be accepted the way it WAS”- because I belive there is an important point to be made here. Which Tango do we want to accept, the one from the 20’s? 40’s? 80’s??? The Tango has evolved and keeps evolving I personally believe this is one of the big charms of Tango. This is also the reason why I am very sceptic about the Championships (looking forward to your opinion about the “Estilo Mundial” :-) ). Because the reason why Tango can keep evolving is that there are no standards(syllabus). So when you are practising your Tango you are practising for your own pleasure at the local Milonga, not to have some silverware in your cupboard at home, and this allows room for people to find there own personal style and sometimes overly creative ;-) .

    So what I want to say is that I don’t believe there is one true Tango, but at same time, the discussion about styles is very healthy for the Tango. Of course everybody has there own ideals and role models they are trying to achieve/imitate. Only the argument, this is NOT “argentine Tango” is not very constructive and very hard to argue for.

    Back to your answer to my post:
    It is also my impression from what I’ve heard and read that Gustavo & Co actively was searching for a underlying system. But you have to keep in mind that Tango was thought differently then. At that time you would only learn tango through figures. But they sensed there was some more fundamental system common to all these figures and they wanted to find out what this was. Once the had found this out I believe they were suddenly able to see a lot of new combinations. So the system with teaching elements instead of figures that most teacher of today are using is actually a result from “Nuevo”, and this is also why Sebastian Arce says that every body today are dancing “Nuevo”, because the teaching methods are so different today than what were used to be.

    Today the real Nuevo craze is over, maybe because not every possible combination must be danced and the electronic music is not so interesting any more. My feeling is, that there is a tendency of dancers going back to a more classic style of dancing but still incorporating the technique of Tango Nuevo, resulting in some very beautiful dancing (e.i. Frederico & Ines).

    Cheers.

    Bertil

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Hi Bertil,

      Thank you again for your great comments.

      To begin, we absolutely believe there is only one Tango, but of course, it doesn’t mean it all looks the same. To us, Tango Nuevo is no more a “style” of Argentine Tango than Modern dance is a “style” of Classical ballet. We agree with you that the Nuevo craze is dying out (unfortunately, not here in Toronto though), but we see a fusion occurring (as seen in examples such as Federico & Ines). This fusion, for us, is not an evolution of the classical/traditional dance of Argentine Tango. It’s a break from it. As for styles, we’re with Tango & Chaos on this one; there’s only 2 types of Argentine Tango: Salon Tango and Tango Fantasia. However, we do understand that people dance “Salon Tango” differently.

      We noticed in a FB comment that Melina Sedo also mentioned teaching according to the principles of Tango Nuevo. We had never heard of this before. Perhaps this an effect of many of the Nuevo Tango proponents having taught in Europe.

      Cheers to you too!

      • Piotr

        Hi,

        I’ve been following your blog for some time and I agree with many of your thoughts. I just wanted to share the impression that it’s good to take the opinions of Argentinians with a grain of salt. I’ve taken classes with couples ranging from salon purism to nuevo ridiculousness and I’d say that there is lots of space between those two extremes. It’s just that many people like to have strong opinions. On one side you have 30 year olds going on about good ol’ days in the 40s and on the other middle aged raging revolutionists ;) It’s a good way to market your style: you convince the people that you preach them the truth of some sort.

        I live in Poland, and as you’d expect, most couples who come to teach here come via Berlin and they’re rather nuevish in style. But my favourite teacher started dancing in 1991 and singles out people like Rodolfo and Maria Cieri or Nito y Elba as his most important teachers. He has no problem with nuevo – he just said that tango changed in the 80s and 90s and that’s it. Those changes are not limited to the work of Naveira & Co, nor do they try to take all the credit for them. AFAIK all of the modern tango was subject to those changes – even you guys in this blog are using vocabulary invented then – axis, disassociation etc. Even if juevo salon couples like for instance Sebastian & Roxana or Pablo & Noelia don’t do colgadas , their movement and technique is completely different then it would be in the 80s and there is a common denominator between them and Federico & Ines.

        Now, given what I wrote above, this is based on a really personal opinion when something is a branch off or evolution but saying that nuevo is not tango argentino has an elitist or even “anathemic” ring and as Bertil above wrote, is not very constructive, hard to defend and I don’t really see the point of emphasizing it. It’s like you wanted to start a flamewar.

        Best wishes,
        Piotr

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