Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Social Interaction

I spent last night in my living room, and yet it was a very satisfactory evening of tango. Two friends came by, one fresh off an airplane, and we made dinner, looked out over the city, and talked about life, tango, and the mix of the two.

I often find milongas and practicas lacking a strong social element. I'm not sure if this is particular to Seattle, but I suspect it is true to some degree everywhere. At least for me, a lot of the problem is created because I like dancing, and tango music drives me to the floor.  It's very tough to maintain a meaningful conversation in 1 minute chunks every 15 minutes.

A couple of the dances here in town maintain a stronger social atmosphere: China Harbor, and Om Culture; they have more space dedicated to non-dancing, and seating that encourages staying off the dance floor. Perhaps not coincidentally, they are also my favorite dances currently. Social atmosphere is not entirely dictated by layout, of course; other dances here have fluctuated in terms of atmosphere, attendance, music, etc.

How do you maintain social connections 5 or 15 minutes at a time?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tango and Intimacy

My girlfriend and I broke up about a month ago. In this case, a very amiable split. We still enjoy each other's company, and dance together when both present at the same dance. I am mostly reconciled -- I miss the time we spent being close, but no longer feel driven to push back toward it.

Melina Sedo wrote about sex in tango, and as I contemplate new romantic endeavors, I have been thinking about the trouble involved in dating within a community. Now, I don't think tango is unique in this instance: workplace and school are also environments where becoming involved with another community member can potentially be tricky. I imagine this is true of any reasonably small social group. Relationships of all types have trouble with dividing lives afterward, and determining new social boundaries. The smaller a group that is involved, the more interwoven relationships, expectations, and needs will be.

So, does tango present a unique problem? Informally, most people seem to think so. In talking with others, I generally hear 1 of 2 responses:
  1. (Minority) I only date tango dancers, because (not enough time, shared interests, social circle).
  2. (Majority) I never date tango dancers, because (too much time, outside interests, bad experience).
People are not as absolute as they sound when forced to make a statement, but certainly people feel very strongly that tango presents a unique problem. I think that any such uniqueness comes from two things. First, the time commitment involved with tango (and other dances). I currently spend between 10 and 20 hours a week pursuing dancing, and that is a significant portion of my free time. This means that I have a harder time meeting people outside of tango, and if I do, I will eventually struggle between giving up time with the person, or giving up time dancing.

Second, tango creates intimacy for an extended period with a group of people. This creates feelings in many cases within the community ("Tango Crushes"), and can cause problems of time/intimacy sharing across the group. Equally, it can cause trouble with a partner outside the group ("Why do you need intimacy from all these other people?")

How do you manage the barrier between communities, the level of intimacy in dance, and the various time commitments?

(Also: it strikes my analytical side that there might be an interesting paper here ... considering a group of people with some characteristics, how does the size of the group affect the forming/breaking of personal bonds? Perhaps some sort of simulation, where you have some chance of interaction ... how do you measure group function/disfunction resulting from dating/breaking up?)