2009/02/14

Festival rant on sleep dep.

February 14th weekend, and we all know what that means...

Been thinking lately about why I'm not much for festivals. Everyone else seems to love them, so why not me? Don't I love tango? Hasn't my life come to revolve around it as much as any of these other festival deadheads?

Well, maybe. Maybe not. But I certainly won't be racking up any frequent flyer miles anytime soon.

I suppose I wonder, what exactly is it that these people are chasing? Is it that their hunger for dancing can no longer be sated in their own backyard? That they need to constantly replenish the affirmation of dancing with new partners ("Hey, works with this person, too!")?

I've said it before: I don't dance much socially. That's not something that would be likely to change in a different locale with different or more people to choose from. So why would I go through the trouble and expense just to sit and watch, which is what I mostly do?

Besides, on the occasion that I do dance, it's still my dance. Doesn't matter who I partner with, I'm still calling most of the shots. And to be honest, it doesn't make all that much difference who I dance with, sorry to say. It's all a degree of the partner's ability to follow (and compensate, if need be) and mutual chemistry. A good match is fantastic, but I don't necessarily feel the need to seek it out. I already know dancers with whom I share a good connection. That's good enough for me. In a sense, it almost feels as if looking to dance with new partners cheapens the good dance relationships I already have. Not that I only want to dance with the same people all the time. But there's already so many good dancers locally who I have yet to dance with, and others with whom I enjoy dancing but have not yet explored in depth many dynamic possibilities and developed the chemistry to its potential. It just doesn't seem worth it to go elsewhere to seek something out, especially in the case of a festival where any potential for development with new dancers is limited to time constraints. And as far as dancing with friends, I can do that in my home community. Why go away just to dance with the same people?

Perhaps you could say that I'm depriving the festival circuit of my singular approach to tango, arguing how every dancer is distinct and has something special to offer. But quite frankly, there's not much unique about my dance and I'm not doing anything that no one else is doing at least as well, so I don't feel like I'm neglecting some civic duty to the global community.

Granted, I think it must be a different story for followers, and I can understand the allure for them--every lead really is different. (Not to say all followers are the same, or even that all followers with whom I share good chemistry are similar. But then, neither variety nor consistency are primary considerations for me).

Then I hear the stories about overcrowded floors, the formation of cliques and hierarchies (deliberately or not), the planchadores/as who actually can and want to dance but are being shut out through sheer lack of recognition, and of course the festival mentality which brings out the worst exhibitionistic tendencies in some people. Plus all the schmoozing and networking. Ick. I'm not one who's looking to fill my yearbook with signatures (or boost the quantity of my Facebook friendship queue).

Another thing that bugs me, and this is strictly a personal beef, is how the festival mentality affects the local community. Here in the SF Tango scene there are so many festival freaks that the milongas feel noticeably drained during mass migrations out of town. Perhaps it's partly because of the relative wealth and travel accessibility among the dance population here. I don't know... to me, it feels almost like a dis of the hometown scene. I understand there are some professionals that have to make appearances, whether they are booked as teachers/performers/musicians/djs, or simply to promote themselves abroad as participants. But non-professionals who jet off to every festival they can... I don't know. Sometimes I think, they can go away and stay away. If the home community isn't good enough for them then to hell with them. I don't know why, but there's something about it that strikes me as kind of phony for some reason. It goes along with the tendency of some to trumpet their "obsession" or "addiction" to tango, to go out of their way to show others just how ravenous their appetite for tango is.

(I once had this conversation with a very respected figure in the tango scene, questioning out loud if my interest in the culture is so much less than these others who demonstrate--and talk up--their obsession. She replied, "I think that people just like being obsessed." As a state of being, something that defines them. Or, as I take it, at least they like talking about how obsessed they are. It's like some kind of one-upmanship. "This week I went to eight different milongas, had five privates and two workshops and only got two hours of sleep every night!" Fine--I fold, you win.)

Pah, whatever. As long as people are having fun, I suppose. Meanwhile, I need to get my grumpy ass some sleep.

3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Well, I am really glad you said all this about festivals. It would be a short drive for me to go to Valentango from Seattle, but I happily decline. As time for Tango magic rolls around, I look forward only to the outdoor milonga. The others are a bust, crowded, crazy, hot.
People returning from Portland seem pretty high on the dancing though. I think they get into a sort of trance from no sleep and many many hours on the floor. They are still adjusting a week later, and our regular venues had low energy. Sometimes I wonder what all these people do to afford to chase festivals around.
And yeah, that business of schmoozing around to get a dance with the current tango god or goddess....groveling and demeaning. I prefer to dance at home with people I actually care about. But as you say, grumpy ass or not, whatever. I just want to go to Denver to dance in that cool pavillion thing.

Malevito said...

Hi Elizabeth, how are you?

Hm, I mentioned in the post something about how it seemed more understandable why followers would flock to festivals given the nuances of different leaders, but from your comment and subsequent discussions I've had with other followers it's apparently not necessarily the case. I guess it really boils down to personality types. Speaking for myself, as one with pronounced introvert tendencies I think the energy of festivals would drain me, in a negative way.

On Portland, I'm sure their festivals are great since they have a reputation for having one of the strongest tango communities in the states. As such, I can't begrudge anybody--especially west coasters--from attending their events. I just don't get it when people seem to want to jet off to every festival that hits the radar (and yeah, how they afford it).

Thanks for the comment :)

Joli said...

If I think about it, the idea of attending a tango festival makes me cringe. I am not one for pre-packaged travel tours, so perhaps the idea of pre-packaged tango is a bit of a turn off. I think one is better off to save their money and go to the source, Buenos Aires.