Regardless of where we are in our tango learning, we’re bound to dance with someone who’s more experienced. And unfortunately, it won’t always be fun.
We’re having a nice time at a milonga, when suddenly we find ourselves receiving disdainful looks, rude body language, or a snooty remark. Say hello to the tango snob! They’ll waste no time making you feel inferior.
Tango snobs are interesting creatures. They insist on, or feel entitled to, dancing mainly with the best tangueros/as. Maybe they believe that doing so automatically qualifies them as good dancers, too. Who knows?
Although they’re usually competent on the dance floor (but not always), tango snobs consistently overrate their abilities. Their humblebragging is hilariously transparent to anyone but themselves.
They are also creatures of contradiction. These dancers frequently complain about a lack of good leaders and/or followers, yet sneer upon the sincere efforts that many beginners make to improve.
Although I admit a measure of ironic satisfaction by judging all those other judgmental people, I’ll try to steer this article towards something more useful. Let’s point out how tango snobs can unintentionally make things better for the rest of us “common folk.”
THEY CAN MAKE US MENTALLY TOUGHER: We’ve been taking tango classes only for a short time, and we’ve mustered the courage to go to a milonga after repeated pleas from our instructors. It’s scary enough being there even when we’re dealing with nice people. At this stage, an unfortunate encounter with a tango snob is downright brutal.
It’s no fun to suffer embarrassment and a huge blow to the ego at the hands of this stranger. In the mind of the tango snob, we’ve been pigeon-holed forever. Ouch. So, do we quit and go home with our tail between our legs? Or do we forge ahead on our tango journey?
For a beginner, the decision to move forward despite a tango snob’s cutting remarks will help build mental fortitude. That mental toughness will serve us well. Not just on the dance for floor, but in all aspects of life.
THEY CAN MAKE US BETTER PEOPLE (just not in the way that they think): When we improve our tango, and when we share a tanda with a less experienced dancer, let’s remember the way the tango snob treated us… and do better.
Where the snob is negative, we can be positive. Where the tango snob is exclusive and arrogant, we can be accepting, open, and humble. Sometimes, the tango snob’s example of what not to do clarifies the importance of being supportive and constructive of our fellow dancers.
THEY CAN HELP US UNDERSTAND (OR CONFRONT) OUR OWN MOTIVATIONS FOR IMPROVING: Many well-intentioned articles tell us “not to care about what other people think.” The message is fine, but the truth is that we do care.
It’s in our nature, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But how much we care, and why, are the bigger issues.
So the tango snob offended us and hurt our feelings… but didn’t scare us away. We’re going to stick with this dance. Why? Are we exclusively motivated by our damaged egos? Is it because we want to change the snob’s opinion of us? To get them to admit that they were wrong about us? (Hint: It probably won’t happen, no matter how much we improve)
Are we trying to get into the perceived “in-crowd” ourselves? (Warning: we might become snobs, too)
Or do we just love the dance for what it is, and move on while making a mental note to avoid the tango snob next time?
In general, tango snobs are unpleasant, annoying, and toxic. Although I’d like to think that an ideal dancing environment would be free of them, that’s probably not likely. They exist almost everywhere.
But punching them in the face is out of the question, and letting them get under our skin is just as counterproductive. So the only thing left to do, is to make the best of it.
We don’t do this by merely tolerating them, but by seeing every undesirable encounter with them as opportunities for improvement. Improving not just our dancing, but our attitudes, too. This helps create a more positive community, and a happier community… all of which ultimately disempowers the snob.