14 January 2015

Códigos: rules or tools?

Los códigos. The rules. We find them on the websites of most encuentros and "milonguero" events these days: point-by-point specifications of how the organisers want us to behave at their event. The phenomenon has spurred hefty discussions. Basically, the marathon people think that encuentro people are a bunch of reactionary tyrants that are denying people the right to a free will and a free leg, whereas the encuentro people think that the marathoners are all mad hooligans whose main goal in life is to kick yo' ass, literally speaking. And as the discussion keeps repeating itself, I'm wondering why the rules generate so much noise. Since the encuentro concept is comparatively new in Europe, many of us are socialised into the marathon concept, so one would think that it’s only sensible and practical to inform people that the encuentros are different.

But do the encuentros *have* to be different? Can't we just do everything like we're used to and just have marathons? And why can't I do whatever I like?

Maybe the discussion isn’t only about marathons versus encuentros. Maybe these events are just handy personifications of different ways of thinking. It could be that the popularity of the European encuentro is making visible a growing crowd of people who want something else in tango in general - not necessarily because it’s how it’s done in Buenos Aires, but because the rules represent alternative solutions to what we have now. If so, maybe we should take a look at how we use them in our tango life. Can we make the rules become well thought through personal habits instead of just rules, and can we use them as tools to improve our community and even our communal mindset?

Cabeceo gives girls and guys equal possibilities to decide, provides a way of dealing with bullies, and gives shy people an alternative way of asking for dances. If we dance one tanda only, more people have the chance to dance more often, and we can get rid of the silent ranking system connected to how many consecutive tandas we grant each other. Paying more attention to the tandas in general might make us more aware of the music. Learning about floorcraft will obviously give better dance experiences for more dancers, both leaders and followers.

The rules are not good or bad in themselves. It’s all a question of how we understand them. It’s fully possible to use the rules only for selfish purposes: to use mirada and cabeceo to carefully ignore all dancers we think are less advanced than ourselves; or to follow the one-tanda-rule yet still only dance with people inside our circle of favourite dancers. But if we as dancers make an active choice to use the rules to make the tango community more open and our milongas and events easier to navigate, I think they can be very useful.

In the end, it’s about finding a healthy balance between “me” and “us”.