July 4, 2013

Why sit through annoying commercials and run the risk of hearing bands we can’t stand when we can call up hundreds, or even thousands, of songs that we do like on our MP3 players? And why pay a monthly cable bill to have access to a bunch of shows we’d never want to watch, when the internet allows us to focus on the few programs that do interest us?

Hopefully, many of you reading this can probably relate. We’re able to easily tailor and filter our interactions with the world to suit our individual interests. In many ways, that’s great. But we can’t go on living in our own bubbles forever, and it isn’t healthy to try.

Chicago Tango Week kicks off today (July 4), and big tango festivals elsewhere are also coming up. Strangers from all over the world will be meeting for the first time. Many of us will be going to big milongas where we’ll be surrounded by hundreds of people whom we never met before. For many of us, this’ll bring back memories of the high school cafeteria.

And for less experienced dancers, it will be very tempting to want to stay close only to the circle of friends that they came with.


This is an opportunity to dance with people you’re never likely to see again. Break down a few social barriers and strike up a casual conversation with some people around you. It will feel a little scary to try (especially for someone like me), as we’re all hard-wired to fear social rejection.

But this fear often isn’t grounded in any sort of reality.

These strangers don’t have to end up being your BFF, of course. But if several hundred people can believe that there’s a high statistical probability that the individuals around them are friendly, or at least non-threatening, the festival atmosphere will be even more fun. Chances are you’ve invested a good amount of cash for the rare opportunity to take classes with world-class instructors. But there’s a lot we can do as attendees to help make the experience priceless.

A friendly ‘hello’ and a simple question (where are you visiting from?) is where it starts.


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