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November 30, 2006

Quantity vs quality

Recently there has been a discussion on Tango-L about different approaches for expansion of a Tango community. The author of the original post contended that, in general, organizers were over-emphasizing on the numbers and not paying enough attention to grooming “good” dancers. However, after following the threads of discussion, it seems that quite a few people (both for and against the argument) are from reasonably established communities where participation rate is no longer a critical issue.

On the other hand, the situation is rather different in Singapore. The Tango community in Singapore is still small and relatively young on the growth curve even after 6 years. There is no doubt in my mind that increasing the participation rate is still the most important task.


Firstly, as with all dances and social activities, there is a natural attrition rate as people experience lifestyle changes. These voids must be filled or the community will diminish over time and die. Secondly, a sparse dance floor has very little energy and again, in time, even the experienced dancer will lose heart and leave if he/she is constantly dancing in a lifeless room, no matter how grand the settings.

Unlike what the original poster has argued, numbers do not need to be gained by compromising quality. From my experience – perhaps different from what has been observed in the US as the original poster seems to be from – it is not always necessary to attract newbies by acrobatics, excessive play of sex appeal, or dumbing down Tango steps. I won’t dispute that performances can inspire and attract attention. The difference is that while the need for outreach exists, it’s equally important that we attract the people with the appropriate attitudes. I believe it is through this indirect selection process that we can hope to maintain the “quality” in the long run.

Once the new-comers have been initiated into the community, they need to be given the genuine Tango experience and made feel welcome. After that, the choice of pursuing the dance further or not is entirely up to the newbies to make.

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