“Dancing at Mundial isn’t about dancing for fun. It is about your commitment to Tango.”

Carlos Copello

Carlos Copello, leading dancer of the world-wide success, Tango Argentino, which debuted in 1983 in Paris and 1985 on Broadway, as well as choreographer for multiple highly acclaimed projects, offered his sage advice about how to prepare psychologically for the Mundial:

“It starts before you step onto the dance floor; it’s the attention to detail–the shoes, the dress, ironing your shirts and pants (advice for the men), the make-up, the jewelry. Right there, 6 points. The rest of the points you earn dancing. Show the judges, the dancers, and audience your commitment to tango.”

This translation from Spanish doesn’t fully capture the gravity of his words during his lecture in front of three dance couples about to compete in the world championship for the very first time. After a month-long intensive training program, a visit from the highly revered Carlos Copello couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. When many of my friends were proudly posting on Facebook their registration forms, I felt too embarrassed to post mine along with theirs because I feared their judgment. Did I deserve to compete for the world championships? I imagine the question must have laid low in the background during the entire month; hell, it probably goes back to when I first started tango, back even further when I started a tenure-track job as a writing professor, further back when I earned a 5-year fellowship to obtain my Ph.D., and one final step back when I won the president’s medal during my M.F.A program. The question circled back just 3 days before the competition: Did I deserve to compete for the world championships?

According to Carlos Copello, it’s not about who deserves to dance; it’s about your commitment to tango. For the last six years, I have committed my life to this art form. Without ever having visited Buenos Aires, I uprooted my life in Ithaca, NY to live here for one year to learn the language, culture, customs, history, and of course, tango. My whole life I have been asking the wrong question. It’s not about whether one deserves or doesn’t deserve X, whether that’s an education, an award, a job, an opportunity to compete. Instead, I should be asking, “How can I convey to my community, family, friends, students, employers, professors, tango teachers, dance partners, and writing colleagues my commitment to X”? It’s in the small details where I earn my 6 points.

After my mini Copello epiphany, I still couldn’t bring myself to post my registration form alongside my friends, but once I competed, I felt this surge of pride. I earned my 6 points, so I want to share a clip of my final dance, La Bruja by Juan D’Arienzo:

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