Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




September 10, 2009

Close Embrace and Open Embrace (III)


The feeling of dancing close embrace tango is totally different from that in dancing open embrace tango. The beautiful music, comfortable embrace and rhythmic motion of the dance have a hypnotic effect to the dancers, causing them fall deeply into a state of meditation or dreaming, so heavenly that you don't want to wake up when the tanda ends. In close embrace tango, the male leader feels his female follower’s soft, springy, flexible, sensitive and responsive body. She surrenders to him, melts in his arms and becomes an inseparable part of him. Whatever he does, she follows intuitively. As he leads her dancing, her body twists to his left and right, her breasts rub his chest, her muscles relax and tense, her leg entangles with his leg, and her whole body adapts ingeniously and femininely to his changing posture... All these generate a pleasant feeling. He feels a real flesh-and-blood woman. The beauty of her body and her femininity excite him. He enjoys that moment dancing with her because only she as a woman can stir the feelings within him that make him a man - strong, dependable, in charge, and protective - just as only he as a man can stir within her the feelings that she enjoys as a woman. His masculinity, strength, support and protection make her feel loved, safe, and beautiful. In his embrace she returns to her womanhood and childhood again. Only in that moment she can truly feel and enjoy being a woman, as in real life she has to be less. (See Artistic Sublimation and Vulgarism in Tango.) Tango is known as a refuge, and it has to be danced by two people of the opposite sexes to have that effect. When tango is danced by men or women alone, something mysterious and magic is missing, and that to me is anti-tango. I know some people may argue with me about this. But, hey, that’s me. I like women and enjoy a dance that contains the beauty of both masculinity and femininity.




But that is not all. If close embrace tango is physical and sensual, it is also romantic and poetic. No one has depicted this aspect better than Eugene Grigoryev in his essay What Is Tango? I want to quote his essay in its entirety here because I cannot say it better, and the description of close embrace tango would not be complete without a depiction of this inward, dreamy, soulful and heavenly feeling. The following is the entire quote of Eugene’s masterpiece.

“Tango is more than just a dance or a sequence of steps. It is an expression of our emotions, an inner reflection of who we are and what we experience, a way to channel what we feel through movement. Tango is a language of expressing what we feel through motion, stirred in us by music, in unison with our partner. It comes into your lives in many different ways, as simple interest, a hobby, or a fascination… and ever so slowly it becomes an addiction.

A simple look, a gesture, a smile, an eye contact, his askance to lead, her acceptance to be led, all done without any need of verbal communication. As the music compels them, she comes close to him, they embrace… they feel each other breathe, they feel the passionate song unfold, it flows through their bodies, invigorating them, stirring emotions, which they both share… they can be strangers in real life, but as long as they are in this tango moment, they can be anyone they want… You don't have to know the person or even want to know them. Time ceases to exist during this moment, both dancers are moving to the music, listening for it to tell them what to do… they slow down, pause, accelerate, suspend, all in the moment… almost as being possessed by the music. Outside of this moment is the real world, with its everyday problems, solutions, responsibilities, deadlines… but not here, not now… Now it is only tango, a refuge, a moment of surreal experience of desire, longing… words are not meant to describe it.

The social aspect of milonga is fascinating. It holds anticipation, surprise, heavenly music, moments of contact and separation. The challenge and satisfaction of rhythmically moving in unison with another person is what lures us to Tango. The experience is both physical and surreal. In three minutes of a song, you can experience a rollercoaster of emotions, but you will not experience them alone. For those three minutes there will be a person embracing you, sharing what they are feeling with you… all without a single word being spoken… pure, raw emotions expressed through motion.”



September 3, 2009

Close Embrace and Open Embrace (II)


Close embrace tango and open embrace tango are two different dances. They have little in common in their structures, techniques, feel, and philosophies (what is tango, why people dance tango, the gender roles in tango, and principles of partnership, etc.), so different that people who can dance one dance may not be able to dance the other without learning it. I knew this from personal experience. When I first tried to dance close embrace tango after three years of learning open embrace tango, I had no clue on how to do it because everything, including posture, connection, axis, balance, space, movement possibilities, and the way to lead and follow, changed. (See The Styles of Tango.)

In fact, open embrace tango has more in common with ballroom dances than tango. Just as in a standard ballroom dance, in open embrace tango the two partners are apart by an arm's length without torso contact. Each partner is on his/her own axis independent to the other, so the two do not depend on each other for balance. Theoretically the man is supposed to lead with his torso. But since there is no torso contact, he has to use the hands to lead, and the woman receives the lead through her hands instead of her torso also. The feeling of dancing open embrace tango is exactly like dancing a standard ballroom dance. No intimacy and comfort of embracing another person. No sensation of the two connected bodies moving together in rhythm to the music. No emotional involvement between them. The fun of dancing open embrace tango mainly comes from a broader range of movement possibilities due to the increased space between the partners. Each partner focuses on his/her own performance. They do not enjoy the physical existence of the other person.

I like to dance open embrace tango just as I like to dance ballroom dances. It's spectacular, intricate, dazzling and showy. But that is not the reason I love tango. The reason I love tango lies in the close embrace, its physicality, intimacy, coziness, sensuousness, sentimentalism and romanticism. In close embrace tango, the two partners lean into each other, chest against chest and cheek touches cheek. His arm encircles her body, and hers is around his neck. In such closeness the two partners literally feel each other's body, hear each other’s breaths, smell each other’s odor, and sense each other’s impulses. They rely on each other for balance and there is little space between them. Consequently, the way they move their bodies is different from that in open embrace tango. (See Spot Dancing in Tango.) The man leads the woman with his torso against her and does not need to use the hands. The woman receives the lead with her chest. She closes her eyes, surrenders herself to him, relishes the caress of his embrace and enjoys his attentive ride. It is a very comfortable position in which to be and to dance. (See From Steps to Feelings.)

(See Close Embrace and Open Embrace (III).)