Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, unity, 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 people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.
June 17, 2010
I never saw a dance that is as self-destructive as tango. Unlike other dances, tango music allows interpretations so dancers may treat it at their will. Also unlike other dances, the steps of tango do not have fixed configurations. Dancers are free to improvise and create when they dance. This rather untrammeled nature of tango induces many dramatic changes to it at times like this when free-spirited foreigners pour in, bringing in too many foreign influences to the dance.
Whatever things people do, there are always some who tend to cross the line. Tango is without exception. We humans seek freedom, yet unrestrained freedom defeats itself. Our forefathers understood the danger of this human tendency. That’s why they created a political system of checks and balance and the rule of law. Tango outside of Argentina, however, is still a wild frontier where people do whatever they please regardless of the rules of the dance. They replace tango embrace with an open dance hold, supersede tango music with alternative tunes, swap gender roles, and adopt non-tango elements, such as underarm turns, high kicks and body lifts, into the dance. Now you go to a milonga in America, you often hear exotic music of foreign lands and see rogues of all kinds dancing wild. It is still called tango, but the essence of the dance has been changed. There is nothing resemble the milongas in Buenos Aires.
Tango is a free dance, but it is not a "you can do whatever you want" dance. It has its characteristics. For example, it is a close-embrace dance. Breaking the embrace and drifting the partner apart is not tango. (See The Thirteenth Pitfall of a Tanguera.) Tango is an intimate dance. It lies in the feelings stirred by the music. In fact, tango is more about feelings than steps. No matter how many new steps people try to create, without feelings it is not tango. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) Tango is a macho dance. It is danced by a man and a woman and contains the beauty of both masculinity and femininity. The man is the leader who plots the dance and shines the woman. The woman is the follower who surrenders to the man, synchronizes her movements to his, and beautifies the dance. Refusing to surrender, switching gender roles and forming same-sex partnership are against tango. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.) Tango is danced to the music specifically created for the dance. Foreigners often do not know that the magic of tango is in its music, which connects the dancers, lifts their spirit, stirs up their emotions, synchronizes their movements, and inspires their creativity. Changing tango music to non-tango tunes, the dance ceases to be tango. (See The Signature of Tango and The Characteristics of Classic Tango.)
No one can stop the reform of a dance that invites free expression, I suppose. Only time will tell which reforms are to sustain. Tango has gone through the same trial for one hundred and fifty years. Whatever changes people attempt to bring in today must have been tried by others before. Most of those changes did not stay. The current form of tango, including its music, embrace, steps and codes as being practiced in Buenos Aires, is the survivor of the fitness among zillions of attempts to alter the dance along its history. Tango will continue to evolve, of course, but its evolution will be in the same direction that makes it tango. Any attempt to change tango to a non-tango dance or hybrid will fail. If not so, tango would have stopped being the tango danced in Buenos Aires today long ago.