Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search 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 community and people. 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.

July 10, 2012

The Art of Love

One of the most important rules in tango is not to blame, criticize or teach your dance partner. Milongueros follow this code strictly because they know the consequence. Recently, two of my students had a big fight. It started out of perhaps a very good intention to help. She said something about his leading. He defended himself and said something about her following. The conversation escalated to insults and ended up with two broken hearts. They perhaps will not dance with each other again.

Learning tango is like learning a language and it takes about as long. (See Tango Is a Language (I).) Anyone less than five years in tango is a novice. Novices are the most frustrated people. They want to dance tango well but don’t know how. There are so many things they don’t know, including tango protocols and manners. (See Milonga Codes.) Every one of them has loads of problems, and they all have opinions about each other. Experienced dancers don’t dance with them. So they stick together with themselves and blame each other, often for their own problems. The irony of “the pot calls the kettle black” is that they are a kind. When one blames the other for being stiff, the other is likely thinking the same. By the time they have learned the steps, feelings are hurt and relationships broken.

Beginners often don’t realize that, whether you like it or not, the people learning tango with you are the most important people in your tango life. You will likely dance with them for a long time. There are only limited people in each tango community. These are the people brought together by fate. It’s better to accept each other and allow each other time to grow. (See 惜缘.) In real life, if you like someone you tell her how beautiful she is. If you say she is ugly, chances are that she will not go out with you. It is the same in tango if you want to dance with someone. Always say good things about one’s dance even if you are asked for an honest opinion. How many husbands are kicked out of the bed after giving their wives their honest opinion? Remember, tango is not just a dance. It is a relationship and the art of love.

Robert Farris Thompson said in his book, Tango, the Art History of Love, that tango "is the dance that teaches the world to love." The idea of tango is to welcome another person into your personal space, to accept that person, to let go your ego, to surrender to that person, to listen to his/her inner voice and feelings, to be considerate, cooperative, yielding and accommodating, to enjoy the intimacy, to be one with him/her, and to give comfort, pleasure and contentment to him/her. It is a different idea from what our culture stands for, that is, individualism, independence, self-interests and aggression. Hopefully, tango will make us a better person who treats others with respect, appreciation and love, accept them as who they are and put others instead of oneself at the center of one's life and dance. Until then, we are not qualified as tango dancers, and cannot dance tango well anyway. 

1 comment:

  1. Russian translation: https://www.facebook.com/groups/242436919154572/permalink/391267070938222/