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.

September 15, 2012

Tango Is a Feeling

It is often said that steps are tango's vocabulary, that is, the tool used to express feelings, just like words are the tool used to convey thoughts. In other words, tango is not steps, but what the steps express. As someone famously put it, “Tango is a feeling that is danced.” It is difficult to define feelings, which could be anything from emotion, sentiment, mood, dream, excitement, euphoria, to duende. Simply put, what we experience in tango is a state of mind. As ineffable as it is, we are most exuberant, creative, fluent, eloquent and satisfied when we are in that state of mind. How this state of mind comes into being is a mystery. It may not come by will or effort. It may not come always. It may not come at all even when we try hard to find it. But everyone has experienced it at some point. We are addicted to tango mainly because we have experienced that feeling. (See The Psychology of Tango.) 

The reason tango can lead us to that feeling may have something to do with music. Good music is essential to a fulfilling tango experience. It is an inspiration indispensable for bringing our potentials (originality, imagination, skills, ability and fluency) into full play. Good tango music, marked by lucid rhythm and rich sentiment, is not only beautiful and easy to dance to, it also stirs up emotions, lifts the spirit, inspires creativity, generates a mood, and leads us to that state of mind. When we remember a milonga where the music is enchanting and morale is high, what we remember is the feeling and not the steps. (See The Characteristics of Classic Tango.)

Of course, the feeling is not generated by music alone. The embrace also plays a crucial role. Tango is unique because of its embrace. (See The Fourteenth Pitfall of A Tanguera.) Unlike what the novices may think, tango embrace is not just a frame or hold. It is the connection that makes us one, the communication that links up our hearts, the intimacy, tenderness and comfort that satisfy our soul. It serves the need that lies deeply in our humanity, giving us a sense of connection, belonging and completion. It takes us back to our earliest memories, to the cradle of our infancy, the nourishment and comfort of our mother’s chest, the support and protection of our father’s arms, and the warmth and safety of our home. Tango reflects our longing for a “home”. It reminds us that we are better not when we are alone, but when we are together. In the end, we find the home in each other, because we need, belong to and complete each other. We dance to be one with each other, thus make ourselves whole. Without the embrace, tango is not tango but another ordinary dance. 

If the embrace is important, so is the partner. We cannot find the feeling dancing tango with someone who doesn’t know how to embrace. (See The Affinity and Harmony between Partners.) The problem of a tango pedagogy focusing on the steps is that it produces just such amateurs. They shy away from the embrace, lean backward, detach themselves from the partner, grab the partner like a shopping cart, and are not emotionally engaged. Such people completely miss the point of dancing tango. Dancing tango is like holding a baby tenderly in your arms, singing a lullaby and swaying him/her to sleep; or resting comfortably in your parent’s arms, listening to the hymn, and being gently swayed to dream. Tango is the warm, safe, comfy and intimate feeling that we experience and share with our partner. Indeed, the beautiful music, comforting embrace and rhythmic motion of tango have a hypnotic effect, causing us fall into a state of meditation or dreaming, so heavenly that we don’t want to wake up when the tanda ends. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.) One needs to know the steps to dance tango, but the whole point of the steps is to facilitate the embrace so we may remain one in motion. (See From Steps to Feelings.) Tango resembles the relationship in real life where we face all kinds of challenges but keep on united, connected, supportive, complementing and inseparable. It requires love, trust, surrender, commitment and devotion. (See Tango Is a Relationship.) If you can see tango from this perspective, I guarantee that you will experience a totally different dance: intimate, romantic, sentimental, dreamy, poetic, soulful, and deeply satisfying. (See Close Embrace and Open Embrace (III).)

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