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.
February 12, 2014
The Conceptional Beauty of Tango
Form and content are an important proposition in tango. Tango is created out of a human need. (See Why People Dance Tango.) From that need comes beauty, which then results in a tendency to deviate from the need and only pursue beauty, hence the alienation of tango. The admiration for beauty is not an unjustifiable one, without which there would not be art. But, in the pursuit of art it is easy to forget that in the end the form cannot stand alone and must serve the content. A watch that cannot run properly is not a good watch, though it may look exquisite. A selfish woman is not a good wife, though she may look beautiful. It is same with tango. You may invent fancy steps, but without the essence of tango it is not a good tango.
People new to tango tend to focus on the look and ignore the feelings, just like young people who are not worldly-wise tend to use external standards to measure success. Warren Buffett said, "The truth is, when you come to my age you will understand, success is measured by how many people really care about you and love you. Money doesn't make people rich. What makes us rich is love." You may be attracted to someone's look, but in the end you only want to be with a person who cares about you, knowing that the inner quality is more important than the look.
Marie Curie said, "If you are not beautiful at seventeen, you may blame your parents for not giving you a pretty face. But if at thirty you still are not beautiful, then you only have yourself to blame, because in that long period of time you haven't added anything new into yourself." In other words, what is truly attractive is one's inner beauty. A dancer who focuses only on the look and ignores the essence of tango is like a parvenus, who may live in a big mansion and drive luxury cars, but at heart he is still a poor man. What makes one noble is not his possessions, but upbringing. Formalist dancers and extravagant upstarts are birds of a feather. Arts that stand the test of time, whether painting, music or dance, are those with inherent depth of humanity rather than just aestheticism. Mother Teresa once eloquently said: "Hunger does not only mean the need of food, but also the need of love. Cold does not only mean the want of clothing, but also the want of human dignity. Homelessness does not only mean without a home, but also the rejection and abandonment by the society." What tango quenches is the thirst of the soul. It is not only beautiful in its form, but more so in its content, depth and humanity.
This kind of inner beauty is invisible. It exists in human minds, emotions, characters, relationships and imaginations. (See Tango Is a Relationship.) In the eye of a lover, his beloved is a beauty. What seems plain at the first sight may become attractive with time. Some people are beautiful because of their intelligence, others because of their charisma. Certain beauty can only be perceived with the heart and not the eye, such as poem, music, love, kindness, comfort, and harmony. A tango can stir up different feelings, as what people hear may not be the song, but their own emotions. Everything seems bright when the heart is shiny, and gloomy when the heart is clouded. The past is more splendid in the memory than it was in reality, and so is the future in the vision. All these suggest that beauty is not only a form, but also a subjective feeling.
Ultimate beauty is conceptional. It transcends the visual boundaries and allows the emotion to fly in the realm of imagination. Unlike painting, sculpture and ballet, tango is not primarily a visual art, but an art of perception and feeling. In tango you can close your eyes and follow the instinct and intuition. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) You do not see the actions of your partner, only feel his/her body, embrace, touch and movements, and through which his/her emotions. His masculinity, strength, dependability, support, protection and finesse, her femininity, softness, obedience, affection, seduction and tacit agreement, all are but feelings. Even his/her musicality, mood, and quality of movement are conceived through the sense. Tango provides plenty room for feelings and imaginations. Dancing tango is like attending a banquet of emotions. Its beauty is largely conceptional.
It is regretful that the formalist dancers focus only on the visible and ignore the intangible. What makes tango uniquely fascinating and different from other dances is its inward, human, emotional, and conceptional beauty. Tango has great potentials in this respect. Exploring its inner beauty so that tango may become an even richer emotional feast is a worthy goal. Although it is natural for beginners to focus on the external, as comprehension proceeds from the outside to the inside, from the shallow to the deep, and with time and experience they may gradually understand the essence of tango, my wish is that people can shorten the process so that when they come to the age of Warren Buffett, Marie Curie and Mother Teresa they would not regret for what they have missed out in their pursuit of vanity. Isn't that often the case beyond tango? (See The Psychology of Tango.)