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.
March 18, 2014
Tango only happens when the partners are immersed in the music and find the connection between them. There cannot be tango between two beginners who do not listen to music, focus only on themselves and the steps, are physically detached, emotionally disconnected and unable to communicate their feelings. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) They dance like two individuals disagreeing and bickering with each other. In contrast, mature dancers are emotionally connected, mutually committed, and are able to communicate what they feel. They surrender to each other and to the music, which stirs up their emotions, enables them to identify with each other's feelings and allows them to find the connections between them. As a result, they dance like two soulmates in perfect understanding and agreement. This agreement is what makes tango intoxicating.
What we look for in tango is the affinity and harmony between the partners. A good tango partner does not need to be good-looking, but he/she must be a good match to you so that dancing with him/her makes you feel the chemistry. In real life people tend to be attracted to superficial things like appearance, status and possessions. But such external things are irrelevant in tango. What is relevant is a dancer's inner quality. When being asked who his ideal partner is, Carlos Gavito answered, "My ideal does not have a face. She's a dream of something I want in real life, but that ideal does not have a face." (See Tango Is a Shared Moment.) In other words, what's important is the dancers' intrinsic attributes: her femininity, lightness, softness, flexibility, obedience, adaptability and agreeableness; his masculinity, strength, dependability, protection, thoughtfulness, finesse and musicality; and the connection and harmony between them. Those who pursue the vanity and ignore the essence cannot find tango, just like they cannot find love. People often compare tango to love because the two share a common theme. (See A Dance that Teaches People to Love.) They both involve a relationship between a man and a woman in which the two genders play different roles but complement each other. They both aim at achieving harmony through understanding, submission, devotion, accommodation and cooperation. A reader, after read my post The Gender Roles in Tango, remarked, "These seem to be applicable to real life as well." Indeed, the concept of tango has a universal value. It reveals the way to achieve inter-gender, interpersonal and social harmony. (See The Lessons of Tango.)
Beginners need to change their focus from on what is external to what is internal. I do not mean that you need not to learn steps. But when you learn them, your attention should be placed on being one with your partner rather than executing the steps. If you only focus on doing the steps, it is easy to forget about your partner, or even blame him/her for not doing so well and want to correct him/her, resulting in two partners uncoordinated. If you focus on being one with your partner, you will try to collaborate with him/her, or even be conceding enough to make him/her feel at home, so that the two may become one in the dance. Tango is like marriage. What makes it work is not pressing your partner to follow your will, but being cooperative and accommodating. Novice women often feel comfortable dancing with a milonguero, not because the novices know their stuff, but because the milonguero knows how to accommodate them. Surrendering, adapting to, and being one with your partner, therefore, are more important than doing the steps. (See Tango Is a Relationship.)
March 13, 2014
Tango reflects and expresses the dream, longing and hope of its creators - the early immigrants to Argentina. (See Tango: The Historical and Cultural Impacts.) A milonga is a utopia where brotherly love, fellowship, intimacy, kindness and equality triumph over prejudice, hatred, conflict, power struggle and injuries, where masculinity and femininity still attract, comfort, compliment and bring out the best in each other, and where peace and harmony are still achieved through submission, cooperation, accommodation and compromise. It is an oasis in which one can enjoy a temporary relief from the confrontation, competition, animosity and self-interests of the modern-day living.
Those who regard modernization as a progress overlooked its down side. It also is a dehumanizing process that leads mankind farther and farther away from nature and humanity. Modern science and technology have empowered the individual and made him/her increasingly self-sufficient, independent, egocentric, arrogant and aggressive. It diminished the natural bond that united people, shifted our attention from on the common survival to self-gains, and deprived us from the connection and cooperation that we used to share. The fraternity, attachments, interdependence and mutual care among people have faded away, family has disintegrated, the common values and common cause have been lost, the environment has suffered irreversible damage, natural resources have depleted, the society has been polarized and demoralized. Individualism, feminism, homosexualism, divorce, same-sex marriage, single-parent family, materialism, competition, stress, psychological imbalance, violence, cruelty, corruption and crime have grown in intensity. In short, humanity has been replaced by modernity. (See Tango and Individualism.)
The popularity of tango in the contemporary world is a profound phenomenon. We dream of a society that is equal, fair, friendly, cooperative, orderly and harmonious, like a well-organized milonga, not one that is driven by self-interests and imbued with competition, hostility, injury, stress, madness and polarization. Is modernity at the cost of humanity and environment worth pursuing? A blogger wrote, "The world is like water and mankind is like ink. What men do to the world is like what the ink does to the water. With the passage of time, the ink only makes the water muddier, not clearer. Comparing to the postmodern world of today, the past is simpler, purer, hence better." A woman wrote, "In modern-day life, we are centered around our work, which demands aggression. But if we keep being aggressive in our marriage, constantly fighting for self-interests and pushing our partner to make concessions until he gives up, then such marriage can only create an unhappy person." A Facebook friend wrote, "How many American businessmen lie in a hospital bed, after their heart attack, before they look around and ask themselves, 'How did I end up spending my life this way... working too many hours... the love of my life is a stranger, if we haven't divorced... I missed my children growing up because I worked too much... I spent my lifetime, not with my friends, but pursuing financial security... and in the end, I ended up here?'" Indeed, modern life is like a fatal attraction that causes us to lose the essence of being human. What happened to our intelligence and sanity? Why couldn't we create a world for ourselves that makes more sense? (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.)
I believe this universal reflection on modern living and the nature of being human, this yearning for a balanced life and a harmonious society, is not irrelevant to the revival of tango today. One hundred years ago, immigrants far away from home created this dance in which they placed their dream, a dance full of human spirit and beauty, a dance that highlights human interdependence, connection, cooperation, complement and harmony. I believe tangueros and tangueras today are searching for the same dream. People who have had the fortune to get involved in tango must take the responsibility to preserve this sanctuary for the mankind. We not only need to teach others how to dance tango, but also need to teach them its ideas, because without these ideas tango could be dehumanized and assimilated by the world as well. (See The Freedom in Tango.)