Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, 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 species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you believe in this cause, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.
Together we can awaken the world.
March 18, 2014
Tango only happens when the two partners are immersed in the music and find the connection between them. There cannot be tango between two beginners who do not listen to the music, do not devote to each other, are physically detached and emotionally disconnected, focus only on the steps and the self, and are unable to communicate their feelings. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) They dance like two individuals bickering and disagreeing with each other. In contrast, mature dancers are able to communicate what they feel. They commit to each other, surrender to each other, pour in their feelings, concentrate on the music, which stirs up their emotions, arouses sympathy, enables them to identify with each other's feelings, and allows them to feel the connection between them. As a result, they dance like two soulmates in perfect understanding and agreement. This agreement is what makes tango intoxicating.
What we are looking 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 by 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 one's intrinsic attributes: her femininity, gentleness, softness, obedience, affection, adaptability and agreeableness; his musicality, masculinity, strength, dependability, protection, thoughtfulness and finesse; 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. They both involve a relationship between a man and a woman in which the two sexes play different roles but complement each other. They both aim at achieving harmony through understanding, submission, 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 should not 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 action, it is easy to forget about your partner, or even blame him/her for not doing so well and try 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 being 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
Created by the early immigrants to Argentina, tango reflects and expresses the nostalgia, longing and hope of its creators. (See Tango: The Historical and Cultural Impacts.) A milonga is like a utopia, where brotherly love, fellowship, intimacy and comfort triumph over prejudice, hatred, animosity and injury, where masculinity and femininity still attract each other and bring out the best in each other, and where peace and harmony are still achieved through cooperation and accommodation, not confrontation and power struggle. It is like an oasis in which people can enjoy a temporary relief from the stressful modern-day life.
Those who think of modernization only as a progress do not understand its down side. In fact, it is a dehumanizing process that leads mankind farther and farther away from nature and humanity. Modern science and technology have empowered people and made individual persons increasingly self-sufficient, independent, egocentric, arrogant and aggressive. It diminishes the human bond that united people, shifts their attention away from common interests to personal interests and individuality, and deprives them from the connection, cooperation and fraternity that they used to share. The mutual attachments, interdependence and care among people have faded away, gender roles have transformed, family has disintegrated, the harmony between man and nature has disappeared, the environment has suffered irreversible damage, natural resources are depleting, and societies are increasingly demoralized and polarized. Individualism, feminism, homosexualism, divorce, same-sex marriage, single-parent family, materialism, competition, stress, psychological imbalance, violence, cruelty, corruption and crime grow 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 human 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 the water and mankind is like the 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 people to lose the essence of being human. What happened to our intelligence and sanity? Why couldn't we create a world 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 on which they placed their dream, a dance full of human spirit and beauty, a dance that highlights human connection, cooperation, complement and harmony. Today's tangueros and tangueras are searching for the same dream, I believe. People who love tango has a responsibility to preserve this sanctuary for the mankind. We not only need to teach people how to dance tango, but also to teach them its ideas, because without which tango could be assimilated by the world as well. (See The Freedom in Tango.)