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.




April 29, 2014

The Chivalry of the Milongueros


One hundred years ago when immigration was at its peak, the gender ratio in Argentina was five men to one woman. In other words, fifty men would compete to dance with ten women in a typical milonga. Sexual hunger caused by such gender imbalance is beyond our imagination. Most men today, with their haughty attitude, would have little chance to find a partner then. The situation was so unfavorable to men that they did not even have the guts to invite women. They would only spy at a distance and wait for women to nod at them, only then dared they venture to dance with the goddesses. This was the origin of cabeceo. (See Women's Role in Cabeceo.) Before a man was able to dance with a woman for the first time, he had to spend years to practice with other guys and did not dare to try for real until he had completely grasped the craft. He would be extremely careful with the woman in the dance also, fearing to lose the favor of the goddess had she felt slightest discomfort. Men's cherish and respect for women has since become a notable feature of the tango culture in Argentina.

In such a gender ratio, the privilege of dancing with a woman was granted only to men capable of making her completely satisfied. Self-centered peacocks would have little chance to compete with those who mastered a comfortable embrace, exquisite musicality and the ability to accommodate, pamper and protect women. Laymen may think of milongueros as some goof-offs. (See Tango and the Outlook on Life.) But if you believe that surrounded by a battalion of admirers the goddess would pick a mediocrity, or that she would be fooled by fanfares, you certainly underestimated the goddess. Even today, women cast their eyes only on the best. They don't want men who are sloppy, who feel insecure, who do not have a comfortable embrace, whose musicality is less than perfect, who use the arms and hands to lead, who can't do cabeceo, who don't know the codes, and who is short in manner, not to mention in those days. Therefore, the milongueros are thoroughly steeled tango elites with great knowledge and skills on the dance, music, codes, culture, lunfardo, and the ways of the milonga world. Like the knights in the medieval Europe who were gallant, honorable, generous, kind and respectful to women, and like the samurais in feudal Japan who were loyal, courageous, simple in living, and preferring death to dishonor, the Argentine milongueros are a group of sophisticated technicians who follow certain tenets. For them, tango is a religion and milonga codes are not only guild regulations but life principles as well. One may say that, though without the title of nobility, the Argentine milongueros are a comparable class to European knights, Japanese samurais and Chinese literati. Their doctrine is the chivalry, bushido and Confucian orthodoxy of Argentina.

Today, times have changed. The gender ratio in the milongas becomes one man to one point five women. In addition, women are instigated to compete with men for supremacy, and the chivalry of the milongueros is criticized by the feminists. (See Tango and Gender Equality.) As a result, men do not cherish and respect women to the degree they used to. Even a beginner who can't walk stably now dares to oblige a woman to dance with him and use her as a foil to his self-centered exhibition, totally disregarding manners. One has to reckon this a failure of feminism. Feminists thought that the two sexes would be equal if women were strong as men, little did they realize that once women lose their femininity, they are no longer the goddesses in men's eyes.

Dancers of the contemporary age need to review the history and reflect on their demeanors. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impacts.) For the sake of tango women cannot lose femininity and men cannot lose their love for women. Gender roles are crucial in keeping the two sexes in harmony. (See The Gender Expression in Tango.) Interfering with nature will have serious consequences. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.) I wish men will always cherish women the way they did when there were five men to each woman. I wish women never cease to be feminine and quit to play the masculine role. Tango was created to be a bridge connecting and uniting the two sexes. I hope it remains that way.

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