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 16, 2014
Tango Is a Fellowship
Someone asks me to compare Euro-American tango and BA tango. Though a short essay cannot cover such a big topic, I am willing to make an observation from one perspective.
Those who see tango as a skill often think that once they mastered the skill they mastered the dance. Such people often disrespect the culture, ignore the codes, pay no attention to the conducts, overlook the relationships, care little about other people's feelings, regard others as rivals, are indifferent or even hostile to others, do not surrender themselves in the dance and focus only on their own performance. This kind of behavior is more visible in Europe and North America where there is a strong standing of individualism, which is incompatible with tango. (See Tango and Individualism.)
Tango is not a solo dance. It takes two to tango. Not only so, tango is not a show dance performed by a fixed couple only, but a social dance involving a large group of people. The majority of them, like the immigrants who created tango, come to the milonga to seek association, connection and affinity with other people, consider tango as a refuge, home or family. (See Why People Dance Tango.)
The highlight of tango, therefore, is not how fancy its steps are but the relationship, connection, cooperation, harmony, and the satisfaction resulted from the same efforts that others paid in return. Therefore, tango is first and foremost a fellowship rather than a skill - a fellowship not only between two partners but also among a group of dancers. To enjoy tango, one needs not only to master the skill but also be a part of a friendly, warm and intimate community, without which the skill alone is meaningless no matter how good it is. (See Never Forget Why We Started.)
For this reason, he/she who only dances exhibitory tango with a fixed partner is not a tango dancer in the true sense. Unfortunately, this kind of career performers are often regarded by novices in Europe and North America as role models. Under their influence, many young people do not see tango as a fellowship but a show, hence the alienation of tango. However, vanity cannot quench the thirst of the soul. Once mastered the skill, most people will continue their search for deeper meanings, moving away from exhibitionism and turning to the essence of the dance. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) That, I think, is what Euro-American tango still falls short from BA tango.
The revival of tango, started in the mid 1980s, has been thirty years now. In these three decades, Euro-American tango has also grown. Technically speaking many tango communities in Europe and North America are already catching up with BA tango and now need to pay more attention to the fellowship and community building. This is not a one man's job and will take the efforts of all dancers, teachers and organizers. How each and every dancer cherishes his/her tango community, acts in the milongas, treats others, invites or accepts invitations, dances and so on, not only reflects his/her understanding of tango but also impacts the community. As tango dancers we must take the responsibility to improve our dance community and the culture within it, only then will our tango become more and more like BA tango. (See 惜缘.)