Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating idea, philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. 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 or 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, reconciliation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.

March 7, 2015

Activity and Passivity in Tango

If caught in the dilemma either marry someone who loves you or someone you love, what would be your choice?  Most women may prefer the former because security is programmed in women's psychology. For women, as Eileen Chang said, love means being loved - a safety net for them and their children. In contrast, most men are more likely to marry someone they love because men are brought up to be the provider and protector. Which gives men certain advantage, since a proactive giver may end up winning the love he yearns, whereas a passive receiver could end up losing everything. Unfortunately, that is often the fate of those who marry security and fail to contribute.

It may be wise for a woman to be passive initially during the courtship, as she needs to know that the man is worthy of her before she gives herself up to him. But if she remains passive forever, that could be potentially problematic to the relationship. Women must not be deceived by the lie that men are only interested in one thing. That belief could cause some women to be overly reserved and defensive, cut down their efforts and become perfunctory partners, or rely on their beauty to exchange for security, or demand more than what they are willing to give, etc. I suspect that is relevant to the perfunctoriness of some women in tango as well. They sit there chatting and pay no attention to men, keep a distance from their partner, use open hand holds to replace the embrace, prop with the arms against the man or lean backwards to avoid intimate bodily contact, dance emotionlessly, focus on the steps instead of the feelings, and neglect their duty to their partner. At the same time, they expect their partner to make them totally satisfied.

A woman needs to understand that when she accepts an invitation to tango with a man, she is not accepting an invitation to do solo, but to be a part of a relationship in which the two must support, comfort, complement, and be there for each other. She must not think of tango as a courtship where she could or should be reserved. Rather, she has to see it as a marriage in which both partners must spare no effort to work together as a team. Contrary to the ideologies such as individualism and feminism that focus on the self and self-interests, tango focuses on the relationship, cooperation, and generosity in spirit in order to build together something beautiful and fulfilling for both. To tango, therefore, is not to demand and take, but to contribute and give. (See A Dance that Teaches People to Love.)

The passivity of women is a result of millions of years of human evolution through natural selection. Women's biological function demands a safe environment and urgent sense of security. Men, on the other hand, are hunters. It gives them pleasure to chase, conquer and protect. Laboratory researches of mice show that certain part of the male brain is associated with both sexuality and aggression. Stimulating that part will cause sexual urge. Increasing the stimulation on that same spot will result in violent behaviors. This suggests that the empathy and self-control of men are learned or cultured behaviors, which elevate them from the beast. Women, on the other hand, need to learn to counteract their passivity and be more active in their relationship with men, because they are not just men's mating partners, but partners in many other areas of life as well, including that of emotional, social, recreational, artistic, intellectual and spiritual. Tango, after all, is not about sex but companionship. A fulfilling companionship is one in which both partners are equal contributors desiring to satisfy each other's needs, especially those beyond sex. I believe that willingness to make others happy is an essential trait of a good social tango dancer. (See The Freedom in Tango.)


  1. This is very much written from a man’s perspective. A woman needs to be invited to closer embrace. It must feel natural. There is a certain level of trust that woman gives to a man when they dance in close embrace. If a man assumes and starts groping woman from the start it feels as a violation rather than consensual embrace. If you end up dancing a few songs in open embrace, maybe that is a way of women asserting her will, and ensuring her voice will be heard.

    1. Men do not assume and start groping a woman from the start. It is always a mutual choice. Men and women who understand tango choose to surrender to each other from the start. Those who choose to dance a few songs in open embrace first and then decide whether they should surrender do not understand tango, in my opinion.