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. 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. 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.

August 24, 2015

Artistic Sublimation and Vulgarism in Tango

Humans are able to draw on common nature or essence of things and abandon their individual and non-essential property in order to formulate a concept. For example, in the minds of men,  a "woman" often is not a particular female person, but an abstract idea. As Carlos Gavito put it, "She's a dream of something I want in real life, but that ideal does not have a face." Abstract thinking is one of the things that make us different from animals. While it may lead to generalized biases such as racism, it also is the origin of art. Beauty, after all, is an abstract concept. We take common properties of all women to formulate a goddess with perfect face, body, curves, hips, legs, softness, flexibility, sexuality, temperament, etc., - an ideal lover, partner, friend, companion, wife, and mother of human offspring. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.) 

In fact, it goes further. Desirable features are even highlighted. Statues of women often have exaggerated curves, fuller breasts, narrower waist, wider hips and longer legs. This kind of abstraction is found in nearly all artistic expressions. We read even in the Holy Bible such verses, "Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle." (Song of Songs 7:3) "How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit." (Song of Songs 7:6-7) The woman echoed, "I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment." (Song of Songs 8:10)

Tango as an art form is aligned with the holy word. It humanizes us, elevates our humanity, and enables us to transcend vulgarism and hypocrisy. A culture that separates decent intimacy from vulgarism and sanctions the former, I believe, is more human and civilized than that equates the two and disapproves both. (See Close Embrace and Open Embrace (I).) Women need to be honest about their body, draw on it in the dance, not only to receive information, but also to seduce, comfort and bring contentment to the male partner. For example, to rub him when you rock back and forth in ocho cortado, or massage his chest when you twist in his arms. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) Using her body to seduce, comfort and bring contentment is an essential part of the feminine role in tango. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.)

The same is true for men. As Perri Lezzoni eloquently wrote in his essay, A Little Machismo Goes A Long Way, "One of the most difficult things leaders have to learn is how to put some machismo into the tango connection. The tiniest amount will do but exuding it without offense is not easy. It is the most important spice in the stew; without it there are no women and without women there is no tango... Machismo is the expression of a person’s inner warrior and it is not solely manufactured by men. It is the fighter inside of us that the follower finds so alluring."

Men need to understand that what makes us special to women is the makings of us, our manhood, strength, masculinity and machismo, not political correctness. Women like to rely on our broad shoulder, melt in our strong arms, feel our muscles, admire our strength, and enjoy our protection. It is of their nature to seduce us, get our attention, arouse our hunger for them, submit and surrender to us, and follow our lead. Using our body to support, protect, lead, comfort, and bring contentment to them is the essential part of our role in tango. (See The Gender Expression in Tango.)

The innocent intimacy and playfulness in tango is human and healthy, which satisfy our need for connection and love, strengthen the bond between the two sexes, comfort us and stir up our emotions without being offensive and disrespectful. Despite the criticism that tango is a politically incorrect dance by those who want to promote a "sanitized version" featuring open embrace and gender neutrality (see Tango and Gender Equality), their belief that tango leads to sexual urge contradicts the reality. Tango, like other arts, is a sublimation. Tango dancers all over the world can testify that tango, though an intimate dance, is not sexual. The mind of the dancer is in a state of meditation, so focusing on the music, sentiment, emotions and artistic creation that other mental exercises become unfeasible. It would be like attempting to compose a dirty poem in fishing when the fish is actively biting. Moral defenders either are outsiders who know nothing about tango, or hypocrites with dubious intentions. Instead of blaming tango, they should get to know the dance and its codes first. (See Milonga Codes.) They should also be advised that good manner is the first card people play in tango, that improper behavior will encounter resistance, that nobody will dance with you if you show no respect, and that repeated offender will not be welcomed by the community, so the "sanitized version" is superfluous.