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.
September 6, 2019
Learning Tango: Two Perspectives
The following behaviors are common among beginners: (1) They are eager to learn steps but neglect the fundamentals. (2) They don’t follow instructions carefully. (3) They want to run when they still cannot walk well. (4) They imitate the movements but don’t pay attention to technique details. (5) They lean back to avoid intimate bodily contact. (6) They use the arms and hands to lead and follow. (7) They grasp hold of the partner to do steps. (8) They focus on personal performance and neglect the partner. (9) They don’t listen to the music. (10) They dance according to their own will and anticipation. (See Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills.)
These are all due to one reason: They focus only on the steps and themselves. Tango to them is just a personal skill and they think if they acquired that skill, they can dance tango. That wrong perspective leads them to overlook many other aspects of the dance.
Tango is not steps but what the steps express, that is, the feelings stirred by the music. The emotions of the song affect the dancers and arouse their sympathetic feelings. Tango is the expression of that feeling through movements. (See Tango Is a Feeling.) Tango is also a teamwork. The two partners who listen to the same music share their feelings via direct bodily contact, which is intimate, personal and soulful. Dancing tango requires seamless cooperation. Each dancer must not only follow the music but also match the movement of the partner in order for the two to dance as one unified body. Different bodily movements carry different messages. For example, when the man’s right chest becomes tense and pushing and his left chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his right, and when his left chest becomes tense and pushing and his right chest becomes soft and pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his left. Often, the movement of the body is so subtle that it cannot be seen and must be felt. Tango is a sophisticated body language. Learning tango is not primarily learning steps but learning that body language, learning to feel, communicate, lead/follow, comfort and bring contentment to your partner with your body. (See Tango Is a Language (1).)
This perspective requires the dancer to lay emphasis not on the steps but on the body, embrace, connection and communication, to use the sense of the body to feel, to pay attention to the music, to listen to the inner voice and feelings of the partner, to share with the partner what you feel, to agree and cooperate with him/her, and to please him/her with your body. Tango is created to feel. It is the dance of love. (See The Fourteenth Pitfall of a Tanguera.)
The transformation from a step-oriented, self-centered and single-focused beginner to a feeling-oriented, partner-centered and multitasking team player is a long process. Beginners will not fully understand the essence of tango until they have accumulated enough personal knowledge, skills and experience. But right perspective from the beginning can shorten that process and save them from wasting time on wrong approaches. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) Unfortunately, many students get this too late.