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 17, 2011
In a scarce society people are used to frugality and simplicity, while in an affluent society such as ours, lavishness and extravagance are the norm. For tasks that other people do with a simple kitchen knife, we created one equipment to chop eggs, another to cut meats, another to slice tomatoes, another to peel apples, another to shred cucumbers, etc. Our kitchens are crammed with junks. Our houses are more and more cluttered, and so are our gigantic shopping malls, governments and tax codes. Our national debts have passed $14 trillion (an annual interest at 1% of which is $14 billion!), and we still spend like there is no tomorrow. Our commercial culture is all about catching and impressing, which is why TV ads are increasingly made weird. I don’t think it's coincidental that some of us confuse weirdness with beauty. Just look at the punk hairdos, tattoos, rings on the nose, lips and eyelids, and pants that are about to fall down… Everything is about catching eyes rather than genuine beauty.
The way we dance tango reflects this culture. Like life, tango is really simple, but we insist on making it fancy and complicated. While in Argentina tango is danced in normal, natural, simple and comfortable steps, our tango is cluttered with showy, gaudy, farfetched, overdone and awkward movements. Simplicity and naturalness are acquired tastes that we don’t have. We regard complexity and bizarreness as beautiful. While in Argentina tango is about music, feelings, relationship and physical pleasure, our tango is all about pretty dresses, expensive shoes, fancy footwork, thrilling performances, luxurious hotels and pricey festivals. We are too focused on the superficial things.
Let me proclaim a different aesthetics that values simplicity and naturalness. Nature is simple and it is beautiful. Light makeups look better than heavy and queer ones. A house simply decorated is more pleasant than that cluttered with ostentatious ornaments. Concise writing is superior to redundant expressions. A kung-fu master practices his skill with great ease. The best way is often the simplest. It is same in tango. (See Highbrowism and Populism in Tango.) Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - an inner beauty those who focus only on superficial things do not have. Tango is not a luxury. It is a simple pleasure that should not cost an absurd amount of money to enjoy. (See Boston Tango Marathon.) People who love tango should keep it original and free from the contamination of the commercial world and the frivolous custom of our time. There is no need to spend on fancy steps and flashy dresses to enjoy tango. Tango can be danced in a simple, moderate and natural way, like how the Argentinians do it. We need to change focus from on what is without to what is within. An ordinary-looking woman with refined inner quality is much more attractive than a pretty woman without it. Tango is the same. It is for feeling and not for looking. When tango stops to be a show, it will be simpler, deeper, better, and more enjoyable. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.)
September 4, 2011
We love tango in part because tango is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with that. People pursue beauty for the same reason that plants bloom and birds sing. It is natural. It pleases the eye and attracts mates. It provides better chances for living things to reproduce. Beauty is a valuable resource for those who own it. Consequently, beauty is admired, worshiped, idolized and imitated. Fashion, cosmetics, silicon implant, face-lift surgery and many other methods are developed to make people look beautiful. Billions and billions are spent each year for it. As a result, beauty now is no longer natural and real. It becomes artificial, perverted and delusive.
When people are obsessed with superficial things, the substance is overlooked and problems occur. A beautiful woman may have advantages. But at the same time she may also have disadvantages. She may be spoiled, arrogant, self-centric and unprepared for the tough realities in real life. She may demand more and be hard to please. A likely prey of men, envy and jealousy of women, and heart breaker to many, she may have many enemies, which could make her self-protective, suspicious and unfriendly. Her relationship with others may be more problematic, and she lives a less tranquil life. One has to bear in mind its cost when pursuing beauty. Beauty is only a skin deep. It is neither the only thing nor the most important thing in life as well as in tango.
Just like those focusing on the external tend to overlook the internal, people fond of fancy steps often ignore feelings. However, without the substance the look is an empty shell. True beauty comes from within. The beauty of tango is largely conceptional. (See The Conceptional Beauty of Tango.) It lies in the shared connection, intimacy, understanding, agreement, comfort and harmony. If you go to Buenos Aires, you will see that is how tango is danced by the milongueros. They don't care much about how they look. They don't do fancy steps. They concentrate on the relationship and feelings, and their dance is so beautiful that it is imitated everywhere by shallow minded foreigners without understanding its essence. (See Exhibition versus Fellowship.)
Tango is still too young in this country. It takes maturity to overcome shallowness and understand true beauty. The more I dance with women of all ages, the more I appreciate mature women. Even in Argentina, I find that mature women are better dancers in general. Their youthful freshness is fading away, and they start to focus more on the substance rather than the surface of beauty. It is my hope that tango in this country, too, will overcome its shallowness and pay more attention to the substance, as our tango community becomes maturer.