Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, 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 team, 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, accommodation, 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 shopping malls, governments and tax codes. Our national debt has passed $14 trillion. At the average rate of 2.5% the annual interest on the debt is $350 billion, and we still spend like there is no tomorrow. (*In May 2020 US national debt passed $25 trillion. Annual interest rate at 2.5% on the debt is $625 billion.) Our commercial culture is all about catching and impressing, which is why TV ads are made increasingly weird. I don’t think it's coincidental that some of us confuse weirdness with beauty. Just look at 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 a simple dance, 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 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 all about music, feelings, relationship and physical pleasure, our tango is all about fancy footwork, thrilling performances, eye-catching dresses, expensive shoes, 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 makeup looks better than heavy and queer one. A house simply decorated is more pleasant than that cluttered with ostentatious ornaments. Concise writing is superior to redundant expression. Empty space can add design to the painting. Pause can create mood in the dance. Silence sometimes expresses more. Too much could be worse than not enough. A kung-fu master practices his skill with great ease. The best way often is the simple way. (See Highbrowism and Populism in Tango.)
The same is true for tango. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - a quality 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 times. 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 dance it. We have to turn our attention from 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.)