Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search 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.

May 7, 2012

The Integrity of Tango

The way we dance tango reflects who we are. We are a big, rich and powerful nation. We are used to that small and weak nations listen to us, not we listen to them. We tend to do whatever we want, or have our own way, despite what other people want or value. We launch wars in the name of freedom, overthrow governments that we don’t like, disregard other nations’ sovereign rights, violate their entitlement to their own creations - Argentine tango for example - and treat which disrespectfully at our will. Our politicians fight only for the special interests they represent and fail to balance the interests of all people. “My way, or no way!” is how they do things in Washington and elsewhere within and beyond our borders. We have lost the greatness, magnanimity and humility that we used to have when we were a small, weak and poor nation, and become a self-important, single-minded, inconsiderate, obstinate, and arrogant people.

Rudeness, disrespect, contempt, aggression, disobedience, showoff, self-glorification, snobbishness, endangering others, invading other’s space, blocking the traffic, running into people, and other misconducts in our milongas are examples of how the lack of integrity affects our tango dancing. Tango requires love, respect, courtesy, humility, cooperation, submission, yielding, consideration, compromise and finesse. A shallow, self-centered, inconsiderate, arrogant, disagreeable and uncooperative person cannot see beyond himself and dance tango well. Tango involves dualities such as form and essence, movement and feeling, beauty and comfort, skill and integrity, exhibition and fellowship, creativity and standardization, individuality and partnership, etc. A superficial, narrow and unbalanced person cannot see beyond the surface and appreciate the depth of tango. Such individuals tend to focus only on the steps and overlook the connection, feeling, teamwork, etiquette and culture of tango. They think that he who can do fancy steps is a good dancer, but in fact that is not necessarily true. We often see individuals so over performing themselves that they put their partners into shame. Are such individuals good dancers? No. The skill alone does not make one a good dancer, it takes integrity as well.

Many people think that a beautiful tango is a good tango, which is not necessarily true either. Tango has both tangible and intangible sides. One can develop skills aiming at its visual impression, or one can develop skills aiming at its sensual pleasure. There are people who deliberately deviate from the essence of tango, break the embrace, drift apart the partner, and sacrifice the intimacy, soulfulness, sensuality and comfort of the dance, just so that they can achieve stunning visual effects for impression. I don’t think such is a good tango even if it looks dazzling and striking. A good tango embodies a pleasant integration of all tango elements, including sentiment, intimacy, feeling, soulfulness, sensuality, comfort, elegance and beauty.

Integrity is not only a matter of moral character and sound thinking. Tango fits better a culture that values integrity than a culture that values individualism. In a culture that values integrity, people learn to think beyond oneself and be more considerate, respectful and cooperative. Overemphasis on personal liberty, rights and self-interests could cause some people to put “me” above everyone else. When such people assume the position of power, that is often why things become so wrong in our politics and milongas.

Integrity is the ability to see beyond the tangible, superficial and self, to understand the importance of others to oneself, the invisible to the visible, the substance to the form, the whole to the part, the community to the individual, the feeling to the movement, the embrace to the footwork, the comfort to the beauty, etc. Tango needs integrity because it is a comprehensive art that involves many elements. Let’s hope that, as a reader said, “Tango is one more tool to help this culture on its way.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank You Paul! These are such good thoughts. As usual, you get to the heart of it.