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 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, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

February 24, 2013

Tai Chi and Tango

I have been introduced to tai chi, a slow motion Chinese martial art, and was immediately hooked by its attributes pertinent to tango - rhythm, precision, flexibility, control, balance and beauty. Here is an example of tai chi.

Tai chi is practiced in a half squatting posture that requires the flexibility and strength of the legs to enable one to move like a cat. The body weight is placed on one leg and slowly transferred to the other leg while the torso remains upright in the movement. All body parts, including the arms, the hands, the torso, the waist, the hips, the thighs, the knees and the ankles, are used in the making of the movement, demanding good coordination, balance and control. Every movement is well defined to meet the aesthetics and must be done precisely according to the standard. The request on the strength and flexibility of the legs is very high due to the slow motion in half squatting posturing, which can help to develop the strength, flexibility and control of the legs.

All these are relevant to tango because, like tai chi, tango, too, is mainly a leg exercise, although all parts of the body including the arms, the hands, the torso, the waist, the hips, the thighs, the knees and the ankles are used and must be coordinated to form the steps. Tango dancers often do not realize that their lack of lightness, balance, control, coordination, precision and elegance is a result of the lack of strength and flexibility of the legs. Those who want to overcome these shortages can benefit tremendously from practicing tai chi. 

Although tai chi does not need to be practiced to music, its movement has its own rhythm, as you can see from the example. Tai chi is deliberately designed to be practiced in slow motion for health and fitness purpose, which can help tango dancers to improve the ability of dancing in slow motion. However, tai chi can also be practiced in fast motion, as this example illustrates, to help you develop nimbleness and speed. All these traits make tai chi an excellent exercise for tango dancers to develop their body and improve their ability for the dance. 

Those who are interested in learning tai chi can start from here.

February 4, 2013

How You Dance Matters

Our desire to realize our potentials, to conquer the unknown, to expand the limits, and to possess more, is a part of what drive us. This very nature is the cause of our accomplishments on one hand and abuses on the other. Our society is full of such abuses - unlimited personal freedom, selfish individualism, heartless capitalism, militant feminism, ultra conservatism, ultra liberalism, religious fundamentalism, terrorism, radical sciences and technologies, monopolist business practices, extravagant lifestyles, violent entertainments and sports, bank fraudulence, gun lobby, over spending, over taxation, overuse of natural resources, man-made climate changs, etc.

All these result in not a coherent and harmonious society but conflict, inequality, polarization, hatred, hostility and war. We go from one extreme to another without realizing that all forms of extremism and aggression come from the same human nature within us - greed, self-interests, ignorance and intolerance. We are unable and unwilling to consider interests and perspectives beyond our own. We cannot see the whole picture of which we are only a tiny dot. We rely on the might to solve problems, and we do not understand the consequence of unbalanced approaches. (See Tango and Integrity.) Our relentless pursuit of self-interests could lead to the end of the human civilization, if we let our selfishness, greed and ignorance go unchecked. This is not alarmist talk. Given how rapidly and radically the world has changed since World War II, how long can Mother Nature support our greed and mankind remain peaceful with each other? (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.)

I am not the only one who worries. Whether you realize it or not, tango’s popularity today reflects the universal nostalgia for the missing peace and the rebellion against the dehumanizing reality of our times. Tango is fascinating to many because in tango we found a different reality - togetherness, common interests, interdependence, mutual sport, connection and sharing. In tango we regained the joy in cooperating, complementing and comforting each other instead of competing and fighting with each other. In tango we found a refuge void of animosity and conflict, a shoulder we can rely on, and a way to reach harmony through communication, collaboration, reconciliation and compromise. In tango we rediscovered the wisdom of Jesus who taught love, Gandhi who advocated nonviolence, Lao Tzu who pleaded simplicity and naturalness, and Confucius who argued for the golden mean. In tango we found peace, love, intimacy, equality, fraternity and a better world that we wish ours could become. (See The Freedom in Tango.)

That is why people are attracted to tango. That is why I am sad to see that tango, too, is corrupted by the tendency to make this dance of love a dance of show, a dance of exoticism, a dance of political correctness, and a dance for profit. By so doing they not only changed the essence of the dance, but also betrayed its idealism and degraded tango from a dance that teaches the world to love to that against its ordained purpose, from that sublimates the humanity to that debases it, and from that symbolizes the world we want ours to become to that reflects the world we want to change.

Many people now take the responsibility to keep the natural environment clean and natural resources wisely used, because the Earth is our only home. Should we not also take the same responsibility to keep the human environment clean and the society stable for the same reason? People new to tango need to awaken to the fact that how you see tango affects how you learn and dance it. You may see it as just a dance, or you may see it as a dance that teaches the world to love. You may learn just how to do steps, or you may learn how to be one with each other. You may dance to show your ego, or you may dance to show your love. You may reinvent tango, or you may let tango change you and through you the world. How you dance matters, because by which you will leave an impact, either way. (See Tango and the Outlook on Life.)