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 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, connection, common interests, interdependence, mutual sport and sharing. In tango we have regained the joy in cooperating, complementing and comforting each other instead of competing and fighting with each other. In tango we have 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 have 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 have 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 have 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 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 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.)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Paul,

    I have been a follower of your blog for quite some time now and even though I am not a tango dancer I cannot tell you just how much I enjoy your posts and your priceless advice that many times transcends tango and applies to other dances as well. I just wanted to let you know I loved your latest post and I totally agree with the way you discuss polarization and extremist tendencies in the tango.

    It made me think of several discussions I had in Havana with old rumberos who have noticed similar tendencies in their dance, who see their art and traditions transformed into a commodity that has to be exotic at all costs, thus leading to the loss of the essence of dance. I see this happening not only in the rumba, but also in other Cuban dances, and I was wondering if it was related not only to the radicalism and extremism you mention in your post, but perhaps to a kind of supersaturation? We tend to quickly become very bored with what we are being offered, our attention span seems to be reduced to a minimum, therefore we have the tendency to consume all kinds of experiences in a very short amount of time, without even trying to understand the essence of the things we do - and unfortunately dance is a very good example here. It is, of course, up to every dancer, beginner or advanced, to try to change this and become fully aware of the multiple layers and meanings of dance (and I think this applies to all dances, not just the tango or the rumba), but it seems to me that this is the biggest challenge for dancers.

    However, I loved the underlying optimism in your post and the belief that even though things seem to be going in the wrong direction, they can be stopped, if only we understand this need for an awakening.

    Thank you for writing, for dancing and for sharing!

    Best wishes,