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.

July 3, 2014

The Psychology of Tango


The attraction between masculinity and femininity could be so strong to ignite passion and creativity that Freud believes art is the sublimation of sexuality. Although sexuality is not the only driving force of art, the theory seems to explain tango. As long as we do not view sexuality too vulgarly, its link with passion, romanticism, imagination, creativity and artistic expressions is not difficult to understand. In fact, is it not true that all human activities are derived from the need for survival and procreation, thus lead to love, marriage, family, economy, development, politics, corruption, pollution, crime, war, and so on? Sexuality can lead to evil, it can also lead to good. The vulgar understanding of human sexuality has caused the distortion and rejection of tango in the past. Tango's popularity today witnesses the progress of human understanding. (See Artistic Sublimation and Vulgarism in Tango.)


Tango is the dance of the immigrants. It is created by the immigrants. It expresses the feelings and serves the needs of the immigrants. (See Tango: Historical and Cultural Impactst.) Those who love tango are either immigrants, or people like immigrants who are homesick, lonely and yearning for love.

Jeanette Winterson said, "I want to go anywhere that is filled with love. I want to be like a migratory salmon, relentlessly searching for the traces of love." Love and loneliness are really the same feeling. Without that understanding, one cannot truly appreciate tango.

You do not have to leave your country to be an immigrant. Students going to schools far away from home, college graduates just stepping into the society, entrepreneurs struggling alone to start a business, migrant workers looking for jobs in big cities, homeless people, wandering travelers, lonely singles, women who married a wrong man, powerless people bullied by the powerful... aren't they all immigrants? One can say that immigrant is the common status of most people. Ever since we came into the world, we became immigrants in search of the love and home in our dreams.

Thus, tango, known as a refuge, or home, came into being.


"What is home? Home is not a house or place. It is the attachment, warm feelings and connection that we have in this vest mortal world. In absence of these even a mansion of a thousand rooms is but a cold building. Home is where our hearts belong, filled with affection and love." - Xiaomu

Xiaomu is talking about tango. Tango is not an image, but a feeling. Without affection and love, tango became a cold building.

But affection and love cannot be seen. People can only see the cold building.

Cancer patient Yu Juan wrote in her death bed, "When facing life and death, you realize that working overtime (long-term staying up late is suicidal), pushing yourself too hard, wanting to buy a new car or new house, these are all vanities. If you have time, spend it with your children. Use the money saved for the new car to buy a pair of shoes for your parents. Don't work overtime in order to move to a bigger house. Being with the loved ones is warm even live in a small apartment."

Yu Juan is also talking about tango. The most important thing in tango is not to impress others, but to enjoy the relationship and intimacy. Happiness is simple and artless. It belongs to yourself.

But happiness is internal and unseen. People can only see what looks impressive outside.


Parents tell children, "This cake tastes better than that cake." But children do not believe, they want that which looks more colorful and tempting. After they have tried everything, they decided that the parents are right. So they tell their children. But their children do not believe, they still want that which looks more colorful and tempting.

Milongueros tell beginners, "Fancy steps are useless in the milongas." But beginners do not believe, they want to learn fancy steps. After they have studied all they can learn, they decided that the milongueros are right. So they tell their students. But their students do not believe, they still want to learn fancy steps.

Again and again, we are deceived by our eyes.

How many efforts of the mankind are wasted on pursuing the vanity?

"Happiness is actually a lot simpler than what we thought. The problem is, if we do not explore all the possibilities and experience all the miseries, if we do not climb all the mountains and fall all the falls, we would not believe that happiness lies in that small piece of shade under that tree at the foot of that hill." - Liu Yu

Perhaps that is how we learn. But those who can set aside the ego and listen to others who have tried before them may avoid many unnecessary mistakes.


Zhu Deyong said, "There are two ways of life: one is to follow the expectations of others; the other is to follow your own heart. The former might get you a lot of applauses, but not your own. No one would applaud for the latter perhaps, but you will surely applaud for yourself."

Tango is lots of things: feelings, relationship, harmony, comfort, love, fellowship, community, refuge, home, etc. The only thing that tango is not is performance. A performance is a pigment-added show, just like McDonald's advertisements, made only to attract the eyes. Have you ever seen anything that is made just to attract the eyes real? Tango is tango only when it is not a performance. 

Not that you cannot watch videos. But keep in mind that tango is a feeling. Tango must be danced with the heart, for it's the dance of love, and love must be felt.


The feelings have a gender. There are men's feelings. There are women's feelings.

Men and women look for different things in tango. What is programmed in the DNA of the male is strength, which is why men are attracted to women, they need to be comforted by women. What is programmed in the DNA of the female is softness, which is why women are attracted to men, they need the sense of security. Masculinity and femininity attract each other, complement each other and bring out the best in each other. That is the law of nature. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.)

Woman, you should make him feel comfortable so that he may see where you are is his home.

Man, you should lead, support and protect her attentively so that she may rely on you and feel safe.

Happiness is a feeling. The secret of tango lies not in aesthetics, but in psychology.


Li Ao said, "If you want to remember the beauty of the flower, leave before it fades. If you want to enjoy the taste of the wine, walk away before you get drunk. If you want to find lasting love, do not date forever."

It makes a lot of sense for tango to be short. It is only three minutes, so the aftertaste is endless.

"Perhaps the most beautiful love is that you love him and he loves you, but the two of you are not together." - Anonymous

Indeed, tango is more tasty when danced in the arms of a stranger and being pampered by an unexpected admirer. A poem entitled The Kiss wrote, "I ran up the door, opened the staircase, put on my prayer, said the pajama, turned off the bed, got into the light, all are because of the kiss you gave me, when you said goodbye." Many women left the milonga after a perfect tango, just to preserve that mysteriously and surprisingly wonderful feeling.

Tango is the art of feeling, it is created to feel.

In that feeling, many found a temporary home.