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.

July 3, 2014

The Psychology of Tango


The attraction between the opposite sexes could ignite such enthusiasm 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 desire to sustain and flourish as a species, thus lead to love, marriage, family, education, development, economic activities, classes, inequity, crimes, pollution, 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 immigrants. It is created by immigrants. It expresses the feelings and serves the needs of 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 a residence but a home. 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 affinity and intimacy. Happiness is simple and artless. It belongs to yourself.

But happiness cannot be seen. People can only see what is impressive externally.


Parents tell children, "This cake tastes better than that cake." But children do not believe, they want the one which looks more colorful and tempting. After they have tried everything, they decide that the parents were 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 decide that the milongueros were right. So they tell their students. But their students do not believe, they still want to learn fancy steps.

Again and again people are deceived by their eyes. How many efforts need to be wasted before we learn that lesson?

"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 the shade of the tree at the foot of that hill." - Liu Yu

Perhaps that is how we learn. But those who can listen to others who have tried before them may avoid many detours.


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 a lot of things: feelings, connection, 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 eyeballs. Have you ever seen anything that is made only to attract eyeballs real? Tango is tango only when it is not a performance.

Not that you cannot watch videos. But keep in mind that tango is not an image but a feeling, which must be conceived with the heart.


The heart has gender. There is a man’s heart or a woman’s heart.

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 need to make him feel comfortable, so he may see where you are as his home.

Man, you need to lead, support and protect her diligently, so she can take refuge in your arms and feel safe.

The secret of tango lies not in aesthetics but in psychology, in the attraction between yin and yang, in the complementarity of masculinity and femininity, and in the interaction of the two sexes.


"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." - Li Ao

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

Nothing gives us more hope for love than being pampered by a total stranger, especially in a gloomy day. That is the power of tango.

A poem entitled The Kiss wrote, "I ran up the door, opened the staircase, put on the 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 tanda, just to preserve that surpprisingly wonderful feeling.

Tango, the dance of love, is created to feel.

In that feeling, many found a temporary home.


  1. I am reading your blog since quite some time and I appreciate your articles. Today I leave a comment for the first time.

    I also believe that tango is a dance for immigrants and that it allows them to find a home when they are lacking the feeling of coming home otherwise. Your first citation in part seven ends with "do not date forever". I wonder if tango is not in a certain sense an endless dating. In tango we can experience the feeling of "coming home", but this "home" is something very unstable, non-permanent. Tango allows us to feel a certain safety, of "coming home", maybe even "love", for the duration of one tanda. But then? Is not the life of a tanguero often lacking stable relationships? Is not this the reason for him to actually dance tango? In the light of the above citation, would not it be more sane to try to find enduring love, a real home?

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. But, I wouldn't go that far. Immigrant status may make people aware more of the importance of connection, fellowship, love, etc., it doesn't make them loners. People go to other places for connection, fellowship, love, etc., too, such as churches. Tango, like a church, is a fellowship or community, without which tango is nothing. Those who think tango as just a dance or show do not truly understand tango, in my opinion.

  2. A friend of mine said that a room full of tango dancers is a room full of people with some serious baggage! Generally speaking, most people I know have baggage. Whether it's serious or not is a matter for speculation....

    1. How interesting to think about the commonalities of tango dancers, isn't it?

  3. Very interesting! Could you please tell me the sources of chinese quotes ? Thanks in advance, Damiano

    1. You can find the original quotes in Chinese at my weibo page, http://weibo.com/3305653273. Weibo is the Chinese equivalence of FB. But it will take some time to dig them out. If you just want to read them in Chinese, please go to my Chinese blog page through the link 寻找探戈 in "My Website" on the right, then click the title 探戈心理学.

  4. Thank you for this absolutely beautiful understanding of the essence of tango. I am a woman who has been dancing tango for a little more than a year now in southern Arizona.