Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit 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.
September 16, 2014
Someone asks me to compare Euro-American tango and BA tango. Though a short essay cannot cover such a big topic, I am willing to make an observation from one perspective.
Those who see tango as a skill often think that once they mastered the skill, they mastered the dance. Such people often disrespect the culture, ignore the codes, pay no attention to the conducts, overlook the relationships, care little about other people's feelings, regard others as of no importance or rivals, are indifferent or even hostile to others, do not surrender themselves in the dance, and focus only on personal performance, etc. This kind of attitude is more visible in Europe and North America where there is a strong standing of individualism, which is incompatible with tango. (See Tango and Individualism.)
Tango is not a solo dance - it takes two to tango. Not only so, tango is not a show dance performed by a fixed couple only, but a social dance involving a large group of people. The majority of whom, like the immigrants who created the dance, come to the milonga to seek connection, friendship and love, consider tango as a refuge, home, or family. (See Why People Dance Tango.)
The highlight of tango, therefore, is not how fancy its steps are, but relationship, intimacy, connection, surrender, affinity, harmony, and satisfaction resulted from the same commitment that others paid in return. In that sense, tango is a fellowship. To enjoy tango, one needs not only to master the skills, but also be a part of a friendly, warm and intimate community, without which the skill alone is meaningless no matter how good it is.
For this reason, he/she who only dances exhibition tango with a fixed partner is not a tango dancer in the true sense. Unfortunately, this kind of career performers are often regarded by novices in Europe and North America as role models. Under their influence, many young people do not see tango as a community, but a show or performance. Hence the alienation of tango. However, vanity cannot quench the thirst of the soul. Once mastered the skills, most people will continue their search for deeper meanings, moving away from exhibitionism and turning to the essence of the dance. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) This, I think, is what Euro-American tango still falls short from BA tango due to the self-centered ideologies such as individualism and feminism in our cultures.
The revival of tango, started in the mid 1980s, has been thirty years now. In these three decades, Euro-American tango has also grown. Technically speaking many tango communities in Europe and North America are already keeping up with BA tango and must start the community building. This is not a one man's job and will take the efforts of all dancers, teachers and organizers. How each and every dancer cherishes his/her tango group, acts in the milonga, treats others, invites or accepts the invitation, dances, and so on, not only reflects his/her understanding of the dance, but also impacts the community. (See How You Dance Matters.) As tango dancers we must share the responsibility of maintaining and improving our dance community in order for us to enjoy tango. I hope next time you go to a milonga, you will take a good look around and remind yourself: "I am a part of this community and must contribute to its wellbeing." If we all do that, I believe, our milonga will become more and more like the milongas in Buenos Aires. (See 惜缘.)