Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, 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 species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




May 24, 2016

Tolerance and Grit


In my spare time I enjoy fishing. Gu Feng depicts his fishing experience in a poem, "In the mist that shrouds the valley, by the stream that reflects the lush green bamboos and shiny red flowers, stood I in soft breeze, fishing in quietness. At dusk, I listened to the rain dripping on the pavilion. At dawn, I held an umbrella, in blue robe, walked in solitude along the stony path." 

Beautiful! But I am not Gu Feng. The fun of fishing to me is in the bite, without which the relaxing scenery is not enough to make me content. The disposition of the fish is elusive. In some days I don't catch any. In most days two or three fish an hour is normal. But sometimes the fish suddenly scramble to snatch. You toss the lure, and they jump up to bite. One after another you can catch dozens in an hour. This miracle happens only two or three times a year. My fancy for fishing, in addition to the soothingness of the nature, comes mainly from the temptation of such miracles. The addiction, therefore, is in the hope. In reality miracles are rare.

This situation is very much like dancing tango. The elegant venue, soft lighting, resplendent dresses, beautiful music, all are pleasant, but not enough to make me happy without a good partner. One night, fortunately, you met a person, whose height, figure, musicality, dance skill, manner and temperament are all compatible to yours. Like a perfect match made in heaven, the two of you become instant pals, giving rein to the dance that enables you not only to enjoy the seamless cooperation, but also the freedom like in an unrestrained solo. This experience changed your outlook on life, because you now tasted the feeling of being one with another person in perfection. From then on, you go to the milonga again and again, week after week, hoping to re-experience that miracle. But miracles come only by luck and not will. In my fourteen years of dancing tango in countless milongas, that experience only occurred few times. Which, nonetheless, is still the reason I am addicted to tango, because I yearn to revisit that dream one more time. Tango is the search of a dream. In reality, however, miracles are rare. 


People often forget that ordinariness is the norm of life; therefore, we need to accept, cherish and enjoy the ordinary, which is something many are not very good at. Voltaire said: "What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of fragility and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature." Of course, appreciating the ordinary is not enough. We all yearn to transcend the ordinary and achieve the extraordinary. Excellence is the consequence of grit. Only by repeating the ordinary countless times can one obtain the extraordinary. Therefore, let us also encourage ourselves and be gritty - the miracle will happen as a result, that is the second law of nature.


2 comments:

  1. “Only by repeating the ordinary countless times can one obtain the extraordinary.”? Fourteen years of tango. When was your first magic tanda? One or two years in? When I think back at my skill level at my first magic tanda I’m convinced the miracle wasn’t the heavenly connection; it’s that the magic happened to me, such a low skilled dancer. I don’t think a magical connection is created by will, or improved dance skill. It happens when the moment is right.
    Recently I had a discussion about magic tandas with man who is an excellent dancer, professional instructor, and performer. I asked him how often he has a magic tanda. I was surprised when he said he had a few when he reached a certain level of proficiency, but hadn’t had any in years. Maybe because tango is a vocation, maybe because he thinks about technique too much, maybe because his reputation creates expectations, maybe because dancing for personal enjoyment just isn’t available. Who knows? But the skills he developed through tolerance and grit have never been higher. In his case, the number of magic tandas appears to be inversely related to skill. I’m wary of these notions of grit, tolerating, paying your dues, suffering, earning status, achieving excellence….climbing the hierarchy. This is the language of a shame culture, where inclusion and exclusion are the motivating factors, and the mob defines right and wrong. I prefer offering your embrace, accepting the lead, learning from the novice, connecting, allowing time, opening your heart, 惜缘. This is the language of a community regulated by conscience. I encourage people to web search “Honor-Shame vs. Guilt-Conscience cultures”, and look at their tango community from that perspective, and the header statement that appears on In Search of Tango.

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    1. Excellent point. The first time I completely enjoyed a tanda was in my sixth year, in BsAs, where the dance level, number of dancers and chance of meeting a match are all higher. Dance level, by which I don't only mean skills but also the understanding of the dance, matters. It is true that with increased experience and expectation, chances of meeting a match seem decrease, even to a point that one may lose hope. That's why I wrote this piece. Miracles favor not quitters, but those who are prepared. I recommend Angela Duckworth's book, Grit: Power of Passion and Perseverance.

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