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.

January 22, 2017

Tango and Equality

Tango is created by people living at the bottom of society. Their imprints still remain in the dance. The original tango is a lowbrow dance. It is raw, simple, sensual, soul-searching and comforting, touching the heart of one's humanity. Dancing that tango reminds Beatriz Dujovne of a birthing mother's ecstasy, struggle, agony, sweat, pain and joy. Whether a maid or a queen, she wrote, the birthing experiences of all women are identical, just like that in tango. "Tango is all of us in life's common places. It is who we are at the core, behind our social masks."

That shared humanness is a huge source of sublimation for people struggling at the bottom. Tango liberates them because in tango they have regained the dignity of being on the same footing with others. All tango dancers are created equal whether they are taxi drivers or CEOs, servant girls or first daughters. You enjoy the person dancing with you for who that person is as a fellow human being regardless of his/her social status. Tango is where Cinderella and Prince Charming fall in love. "It melts down differences by zeroing in on our commonality," Dujovne wrote, "it feeds our hunger for being on a level with others." (See The Tango in All of Us.)

Equality has been a dream of the American people since the creation of this nation. When the early immigrants to America were unfairly treated by the English King, they argued for equality. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That document, The Declaration of Independence, laid the constitutional foundation for this nation.

After 240 years, however, the gap between the rich and the poor in America has not narrowed. In fact, it is widened in our times. Power corrupts. When we were under the oppression of a despot, we called for equality. When we gained the control of our own destiny, we started to do the same thing to others. Self-interests and compassion are juxtaposed in human nature. When we keep a balance between the two, we do fine. But when we lose that balance, when we only think about ourselves and disregard others, when we formulate theories like individualism, personal freedom and individual rights to legitimize selfish behaviors (see Tango and Individualism), when we misinterpret the founding documents from a narrow, individualistic perspective in favor of the self rather than the society, the rich rather than the poor, and the villains rather than the victims, when we allow ourselves to pursue self-interests at the expense of others, when we allow tycoons to use unfair competitions to establish monooly in manufacturing, commerce, banking, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutics, utilities, real estate, etc., when we create laws to protect and benefit the special interests, when we allow the rich to use their money to influence policy making, when we use freedom to promote arms sales, violence, obscenity, homosexuality and alternative life styles (see Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes), when personal liberty is used to undermine traditional marriage and family, the very foundation of the society (see Tango and Family Values), when divorce, irresponsible sex, single parent family and same sex marriage become the accepted norms and are sponsored by the state, etc., we get ourselves further and further into the mess we are in now.

Ours is the lesson of freedom lost for the vast majority of people when we only seek for personal freedom. (See The Freedom in Tango.) Only few can be winners in the competition if equality and justice are not the premise of all other human rights. True freedom is the freedom from being violated by others, not the freedom to violate others. It is the right to act within the limits of law necessary to public good, not that to harm the society. It is a self-restrained human right under the principle that all men are created equal, not the right to do whatever one pleases at the cost of others. In other words, a free society is an equal society based on compassion and cooperation, not an unequal one based on self-interests and competition. It is where personal rights are subject to the communal interests of the society as a whole, where nobody's freedom will be deprived by another's freedom, and where brotherly love, coexistence, compassion and sharing are the common values of all people. It is a society consistent with the spirit of tango.

The following video is relevant to this subject. It is well-directed, thought-provocative, and with many humorous details like the responses of the crowd, the looks in the girls' eyes, and the old lady being carried away, etc. The dance is of the highest quality with excellent musicality and choreography. I especially appreciate the ending where the elegant dignity of the heroic nonentity won over the arrogance of the elites. Watch in fullscreen.


  1. The milonga is indeed a social-leveller, and the traditional codes of the milonga are so very democratic. How interesting that these developed in a society with a sad history of rampant corruption and self-interest!

    1. It is a rebellion against the dehumanizing reality. People need a utopia especially when the situation is bad.