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.
September 6, 2019
Learning Tango: Two Perspectives
The following behaviors are common among beginners: (1) They are eager to learn steps but overlook the basic skills. (2) They don’t follow instructions on technique details carefully. (3) They want to run before they can walk. (4) They focus on themselves but neglect their partner. (5) They lean back to avoid intimate bodily contact. (6) They use the arms and hands to lead and follow. (7) They grasp hold of the partner to do steps. (8) They don’t listen to music. (See Learning Tango: Imitating Steps vs. Developing Skills.)
These are all due to one reason: they focus only on the steps. Learning tango to them means learning the steps, and they think if they can do the steps, they can dance tango. That perspective led them to overlook many other aspects of tango, including embrace, posture, connection, feelings, torso communication, music and partner.
Tango is not steps but what the steps express, that is, the feelings stirred by the music. When we dance tango we dance not the steps but the music, which affects us and arouses our sympathetic feelings. Dance is the expression of the feelings through the steps. (See Tango Is a Feeling.)
Tango is also a teamwork. The man leads the woman with his body and the woman follows by moving her body in agreement with the movement of his body. Different body movements carry different messages. For example, when the man’s right chest becomes pushing and his left chest becomes pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his right, and when his left chest becomes pushing and his right chest becomes pulling, that indicates he wants the woman to swivel her hips to his left. Often, the signal of the body is so subtle that it cannot be seen and must be felt. Tango is a sophisticated body language. Learning tango is not primarily learning steps but learning that body language, learning to feel, communicate, lead, follow and bring contentment to the partner with the body. (See Tango Is a Language (1).)
This perspective requires the dancer to focus not on the steps but on the body, embrace, connection, music and the feelings stirred by the music, to use the sense of the body to feel, to listen to the inner voice of the partner, to share with the partner what you feel, to move in harmony with the partner, and to please the partner with your body. Tango is the dance of love. It is created to feel.
The transformation from a step-oriented, self-centered and single-focused beginner to a feeling-oriented, partner-centered and multitasking team player is a long process. Beginners cannot fully understand the essence of tango until they have accumulated enough knowledge, skills and experiences. But the right perspective from the outset can shorten the process and save them from taking the wrong approaches. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) Unfortunately, many students get this too late.