Almost every dancer of Argentine Tango will tell you that the most important and attractive thing about the dance is the special experience of tango connection. They are talking about the sensation of physical unity with another person, which also elicits mutual concentration and emotional warmth. (And addiction.)
This is hard to teach, but I’ve worked for years to be able to provide specifications and convey it rapidly and consistently.
But very few people knew about this when they started dancing, and it is not why they came.
They came for a very different idea of connection – social connection. They came to meet people in a different context than work, dating, bars…
Tango scenes around the world do reliably provide dancers with a sense of community. Walk into your local milongas any night of the week and people remember and greet you, often with kisses.
This is valuable in itself.
Moreover, many dancers do meet romantic partners through tango, although they may regret falling in love with a dancer once they experience the poignant jealousy of watching your love’s face while in the arms of others…
What is Tango Connection?
Beyond the sense of community, what is enriching and satisfying about tango is the experience of partnership.
Partnership is personal. It’s about knowing, seeing, and valuing, paying close attention, listening, appreciating, and desiring one another.
We are in “in it” together and we share the responsibility for what we do.
We trust the partner, and entrust ourselves to the partnership.
We give mutual concentration to one thing. (This gets us to Flow.)
We are committed over time.
We experience shared accomplishment.
It’s possible to have this experience within a tanda, or even within a single song, or over years.
And it’s also possible to dance tango and participate in a tango community without having these experiences.
It’s possible to have experiences of profound loneliness within the tango experience.
We can reach out through tango for connection, and find only static or pain.
I’ve been cheated by teachers who were not really “in it” or on my side, and would not tell me what to do.
I’ve been humiliated by dancers who didn’t take an interest in me.
I’ve been abandoned by dancers who did not honor what we had together, and were easily distracted by the next shiny thing.
I’ve been blamed by incompetent dancers who didn’t understand and take responsibility for their part of effective action.
I’ve been wasted by dancers who didn’t trust me and use me to achieve something new.
How to be a good partner
Men usually have the idea that they should be gentlemanly: polite, gracious, and charming. Women usually have the idea they should be obedient. Tango teachers usually have the idea that they are the star, and the student will never be as good.
This is not partnership. This is not tango connection.
A good partner shows an interest in the unique person in your arms (or in your studio).
A good partner gives their full attention when we are working together.
A good partner gives their best and puts their partner’s well-being ahead of their own pride.
A good partner is reliable.
A good partner shows interest and understands that desire is a gift (so long as it is not demanding).
And a good partner takes risks for the relationship, allowing themselves to be taken to new places by the sacred experience of connection with another person.