I was sitting in the milonga, just watching and listening. And after so many years of doing that, my experience deepened again, to another level of knowing what Argentine Tango is.
For a long time, I’ve known it is an emotional dance. It invites and stimulates feelings of intimacy, affection, passion, intensity, delight, and so much more. It is a vessel which can receive, tolerate, and give balm to my sadness, rage, loneliness, loss, and lostness.
But Argentines say that the music itself brings emotions into you, and this is why they emphasize that to understand tango you must learn the language, even the old Lunfardo words and phrases. You must feel the pathos of the songs in order to fully experience the emotion of tango.
Yesterday the music tore my heart out. I felt for the first time the history in the music, the sense that this song had been with me for a long time. The faces of my loves passed before me. I felt their fingertips slip from mine. I heard my hope and pain and loss in these familiar songs. My heart sang along, was crushed, and wept.
Into this torrent of mixed emotion I stood, I reached for a partner, and let my whole body take me into the music, into all those feelings, into an embrace with another being who is surely as full of emotion and sensation as I am, and who is generously willing to share with me, wordless and trusting, this experience. The joy and hope and sadness and loss all swept through me as I danced.
At one point I cried as I danced, and yet although I felt my body impaired by the intensity of emotion, I wanted to keep dancing. Dancing, continuing, made all this whole. Kept it all alive, and kept me alive where I might have felt crushed.
I felt myself in my own history, accompanied by this music, music that has been with me my whole life. And I felt “now I understand Argentine Tango.”
What was the song that moved me so? Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. Where was I dancing? Alistair’s innovative new tango space, Liquid Tango.
I will not belabor the point that to experience the depths that tango offers and promises, we must dance to music that evokes our own history, memory, and emotion. Our music, the music of our own cultures and lives and loves.
9 December, 2012