Tango, like any art form, is rich enough to provide space for lots of different interpretations and personalities. And, like every art form, it’s rife with debates and policing. “That’s not a painting!”
But Tango is also a “social dance”, by which we mean a medium for socializing. And, according to doctors these days, a healthy one. It’s a way of interacting creatively and expressively with our environment, getting out of the brain (and the computer) and into gravity and sound and touch. I’m so glad you are dancing!
In any room of tango dancers, there are people who see themselves as making art, and people who see themselves as out for a low-key snuggle, or a chance to dress up, or a place to meet people, or just be around people… And none of us is so simple to have only one pure reason; various motivations and pleasures drive and satisfy all of us, in different combinations, on different nights.
Chatting with a friend once, we observed that so many tango dancers seem Complacently Content. I’m talking about leaders who’ve been dancing for years, dance several nights a week for several hours at a stretch, using about four moves. I laughed and said “but we need a name just as derogatory for ourselves… “Irrationally Ambitious“? That was a mouthful, so we settled on “Ambitious Acrobats” (since someone had recently disrespected a bunch of members of the community by calling us “acrobats”).
Yup, I’m an acrobat. As a leader, if I start repeating moves I get so bored and ashamed that I have a hard time finishing the tanda. As a follower, I am disappointed when leaders control me instead of trust me. I don’t mind if leaders make mistakes, I want them to practice on me and improve, not try to impress me. My legs start to ache if someone doesn’t occasionally lead a voleo.
But this post is about Contented Tango, or what another of my friends gleefully calls “the huddle and twitch”. Of course as a follower I know that it doesn’t take many moves to have a great dance, as long as they are done with a wonderful feeling of suspension. The healing part of tango, the part that saved my life, is not in the acrobatics or the art. Its in the experience of connection with another human being.
In life, in my experience, connection is rare. It happens on 2nd dates, and sometimes we spend the rest of the relationship trying to experience that level of connection again. It happens with a very few best friends – mine are scattered across the globe. I’m lonely. But when I dance tango, I get that connection immediately and consistently, because tango demands it. It requires what we’re too bored, alienated, and distracted to give each other most of the time — total mutual concentration and responsiveness. And I can do it with anyone, anytime. We don’t need to speak the same language, agree about politics, or like each other.
I’ve walked into milongas in tears, in rage, lost, afraid. And the experience of human connection has reliably stabilized, grounded, and uplifted me. I am much happier than at any other period in my life, and so grateful for the gift of Argentine Tango.