Argentinian Tango

An embodied conversation set in music. A metaphor for living.

January 2009 -- I was visiting a friend who had been dancing Argentinian tango for several years, and he knew that I had long wanted to learn how to dance Argentinian tango. Music in the background, he invited me into an embrace. I accepted. Over the course of one song, I discovered that my body easily responded to each of his movement invitations. I did not understand how this could happen; I had no experience with what is involved in Argentinian tango. I kept interrupting our nonverbal dance conversation, "How can this be? I seem to know what to do and I haven't had one lesson." He repeatedly replied, "Don't think about it. Just dance. Stop interrupting."

Within a few days I attended my first official tango class and I have been hooked ever since! Sometimes I feel like I'm dancing well. I feel light on my feet, coordinated and graceful as I glide across the floor. I maintain my balance (we call it axis in tango), do not pull my partner off balance or lag behind the beat of the music. My heart soars in the dance conversation with my partner and when we finish, I have to bring myself back to the reality of the room after a journey into immense pleasure. Other times though, I feel like I am battling internal demons. I feel like an elephant stomping across the ground as I step, I lose my axis, or the conversation with my dance partner feels like an argument. Regardless, I keep dancing.

Argentinean tango is a partner social dance, in which two people hold each other in a respectful close embrace. Each listens to the movement and energy of his or her partner as well as to the song played, and converse without a spoken word. Connection between partners and with the music, and improvisation based on known steps create a unique nonverbal conversation that lasts for three sequential songs organized into a set known as a tanda. Adherence to codes of etiquette regarding use of space and flow of traffic around the dance floor ensures the safety of all dancers.

Cacho Dante, a milonguero in Buenos Aires, said that the tango is a feeling that is danced. That's why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. It is an interpretation of feeling, not a dance to demonstrate ability. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes. (“The Tango and Trapeze Acts”, November 1998).

Vladimir Estrin, a tango instructor-performer-organizer-producer, credits tango as "a lifestyle... distinctive, timeless and everlasting... It spans through decades, continents, nations and people! Tango is a unique culture, rich with history, thrilling and controversial, passionate and mysterious... With every single song, with every single dance it draws you to it stronger and stronger and makes you want to be part of it more and more." It “brings people together from all walks of life…and erases their differences! It does not matter how old you are… it does not matter who you are or what you do for a living… all that matters is that you want to dance. When you are on the dance floor nothing exists around you. You surrender to the music and let it move you. It gets deep inside your heart and your soul, engulfs you completely… captivates you.” (http://tangoafficionado.com/)

For me tango is definitely feeling danced. It is a lifestyle I've adopted – living in the present moment as fully as possible, listening for the unique song of each person with whom I interact and the symphony of the natural world in which I exist, adopting roles of leading and following, engaging in the actions of inviting and waiting as well as doing and pausing. The lyrics of Barbara Streisand’s song "At the Same Time" (albeit not a tango song) bespeak the beauty and warmth that can happen on the dance floor.

"Think of all the hearts beating in the world at the same time. Think of all the faces and the stories they could tell at the same time. It helps to think of all the hearts, beating in the world, and hope for all the hearts, healing in the world. There’s a healing music in our hearts, beating in this world at the same time."

"The secret of tango is in this moment of improvisation that happens between step and step. It is to make the impossible thing possible: to dance silence. This is essential to learn in tango dance, the real dance, that of the silence, of following the melody." (Carlos Gavito)

WANT TO LEARN MORE? - VIDEOS, RADIO & WEBSITES
  1. One Tango Moment (1 hr 4 minute video summarizing the history of tango and telling the story of an Australian champion couple’s experience of competing in the International Tango Championship in Buenos Aires)
  2. My First Tango – Documentary Short (25:18 minute video tells the story of the music and dancers through the eyes and hearts of a mother and daughter. More importantly it tells a story about living in the present and fulfilling your dreams of inner growth.)
  3. Mi Primer Tango Georgina, Oscar & Nicolas Mandagaran Bailan Poema (3:41 minute video in which Oscar and Georgina, two teachers with whom I have studied, dance whilst holding their 6 month baby between them - a true family dance)
  4. Is the Follower or Leader Role More Difficult? (4:56 minute video commentary about the challenging roles of leading and following not just in tango but in the dance of life)
  5. Leadership and Followership: What Tango Teaches Us about These Roles in Life (7:32 minute video portraying the importance of followership that builds as strong collaborative relationship. “The follower-leader relationship is complimentary not hierarchical; it is a conversation in which we help each other make our own unique contributions to the dance.”)
  6. La2x4 Radio FM92.7 (tango radio station in Buenos Aires, AR)
  7. TodoTango (website sponsored by the Argentine Tango Society, English home page)
  8. Tango Therapy: The Healing Embrace (article in The Argentina Independent, 1 August 2008)
  9. About Tango Therapy. The Healing Power of a Mythical Dance (web article)

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