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."