“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
- Anais Nin
There is no way to know if you will be able to dance tango until you try it. People who do well at the dance fit no description or range of characteristics, but rather it is a completely random sampling of individuals who succeed at the dance of tango. Some professional or former professional dancers of another form come to tango and fall flat, while the most unsuspecting individuals show up with the capacity to learn with ease, grace and speed. According to Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne, world master dancers and teachers, there is no commonality among those who become adept and avidly addicted to Argentine tango. Yet I believe there are a few noteworthy characteristics we all share at a very core level. Are you among us?
What is the inexplicable attraction to Argentine tango which draws an eclectic cross section of humanity?
We come to the dance as who we are, then we become more. Dormant aspects of ourselves are called forth through this mysterious dance and some part of our raw archetypal humanity speaks through us when we engage with another in tango. Any person who is open to allowing an emergence of another personal dimension could become compelled to the dance, which is at once exhilarating and humbling.
Tango can act as a taproot to a world running deeper than our awareness, something elemental which weaves its way through heart and spirit. Even watching excellent tango brings one closer to deep feeling and may very well trigger autonomic response, beneath myths, misperceptions and stereotypes.
Argentine tango is a dance which is never done; there is always more to learn, refine, nuances to adopt, to respond to, to discover within. The ongoing practice could be compared to a spiritual discipline in which the greatest joy is experienced when the ego is set to rest, enabling another, greater force to command the experience. AAAh, the elusive tango bliss we touch moment by moment with the non-attachment of a bird in flight, every fleeting moment irreplaceable, vanished. The enigmatic harmony of engaging with a complete stranger or a dear friend, there is no explanation worthy of the mystery which one must experience in order to fully know.
The essence of Argentine tango is an engagement of the tension of opposites. What does that mean exactly? We see this in Asian cultures represented by the yin & yang which to many of us means a harmony and balance. Yet arriving at harmony between opposing energies requires leaning into one another with the full awareness of strength, play, committed dialogue and curious discovery of a harmonic never before expressed. This engagement is innate for the progression of ours and countless other living species - which calls to my mind’s eye endless vigorous images of the mating dance in the wild, a rather raw, sometimes elegant and elaborate interaction played out time and again in response to an essential aspect of living fully.
In our social order layers of taboo have caused for many a disconnection from these inherent capacities and instead we have a culture numbed with drugs, alcohol and a full addictive continuum, leaving a huge percentage of our population unaware of a way to actually funnel the rich and beautiful energies that make us feel alive as instinctual humans. Spectator sports, art patronage, but what about participation? In early cultures, art was interwoven into the fabric of life. People sang when they worked, ritualized movement of working in the fields and created dance of the folks. Instruments were made from the earth bounty and the dance was inspired from those deepest of connections to the land and one another.
The dance of tango comes to us from Argentine culture, where women are strong and men appreciate the opportunity to engage with her full energy. When we observe tango it appears that she is a passive follower, but looking deeper it is much more an active engagement than a passive following, at its best.
In learning and practicing tango we have the opportunity to come face to face, literally, with all our archetypal relational challenges. Indeed one can use tango as a means to uncover a broad spectrum of personal attributes which have been hidden or unprocessed for various reasons, often unknown to us. Whatever is going on in your life, it will show up through your tango. Giselle Anne says, “You dance who you are.” True, yet I pose the challenge, to dance toward who you are becoming.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
- Anais Nin
So the question to ask is, who are you? It will be mirrored to you through your partner and sometimes facing yourself is a challenge. Yet in studying a dance form one can “put on” new attributes which the dance inherently carries through its postures, actions and through the foundation of the culture which created and evolved the dance over time. Consider what it feels like to stand proudly with your shoulders back, chest expanded and to walk with the confident strut of a person who knows who they are, who is willing to allow more of who they are becoming to arise in an instant. This is one of the many opportunities which spring forth when stepping into the dance of Argentine tango. I say, it is compelling beyond words, entrancing beyond the mind, and challenging beyond any other endeavor I have joyously participated in.
No tango dancer passes through the phases of learning without tears. Indeed, facing blockages to growth is one of the more painful aspects of evolving as a person, but it beats the heck out of channel surfing as a couch potato. Right? I mean, if you want to grow as a person, why not take on something so fun and artful as a dance that puts you in the arms of another human being, just because?
Gustavo Naveira says, “There is no validity to the idea that one person is better than another. It is fully subjective and the experience is unique to each individual.” Enjoying tango comes from within and it is critical to release oneself from the bounds of self-criticism and comparison. Everyone has a better time when the social culture is not about becoming better than another, but instead about curiosity, exploration, growth and fun.
“The structure of tango provides ongoing intellectual stimulation and ways to create from the basic structure that are limitless, and individual personality compounds the opportunity of creativity in tango,” says Naveira. There is no end to discovery through the art of tango, and thorough engagement with the practice of tango generates a sense of being pregnant with desire for the dance. One of the biggest challenges is to manage one’s enthusiasm in relationship to the rest of life and the social setting in which one dances. I would surmise that most people would value something in life which generates desire, the food of rich living. The question is, do you have the courage to live a passionate life?