Why write about tango? Words cannot come close to describing the experience of dancing. Yet I am doing it. My main goal is to share some information and insight on how to learn and improve in this dance. I feel that tango is a cultural treasure which most people are still unaware of. There is a vague mystique, an appeal that many perceive, but most do not know how to approach it. Potentially, tango is an art form of depth and cultural significance akin to music, painting, or the best of martial arts. But so far, there has not been a clarity among the dancers or among the general public on how to explore that potential. I am not a tango "master" - I still have a long way to what can be called mastery of this dance. I am just a serious student who over the years has pieced together a fairly coherent vision of how to improve in this dance and how to begin tapping its unlimited potential as an art form. It took many errors and frustrating periods during which I was stuck and confused in spite of studying with many of the known teachers. Much of my understanding came from outside of the tango circles. My main objective in sharing this information and producing this website is to help a potentially serious tango student who, like myself when I started, intuitively perceives the possible depth of this art but does not find clear ways to pursue it. Everything here is subject to dispute and frequent revision, as I hope to continue learning.
Most tango “addicts” do not ask themselves such a question – they know they love it, and that is why they do it. I myself have had an urge to dance tango since 1995, and it is not getting any weaker. But, such irrational sentiments aside, I am also interested in understanding the underlying qualities which make this dance so appealing. In my view, tango is valuable in any one or all of the following three ways:
- as pleasurable recreation and a comfortable social scene;
- as a therapeutic activity;
- as a culturally significant art form, an instrument of conscious evolution.
Taken in the lightest manner, tango, as any other social dance, is a great alternative to leisure activities which center around food and drink. I personally had always been somewhat socially uncomfortable, and did not enjoy spending long hours in bars, restaurants or cocktail parties. The tango scene instantly felt to me like a more natural way to come together with others. It was easier for me to dance with people for hours than to talk with them for 5 minutes. But even talking became easier, for tango also provided an inexhaustible topic of meaningful conversation. To me it also seems more natural to meet people in an environment that involved dancing – one often expresses oneself more eloquently and more inevitably through a dance than through hours of small talk. Before I even began to consciously realize the cultural significance of tango, I felt like I belonged culturally in the milonga, though I was born and grew up in Russia. It made much more sense to me to come together with people on the basis of music and dance which we loved, rather than on the basis of the more circumstantial workplace or school acquaintances. Another unique feature of tango is that it is a sensual, yet non-sexual interaction with the opposite sex. It allows one to viscerally experience the other person’s psycho-physical being without getting too personal. It is a great way for people to express themselves as men and women without entering into a sexual relationship.
Another reason to dance tango is that it can function as a therapeutic activity on many levels. First of all, it is a light aerobic activity, relatively safe and accessible to any age group. As such, it can already make one feel better, and it is more fun than some other workouts. Tango is also automatically therapeutic due to the physical connection with another human being that it involves. In the modern culture, more and more people feel isolated and lack physical contact, especially if they are single. Being hugged by another person for the duration of a dance can make a big difference in one’s mood. But a much greater therapeutic power of tango lies in how metaphorical it is of all our relationships, and especially of the ways we relate to the opposite sex. Tango has been justly called a three-minute love affair. Because the tango embrace is so close and because the dance is improvised, one inevitably expresses one’s character and relationship patterns through one’s dancing. It is not always easy to see from the outside, but it is perceived very clearly by one’s partner. With a little effort, one can also begin to notice one’s own habitual attitudes and how they affect the experience of both partners. Just becoming more aware of that can teach one a lot about one’s relationship patterns in general, and can thus be greatly therapeutic (it has been for me). But even more can be gained by learning how to transform one’s patterns creatively. Tango is in a way a model relationship in which one can experiment and learn more safely, for failing to dance a good tango is not as scary as failing in a real-life love affair. Another therapeutic value of tango is that it is inevitably a creative act – every dance is a spontaneous, unpremeditated interaction. As such, it develops our creative potential, puts us more in touch with our instincts and intuition. In today’s world, many people do not find enough room for creativity in the workplace, and having a more creative hobby, where one expresses oneself more freely, can make a big difference in one’s well-being.
The greatest reason to dance tango, in my opinion, is that it can be practiced as an evolutionary art form – the concept that I discuss in detail in the corresponding section. Tango is an interaction that involves our senses, our motor skills, our instincts, our intuition, and our whole psycho-physical being to such an extent that it can be used as a tool for a very general development of a human being. Tango can be seen as a model relationship, a creative interaction which can teach us deeper principles of interacting in general. In this way, like the best of Eastern martial arts, tango can act as an instrument of a positive transformation of an individual’s mind, body and spirit. When practiced with this goal in mind, tango becomes a culturally significant art form of a rare kind, improving the well-being of individuals and the overall state of culture at once. But in order for this potential of tango dancing to manifest fully, a correct approach to it is necessary. It started for me with the realization that when I learned how to stand, walk and control my mind better, my dancing became better almost automatically. But then I began to purposely try to understand how to practice this art so that it most directly connected with my overall positive development. It is through this approach that I ended up experiencing the biggest improvement in both my dancing and my general well-being. This type of approach is above all what I aim to explore in this website.