Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Passion for Tango

Today's guest is the first bloggish friend I ever made. Through her generosity of spirit, I have made so many more personal connections. By simply being herself, Tangobaby has made my life a richer, lovelier place. If you don't know her already, you've been missing a daily delight. Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet Julie of Tangobaby. ~ Relyn

Well, here I am, amongst Relyn's handpicked blogging friends, and I'm so happy to be here. I think this series of guest bloggers has been brilliant. I'm thrilled to be part of this diverse and interesting group. When Relyn asked me write about tango, at first I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say about it, only because it's hard to describe this dance and the influence it's had on me to people that haven't danced it. And by tango, I mean Argentine tango. For anyone who knows the difference, there is no other kind.

I came to tango late in life. I guess I have finally gotten over my feelings of "what would have happened to me if I had started this dance 20 years ago" because now my priorities have changed. I don't need to be a world-class dancer and live in that higher echelon of tango addict that I used to encounter often. I don't dance as much as I used to, in my heyday of obsession, and that was a phase of life I thought I would never leave but all things change, even the things we swear will never change--those things do too.

Tango is the subject by which Relyn and I became acquainted, and although I have a lot to say about the dance itself, I think talking about tango actually forces me to talk about what I really want to say: the deeper issue of connection.

But to digress, and to distill...

Imagine you are sitting in a dimly lit salon, people around you in various aspects of the dance milieu: some putting on their dance shoes, some chatting with friends, some dancing. From across the room, a man you've never seen before catches your eye, with that look you both understand. Unspoken: Shall we dance? You nod your head once and he acknowledges your nod with one of his own. He rises from his chair, and you do the same. You meet in the middle of the dance floor. And then you dance like you have danced together for years.

That is tango.

The orchestral music from generations ago-- from the 20s, 30s, 40s-- fills the room. You know all the songs by heart. The person you are dancing with knows all of them too. He is humming the tunes softly to himself, almost in your ear. Your eyes are closed. And you dance. After the music is finished, you realize that neither one of you speak the same language. And you laugh about it because you cannot talk to one another. But when the music begins again, you dance because that is the language you both speak fluently.

That is tango.

When the rest of the world's cares disappear, and you transform yourself into a person who lives at night, just for yourself, who can experience passion or heartbreak in three minutes' time-- the time of a single song, when you can imagine yourself here and now but at any time in history because nothing else is real except your partner's arm around your waist and the other hand holding yours and your feet moving in unison.

That is tango.

I am not a dancer. I'll be plain. I'm a horribly laughable belly dancer and a bumbling ballerina. My brain might have been able to eventually learn flamenco, but my knees and feet would never have survived. For some reason, tango clicked for me. I can't tell you why, because some people find it very hard to learn. I think it's true of the adage, when you find the thing that suits you...

I had seen Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson years before I worked up the courage to take my first lesson. And when I did, I was so focused on it, to the detriment of all other activities and relationships. That's a normal phase that most tango dancers go through. Then there comes a time when the basics are dealt with, and you feel comfortable dancing with people outside of the classroom, that you begin to see the bigger picture. That you have a way to communicate with someone, at times a very profound and real way of interacting with people on an individual basis where your name, what you do for a living and any other trappings of life mean nothing and all that matters is how two bodies navigate a crowded dance floor.

Let's not confuse tango with sex. In popular culture, it's the image we are fed and is fostered by a lot of caricatures that make tango dancers crazy. However, let's do look at tango as a way of enjoying maleness and femaleness in ways that are not readily accessible in our society, or in a lot of societies. And I don't mean that is a sexy or sexist way either. I dance with men and women, and I know a lot of other dancers do too. Gender is not the issue, but the energy you bring to your role as a leader or follower that makes the dance happen. People that dance tango often find the dance full of spiritual or psychological lessons for themselves and in their relationships with others. One of my tango blogging friends, Johanna Siegmann, wrote a book on this very subject called The Tao of Tango.

What I have learned from tango is so much more than learning to dance a particular dance: it's shown me that it's possible to embrace a stranger, a person you don't know and might never see again, to hear the music interpreted through how someone else leads you in the dance, to feel a universal closeness that makes up for all of the horrible things that bombard us subtly and not-so-subtly, that to be human is a gift and to hold someone close to you does not require much.

It requires some trust and an open heart. And some music.

That is tango.


PS.: for a little more visual, you can read my post Let's Face the Music and Dance here.

All words and images by Tangobaby.


Char said...

Julie is the best!!! I'm addicted to her warm heart and generous sense of humor. xo

smith kaich jones said...

Julie/Miss Tango - Thank you for this. It started my Saturday morning, my still-no-vehicle weekend off with a different perspective. You took me to a different place - not a different country - a different place of mind, of soul, of thinking. Can I work this into a painting? I am thinking; I can see the movement in my head.

We will see.
:) Debi

beth said...

ohhhh I love my zumba class, but now I want a partner I can tango with....ohhh baby !!!
as cam would say...."seck-say"

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh the images tangobaby creates. To dance in one language and speak another is pure poetry.

dutchbaby said...

Dear Julie,
Aah, to be fluent in tango. Your seductive description is awe-inspiring.

Laura said...

I feel rather breathless after reading this amazing post. It makes me want to Tango! Tangobaby; you have put your thoughts into words so wonderous! I will be thinking about this all day!

paris parfait said...

Beautifully-written, dear TB. I can picture the dance and hear the music, when reading your eloquent piece. xoxox

Kirsten said...

Thanks Julie, I've always wondered about Tango and loved reading your descriptions of it! As well as your blog, loving that magical city myself!

The Pink Cowboy said...

I just fallen in love with tangobaby. Such depth and tenderness. I will never watch tanguistas the same way again. I just want to get up and dance with someone. Delicious reading.

TheChicGeek said...

Beautiful post. I've taken swing dancing, Lindy Hop and belly dancing classes and they were all so much fun! Tango sounds to be a whole new experience. I like the passion of the tango and you describe it beautifully. I like how you say, "the energy you bring to your role as a leader or follower that makes the dance happen." That's really neat. Both roles have equal importance, don't they. I'm going to have to have some tango lessons too now :)

Yoli said...

What a treasure to read this post. Thank you Relyn for bringing her out to the dance floor for us. Knowing your passion or discovering passion is a beautiful thing.

ELK said...

oh I am so putting on my "dancing shoes" in this life!

thanks for sharing your tango!! elk

Miko's Girl said...

What an apt posting - last night, I was at a United Way benefit that did a take off on "Dancing with the Stars" - with various local celebrities and executives dancing with dance instructors.

Thanks for translating the tango into words! Makes me want to learn.

robin bird said...

i was patiently awaiting this post and wondering what you would choose to write about. i listen carefully and with complete attention when you write/talk about tango. it is so foreign, exotic and outside my experience. it sounds like you and many others have had life changing experience with tango. like a meditation practice. who would have known? the good news is that although tango is no longer at the center of your life the benefits continue.


Christina said...

Each time I hear you speak about the tango..
the music begins and you take me by the hand and show me the way. You make me brave all over again and allow me to remember my dreams.

So inspiring.


Jessica said...

I have always wanted to take tango lessons...and you made me want to call and schedule them now. It's on my list of "to do" and I cannot wait.

vicki archer said...

Julie writes so wonderfully and eloquently - I want to learn to tango immediately. Wonderful post, xv.

vicki archer said...

Julie writes so wonderfully and eloquently - I want to learn to tango immediately. Wonderful post, xv.

A Cuban In London said...

Lovely reading and a very honest interview from someone with whom I share my Zodiacal sign (you can see she's a Scorpio. Our motto? I Feel!) and an erstwhile regular. One remark, though:

'I came to tango late in life.'

I don't think that anyone comes into anything late in life. I truly believe that we slot into places as we live. If you try to do it too soon or too early maybe you'll feel like the square peg in the round hole. TB, you came into tango at the right time and with the right mood. And I, for one, thank you for it. Many thanks to you, too Relyn.

Greetings from London.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Your description is so awe-inspiring - I want to take up tango right this minute..:)

The Seeker said...

So interesting post.

Thank you so much for visited my blog and left such nice comment.

Keep in touch if you feel like


tangobaby said...

Thanks to all of you who left such lovely comments here. I'm glad this post inspired some daydreaming, or maybe even a step onto the tango dance floor.

Keep in touch, lovelies. You know where I am.


julie aka tangobaby

jae said...

What a beautifully written peak into the world of tango. It makes me want to learn too.

Derrick said...

Hi Relyn and Julie,

I'm catching up here! I always enjoy seeing the Tango danced well on 'Strictly Come Dancing' (the UK TV version). Whether it's Argentine or ballroom, the dance offers drama and passion, so what could be more appropriate for Relyn's theme?

I'm sure many of us would love to sweep around the dance floor a la Fred and Ginger but it's also good to dream!

sallymandy said...

Wow, thanks so much for this beautiful description of tango! I never knew, and now I'm interested. Lovely writing and a lovely way of describing what tango is and what it is not.

Gina said...

Hi relyn, the tao of tango? never heard about it. is it good?

easter greetings from Germany


Oldies, but Goodies