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.
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