If you are reading this article there is a good chance that you are a tango addict, one of those people to whom happiness has no meaning if it’s not connected with dancing. You probably had that moment of flow, when, while dancing tango, you saw the shapes of the world around becoming shadows – that feeling that everything is just a pale background of the drama that is happening in your embrace.
I am not sure that the words, except the language of poetry, can fetch the real meaning of what I am talking about and therefore I will try to explain this with some stories – if the explanation is needed at all.
The stories I am about to tell you are real and personal. They happened as I am telling them, except small changes that I made to protect the privacy of the people I am talking about.
Often people ask questions and expect straight answers – to the point. If you check my articles I do it also – writing applicable step by step solutions to the posed problem. But this time it’s different. Read these three explanations about how and why people find happiness in tango.
1. Progress – The books on the walls. The wooden floor. The relaxed mood… I liked that place. I planned all my week around this milonga. Mondays were special.
But that evening I was extra excited. There was a new guy in the city: a guest from Italy. The girls who danced with him last night said he was one of the best dancers they had ever meet.
“What makes him a good dancer? How does he do that?” I was curious to discover the secret of his dancing.
“I don’t know what it is,” they would reply with a blessed smile on their face. “It’s just good.”
And there I was. Sitting and drinking my pre-milonga coffee. Waiting to meet the guy. Waiting to witness a tango perfection. I knew I was not naive. I had been dancing for a year and a half at that point, and I already knew enough to tell the difference between good and bad dancing. I practiced a lot. I danced a lot. The fact that there were no teachers or schools in my community was not an obstacle. I was reading, taking private classes, traveling. How could I complain?
The guy came late that evening. I was already tired of dancing and that was a great excuse to just sit and watch him dancing.
The embrace was strange. He was not a tall guy, but his hands were like a giant spider around the delicate body of his partner. The left hand high up in the air with the palm open and fingers wrapped around hers. It was semi-darkness on the dance floor but I am sure I could clearly see her face in sweet ecstasy. Eyes closed. Breath deep.
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The steps he made were too big for my taste. I mean, he was clearly a milonguero dancer, but not like those I knew from the stories I have read or from videos I had seen. There was something different about this guy. It was a Donato tanda and he danced with repeatedly interrupted moves. For the non-dancers this could have looked like he can’t decide if he should make the move – but it was clear to me with how much determination and energy he did that. One particular pattern he did caught my eye. It was perfectly synchronized with the rhythm and the melody. I memorized it all.
Later that evening, after the milonga there I was in my living room. Lights out. Shoes on. No music. No other people. Just me standing in the empty room and repeating that exact pattern. My hands in exact same spider-like position. Imagining them around a delicate body of the partner with eyes closed and deep breath.
I was so excited. Practiced that all night to stop only when I noticed that it was not dark anymore.
The next day I had a private class with the guy, but I never needed to ask him for the pattern I liked. I tried to do that with my partner and it worked perfectly.
That was happiness. The feeling that I adapted new knowledge and could use it. The feeling of tiredness in the morning after few hours of dancing in the milonga and practicing all night. It was happiness that I was moving in the right direction. The fact that my partner the next day could do the step I lead her to without any problem, and that she enjoyed it.
2. New people – I wanted to name this point “new experiences,” but very often in tango having new experience is basically dancing with new people.
Let me explain this point with a story that starts with a German lady. I never know what to say when I meet her. To be honest, I don’t know what to say about her either. When I think of the magical moments in our dance it’s just a silence: a smooth flow of a fluid in the air.
But why am I speechless? Because she is one of my top five favorite dancers and I guess I am in a different mood when I am with her.
On the other hand (and luckily for me) whenever we meet, she speaks a lot. She also asks a lot of questions. Real meaningful questions which pierce deeply in to you.
“You seem like you don’t enjoy it here,” she asked.
To understand this question you must first know that when she asked me this, we were in the famous Villa. It is a piece of paradise in northern Italy where people gather for weekends maybe few times a year and dance all day and night.
“How come you don’t enjoy it here?” she asked again.
“I don’t know… there is this question in my head, repeating non stop – who are these people, why am I here?”
“Hmm, maybe because you travel to these events and see the same people over and over…” she suggested.
It was the right answer. All of them were exceptional dancers – respectful and dancing with a great passion. How could I not like it? It was because I needed some change.
That year I traveled to more than 15 events in Europe and I met more or less the same people. Of course at every event you visit you meet new people, but you first recognize the faces of those you already know. You also dance first with the ones who are the safe bet. What it does to the dancers is it offers them less variety and it tends to become less of a challenge.
I see tango as an exploration. You dance with new people and you discover new energies, new feelings emerge on the surface, you get new feedback and new emotional reactions. I mean, you are the same old you – what makes a change in the experience is the new ways of connecting and – the new people.
3. Self confirmation – The story I am about to tell you continues where the previous one left off. I mean, I wanted to meet new people and to experience new energies and I made some changes. Usually I travel to encuentros, but after that Villa experience I decided to visit some festivals.
As expected, I was disappointed. I mean, the music was so non-traditional, the ronda was so undisciplined and the invitations were made in a non-conventional way….huh!
Learn about the difference between encuentros and festivals in this article
And then I saw a face I recognized. It was an Argentinean girl whom I had met long long ago at one of the encuentros in Europe. I think it was one of my first encuentros ever when I meet her and I know I liked dancing with her. She also recognized me and the invitation was made. We were dancing.
What I was surprised is the fact that she danced badly. Very badly. How come? What changed? Did she regress or did I became so choosy? I don’t know and maybe it is not important for my point here. I danced two times more with her that weekend and both were bad dances.
But, she didn’t have the same opinion. After our first dance, when I said to myself I will not dance with her again, in a conversation with a friend I find out that she was amazed by my dancing and that – felt good! Really good! I mean, not anyone, but Argentinean girl. No matter if I know that being Argentinean is not a guarantee that someone knows what is good tango. It still felt amazing.
If someone tells you that he doesn’t feel good when someone likes his dancing, he is lying. We are all passionately in love with our dancing and we seek confirmation that we are good. Of course, it is polite not to brag about that, but that doesn’t mean that we are not feeling it. It is a deep human desire to be accepted, to be confirmed, to be valued by others. And there is nothing wrong with it. That is one of the most important reasons why tango makes people happy and should be not neglected.
This was my take on the question of why people find happiness in tango. What is yours? What makes you happy when you dance? What do you think people find in tango to make it so alive even after more than century since its beginnings?
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