Why do we love tango?
I started with tango because of a girl; but I started to love tango because I found in it something that I could not find in any other activity. For me it was a non-verbal way to express what I usually express with words.
Different people will tell you different reasons why they love tango, but many will also have trouble to define what it is that makes them love it. They will use words, but you can see that they are not satisfied with their own explanation. I think it is because people do not think and analyze their passion – they just enjoy and that is all that matters. And that is OK, because for some of them knowing the reasons will kill its magic.
If you are one of those who do not want to know, please stop reading this post, because I am about to explain the four most important reasons people enjoy dancing tango.
People dance the way they are, not the way they learned.
This is the biggest lesson I learned from a man whom I meet only twice in my life, but who had huge influence on how I think about tango.
He is Argentinian and a famous tango DJ. I expected him to know a lot about tango music, but I did not expected this kind of insight about dancing from a man who do not dance tango. Yes, he is a famous DJ and he do not dance (some of my readers will recognize who I am talking about).
– When you watch people dancing you will see that they express what is inside of them. That is not what they learned at tango classes. Argentinian culture is not transferred via the movements – in the movements people express who they are. People enjoy expressing who they are, they do not enjoy just tango, he said.
I am sorry that this conversation was not part of the interview I made with him so I could include the exact words he used. Anyway, he made me understand why not everyone thinks about tango in its original context, like part of the Argentinian culture – but rather in the context of their own lives and their own enjoyment.
I am not saying that these are the ultimate answers to the question ‘why we love tango’ – I am just giving you few ideas to think about. Specially if you are one of those people who had trouble giving satisfying answer.
1. Because of the polarization – You like it, or not, tango is metaphor of the man-woman relationship. Actually, this is the core of what this dance was when it was created and what it is today.
In my post ‘Leader/follower confusion’ I already explained this point in a great detail. Here I will go little further. In our society the difference between the masculine and the feminine energy is often blurred. I will not enter in explanation why and how it happened, I will just explain why tango is able to fix this.
What woman finds magical in tango is the situation in which she is able to give up the control and trust her man. Let me note that in this relation she is not in a submissive position – she is active, but rather more turned towards herself and focused on experiencing the harmony of the embrace, movement and communication. What she find so beautiful in this experience is not to have to always figure it out for him; she does not have to guide him. In this position, she can feel his masculine energy, his strength and determined action. She can focus on feeling him, feeling the music, and feeling the dance. She can be more woman.
On the other hand, the man can be more man. For a brief time during the tanda, the man can assume somewhat different role than he has in everyday life and become something which men in our society are no longer (or at least in very rare occasions). He can show his masculine side without being afraid to be considered machistic, without being labeled as sexist or dominant. Let me note here that our society does not prevent men from showing this part of their nature, but it does not encourage them either. Equality between sexes does not mean being same, but unfortunately many people assume exactly that.
This polarization enables people to feel more comfortable in their role and to feel more drawn to the opposite sex. This is why tango is considered a game of seduction.
2. Because of the alienation – But tango is not just a game of seduction. Before everything, it is a human interaction. And this is something what we do not have even close enough in our society, despite all the fancy tools and gadgets that are available to us.
Unfortunately our civilization made us closed to one another building all kinds of artificial walls between people. Remember, people can feel alone even if there are other people around them – and this is not pleasant, nor healthy state.
But this alienation goes even further. We are even afraid to touch each other, despite the fact that deep inside we desire and we need a human touch.
– This is a touch-phobic society. We’re not used to touching strangers, or even our friends, necessarily, says the psychologist Matthew Hertenstein.
I do not have to explain the importance of the human touch for healthy living. Scientific studies over and over proved how important is for us to touch each other and to express our emotions with embraces. We have a strong urge for physical closeness with other people – the touch lowers the stress hormones and stimulates the release of the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin.
I will not be the first one who will conclude that people in today’s world, despite the means of mass communication and social networks, are overwhelmingly alone. They are alienated not only from the others and from their work and environment, but also from their self. Tango faces them with this and gives them a space were they can work on their self development, on connecting with what is inside and with others.
3. It is a refuge – Life is hard. It is stressful and there are often serious consequences for mistakes we do. Tango is an activity where we can learn and do things in a relaxed way without being tensed and fear serious consequences.
Humans are playing animals. We love to do things, which are crazy, fun and not serious. Tango gives us opportunity to engage in activity, which is its own goal. This releases us from stress of being focused and effective.
Being such, tango is a perfect field to escape from the everyday life and all its seriousness and goal oriented stress.
This characteristic of tango, together with the release of the joy-hormones, is the reason why we consider it addictive activity.
4. Self expression – Some of us do not want to accept this, but basically all of us feel good when we express what we have inside. We also feel good when we are being considered valuable and when we shape our identity close to what we think of ourselves. Tango gives us opportunity to express all of this in a healthy social environment.
Unlike art, tango is a social expression. It is not like music or painting or writing, or other arts that are practiced and created alone and than later presented in front of the people in a social context. Tango is created in a social context. Many people think of it as something that you practice and create alone on practicas (even in practicas you are not alone) – it is something that goes out of you on the dance floor and it depends on many factors.
It is no surprise to hear people say that you can learn about someone’s character just by watching him/her dance. This comes because when they dance, people express their ways and their style. Many of us love tango just because it gives us opportunity to do this.
Being such, tango touches the core of our identity and feeling of self worth. And this is why being considered a good dancer makes us feel fulfilled and being considered a bad dancer for some people is a bitter tragedy.
But there is something more. Dancing has no meaning if it is not in a social context. We say ‘dance like no one is watching’, but even without observer, we feel better if we dance with people around – because all of us need that feeling of validation that others gives us in one way, or another; by watching or by inviting us for a dance.
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