In our previous post, we wrote about a special moment that rarely happens in an embrace. It involves laughing. Perhaps this will lead many to think it is not a rare occurrence… because Tango is FUN!
There is a “North American” Tango mentality that exists; a mentality that does not exist in the Tango of Buenos Aires.* In Buenos Aires, Tango is serious business. It’s a passionate affair of the heart, the mind, and the body. Portenos who Tango are in love with the dance, the music, the embrace, going to milongas, and yes, the nostalgia of it all. They radiate intense energy while dancing and while listening to the music at their seats. But are they smiling much? No, not really.
We have been asked often why people don’t seem to smile while dancing Tango. “Isn’t it enjoyable?” Our answer comes in the form of an analogy which coincides well with the horrible Tango media sound-byte: “Tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.” The analogy is this: When participating in sex/love-making with a partner, how many of you are smiling while doing so? We think it’s safe to say that most of you are not smiling. Does that mean it isn’t enjoyable? No! Sex/love-making is serious business.
This brings us to the point of this post. Regardless of the “style” or version of Tango being danced, we have observed the North American Tango mentality to be completely different from the Buenos Aires Tango mentality. Looking at it from the North American Tango mentality (NATM), we have narrowed these differences into three groups: the “Enjoyment Factor”, the “Connection Factor”, and the “Being Nice Factor”.
Enjoyment Factor – the NATM requires Tango to be “fun”. There is almost an expectation that we should smile while we dance. There is a tendency for the cortinas (the interlude songs between the groups of Tango music) to be really upbeat and “fun”. Finally, there is a need to make one’s dance “fun”. In order to do this, one should “play” with the moves and the music, and your dance should be “unique”… and fun.
Connection Factor – the NATM has an almost obsessive fixation on “connection”. This is not in reference to the straight-forward glue-your-chests-together embrace connection, but more to do with the “elusive” connection talked about, blogged about, and “workshopped” about. It remains elusive because it isn’t so elusive!
It has been our experience as students and teachers that the reason for this may have to do with the fact that the embrace is not being taught well, or more importantly, at all. When students are taught to give their chests to their partner at all times and they are taught to “chase” each other’s chest at all times, “connection” becomes an almost obsolete term.
Being Nice Factor – Finally, the NATM is all about being “nice”. Forget about going out to dance Tango because you would like to have a lovely evening. No, the milonga is the place to put your desires aside. There is an expectation that you should dance with everyone and with as many people as you can, regardless of the dancer’s level/ability. In some communities, you are also expected to hug your partner after the tanda (although the man may nevertheless leave you standing in the middle of the floor afterward).
We have said it before, but we’ll say it again: Tango is more than just a dance; it is a culture. If the two are separated, we are left dancing a ghostly version of what Tango is. For this reason, we do our best to live and exude the culture in our dance.
*We cannot speak to the mentalities that exist in Asia, Europe, or other places in the world.