Why I Dance and Teach Tango
This is why I dance tango. My tango journey has been amazing. It is rewarding to watch our students come up against what I have been watching and examining in myself for the better part of the last decade. Tango can haunt. It appears in my dreams. It appears in my nightmares too. At the same time tango is the siren call that leaves me breathless.
Tango moved into the creative portion of my brain and connected that portion of my mind to my body and then finally to my spirit. It is like tango gave my creative mind thoughts a password to access my body – even life-long dancers experience this in a new ways because of the partner in their lap.
Every year my eyes see tango and the world differently. My perceptions of the world are allowed to react differently with my visual cortex. Stay with tango and suddenly those you thought dance well don’t look so flash any more and those you thought were boring may suddenly have a depth you never noticed before. The look and line resides in a softness that the famous choreographer, Bob Fosse referred to when he said: “Show me the movement, not the work behind it.” The world looks differently because I see tango differently? Yes.
My mind and body have learned to work together as partners, a partnership within and without in ways I never knew existed. When I first began to study and practice tango I glimpsed these realizations only in my struggle for mind, body and partnership connection. Later I got these realizations through the eyes of connection with myself and the world around me. When my interpersonal connection formed I got deeper look at my own mind, body and spirit because I saw it all simultaneously through the lens of the mind, body and spirit of the person in my lap.
When I actually began make tango work I discovered there were lies my mind. Lies I was told until my mind kept retelling those lies to my own body. Lies my ego told my soul. Lies about who can and should dance. Lies about what my mind body and spirit are for and what they do. I can’t count the intelligent people I have helped learn tango that – before they learned to dance tango – were subconsciously convinced that their body was a vehicle to carry their head from one place to another. This awareness led me to the fascinating realization that my body and soul never actually believed the lies my mind told – but rather like a patient parent – my body allowed my head to think itself to be the owner of a body it now realizes it barely knews at all.
Tango exposes the lies we tell ourselves in lots of psychological, literal and metaphorical ways. Tango challenged my ego and inflamed it. Tango allowed me a personal glimpse into a world I only thought was mine. Now that I live in that world of connection everything looks, feels, sounds, tastes and even smells different. I believed the lies that caused the separation of my mind body and spirit because it was the choice laid out for me. After tango a different choice arose and I chose to rise above the lies and grow in a fiercely powerful way that defies word or text.
A very fascinating facet of tango is its ability to tell on me: the movements in tango always knows. A great deal of my reality is reflected in my tango. One can fool a beginner or intermediate dancer, but you cannot fool someone that knows. You cannot fool or hide yourself from tango, in tango or from someone that truly understands the process and movements of tango. Tango will not let you hide the truth about yourself from others that really get tango; those that truly experience the connection can sense and feel more about you than you may feel in yourself… but… since they really do “get it” they also understand and forgive you, knowing it is just your process. Other wise they are most certainly faking that they get it and the only proof is in the dance of tango itself. There is a sense of peaceful, loving, forgiveness in the embrace of very good social tango dancers – at least while they are in the “tango-zone”.
Tango is like Zen or Nirvana in that the minute I say I have tango, I own tango, I claim tango, tango is mine, it will ellude me. I will be deceived once again and delve into the illusion that I am my body, that I am a collection of my thoughts.
Like Zen, tango will soon take away my illusions and prove to me that I am merely an observer here. I am no more my thoughts than I am a brain or neuron. I am no more my body than I am muscle or bone. I am a spirit playing the human game. When I am dancing tango, I am truly human. When I am so immersed in a moment, so deeply and serenely that nothing else exists, I am at one with all of creation and in that moment I am all of creation.
Trained and talented musicians, artists and even dancers see this, but rarely do they get the opportunity to do so while they are holding another human. Doing all of this while connected to another, that is where the real magic act occurs. The magic in tango happens when it becomes a catalyst to open a realm to those that have previously believed they couldn’t connect to another human so deeply. Those that are convinced there are dancers and non-dancers and fate cast them into the slot of the latter say this because they are afraid to look deeper than their words – it is an excuse. A lot of partner dances could take you here, but first they would have to break out of the box and paradigm that limiting structures like patterns, choreography, set rhythms place on spirit and creativity.
The Zen like quality is what makes tango so powerful – and perhaps why so many crave it. At the same time this is what makes tango so controversial and brings on what I will call “Style Wars”.
- Which style of tango is pure?
- Which style of tango is genuine?
- Which is authentic and true to its roots?
- Who has tango and who doesn’t?
- Who teaches tango and who doesn’t?
- How should one dance the tango?
These struggles exist and are predominant in tango world wide. For generations there were fights, arguments and even killings in Buenos Aries over who had real tango and who didn’t.
The ultimate illusion: Style Wars
Because we place limits on ourselves, we think we can place them on tango too… and then I it seems to go something like this: Someone sees a style of tango that they can’t imitate or find access to in their body/mind so their ego wants to deny that it could be the real tango – when all it is, is a style they cannot access or imitate.
– OR –
A style presents a challenge and the challenge is what makes a certain individual want that style even more – then they apply themselves and capture those movements. Next they want to deny the less challenging movements because they are so proud of their accomplishments – when all it might be is a talent or body connection that makes them think they have something others don’t have. Style is not tango. Tango is connection pure and simple.
This is why some say that their tango is the real tango and the other tango is less real. What these folks miss – or so I believe – is that each person is welcome to bring their own specific set of issues and opinions with them and superimpose their mind body and soul issues, successes and failures on tango. Then they want to say this is pure and this is tainted, simply because they can access a certain mind set, body set, or spirit set of being. The truth is everyone has access to tango, whether they are talented or not, there is a style of tango they can access!
Every prejudicial group list hundreds of seemingly valid reasons for why their tango is the only real tango – using reasons like: This style is being more dance floor or socially friendly, this other style allows the freedom of expressing the “true emotions of tango” while another style is closer to what they danced in Argentina during the “Golden Era” – all the while in truth they are only professing their own limitations by saying in essence I dance this but not that because they only have time, talent or energy to pour into one style or another. For some one style is better, not everyone can drop what they are doing and chase tango like I did – some have a proclivity toward one style or another because of their athletic background, the shape of their body, their physical condition and exposure.
What is magical about tango is it offers the same Zen-ful connection to those that dance any style of tango. Tango for Rusty Cline isn’t about a style. Tango is about connection to the Mind/Body/Spirit of all the following:
In my mind this is where tango becomes more than a dance and it morphs itself into something like the The Odyssey, Lord of the Rings, A Path With a Heart, The Hero’s Journey. This passionate journey into tango makes us want become Adonis, Frodo, Hercules, or Don Juan the Yaqui Warrior, because finally we have a worthwhile challenge: the total access of oneself, mind and body and spirit.
In my mind/body/spirit as I am simultaneously connected to another mind/body/spirit, my spirit soars, my body melds and my mind gets truly quiet as I morph into a king, a peasant and an artist all in one. It is only with a person that is thusly connected can I find the ultimate challenge, satisfaction and complete essence of tango and this happens regardless of their style or level of dance (whether they are aware of it or not – and I am sure many are not consciously aware of this connection when they “hook up” – it is this connection I make a point to create when I dance). Everything else I do with or for tango – and that is quite a lot – is all done for this end: enabling other people to experience in their own mind/body/spirit the joy of real and true connection with another person in that person’s mind/body/spirit.
There might be other ways for two souls to unite in the throws of ecstasy I have shared in a pure tango experience, but I have not found, seen or been exposed such a thing. Sex can do that, but it comes with complex connecting and a social stigma that it is mostly restricted to monogamous relationships -and perhaps rightly so. Also sex comes with its own baggage and the baggage and by-products of sex can all to often deplete or interfere with the power of the connection. Besides how many people can we actually have sex with?
The ultimate tango experience for me is well beyond the realms of sex, exercise, meditation, politics, government or even religion because it has a reality that surpasses them all. Tango is noble, honorable, true even gallant and I can do it with anyone that chooses to dedicate a small portion of their life or even just a moment to experiencing, learning, practicing and surrendering to the pure essence of the tango experience: connection. This doesn’t happen in a thought, it happen in a connected moment.
Only when I dance tango – a truly connected tango, however complex or simple – do I feel like I am authentically experiencing a human connection. With all its faults, peccadilloes and foibles being human is special. I know in my soul of souls that being human is a special way to be in this vast universe. This is why I dance tango: To know what it is really means to be human!
Love, Light, Humanity – Connecting – Mind, Body & Spirit,