Why Tango?

The other day, I was having lunch with a friend.

“Got plans for this weekend?” he asked.

I laughed.  “Of course.  Busy all weekend, as usual.”

He quirked a brow at me, a reminder that he wasn’t part of the tango community and therefore didn’t instinctively know what I meant.

“Tango, of course,” I amended.

“Ah,” he said, in that perplexed, slightly wary tone that people get when you tell them you’re willingly going to go dance for 8 hours.  “It seems like tango will take up exactly as much air as you have to give to it.”

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.  It’s evocative, the image of tango as a gigantic balloon, growing ever larger as I expend more and more of my time, energy, and self into it.  And maybe that’s what it looks like from the outside.  But inside the tango community, as you may know, it feels a bit different.  You see, It’s hard for me to imagine tango as taking anything from me, when conversely I feel like it is constantly giving.  It has given me a social group, a heightened awareness of my body, a sense of confidence, of playfulness, of joy.  It has given me countless connections with other members of this obsessed, or maybe obsessively happy, group of people.  Tango gives and gives.

Until I read Why Tango?, I thought perhaps my own tango obsession was simply that: my own.  I didn’t know if other people felt that growing chasm between those who understand why we dance, and those who don’t.  How can you really explain it to someone who hasn’t tried it, after all?

It feels like you’re flying.

It feels like you’re psychic.  You and your partner are in the perfect Vulcan mind meld, transmitting your intentions without words, without effort.

It feels like time, worry, your need to go balance your budget…it feels like all of that stops in the space of a delicious, all-consuming tanda, and when you part at the end of the last song, it’s like awakening from a deep, syrupy sleep.

Those words don’t even come close to capturing the feeling.  How could they, when the beauty of tango communication is that it does not require any words?  Still, reading Why Tango? showed me that there is a whole community of people out there who understand, who get “it.”  They know why my weekend is so busy, without even asking.  They know, because they’ll be right out there on the dance floor with me, communicating without any words at all.


This blog was inspired by the collection of essays by Veronica Toumanova, titled “Why Tango?”.

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